Teaching overseas takes guts, adventurousness, but most of all, weirdness. Let’s face it, the type of people who pursue the lifestyle of an ESL teacher are a different breed, myself included. After meeting and getting to know many teachers in Thailand and China, I’d classify most nomadic educators into at least one of these five ESL teacher archetypes.
The recent college graduate ESL teacher chooses Asia after staring down the barrel of their home country’s abysmal job market. They’re out to prove their adaptability by adding international experience to their resumé, while partying like they’re still in college, because binge drinking a foreign country’s beer is an integral part of intercultural immersion.
Socially awkward in their home country, weirdos come to Asia hoping a change of scenery was all they needed in order to flourish. They’re prone to invite you over to watch anime with them in their cramped apartment. The weirdo ESL teacher is prolific in China, a country that unfortunately doesn’t discriminate its teacher-applicants based on strangeness, thus creating a sort of oddball English-speaker safe haven.
They always wanted to travel and work abroad, but were trapped with real world commitments. The midlife adventurer decided to go abroad and teach ESL at around age 40 with the understanding that it’s more than just a subtle sign of a midlife crisis, but they made the jump anyway because they’re tired of caring what others think. They’re often spotted regaling others with tales of embellished successes.
The escapist is running away from something, be it an ambiguous sexuality or a crippling fear of turtles. They seek refuge in Asia from the crap that infests their personal life and often have a poor opinion about their home country. If you ask why they came to Asia, they’ll tell you they’re “interested in studying Buddhism.” Asking the escapist too many questions is a no-no, as they tend to get defensive.
Hippies are carefree teachers enjoying a quiet existence far from the hassles of the man. They waved goodbye to family and friends vowing never to smoke grass again, only to puff the first joint that was passed their way. Toking up after class is a common ritual for these types, and some diehard hippies routinely smoke before teaching as a means to “empathize with young learners.”
In Defense of the ESL Teacher
Some unique and interesting folks dwell within in the sphere of ESL teaching. One quality that seems universal among the ESL teachers I’ve met is creativity. I swear, if an English teacher can’t play the guitar, they’re either a writer, poet, artist, or philosopher. People who are willing to plan, invest in, and commit to this lifestyle are apparently a right-brained bunch. I’ve made many good friends in this field, and I look forward to befriending many more oddballs in the future.