7 Essential Tips for New ESL Expats

Hey everyone, just thought I’d share some super helpful tips that I couldn’t have come up with without the delightful, always smart and optimistic people at Dave’s ESL cafe. Here we go!


1) Complain about the country

Yeah, I made this one.

Yeah, I made this.


Do people do things differently than you’re used to back home? Tell everyone! Don’t let a moment go to waste! Your schedule will overflow long into the evenings with people from far and wide, eager to hear your tales of valour amidst adversity.Your nights will be filled with perfect laughter. People push on subways? Man, that’s terrible. Tell me more! People stare at you? Some peoples’ children… Trust me, the quickest way to make friends here is to tell everyone just how much you can’t stand dealing with the differences of living abroad and making a decent wage while living rent free. Better yet…


2) Write a blog about it


Oh no, I’m not talking about a blog with any relatable content where you examine the culture in juxtaposition to yourself in a meaningful way that would lead to fond memories and personal growth. That stuff is for chumps. I mean, bang out 2000 or so words about going to the beach with your friends. Make sure you include the hilarious story about how the taxi driver said ‘beachee’. Oh man, that cracks my shit up! And when you leave your usual haunts…


3) Always go through tour groups to super amazing stuff.


You’ll fit right in.


Seriously, what better way to explore the country in all its richness than paying someone else to drive you to a place you could bus to easily, but with an itinerary rich in banality! Awesome. You definitely couldn’t come out to Seoraksan on your own. It’s a good thing that there are people willing to do that up right for you. It’s good to get out and explore, and better when you get shuttled around by a group ‘leader’, that is usually ‘inspired’ by the free trip and beer money. It’s all good though, I’m sure a few of you already agree with me on how awesome these trips are, and you’re well on your way to telling me how right I am about how spot on convenient they are. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to…

4) Make Friends with other Foreigners, Avoid the Locals.


Hey man, it’s hard making friends with people abroad. Making friends with people whose first language isn’t English requires time, patience, and any number of minor inconveniences. Plus, the locals don’t like to involve you in their day to day minor annoyances. WHAAAT? You bet it ain’t me! I love hangin’ out with just foreigners, especially right out of Uni. My people. Yes, you haven’t done a trip properly until you’ve swilled a warming Beer at 4am while hearing Karen belt out “if he loves me, why is he sleeping with her?” to Chris, the affable nitwit next to her. Classic Karen. Classic Chris! Why miss Uni when you never even have to leave it?

5) Save Money by Not Seeing the Country .



I mean, if you don’t live in a major city, go there a few times. But all the other places? That’s ridiculously tedious. I’m quite sure everywhere worth going to will be revealed to you by festival or travel group. Plus, going different places means meeting different kinds of people, a total buzzkill for making hasty generalizations. The worst. Plus, drinking in the same bars every week close to your house isn’t something you can just do back home. Make it count while you’re here!

6) Learn a Few Words of the Local Language, But No More


Don’t go crazy and try to have a conversation. Learn a few choice words and repeat them in all situations, regardless of their relevance. Don’t even worry about pronunciation, they’ll figure it out. “Excuse me sir, please don’t touch that”.  “Only tuna, sir. Ol’ mayo?”. All of your friends will be super impressed that you know, like, so much Korean. You’re only gonna be here for a year, why bother? Right? Right. What are you gonna use it for later?

Think long term: In a long enough timeline, we’re all dead. So don’t burden yourself with learning the language of the country you’re living in. Stop being so concerned with how people see you, your country, or influences how people treat you down the road. So, let ’em know who’s boss by refusing to spend a moment of your time learning it. Or, up the ante and

7) Help the Locals learn English by Refusing to Speak Their Language



You’re here to teach English right? Well, the best way to show these people how important it is to learn English is to refuse to speak any other language to them. Say mean things in English when you know they can’t understand. I mean, it’s their fault that they offered you a job here knowing you couldn’t speak it, right? Ugh. Why don’t they just all speak English to me? It would make your time much easier. Plus, there’s nothing the slightest bit arrogant or bigoted about pushing my English monolingualism around. They should all just learn English. Just power through. Talk slower and louder, that should do the trick.

8) After you’ve done all this, your finest art will be…



to go home and miss it. Immediately go to the liquor store and demand liquor from that country . Tell the clerk that the selection of that beverage is ‘sub par’, or otherwise watch yourself act out just how intent you are on showing off your new found knowledge. Take bottles of it to parties like that time your friend went to Jamaica and only drank and talked about Red Stripe for 6 weeks. Really go on about how great it was to everyone.

Get home, sit down and relax. Realize that it’s absolutely true. You do miss the time you had in this country. It was a great opportunity and you grew a lot as a person.


As usual, feel free to yell at me below or on social media.


 Special thanks to Malachi Malta from Living in Korea for Expats for his contribution to the editing process.