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Sep 09 2014

Becoming an Expat: Third Time Lucky?

Try, try again

‘Tis a lesson you should heed: Try, try, try again.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.’  

(W. E. Hickson)

I’ve mentioned before about my desire to live and work in another country rather than just travel.  It’s been on my ‘bucket list’ for such a long time.  The thing is, I have actually tried becoming an expat a couple of times before, but failed on both occasions.  The first time was in Spain.  I wanted to teach English, but it wasn’t a good organisation and they did nothing to help me through all the bureaucracy involved in working and living in Spain.  All in all, it was an awful experience, so I returned to England.  The second time, I was going to move to France to be with my partner, who had recently returned for work.  We broke up and I returned to England once again.  So, I don’t really have a very good track record when it comes to becoming an expat.

Trying and failing to succeed at something can be very demotivating and the fear of failing again can halt future attempts, but I honestly believe you shouldn’t give up trying to achieve something you really want.  I thought long and hard about writing this because it’s very personal and about how things don’t always work out.  But that’s life; that’s the reality.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, things don’t work out.  I wanted to highlight this with my own experience about trying again to achieve something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.    .

So, after my previous unsuccessful attempts at living and working abroad, I kept scanning the TEFL job websites, looking for positions in China, Saudi, and Poland.  I know, 3 continents and 3 very different countries and cultures, but I was interested in living and working in each country for different reasons.


Since my first visit to China in 2008, I’ve always wanted to return.  Teaching English would be a good way to do that, especially as I’ve been teaching Chinese students for two consecutive summers at a summer school in the UK.  The thing is, I was very wary because of all the horror stories I’d read about bogus jobs, teachers not getting what they’d been promised, etc.  Having had two failed attempts at being an expat, I just didn’t want to risk it.

Saudi Arabia

I was interested in Saudi, mainly for the money if I’m honest, but I am also intrigued to find out more about the country and what life would be like as a woman.  It would also be the ideal opportunity to explore some of the other middle eastern countries.  However, as a very independent woman, I wasn’t sure how I would cope with not having the freedom I am so accustomed to.


My main reason for going to Eastern Europe, earlier in the summer, was to do a recce.  I was basically going there to see what I thought about Poland and if it was a country I would be happy to live and work in.  As it turned out, I didn’t actually spend that much time in Poland because I ended up travelling to some of the surrounding countries.  However, I did assist on a conversational English course during my short time in Poland, which gave me a feel for it.


Whatever it is you want to do, you need to have a compelling reason to make it happen.  It comes down to how much you want something and your reason for wanting it.

The start of this year wasn’t an easy one for me, but it has improved as the year has progressed because I have done quite a bit of travelling.  It’s been great because I love to travel and share the experience with you.  It isn’t good for my bank balance though and won’t be until I can support myself financially wherever I am in the world.  I’m not yet in a position where I can be location independent so I needed to get a job.  This was my chance to live and work abroad somewhere.  That was my compelling reason and that’s when I started looking for a teaching job abroad more seriously.

Taking Action

I lined up two Skype interviews.  One was for a job in Saudi Arabia and the other in Poland.  I was ready and waiting for the first interview, which was with a London-based agency for the position in Saudi Arabia.  I waited, and waited, and waited.  After about 10 minutes, I sent an email to find out if the interview had been cancelled.  I got a message back saying I hadn’t been on Skype at the correct time and it was too late, so they’d have to reschedule as they had other interviews set up.  I was fuming.  I explained that I had done everything necessary and was there, ready and waiting.  To cut a long story short, I didn’t pursue this job opportunity.

The other interview actually took place.  I spoke to the director of the school and I was able to ask all sorts of questions about the job, the school, and the town.  It was great.  There was only one thing that concerned me about the job and that was the schedule.  I didn’t think about that too much though until…  I was offered the job.  My initial reaction was, I can’t take the job.  Why?  Because the hours weren’t right.  I was told that most of the teaching takes place late in the afternoon until about 9pm.  I wanted a job that finished in the afternoon or early evening rather than at night.

Breaking free of barriers

This was my chance to finally experience living and working in another country and I was ready to say no because I might have to work until 9pm a few days a week.  Was that really going to stop me?  Of course not.  It was just an excuse.  I think I was unconsciously trying to protect myself from another failed attempt at being an expat.  I don’t normally give up that easily and I’ve done things that have been far more scary and difficult, like the time I first started travelling independently on a round-the-world (RTW) trip.  That was a major thing to do because I’d never done anything like that before.  I was heading off into the unknown with just a backpack, leaving everything and everyone behind.  Moving to Poland is no way near as scary as that.  When I put it into context, I realised that I was just putting unnecessary obstacles in the way.

There’s no point dwelling on past experiences because every experience is different.  While it’s important to learn from the past, it’s not helpful if it holds you back from trying again.  I know that every experience is unique and this time won’t be the same as my previous two attempts for a number of reasons.

Decision Time

I have no idea if it will work out this time or not, but I’m willing to give it a go.  If I don’t, I will never know.  Going on that RTW trip was an amazing experience.  The thought of doing it scared the life out of me, but I went ahead and did it anyway.  I’m so glad I did.

Having made the decision to accept the job in Poland, I feel happy about it.  I’m excited about living and working there.  It will give me the chance to explore Poland and surrounding countries, learn Polish, and experience life in a small Polish town.

I will finally have an opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.  I will keep you updated on my new life of independent travel as an expat.  Who knows, maybe it will work out this time.  You know what they say… third time lucky.

Have your say

Can you relate to this?  Is there something you have wanted to do, but have used excuses to stop yourself?  Have you tried life as an expat?  If so, what was your experience of it?  If not, are you interested in living and working abroad?

Have your say...

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