C is for Cultural Introductions

Random first meeting with my manager, 24 hours after arriving at the desert to teach English to a group of students.


Boss – You know, you have a very good attitude.

Me – Oh, thanks. That’s very nice.

Boss – How are you getting on?

Me – OK, but some of the students are honestly, very, very lazy. One of them swallowed a pencil sharper.

Boss – Really?

Me – Yeah. He took the blade out of it, and put it in his mouth and they said “Teacher, I go doctor.”

Boss – Oh, dear. What’s color?

Me – What?

Boss – The pencil sharper, was it the small red ones?

Me – Er, yes. I think so. It wasn’t mine, so I don’t remember. But…. yeah… maybe it was red.

Boss – You see Shane, there is a lot to understand about teaching these people.

Me – Yes. I can see that.

Boss – There are a lot of cultural differences you will find here.

Me – Yes. I don’t recall Irish people eating stationary. Although, I do chew a lot of pens. Haha.

Boss doesn’t laugh and continues….

Boss – You know, you have to be very sensitive to their culture. It’s important if you want to last longer that the other teachers.

Me – Yes. Sorry, I am correct in saying that the other 2 teachers before me, both got fired.

Boss – No. No. One got fired. The other three left and never came back.

Me – Three? Great.

Boss – No. It was actually very bad. It wasn’t great.

Me – I was being sarcastic.

Boss – British humor…

Me – I’m Irish.

Boss – You know that if you are sensitive, it will be a great benefit to you. It’s a good idea, not to insult them.

Me – Oh, right. Shall I write that down… haha?

Boss – You know, it’s a good idea not to insult their religion.

Me – Yes. I think most people everywhere generally don’t like that.

Boss – Or, don’t tell them to shut up. The last teacher always told them to shut up.

Me – Well, sometimes people need to be told. But I will try to avoid telling them to shut up and insulting them. I’ve planned to do that anyway.

Boss – Good idea.

Me – But is there anything specific I should know? You know, like for example, I didn’t realize they have 20 brothers and sisters. I really made a fool out of myself over that one.

Boss – Yes. We do.

Me – Or, you know, like toilet paper. They were laughing at me because I use paper.

Boss – Yes, well you know that we use the… the… hose.

Me – Yeah, but what if I make a…. you know…I tried to use it yesterday, but I need to work on my aim. I actually ended up giving my back a shower and then my hair got wet… haha.

Boss – It’s a good idea, if you just learn that, rather than discussing it. But you know, try to motivate them by taking an interest in what they like…

Me – Yeah. But what do they like?

Boss – Camel Racing.

Me – I see. Is that… a bit like…

Boss – Horse Racing. Yes. Except instead of using horses…

Me – They use camels…

Boss – Exactly, very interesting. You should watch camel racing.

Me – I’m not bothered about horse racing, but I suppose I can pretend.

Boss – Yes, yes pretend. Pretending is great. Pretend to be interested in them.

Me – Right. OK.

Boss – Also, discipline. Discipline is very very very important.

Me – Right. How so….?

Boss – No eating in class, no phones in class, attendance very important. Time keeping.

Me – Yes, but honestly, I teach adults so I can avoid that problem. I don’t like discipline. I’m kind of think they already should have it.

Boss – They don’t. You need to teach them.

Me – But isn’t that teaching children?…

Boss – Exactly… children that get offended very easily.

Me – If I tell them to shut up. Great.

Boss – Excellent.


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