What’s it like for families living overseas?

should I teach overseas with my family? Search Associates ANZ turn your life upside down like this happy girl in the playground

Should you turn your lives upside down? Expose your family to culture shock and homesickness? (It is completely normal to be homesick when you relocate. In fact, you will always be homesick from your previous post no matter how many times you move).

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of teaching overseas. Daydreaming about exotic destinations, travel opportunities, and the excitement of expat life. However, unless you have given serious consideration to your family members as well, things may not work out as planned. Speaking from experience, we spent some time in the first few months of our second overseas posting (this time in tow with primary school-aged boys) asking ourselves if we had done the right thing by them as they missed their friends so much.

A recruiter who attended the Melbourne Fair in 2020 inspired this post. He said “… Some candidates who had never been in an international teaching role needed to consider if they were really ready to take the step out. Some teachers with non-teaching partners or children didn’t seem to consider the full picture of taking their entire family overseas. I think they needed to be front-loaded more with raising a family abroad.” So here it is –

The full picture

should I teach overseas with my family? Search Associates ANZ two children playing joyfully on a swingsetThere will be higher highs and lower lows when you live overseas with your family. Parents get to see the world through the eyes of their children. The opposite is also true  – not only is there more planning and organisation required in taking children overseas, but if one of you is not happy, they will affect the others! Families are right to keep tabs on how their children will cope and adapt to a new school system or country. Sometimes, after the initial homesickness or missing friends, it is often the parents who are much slower to adjust!

Was it perfect NO. Was it always easy NO. Was it worth it YES YES YES. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. I am just so glad we had a crack. Memories made that we’ll talk about forever. Carrie Bickmore on travelling with her family

Sound out your family before making any plans. Take the time to listen carefully to their thoughts. Research life overseas before making a decision and evaluate both the positive and negative aspects carefully. Look at videos or browse the internet together as a family, and discuss the likely benefits of the new destination as well as any concerns that family members may have. Online communities mean you can reach out to locals or fellow expats, getting valuable insight into how life works out there.

If you do get an offer from a school ask to be put in contact with another teacher in a similar family configuration. They will be able to advise you impartially. If you go on to accept an offer, many schools have a buddy system to connect you with staff already at the school. They can answer all your questions about the school but also about everyday life such as what’s available to buy, ease of public transport or purchasing a car or information about local healthcare.

Think about who you are taking with you

Consider your family members and whether it is fair to ask them to come along; balance the pros and cons from everyone’s point of view. Expat life involves a change in just about every part of life. Family members will be interacting with new people in entirely new situations. Think about them – their personalities and learning styles, their ages and social requirements, and how they will respond to the challenge. How are their coping resources? People who find a move the easiest are open-minded, emotionally stable, and have a high level of social initiative.

What they will give up

Most international school contracts are for 2 years. Discuss if you make do without –

should I teach overseas with my family? Search Associates ANZ Students having fun jumping into the school pool

  • Extended family and friends. You will not be available in a crisis or for celebrations. Grandparents may miss their grandchildren.
  • Organisations or activities at home that might not be
    available in your new country eg sports, clubs, churches? What options are available in the new destination?
  • Your current climate. Also take into account any environmental risks such as earthquakes or cyclones, and whether the level of risk would be a concern to you and your family. Try to find out whether there are other health hazards such as high pollution levels or high levels of pesticides in local produce. These may be a particular concern if family members suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma.
  • Familiar territory and routines. Organizing life in a new location is more demanding.
  • Visa restrictions may prevent your partner from working.

Benefits of working overseas

  • Children can explore a new culture, learn a language, or study subjects not available to them at home.
  • Take part in a world-class education and take advantage of free tuition. Many international schools have fees above and below the US $30,000 mark. Schools regularly offer two children per family free tuition and a growing number will provide for three children. This is a massive saving for families.
  • Your family may become closer, sharing adventures and experiences not open to those back home.
  • You get to go to the same school as your kids
  • There are so many experiences to enjoy out of school as well; visit famous landmarks, eat in a renowned restaurant, take up the national sport or become fluent in the language.

My 3 siblings and I all loved being raised in an international environment. We were exposed to (in most schools) a top quality education, which may not have been afforded in our home country. We all have a great love of travelling, a respect for other cultures, have an extensive knowledge of the world around us, still have friendships with people all over the globe and are very adaptable people. The quality of life and experiences we had were just amazing. We make friends easily, are confident and have a zest for life.

However, I believe children’s experiences largely depend on how strong the family unit is. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter where you and how often you move, as long as the family unit is strong, supportive and constant. There are definitely issues associated with moving and living overseas and parents must go in with their eyes wide open and be there for their children through all the hurdles.

We went through an American, English and Australian system and I feel took the best elements from each. It was a well rounded education and we had some rather strong accents along the way! We picked up a few languages too.

Most schools run after schools sports and activities, so there is less running around for parents.

Leaving friends (and pets) was always difficult, but my parents always got us involved in activities to take our minds off it and it was not long before we had new friends. Email, Skype and cheaper travel help.

One thing we did miss out on was grandparents. I never realised until I had my own children how wonderful this bond is.

Depending on where you go and how large the school is, it can be like living in a fish bowl.

We lived outside Australia for 19 years. However, we always considered Australia home.

Parents need to be role models –  if you are enthusiastic about a new way of life, your children will too. Simone

If you live in a desirable location you may be inundated with visitors especially now Covid restrictions have eased in most countries. Mick Green, an international educator, remembers, “In Cambodia we had 19 visitors stay with us over the course of the year.”

The fine print

should I teach overseas with my family? Search Associates ANZ children sight-seeing at the pyramidImmigration regulations vary enormously between countries and it is absolutely essential to obtain specific information regarding the country that you are planning to move to, finding out well in advance what types of visas or permits, if any, are required for yourself and any family members accompanying you, and what the procedures and the time frame for obtaining these.


“Family resources such as flexibility, adaptability, cohesion, and good relationships within the family and beyond contribute to the well-being of expatriates and their family members. Maintaining contact with extended family, friends, and former colleagues–with the use of social media and the internet- helps family members to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. Talking to other people when in need of emotional support and asking for help with everyday engagements alleviates distress among expatriates. Social support networks play an important role in the adjustment process. For children, good integration at their school is crucial, for partners’ support from host country nationals, and for expatriates and partners, organizational support and company assistance are important.” (Expatriate Family Adjustment: An Overview of Empirical Evidence on Challenges and Resources).


You can always find a reason not to do something. Many of our regrets in life are because we didn’t take an opportunity when it arose. And making life-changing decisions can be stressful. A new study suggests a “good rule of thumb in decision-making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo,” says University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, who conducted the study.

Once you’ve made the decision – prepare and share with the family. Together learn a little about the culture, listen to the language, and know as much as you can about the school.

Search Associates made it easy to filter through so many great teaching opportunities to find the one that was right for me and my family. Amy Godoy-Guerra

Facebook groups

Teachers On The Move With Children

Traveling Teachers

Discover a world of opportunity

Get in touch