6 Crazy things you’ll see when teaching in Asia

Ah Asia; from the misty hills of China to the steamy jungles of Sri Lanka, the sleepless parties of the Thai Gulf to the noodle-scented streets of Nam’s ancient cities, this continent rarely fails to enthrall. Today, teaching in Asia is one of the most popular courses of action for recently graduated TEFL-ers, many of whom head for destinations like the fabled Land of Smiles, volcano-topped Indonesia, cutting-edge South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong – the list goes on. There’s no question that adventure awaits those who opt to make this corner of the globe their home, along with just a few seriously mind-boggling things you’re bound to see while on the ground. Check them out…


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Elephants in the streets


I remember the first time I spied one of these great beasts roaming the city streets of Asia. It was a hot morning in Udaipur and our rattling rickshaw had just rounded a bend. In the distance, the looming stupa of a Hindu temple could be made out between the twisting incense fumes and steamy bhaji stalls. Right next to it was a great galumphing elephant, painted in glowing neon pinks and yellows. The tuk-tuk driver rolled on like nothing was amiss. I soon realised why: elephants will turn up in urban spots everywhere you can imagine, from Vietnam to Thailand, Burma to Sri Lanka, so be ready to dodge them too if you’re heading for teaching in Asia!


Uber-hi-tech toilets


Okay, so this one’s pretty much solely directed at those people looking to do their teaching in Asia in Japan! And boy is it something you’re bound to notice, because the locals of cities like Tokyo and Kyoto have been working hard to take the WC experience to the next level. Features like automatic seat warming, in-built bidets and fragrance dispensers are all now part and parcel to the Japanese toilet visit. It’s pretty darn cool actually!


teaching in Asia
Scooter in Phuket, Thailand | © Thomas sauzedde/Flickr


A person’s whole life on a scooter


The battle for the record of ‘most things fitted onto a single scooter’ must be a pretty hard-fought between the nations of Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, you’re likely to see whole marketplaces balanced tenuously on two wheels, with the vendors happily packing up and rumbling over the potholed roads of Ho Chi Minh come the end of the day. In Thailand, you might spot the familial scooter: when everyone from the youngest baby to the household dog is perched somewhere on the auto. Laos, Cambodia, Burma all also make an effort, so be ready to witness some serious two-wheel overload!


Respect for monks


Whether it’s a face-painted baba in Jaipur or an orange-robed Buddhist monk next to the age-old temples of Ayutthaya, a revered shaman in the Burmese hills or a Taoist leader in China, you’re bound to notice the great respect in which religious figures are held throughout Asia. It can take some getting used to in some places (giving up the best bus seats for monks in Thailand is just a case in point), but once you get it you’re bound to follow suit.


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21 EMU local in new avatar | © Smeet Chowdhury/Flickr


People on the train roof


Even though Indian authorities have been desperately trying to ban folk form riding on any part of train exteriors, it’s likely that you’re going to see one or two people throwing caution to the wind and mounting the top of a locomotive if you opt to do your TEFL teaching in Asia on the subcontinent. And even if you don’t, you can still expect to witness passengers hopping on and off carriages while they’re moving, or jumping aboard trains when they haven’t even reached a complete stop at the stations. It’s just the done thing.


Century eggs


It would be a crime to collate the weirdest and most wonderful things in Asia without at least a nod to the region’s boundary-breaking kitchen. And what better culinary delight to do that with than the century egg? These (in)famous little treats, considered a delicacy and also called just the pidan, are particularly popular in China and Vietnam. They are made by preserving the egg yolk in layers of ash or clay. That’s then left for up to nine months, to, erm…mature. The finished product is an emerald-green ball with a potent odour. Hungry anyone?


Teaching in Asia
Century egg | © Brett Hodnett/Flickr




If you can think of any other crazy and cool things you’ll only get to see while teaching in Asia then we’d love to hear about them in the comments below! Or, if you think it’s time to get TEFL qualified and start your own teaching in Asia adventure, check out our range of courses


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