Single, Female & Going It Alone

Hello ISR,
Maybe you can help?

Recently singled from a partner with zero wanderlust, I’ve decided it’s high time to go International. Yes! I have asked myself the big question: Is my motive to pursue a career in International education a form of simply running away, or am I consciously making a move towards a bright new horizon?

After much soul searching, I’ve concluded it’s the latter. I’m ready but do feel that I need some advice on schools and locations.

To start with, I eliminated from consideration those countries notorious for systematically suppressing women with, for example, prohibitions on or discouragement of dancing, drinking, driving and traveling solo. It just seems some parts of the world have a ban on enjoying life in general, you know? For me that pretty much means avoiding the whole of the Middle East. I also deleted from my list: Turkey, Morocco, India, Egypt, Colombia and other places where men have a documented reputation for groping, incessant catcalls, and even following single woman back to homes and hotels.

Jumping into a new relationship holds no interest for me at the moment. On the other hand, I would like to have a social life that extends beyond my immediate colleagues. Parts of the world where I always have to be on high alert obviously do not appeal to me. Could I be wrong about my impressions of these areas of the world? Or, have I been accurately forewarned?

If you would be so kind as to include my comments in one of your newsletters and ask readers to recommend schools and areas of the world which are suitable for a single woman, I would be much appreciative, as will other women in my position, I’m sure.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
(name withheld)

ISR asks: Based on personal experience and/or observation, which schools/locations would you recommend for a single, female teacher?

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

42 thoughts on “Single, Female & Going It Alone

  1. Wow, some uppity teachers on here. Ignore all the haters, choose a place that makes you feel excited and that you get a good feeling from the interview. Research the school on ISR. Remember you will be with a community of ppl no matter where you go. Good luck!


  2. As a single female, I prefer to live in East Asia (North and South). Once you get a taste of the lifestyle out here, you won’t be in a hurry to go home. Regarding safety, I feel safer here than I do in western countries, particularly at night. Personally I would not live in the Middle East but I know many single women who loved it there.


  3. I say keep doing your research and do not be dismissed by some folk on this forum. It is easy for people to say “don’t be misled with what the media say”, when as an expat in the Middle East, you are in a complete bubble and you actually have zero access to any free press or freedom of speech whilst there. I travelled for many years and felt that some teachers boasted about the incidents that happened, such as, earthquakes, gassing, riots etc. These are serious incidents and should not be made into cool anecdotes or normalised in anyway. They are tricky countries to work in and the partying might be good, but there is a reality to it all, too.
    Pick a school who treats staff with respect and is a good fit for you and if you like freedom of speech and working in a reasonably safe and country, well good for you! Prague, Budapest and Bucharest have some fine schools. Vietnam and Thailand are worth a look into, as well. I have worked in Mexico and the Middle East and China, but if I had my time again, I’d travel there instead of being a resident, as there was always a sense of being ill at ease.


  4. Hi, i decided to make the plunge into international teaching at 52 years old, last year. I moved to Kathmandu during pandemic and I’d do it again in a heartbeat (coming back next year!)

    I think your questions are quite valid, as I had similar worries last year. The advice I got from other people:

    Base your decision on the job itself, because that is where you will be spending most your time. Decide where you do NOT want to go for sure, then focus elsewhere.

    I chose to avoid the middle east for the same reasons you cited. But read people’s blogs about their experiences in different places, so you can get perusal narratives to help guide your choice.

    Ultimately, it’s your life you need to live, so choose what you feel best about. It will be uncomfortable at first anywhere you go , I suspect.

    I wish you luck in finding the right place. 😄




  5. Well having read all the responses here I am thoroughly depressed by how venomous and angry many were. So many self appointed gate keepers, spitting anger at someone they don’t know.

    You can be an international teacher and just move abroad to teach in another school in one country forever. You can want to work abroad in a country that has familiar social and cultural values. You don’t have to subscribe to the idea that to be an international teacher is to don your fedora and head off into the unknown to discover the unknown truths of as many cultures and peoples as possible.

    So to the OP. Please ignore the gate keeping. Chose countries you are interested in. Read up on them, both here and in wider groups. And make a decision where you will be happy. That will give you the best chance to be a fantastic international teacher when you get there.


  6. There’s an awful lot of unnecessary judgement here, she does say:
    “Could I be wrong about my impressions of these areas of the world? Or, have I been accurately forewarned?” So is willing to be told otherwise.
    OP I also avoid similar regions of the world (although not Colombia) as I have had negative reactions travelling there as a female, even when in a couple. Thailand was great though, a huge expat population to make friends with outside school, friendly locals to hopefully be friends with also (can be difficult though) and zero hassle as a single female. China was similar although be careful about which school and which city if you want friends away from school. Some are very isolated. Singapore, most places in Europe, Kazakhstan and many others would be great, but I haven’t travelled there so not going to say specifics. Good luck, international teaching is great!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you need to be clearer about what you want from International Teaching, if it is money then China and some Countries in the Middle East pay well. Europe is a very easy area to adapt to and prior to COVID you could easily and cheaply travel to other European countries for holidays or weekends but that is no longer the case. You will most likely be in the Country you chooses to work in for most/entirety of contract so you are wise to choose carefully. However, whatever you choose you will need to adapt to the host country it will not adapt to you.


  8. OP, I think it is fine to be more interested in some countries than others. The attitude that a person is only fit to work overseas if that person is happy to go anywhere is a bit absurd. There is nothing wrong with being more interested in some countries than others. There isn’t anything wrong with being interested in experiencing ONE country, for that matter. Some people are interested in adventure in new places in general, others are fascinated by a certain culture or region, and that’s fine. Don’t let anyone talk you into going somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Where do YOU want to go? What do YOU want to see? It’s fine to have preferences.


  9. I wouldn’t write off the whole Middle East so quickly. I think Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the only countries that have banned alcohol. I lived in Bahrain (the Las Vegas of the Middle East) for several years as a single woman. I drove, drank, danced, and traveled solo. I have fond memories of elaborate boozy brunches and dancing at our favorite clubs late into the night. I never felt unsafe at all. When I went to my first international school job fair, we were given the advice to keep an open mind when researching where you want to go and I think that advice has served me well.


    1. Definitely don’t rule out the Middle East. I lived in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and drank and partied harder than anywhere I’ve ever been. Definitely the most fun places I’ve lived. I’m now in Egypt and the party seen is pretty great too.


  10. I’m appalled by some of the comments made here by fellow educators. The judgement and lack of compassion…We are educators for crying out loud and this is not how educators should respond to questions, reflections or those asking for feedback. Is this you would talk to your own students when they ask for advice? I am shocked at the lack of respect and open-mindedneas to others’ perpectives and the the condescending and entitled narrative of some in this forum.


    1. Agreed. To dismiss a fellow educator’s questions as being proof of “unworthiness” to live abroad because the criticizer doesn’t like her preferences and choices, smacks of ignorance, disrespect and intolerant immaturity. One wouldn’t tell someone to never go to a restaurant at all if a diner doesn’t like certain ethnic foods. Why would it be different for an international educator?!


    2. It may not be completely fair to dump all the blame in the lap of those replying. The OP posted a query that came across as severely deficient in open-mindedness to the point of being disrespectful to other countries and cultures. I dare say a bit of condescension and entitlement shined through. A tone sure to ruffle a few feathers, from world travelers and people from those countries, as well. If her approach had been, “I’m a single woman and would like personal feedback on these possible issues in these countries”, no doubt the responses would have been reciprocated with the same humility.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I spent 10 wonderful years in Egypt and Turkey as a single female. Seriously, it sounds like you need to stay home if you’re willing to write off half the world because it doesn’t fit your standards of appropriate behavior.


    1. Ooops. Hit send by accident. The thing is, every country is going to have issues (and charms!) you didn’t expect. When I first went overseas, like you I was thinking Athens, London, etc. I ended up in Turkey–and absolutely loved it. Still my all-time favorite place, and I’ve been overseas 20+ years now. Ditto, Egypt. I swore I’d never go there, then lived there for 5 years. Yes, the harassment can be annoying, but it’s not a constant thing and you learn to deal with it. So by all means have a list, but be open to options.


  12. Hi,

    I worked in Egypt. I moved to Egypt in 2015 at age 22 as a single female and I lived there for three years. I really loved the school and Cairo was a wonderful place to live. Yes there were catcalls but I didn’t feel unsafe. However, it is a place where you have to be cautious.

    I would recommend Thailand I really enjoyed teaching there, social life is great with lots of clubs and classes you can join.

    I’m currently in Uzbekistan and love it here.

    I have single female friends in Thailand, Japan and one who was in Myanmar.

    Living in these countries gives you a completely different perspective of the country and how media and the news presents it.

    Good luck with your search and I hope you find the country for you.


  13. It is difficult to say because different people had different experiences and, indeed, different perceptions to the same experience.

    You are right keeping in your comfort zone though, most important thing go out feeling confident in yourself. When you get there you can get to travel with others and get more experience.

    Oman in the Middle East is very nice, the locals there are known for their politeness. (They are known for behaving differently to other Arabs) It is introducing more taxes for expats though.

    Jakarta is hard work but if you persist, you can find some enjoyable experiences.

    In reply to other posts about South East Asia and Romance – not always true. Western women married Indonesians and had good relationships. Western people got together. Anyway, why clutter yourself up with Romance? So many other things to do!!

    Finally, most countries are not as bad as portrayed in the media. I have been in countries with bombs exploding but, like the West, you might not be anywhere near the incident.

    Best of luck and I hope you have a very satisfying time when you get to the country you choose.


  14. I am horrified to read some of these posts…sounds like a lot of people need to have the soapbox kicked out from under them. To the original poster: You have some clear ideas about where you don’t want to go, so start from there. Make a list of all of the countries where you believe you would be most comfortable “getting your feet wet”, and do your research on schools in those countries. The research will do you well, as you will begin to understand the different curricula and school cultures. Next, look into living in the countries themselves. One very good website to use is “TalesMag”, but there are many. Then look into the administration and narrow your list. Once you have done all of this, join Search Associates/ISS — that will help you understand the whole process better and get some guidance from people whose job it is to help people just like you find employment. And don’t try to control the situation too much, because serendipity happens. Just remember: Courage does not exist in the absence of fear — embrace it. I applaud your decision to go international! It will be the best thing that ever happened to you and I wish you all the best.


  15. Dear Original Poster,

    You have every right to have concerns and some trepidations. I applaud you for wanting to explore the world while contributing your talents as an educator. I wish you all the best in your endeavors. It will be an exciting journey!

    As you weigh the importance of your future location, it is probably more important to carefully consider the school itself. It’s imperative that you realise that not all schools are created equal; nor are the staffs equal. For example, in my mind, the post from Solange Powers is insightful that there are intelligent educators out there who could be your colleagues. Oppositely, IF you do not assess a school properly, you may end up severely disappointed.

    From just this post, you have already learned that there are different personalities representing the educational community. Choose your school carefully so that you are surrounded by people who will care about you as a professional and as a world explorer.


  16. Dear Original Poster,

    You have every right to have concerns and some trepidations. I applaud you for wanting to explore the world while contributing your talents as an educator. I wish you all the best in your endeavors. It will be an exciting journey!

    As you weigh the importance of your future location, it is probably more important to carefully consider the school itself. It’s imperative that you realise that not all schools are created equal; nor are the staffs equal. For example, in my mind, the post from Solange Powers is insightful that there are intelligent educators out there who could be your colleagues. Oppositely, IF you do not assess a school properly, you may end up severely disappointed.

    From just this post, you have already learned that there are different personalities representing the educational community. Choose your school carefully so that you are surrounded by people who will care about you as a professional and as a world explorer.


  17. Bali is another nice option, although somewhat limited in INTL schools with higher salaries. Definitely not Jakarta.

    Personally believe that Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and there are so many things to enjoy there (horseback riding on your own wherever you want to go for the entire afternoon for something like $15-25 USD, etc. Taught with two younger American females, they didn’t necessarily love the machisimo culture but loved the country and it spirit, people.

    Singapore might get stultifying.

    Places like Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg…maybe more wealthier people, just like HK or Singapore.

    Australia and NZ are two popular countries for tourism, but less need for ENG teachers, obviously.

    Thailand is a lot of fun unless you’re attempting to save money….hard to run out, but also hard to save much.

    South Korea and Japan are a bit more insulated culturally…more likely to meet fellow expats unless you’re in your 20’s or 30’s I would imagine.

    Mexico/Ecuador/Panama/Costa Rica. Peru is amazing.

    Vietnam is another good choice, maybe not the highest salaries.

    Taiwan can be a ton of fun and very westernized/distinct from mainland China.


  18. I began my IS experience 25 years ago as a single woman. I envy you starting out. There was so much unknown, so much yet to discover in those early days, and I was always filled with wonder.

    I would say don’t limit yourself based on what you have heard. I think you can have fun and find contentment anywhere, except in a danger zone, of course. Part of the joy of moving overseas is experiencing something wholly new, even if that means inconveniences and annoyances. Those are included in what makes life more exciting. In fact, if I didn’t have a young teen in tow, I would choose the edgiest non war zone I could. You are seeking adventure and new horizons. You’ll find that best in a place where cultural expectations are different from your own. My complaint about the ME might be that it’s too comfortable.

    The most important considerations are relative safety, school atmosphere/job satisfaction, and benefits. If you choose a post in any of those places you’ve listed, as long as the school is good and the benefits are satisfactory, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Meanwhile, if you choose someplace too similar to your current culture, I think you will be missing out on the best experience you could have.


  19. Lol, ignore the haters (some ppl are just so ready to be angry!) I’ve been in many places (Central & South America, Asia, the US…) Only place I ever had a problem was Japan (not treated as a professional at work). Sometimes you can never tell where you’ll have the time of your life, and where you’ll be objectified, so just go with your best judgment and HAVE A GREAT TIME (you will!) Happy travels and welcome to the international teacher community. (We’re mostly nice, I promise!)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. OP you have written your article as a Google expert would. This is not your fault, the internet does not portray those places well.

    SEA is fine, but can be lonely for single women, however places such as Bangkok have amazing expat scenes where you can have a great life and maybe meet someone local or international.

    If you move in circles of middle income,.uni educated people then you are more likely to meet someone real than if you are hanging about knocking shops.

    As a first time overseas I would recommend Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore.or Bangkok.

    HK is a bit tenuous just now the others are easy places to set up and get a taste for life.

    Enjoy your adventure.


  21. Europe especially Scandinavia would be good, parts of South America (not Brazil), Istanbul was OK, If you are interested in a possible romantic relationship stay away from Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines as the single, and married expat men will go for local ladies and local men would just be taking advantage of you.


  22. I too will be a single female American solo-ing overseas starting this fall at an American School abroad. I actually was looking for a position and not necessarily a country. But with that said, I turned down a few different offers because of the laws in those countries and the overall package (salary, accommodations, health care, etc) I am going to remain open-minded because after all that is what international education is all about! I want to learn all I can about another’s culture and customs, which is what draws me to want to head overseas in the first place. Best of luck to you and you do you! Cheers!


  23. I drank, danced, and traveled solo all through the Middle East, while living in a MENA country as a single woman.
    The region is not all Saudi Arabia, and even there you can find fun.

    Do some more research before pursuing this goal.

    I do hope you find what you’re seeking; plenty have done it before you. Good luck.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Go to Denmark, they appreciate women and all they have to contribute. Ignore the people who say ‘stay home’.


  25. I find the comments to the original poster mean-spirited and judgmental in a negative way. Because she has chosen to eliminate particular countries that others have experienced in a positive and growth-inducing way, does not give others carte-Blanche to tell her to stay home, that she’s not ready to live abroad, etc. She has preconceived notions, certainly, but for others to dismiss her thoughts and ideas is to invalidate what she wants and is disrespectful to boot. So what if she eliminates those countries?? For HER, that is her choice. Perhaps she would feel most comfortable in Northern Europe, where gender equality and women’s safety is better. There are many international schools in Germany (where I lived for 8 years, and had children in a school there), the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Luxembourg, Switzerland. The poster may be comfortable in most European countries, if she wants a good experience, good health care, safety, etc.
    I would say that other teachers blithely dismissing your thoughts shows their own biases, and lack of respect/compassion for the choices you have to make for yourself. It’s a big world out there, amd you can find your place! Good luck.


    1. I agree with you 100%. What sort of educators are these that are attacking the original poster. There are many places in the world where she would be perfectly happy. You have named many for her. The “you should stay home” group should stay home themselves and stop polluting the pool of international educators. I can only imagine how they treat their students! They should be ashamed.


    2. I absolutely agree that it is not my place to judge and criticise a woman’s thoughts when she is legitimately considering her safety & her desires. Perhaps Denmark, Bali and so on are a better fit as a first IS experience. While not at all demanding you to “open to your mind” to other cultures&countries that have historically & still have problematic cultural practices vis a vis women (with further categories regarding women of colour, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, marital status) this thread certainly creates a space where female international teachers can share their own stories so you can make up your own mind.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the shopping (ooh textiles and handlooms), art, solo-travelling, music while teaching&living in Asia (not getting any more specific than this). I did think making friends (outside of work) was difficult and learning how to navigate friendships with men (friendly but not too close) was a learning curve, dating even harder. I also found a lot of countries (where you, rightly so, need to be on ‘high alert’) have burgeoning feminist movements who are working to create change, so I joined a lot of facebook groups making friends with female djs, non-binary event planners, LGBTQIA+-friendly male bar owners. They are generally in their 20s-40s and all look out for one another – a support system is really powerful. So it really depends on what you’re moving towards, and what&how much you’re willing to ‘sacrifice’ for the time being.

      One thing I have always personally avoided are ‘teaching compounds’ – like you, making friends outside of work is really important for me, so I avoid boarding schools, schools located beyond the outskirts of a city, I choose bigger cities, I asked about the ratio of local national staff versus expat staff, and I flinch at “During the first year you will be lodged in our teaching campus”. Did I shut myself off to potentially amazing experiences with my criteria? I’m absolutely sure I have. In the end, it is your decision. With two year contracts you could start at a ‘safer’ ‘fun’ place get your feet wet, travel to those other places and make an informed decision for your next school. Welcome to international teaching, it is AMAZING.


  26. I’m so sad for you, really. I can’t imagine not including Middle Eastern countries in a 2-year teaching stint. But more importantly, you need the right perspective.

    For instance, I have YEARS of experience being cat-called in every major city in the UNITED STATES, yet I still go home. I cannot tell you how gropey US men are in the night club (you already know) not to mention the fear of drugged drinks. Date rape is RAMPANT in the UNITED STATES.

    And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the US the home of the #MeToo movement?

    If you want to escape that “high alert” lifestyle that women have to endure against men, then be sure NEVER to live or work in the UNITED STATES.

    I don’t think you are ready for the world, at this moment, but I might recommend a summer in one of those “scary” countries, to help broaden your horizons, before you make a 2-year commitment, in any foreign country.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, but people often have a preconceived notion that the US is a great place for women without any oppression or danger. AND Middle Eastern countries are full of danger/oppression for women. My perspective was to show that stepping back and looking at all countries (even my own), objectively, will uncover a “high-alert” environment, for women. Anywhere you go requires research, planning and an open mind.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have an attitude. It appears you do and I hope you’re not in any way representative of the type of teacher on the international circuit. My information is based on what I have read on a variety of websites. It’s all I have to go on. I was hoping for some constructive advice based on first hand experience and I’m getting it. Maybe you should stay home!! Or, change your attitude.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. I agree with the above comments. I left the states after my marriage ended and never looked back. I lived in India and Egypt, and would go back in a heartbeat. You need to be open and experience the world for yourself. Don’t believe everything you hear and read.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. You really limited yourself. As a single lady, I spent 16 years in the Middle East. I grew professional, starting as a resource teacher and left as a principal. While there I enjoyed many social outings with locals and expats. I never felt suppressed, I had a vehicle, drove freely, had my own apartment and thoroughly enjoyed my time and travel throughout the area. Don’t limit yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Are you for real? I’m going to answer even though you might be a troll. Have you actually been to a place like Colombia? How dare you stereotype whole countries based on what you feel has been “documented.”. You have practically eliminated the majority of the world with your judgmental and unfair conclusions based on anecdotal news and hearsay. Do yourself a favor and turn off CNN- Yes, every country has their warts.

    A bit of friendly advice from someone who has worked in 8 countries over 20 years on 5 continents- Leave your preconceived notions at home and go make your own conclusions based on your actual experiences. You might be surprised and have the time of your life. And maybe you’ll learn something about other cultures along the way. Some people are clearly not ready for the expat life and there is no shame in admitting you should stay home, not ever put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, and remain the special Princess you believe you are in your home country. Good luck to whatever you decide! I truly hope you have an attitude adjustment if you do take the plunge.

    Liked by 1 person

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