Teaching in Asia is an adventure, but it is still a job. This means that over time, the luster of working in a new environment will wear off, and a routine will set in. For some, this can be comforting, but others may find disappointment in it. While I was happy to be gainfully employed in a far off land, things eventually became boring since I was locked down by the job, unable to explore the Middle Kingdom like I had wanted to.
Many foreigners in my situation would have taken to drink, perpetuating stereotypes that laowai (a Chinese derogatory term for foreigners) are nothing but drunken skirt-chasers that couldn't find success in their home countries. While I do enjoy the women of the East, I have never been one to drink, and I wanted to avoid negative stereotypes, at least upfront.
Instead, I found ways to keep busy outside of pubs, clubs, and hangovers. If you ever find yourself in a rut, you might want to try some of these things.
Explore Your City
Working a regular job might not give you enough time to hop on a plane or train and see different cities, but almost every major city in Asia has interesting attractions. Whether it be modern skyscrapers, ancient temples, or natural landmarks, there is a lot to see and do. Go online and do some research, or better yet, have some of your students tell you about places of interest in your new locale. This can help you to build relationships with your students and help you to learn about your new home.
Learn the Language
Learning the language of the country that you are living in will give you multiple advantages. First, buying the things that you need will become less of a hassle. Second, it may become easier to find a date, at least in China. In Japan, however, some women have the fantasy of being a gaijin's (the Japanese term for foreigner) first Japanese girl, and will shy away from those that have mastered the language.
Learning the language will also give you a better understanding of the challenges that your students face, and in some cases, may make it easier for you to teach your classes. Just try not to speak too much of your students' native tongue if you work for a school that prohibits its usage in the classroom!
Make Local Friends
If you manage to pick up on the language, making local friends will become easier. Many foreigners miss out on the best that Asia has to offer, confining themselves to other foreigners or coworkers. Branching out and interacting with other locals can help us learn more about the country that we have elected to live and teach in. Locals can also protect us from scams that target foreigners, helping us avid these traps and get the best deals. This is particularly relevant in Mainland China.
Having local friends made my time in China much more enjoyable. Your mileage may vary, but personally, I didn't want to run in the foreigner circles. I went to China to interact with Chinese people, and I am glad that I did.
Get Some Exercise
Being in a foreign country does not give us an excuse to be out of shape. Depending on where you are and your work schedule, it might be difficult to find a gym, but most major cities will have a selection to choose from. Even if there are no gyms that are affordable (they can be expensive in Asia) or conveniently located, you can still get exercise in with calisthenics, or go jogging in the park. Regular exercise helps to relieve stress, and it is a good idea to stay healthy being so far away from home. Not to mention, the ladies love a foreigner that is in good shape.
Keep in Touch With Friends and Family
Living in a far off land can be very stressful, and sometimes you need to stay abreast of happenings back home. Luckily, today's age offers a variety of technology that can be used to stay in touch with your friends and family without breaking the bank. Skype, Facetime, Oovoo, WeChat, and many other applications can help us to stay in touch with our loved ones and tell them all about the adventures that we are having.
Join a Meetup Group
Meetup is a service that connects like-minded people in locations all around the world. People can meet for business opportunities, sightseeing, social outings, and much, much more. Meetup groups will likely consist of both locals and foreigners, so they will provide great opportunities to meet people from all over the world.
Personally, I never tried this service, and it may be blocked in Mainland China. However, there are numerous alternatives and forums that serve the same purpose.
Work a Second Job
I know, you work one job and you just want to relax on your days off. This is completely understandable, but in Asia, China especially, there is so much opportunity that I wanted to hustle. Most of these side jobs did not take up the entire day, and they paid well, at least for the time spent. Modeling, doing commercials, tutoring, and more can help a foreigner pocket some extra funds. Some of you may find that your secondary job pays better than your first job, at least for how much time that you spend working.
Living in Asia or any place far away from home can be stressful, especially when you have to work a job while doing so. Even if you cannot travel throughout the entire country that you are residing in on a whim, I want you to have a great time in your journey teaching in Asia. These tips can help you to enjoy your stay and avoid the doldrums that some foreigners sink into.
Staying active, using your time wisely, and interacting with the locals and their culture will help you to have fun experiences in Asia that you will remember for a lifetime!