The Countdown is Over: What to Do Your First Week on the Job, Day 5
Amanda Segal, an English teacher living in a small town in South Korea and a world traveler, continues onto Day 4 of her 5 part series on advice and tips your first week on the job as an English teacher in South Korea.
This post is a continuation from yesterday from our friend Amanda Segal. She hails from Glen Ridge, New Jersey and is currently teaching English to high school students. While not representing the Western world, she enjoys making people laugh, going on spontaneous trips, taking long walks to new places, and going to the movies just to eat the popcorn. She blogs at: http://flylikeasegal.blogspot.com/
1) You’re an example of western culture– You’ll find out very quickly that as much as you are here to teach English, if you work outside of Seoul, you are also here to be an example of western culture for students, whose only other references may be TV and movies. Your students, fellow teachers, and people you meet on the street, may ask questions or say things that seem offensive or xenophobic. It’s best to understand that for the most part, these questions (or comments) are not coming from a malicious place. In terms of having a modern economy, South Korea is a young country that is still adapting to an increasingly globalized world.
On the bright side, as a foreigner, especially if you have blonde hair or blue eyes, you will find yourself the recipient of many wonderful (and strange) complements. They will say you are beautiful, and I guarantee at least one person will complement you on your small face (they seem to think they have large faces and prefer Western facial structures).Flipping back again, if you have blonde hair and someone asks if you’re Russian or of Russian descent, SAY NO! Apparently there is a sizable community of Russian prostitutes in Korea…asking if you’re Russian is more of aproposition than a question.
2) BE PREPARED FOR DISORGANIZATION – this is a big one, teachers at public and private schools will always say that no matter what happens (cancelled classes, last minute dinners, etc) just go with it and try not to let your frustration show (Koreans don’t generally show a lot of emotion). I have to say, if you are a control freak who wants a consistent schedule, needs to know what is going on at all times, and likes everything to go according to a set plan, this might not be the job for you.
There is a lot of bureaucracy in Korean schools and they may do things that seem illogical or unnecessary (for example, I had to get permission from the principle to get rides to school from another foreign teacher who lives in my building…permission was granted, but it seemed like something that should have been purely my decision). It can be frustrating at first but it gets better as you settle into a routine (a flexible one that is).
3) There is tons of stuff to see, do, and learn in Korea. Be proactive in getting out there, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do it all at once. It might be hard to resist the urge since living in a new country can be very exciting, but it’s better to experience new things once you have a better grasp of the culture and what’s out there.
So this is all the “First Week” advice I have to give. There is a lot more out there, especially since everyone’s experience is different!! For more reading I’d suggest looking at http://kimchi-icecream.blogspot.kr/ which has great posts about cultural differences and teaching in Korea, as well as http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/ for Korean how-to’s (gestures, games, phrases, how to use your washing machine!). However, at some point, turn off the computer, stop reading, and get excited for a great year! No matter how much you try to prepare, the best part about Korea is that you will always be surprised!