Are you ready to do what I do – travelling the world but earning a salary as an English teacher as I go along? FET? NEST? Yes, that is the jargon here in Taiwan. FET: Foreign English Teacher or NEST: Native English Speaking Teacher. 

Here are some tips.

  1. Get accredited: If you already are a qualified / licensed teacher and you have not worked as a teacher in your home country for a long time the first thing to do is register with the national teaching authority. This is a document that says you have the qualifications. While you are dealing with bureaucracy get a Police Clearance Certificate / Criminal Background Check done too. You will be working with vulnerable children and in many countries they will not issue a work permit if you can not supply this document. 

2. Get qualified: 

Whether you are a qualified teacher or not next best thing to do is enrol for a TEFL  / TESOL /  CELTA course. This can be done in most cities around the world. I have a TEFL and it has served me well. Its usually a 2 or 3-week course. The first week is teaching you the basics of how to teach a foreign language. You will be given themes and at home prepare lessons for a class. Next day you will do that lesson in front of your peers / classmates and they will give feedback and discuss why things worked or not and how to make them work. 

The following week(s) you will be teaching actual students in real life situations. At the end of the course you will be given a certificate to say you did complete the TEFL course. You will also be given a TEFL report written by your lecturers stating how they observed you. 

For the purpose of applying for a TEFL job you need to submit both these documents with your application. So don’t laugh off the report. It is important. 

WHY should you do TEFL / TESOL / CELTA? Some countries / schools / language centres will only employ you if you have this qualification. Its easier to get a job with a TEFL / TESOL and the easiest yet is a CELTA. In many countries you can find a job teaching English at a language school with your only qualification that you are a native speaker or a fluent speaker of English. I think that is ok if you are young and don’t want to be tied down. I prefer to get a position at a government school or university with perks like a legal work permit, fixed contract for longer than a few months, paid holidays and medical insurance.

Most important reason I think is the confidence it gives you. You will be working in a foreign country and you may find yourself in an area where you are the only foreign teacher. The whole English programme at that school (or in my case, schools) depends on you. They expect you to supply the curriculum, the lesson plans, and they want to see the results. Often running to the local library for information leaves you facing a building full of books in a language you are not familiar with. You can also not rely on the local English teachers. Some will be very helpful, some are glad you are there so they can sit in the back of the class and sleep or play on their smart phones, others will be hostile (Why are you here? Am I not a good enough teacher?) At my 3 schools I have all of them.  

Not interested in teaching English: In Taiwan the government has started CLIL. Which basically means they want Taiwanese students to be instructed using the medium of English in every subject offered at schools. So if you are a biology, music, art, math etc major, you will be welcomed in Taiwan. You will teach your favourite subject in English to Taiwanese students alongside a Taiwanese teacher. 

3. Where to get qualified: When you start you Google search for TEFL courses you will have many options. I did mine in a city near where I lived at the time. It was convenient but afterwards I had to go out and find my own job. There is no problem with that. Its easy enough.

You also have the option of doing the course in a foreign country where the language school will help you find your first job. So choose a country you have always wanted to explore and can financially afford to live in for at least 2 or 3 months and enrol for your TEFL there. 

4. Am I too old? You are never too old to teach English in a foreign country. You may be too old to get a work permit in some countries, like in Saudi Arabia 60 years is the cut-off age and some Asian countries it in the 40’s. This applies for the government positions. The criteria for a work permit differs from country to country and even within a country it changes over years. Even when you do not qualify for a work permit there are legal ways to get around that problem without having to marry a local.

In most countries at language schools or language centres they will employ you as long as you can stand on your feet unaided. 

5. Where to find a job: There are several ways.

Google search: but be careful if a site wants you to pay for them to find you a job – that is a red flag. Stay away. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say most people find their jobs, or at least the first one, through Dave’s ESL Cafe. Dave’s Cafe sets the standard. Its also a useful site for advice, lessons, and just about everything an English teacher in foreign country would want and need. 

Networking: Those friends you made during the TEFL course, stay in touch. They may be employed and then asked if they could get one of their friends to also join the team. That question has often come my way. Stay in touch with your friends who are working in this industry. They will know when jobs come up or who you should talk to. 

Travel: Just arrive in the country you would like to work inwith a tourist visa, and go around to schools, language schools and language centres and ask about jobs. Soon enough you will be employed. After all the paperwork is done you may have to leave the country and come back in with your new visa / work permit. 

I’m very happy doing this job and I would encourage others to consider it. There will always be a need for a FET. In Taiwan right now there are hundreds of newly created and still vacant posts. 

Tunisian Recipes 

When I think of the meals I had in Tunisia there was not one that was not delicious. From the Bambalouni and Samsa that I bought in the street in Sidi Bou Said to the Brik, fresh fish and many couscous-based dishes in various restaurants all over the country, there was never a disappointing meal. What did surprised me was the spiciness of many dishes. I was expecting lots of seafood, tomatoes and olive oil style food with some familiar dishes and ingredients from the Middle East, but the spininess was unexpected.

  In this north African country so many traders left their spices, culture and influence and it all blends together to make an exciting Shakshouka. This word means a mixture or things that stick together. Its also the name of a popular dish and I will share the recipe later. 5000 BC the Berbers were the nomads that travelled around in this country. Since then the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Spanish, French, Arabs, Jews, and Turks all had a say in this country at one time or another. They all left their mark in the food that has become traditional Tunisian food. 

Hrissa, or harissa as the westerners say it, has become a favourite ingredient of mine. Every household in Tunisia has their own recipe for this sauce made with red chilli, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, caraway and whatever else your tastebuds desire. When I have a home with a kitchen I always have hrissa in my fridge. 

 My Hrissa recipe:Put16 sun-dried red chilies, seeded and stemmed, in a bowl of very hot water for about an hour. Dry roast 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds in a skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then grind to powder with a mortar and pestle. Drain chillies and, using scissors, cut them into smaller pieces. Put them into a food processors with the garlic, salt and spices. Process for about a minute. Then while processing gradually add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When you have a nice smooth paste transfer to a jar or container and cover with a layer of olive oil. Remember every time you scoop out some hrissa to top up the olive oil. This will keep for about a month in the fridge. 

Shakshouka recipe:

About 6 tomatoes, peeled and diced; 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips; 2 Onions diced; Artichoke hearts / potatoes optional;

Eggs; 2 garlic cloves crushed;

2 tablespoons of tomato paste; Olive oil;

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin and of coriander;

1/4 teaspoon ground caraway; 1 tablespoon hrissa;

1/2 cup of water; Salt and pepper to taste

I like to make this in a cast-iron pan and serve it from the pan. I have also done individual servings in smaller cast-iron pans. 

Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry onions and garlic till onions are translucent. Add rest of the ingredients, mix, cover and cook over low heat. After about 20 min break the eggs onto the mixture. Cover and cook till the egg white is done to your liking. 

Recipes from the cooking class of Madame Rabaa, translated by her daughter Mariem.


This is dough rolled out thin, made into pockets or folders, filled with whatever you would like – fish, veggies, meat, egg etc. Then deep fried or baked in the oven. Its a very popular starter in Tunisia. I recently read a foodie saying its touristy thing to eat. Well, I’m one of those. The first time I had it the waiter put this plate in front of me with what looked like a baked pillow, it was the size of the plated about 5 inches / 12 cm high. Most of it was just air but inside was the best fish dish. After that I would often order this just to see the different shapes and fillings the different chefs can up with.  The ones we made in the cooking class looked more like spring rolls. 

How to make Brik: We used cooked chicken cut into small pieces, diced potatoes, 1/3 cup olive oil, chopped onions and parsley, pepper, 1tbsp salt, 1/3 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp ginger. Cook all of this and mash. Roll out the dough, decide the shapes you want and make folders. Add cream cheese to the mashed mixture and some raw eggs. Mix and place spoonfuls on the Brik dough. Fold over. Keep damp by covering them with a wet tea towel. When the oils is hot deep fry till golden brown. The healthier option is to bake in a hot oven. 

Stuffed calamari 

Mix cooked rice, parsley, chopped calamari wings, lots of dried mint, coriander, 2 tbsp Harissa, 2,5tsp sea salt, pepper, 1,5 tsp turmeric and 1/2 cup olive oil. Mix well and stuff into calamari tubes ‘sealing’ with a toothpick. 

Sauce: Heat olive oil, add chopped onions, 2tbsp tomato paste, a little water, salt, pepper and garlic. Add the stuffed calamari to this as well as a tbsp saffron and more water. Cook for about 30 minutes. 

Vegetable dish 

Put chopped spinach, onions and parsley into olive oil and saute. Add chopped dill, tomato paste, 1 tbsp Harissa, salt and pepper, coriander, garlic, peas, 4 carrots, chopped turnip, and boil over low heat. Towards end add zucchini and whole chillis. Chillis are not hot when left whole and removed whole before serving. 

Here are some of the meals I enjoyed in Tunisia. Some in upmarket restaurants and some in humble homes with a few candles providing the only light.