Relationships Abroad (Aka Avoiding Students)

If you are single and teaching English abroad the opportunity to date will probably present itself at some point. When it comes to relationships abroad, however, you are going to have a few options and one very important rule you need to remember. Let’s take a look at your options for dating while abroad and where you can meet people. In the process, we’ll also examine the number one rule you should never break for any reason.

What do I need to know about relationships abroad?

Generally, dating while living abroad is going to be just about the same as dating while in your home country. There are a few cultural exceptions, which we will discuss below, however, the process of meeting people and moving to a date will be similar.

There is one rule though that you cannot break for whatever reason in regards to relationships abroad. You cannot date students. Period. No exceptions. Don’t even think about it.

That is going to be quite obvious if you are teaching at a primary school or high school. If you are teaching at a university it may not be as apparent as students are closer to your age. No matter what though you cannot date a student. Even if they are a university student who is older than you.

It is ethically wrong for a number of reasons and could get you fired. It might also be illegal and could get you thrown in prison. Trust me when I say that many of the countries popular with TEFL teachers are also infamous for having some of the worst prisons in the world. Certainly not an experience you want to go through.

Don’t think that you won’t get caught either. A quick search on Google will reveal to you a large number of cases where teachers have been arrested for inappropriate relationships with students. Both local teachers, as well as foreign English teachers, have been arrested in all parts of the world.

You don’t want to be the next face in one of these news stories so it is best to avoid the situation altogether. Keep your contact with your students professional at all times and do not ever give out your personal phone number or social media information. If you conduct private tutoring with students in high school or below make sure all communication beyond the actual tutoring session is done through the parents.

While we are on the topic it is probably a smart idea for you to avoid dating other teachers at your school as well. Work relationships are usually a bad idea but at a school and in a foreign country where you are in a respectable position it is certainly in poor taste. If things end up going badly you could be stuck for the duration of your contract with someone you may not get along with anymore.

Lastly, you will need to understand the culture you are living in before you begin looking at people to potentially date. If you are in Brazil, for example, the culture surrounding relationships and dating is much more relaxed than in Saudi Arabia. It is going to be extremely important for you to understand potential laws you could be violating.

In the United Arab Emirates, for example, you could get into trouble for showing public displays of affection. Are you teaching English in Laos? If you are and you decide you fancy one of the local women think twice before having relations with her as it is illegal.

Every country will be different regarding what is legally and socially acceptable so it will be up to you to make sure you understand and follow these laws and norms. Remember that most countries are going to be similar to your own regarding dating. it is better to be informed than sitting in prison though so make sure you do your due diligence before you begin dating while teaching English abroad.

What are my options for relationships abroad?

Depending on where you are living you are going to have options when it comes to dating. This goes for both men and women. That’s a good thing though as you will have no problems avoiding relationships abroad with your students.


If you are in a country that is popular with tourists then you can easily find dates among the ever-changing faces. Obviously, this isn’t going to be a recipe for long-term success. So, if you know you are going to be living and teaching in the country for multiple years and are looking for a more long-term relationship this isn’t the best option for you. If, however, you are only teaching for a year or for a few months then you may have no problem with dating tourists.

Other Foreign Expats

In most any major city around the world there will be a strong expat community that you can easily become a part of. Most expats are friendly and open and, you will find, quite easy to befriend. This means that somewhere in the thousands of expats who live in the country you are teaching in you may find one or two you want to date.


As mentioned above you are going to have to look into any laws that exist regarding relationships between locals and foreigners. In the above example Laos has laws prohibiting relations between a foreigner and a local if you are not married. There may be other countries with laws similar to this and you don’t want to run afoul of those laws. That being said, there are plenty of successful relationships in countries throughout the world between foreign teachers and local men and women.

This will by far be the most challenging of options as you may experience a language barrier and cultural issues which complicate your relationships. But, if you can get past those issues then dating a local is perhaps the most stable option as they will not be leaving after a year.

How can you meet people for dating abroad?

The most obvious answer to this question is the same way that you would meet someone for dating in your home country. What you have to remember is that assuming there are no cultural or legal restrictions in place, dating is pretty much the same throughout the world in the modern era.

You are probably going to meet people more easily if you are going out and actually introducing yourself. If, for whatever reason, this isn’t your style or you don’t have the time there are still a number of options for meeting people that are effective.

The Traditional Way

As mentioned above if you get out and talk to people it will be much easier to meet people. When you are living abroad there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get out and explore. Since you are in an entirely new city you are naturally going to be inclined to go out to new bars, museums, sightseeing destinations, and similar places. If you make friends easily this is going to be your best bet for meeting people. You will probably find that it is very easy to make friends while abroad. Since people are on vacation or they are living in a foreign nation they are more open and therefore will be more liberal about talking to you. You can use this to your advantage when trying to meet people.

Dating Apps

You may be surprised but dating apps are quite popular among expats and locals in countries throughout the world. This includes apps like Tinder and OkCupid where you have to sign up and create a profile. In fact, this is perhaps one of the best ways to meet locals if you are looking to meet people outside of your normal circle. You shouldn’t get too hung up on the reputation of apps like Tinder. Outside of North America, it is quite common for people to use these apps to meet up and you can take advantage of this.