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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 11/10/2022

Are tattoos acceptable for teaching English?

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

Attitudes about teachers with tattoos vary from country to country, however, we suggest learning towards a conservative and professional appearance until getting other direction from the school that hires you.

For instance, cover as many of your tattoos as you can for your interview, and hopefully their policies will come up during the interview or right after offering you the position.  Depending on the clientele of the school, exposed tattoos may deter an employer from offering you the job.  If the school's teachers work in formal business settings or with conservative families, for example, they might prefer to avoid a discrimination issue.  They might see you as the face of the school and expect your appearance to match the quality of your teaching and curriculum within the cultural views of physical appearance.

Who Are Our ESL Students?

Fortunately for those of you coming to teach English in Costa Rica, this hasn't been a problem for our grads.  More of our alumni have tattoos than not, and we haven't run into issues here.  

Costa Rican Cultural Etiquette

On the other hand, other countries have different expectations.  Take Japan.  It is not a secret that tattoos in Japan have strong associations with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, so these stereotypes spill over to all professions.  Even if you cover your tattoos while you are teaching, you could be fired instantly if someone sees your tattoo.  It doesn't matter if it's a parent, a coworker or someone from the community, or if they see you at the gym or a swimming pool during your free time.  One of our grads is from Japan, and he told us that this cultural expectation has a stronghold in many areas.  He said that if people with tattoos join a gym, other members will leave soon after as they don't want to go to a gym with "gang members."  Therefore, we recommend thinking long and hard before you try to teach in Japan with tattoos.  

Culture Shock

South Korea has also recently started rejecting applications of candidates with pictures of visible tattoos, despite qualifications.  When applying for these jobs, cover all tattoos for your application picture and make sure they can be covered while you are teaching in Korea.  If this isn't possible, you may want to consider teaching elsewhere.

Moral of the story?  Don't worry if you are joining us here in Costa Rica, but do your research before going elsewhere.  And if you haven't already signed up for your spot in one of our 4-week TEFL courses, get in touch with us today!

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