According to the latest stats from Statista, personal safety is a major concern for female travelers considering a solo trip, with 69% of those surveyed pointing it out as the main issue. But does this worry have to be a deal-breaker?
Over 70% of teachers worldwide are women, and this number is expected to rise. Teaching abroad doesn't have to be just a distant dream for women. In fact, the numbers tell a different story. So, as a female TEFL teacher abroad, how can you ensure your safety?
Do Some Research
Before you go, it's essential to get familiar with the culture before you arrive. This is important because you'll be interacting with locals from the moment you land or step off the train. Misunderstandings can happen quickly, so arming yourself with knowledge is key. The internet is a great resource, but don't hesitate to ask your workplace for some tips; they're likely used to helping teachers adjust to new environments.
Planning for your move abroad can start before you leave your home country. Research safe neighborhoods for solo exploration and get to know the local transportation system to avoid getting stranded. On your days off, if you plan to venture on your own, have a rough itinerary that you can share with friends, family, or local colleagues. Remember to check in regularly so that someone can look out for you. When possible, go out in a group; it's a good rule of thumb.
To avoid drawing unwanted attention, one of the best strategies for female TEFL teachers abroad is to dress like the locals. Dressing conservatively can help you blend in with your surroundings.
Some countries will have stricter dress codes for women. Saudi Arabia, for example, requires women to dress modestly and cover their knees and shoulders. Short dresses, sleeveless skirts, and sheer or tight fabric are not allowed. You should also avoid bright colours, even for makeup, and opt for earthy, neutral tones.
While you're still getting to know your new neighborhood, avoid staring at a map or your phone when you're out on your own. Being distracted can make you an easy target for pickpockets and other unsavory characters. You don’t want to have to navigate filing a police report in another language, especially if you’re just settling in.
Great ways to feel confident as you’re out and about include not using your headphones so you’re focused on your surroundings, and not drinking too much alcohol so that you always have your wits about you. Memorising what buses, trams, or trains can get you home and the stop names is always a good idea too.
Choose Accommodation Wisely
Selecting the right accommodation for your days off can make a big difference in your safety and peace of mind. Try to make sure you’re staying somewhere where you’re not the only guest, and regardless of the type of accommodation you’re in, ensure you have a door that locks.
The location of your accommodation is also important. Think about how far where you’re staying is from the places you’d like to visit, and what kind of neighbourhood it is. Avoid booking hotels or hostels that could require you to walk down isolated, dark roads on your own too. If you really have no other choice, invest in your safety by putting aside some money you can use for taxis.
A casual conversation with a stranger on your travels may seem harmless, but err on the side of caution. Avoid revealing details of your trip or personal information unless you're certain of someone's trustworthiness. The same goes for sharing real-time updates on social media. Remember, privacy while traveling equals safety.
If you find that someone is particularly insistent, then remember that you also don’t owe them honesty. White lies can help you extract yourself from these kinds of situations without giving away your uncertainty about a person’s intentions. They’re even more effective if you read up on the names of local places, as you’ll sound more believable.
Connect with Others
You can do this online through social media groups or in person if you're staying in hostels. Reach out to fellow expats for tips on where to go and what to avoid. If you meet a friendly dorm mate, explore together. Building relationships with locals during your stay is also a great idea; they can be your support network if needed. Plus, learning a few key phrases in the local language can be helpful.
In the end, while you may not throw caution to the wind as a female TEFL teacher abroad, fear doesn't have to stop you from pursuing your dreams. Consider starting in a safe country like South Korea; you can find more information in this blog specifically about teach English in South Korea. The world is your oyster!