DO NOT Teach English in Korea If You Are…

Teaching English in Korea (or any foreign land) is not for everybody.  I think many people believe it’s for them and that it will turn into an epic experience of natives embracing them at the airport, ultra disciplined and respectful students at all times, and a year long toast at the bulgogi restaurant or bar.

Unfortunately, Korea is none of those things.  In fact, for some the reality of it shatters their expectations and they go away disappointed and disillusioned. 

I’ve often referred to some of the ESL-related internet forums as “wastelands”.  Mainly because that’s exactly what they are.  Full of forum groupies who bash their experiences and attempt to derail many teacher’s outlooks before they even board the plane.  Not all, but many.  The most amazing part is that many of them still teach to this day.  That is simply a bewildering concept to me.  But at one time, they were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as well.

Nonetheless, for those of you considering the challenge, ask yourselves the “why’s” of it all.

I would recommend taking a peak at my most popular post called “Teaching English in South Korea – What is it REALLY Like?”  I wrote it when I was nearing the end of my first contract and I was able to give my own insight for prospective applicants.

Depending on the type of person you are, where you’re from, what your close friends are like, and how you view life in general will tell you how your time in Korea will go.  Korea doesn’t change to retrofit your personality traits.  It just takes you in and let’s you pan these things out on your own.  Being in a foreign land will no doubt tell you a lot about yourself.  

In a recent YouTube vlog, I talked about a few of the big topics that will potentially make or break a person’s experience in Korea.  Here they are as well.  If for no other reason, they may serve as good guides for your own reflection on who you are as a person before you sign that contract.

Too Pro-Home:  If you are overly confident about your own culture and people, or if you guard a part of you that houses some degree of superiority complex, you will find that your time here will ultimately not be well spent.  Not because “it’s so unfair to be that way to Koreans”.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  You will quickly meet opposition to your stances and become frustrated by Korean people and society.  I honestly believe this is the #1 reason that starts the whole process of people not enjoying their time here.

You’re Not a Korean Teacher:  One of the great things about working as a Guest English Teacher is realizing that the job itself is pretty much easy going and not stressful.  You should quickly realize that in comparison to your Korean counterparts, the co-teachers, you have it good.  You SHOULD realize.  We don’t have the same workload and microscope on us.  Not to mention the student assessments of teachers.  Imagine that for a moment – a middle school student providing a formal assessment of their teacher’s performance.  You want to talk frustration and handcuffs?  You’re a guest, and you’ll be treated that way.  If you begin to think of yourself as an equal, you’re doomed.  I know many teachers who are completely fried from dwelling on this concept.

Dating:  Touchy, touchy subject!  For the sake of this blog, I’ll just say that dating is really no different than back home.  As you move up the food chain though, the expectations of what you bring to the table in terms of ethnicity, heritage, family history, and money go up as well.  Sound familiar?  It’s the same back home in many cases.

Here is the vlog on the same topics.  I go into more depth than I will here.  For those like me that don’t like reading as much as watching TV!  Otherwise, read on…

Loneliness:  It takes an experience like teaching in Korea to tell us if we had a safe, sometimes sheltered life.  If you think you may have an issue with it, get prepared.  There is an enormous amount of free time while teaching abroad.  That’s one of the greatest things about it in my opinion.  However, a lot of down time when friends aren’t available can make some feel terribly alone, especially in a foreign land.

Food:  You like meat and potatoes?  Philly cheese steaks?  Fat, juicy burgers?  Greasy spoons and awesome pizza joints?  Well….get ready for SEAWEED instead!  Though it’s not impossible to grub out from time to time on “back home” food, it’s very hard to find a place that really does it for you.  I never thought I’d actually drool at the site of a juicy, medium rare steak the way I do now.  In fact, I’m drooling right now.  If you find it hard to try other cuisines, or cringe at the thought of an unknown food, being in Korea can be difficult at times.  If you’re placed in cities like Seoul or Busan, you’ll be fine with the diversity of food choices.  But if you land in a smaller area, times could get tough with the food situation.

Teaching in Korea is an eye-opening experience.  That’s how I describe it best after a year and a half.  It will stretch you in ways you simply can’t imagine while you’re still back home.  You are going to encounter sights, sounds, and smells that will put you on your heels at times.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw women hawkin loogies on the street.  And all along I thought it was the ajushis…live and learn.

I look forward to more time teaching in Korea, and other countries for that matter.  I encourage anyone to consider it.  But do just that.  Consider it all before you make the decision.


  1. you forgot one. Do not teach English in Korea if you don't like being stared at, because unless you look Korean people will stare at you everywhere you go.

  2. I actually am incognito here. That is until they find out I don't speak Korean…then the looks come! lol!

  3. On the subject of dating, I heard that a number of married Korean women hit it off with younger foreign guys. Is that the case? Sorry, I know this's a touchy subject. However, as a straight male teacher, having just applied to spend a year teaching in ROK (Changwon/Masan area), it'd find it a bit depressing to lack any kind of female companion.



  4. Depending on your preferences, there should be NO shortage of opportunities here. Whether you go for them or not is a personal choice. But why would you want to tangle with married women when there's so many single ones??

  5. Wasnt sure where to post this ,but Happy Birthday seoutee!!! Wishing you the very best!!


  1. […] DO NOT Teach English in Korea if You Are These Types of … – Teaching English in Korea (or any foreign land) is not for everybody. I think many people believe it’s for them and that it will turn into an epic experience of … […]

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