I’m teaching in an emerging nation and earning ten times as much as my new-found, local-hire friend. From my perspective, this financial chasm makes our friendship awkward. I can afford to eat out, go to a movie, purchase new clothes and travel during breaks; my friend cannot. Should I treat when we go places? Is this embarrassing for my friend? What if we are with other foreign-hire teachers and as a group decide to go for drinks and dinner? I never know how to handle these situations.
Befriending the parents of my students has not always been good for me, either, and I have actually found myself in the reverse situation as just described. My students’ parents’ are usually embassy people or business owners who make many times my salary, live in elegant homes, drive nice cars and can afford to indulge their fancies. They move among an entirely different social circle than me. By comparison, my standard of living is like that of a college student. Plus, in the back of my mind is also the possibility their child will do poorly in my class. Then what? This happened to me once before and things I said to this parent in the confidence of “friendship” were used against me, causing a rift between the director and me.
It’s certainly more difficult to meet people out in the community, but for me, these relationships have been the most fulfilling and smooth running, so to speak. Maybe this is because we have more in common than just the school site and live in the same neighborhood and are basically on the same educational and socio-economic level.
I’d love to hear advice and anecdotal experiences on this topic from other international educators. Megan