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Will You Hate Teaching English in Korea?

You haven’t been out of America before? Never left your small town or even the safe confines of your parent’s home? Take it from me, someone with 4 years in the game, you’re probably going to hate teaching English in Korea. Let me explain why.

If you don’t like the idea of personal growth, my advice? Stay home.

When you spend long stretches of time in another culture, or if you move to a different place in your own country, there are phases you’ll go through as you adjust to the new environment.

At first, you’ll love it. You’ll love just knowing that you’re there. You’ll love the new sights and sounds. You’ll be fond of the indigenous culture’s take on similar situations from back home. It’ll all be so refreshing and new. We all love that.

Then, you’ll hate it. Sooner or later, the ways of the new culture will wear on you. It doesn’t matter where you go or who you are, you’ll eventually be pushed to your limit. Why can’t they understand that it’s better if they just do it like we do back home?!?!

Finally, it becomes home and you won’t want to leave. Over much time and thoughtful introspection you adjust, accept, and better understand the frustrating points of your new “home”. It’s all good. In fact, it’s really good. Funny almost. LOL!

You’ve just got to laugh at these things! Now you’re cool with it all and you can’t leave now.

The transition through each of these phases will change you. You may not even know it until a later time. In the end though, your mind will have been stretched, reformed, re-calibrated. You’ll be a stronger, more tolerant, deeper thinking individual when all is said and done.

If you don’t like the idea of this personal growth occurring in your life though, you’ll hate living and teaching in Korea. Just stay home and be content being content.

You’re going to be a part of a child’s life experience and development.

DSC02959What a great and priceless gift it’s been to have worked with the school children of South Korea. Now that I’m in my fourth year, I often run into some of my students in the shopping districts to find that they are now twice as big, with different voices, dressing all…grown up now. I also have dozens of former students on my Facebook friend list and it’s amazing to see them do life before my eyes. The realization that I was somehow a part of their development amazes me beyond words. What’s even greater is when they see me and their eyes light up and they yell my name – I mean, that’s a pretty cool moment by any standard.

My time with them in the classroom is permanently etched in their history books and that’s something you can’t take away from either party. If you can’t appreciate this concept, then stop reading here.

If you don’t like the idea of having “been there” in your life, don’t leave home.

Sooner or later, most of us move on from Korea. That’s it. Game over and it’s time to call it a day.

As life continues on and your break point from Korea gets smaller and smaller in your rear-view mirror, you’ll remember the experience with greater appreciation.  Much like a vacation you didn’t think you enjoyed until 5 years down the road when you realize how awesome it was.

DSC01919In my life, I remember some of the most horrific work environments as I worked in management consulting. Hostile environments where I was truly unwanted and there was no mistaking it.

At times when I reflect back on some of those environments, it often amazes me at my mind’s ability to subconsciously filter out the negatives and somehow move forward with the positives. This isn’t a Tony Robbins thing either. It’s just what happens. Like a bad relationship. When she’s really gone, maybe she wasn’t that bad after all! Ever been there?

The same will be for Korea. As challenging as it will be at times, some day you’ll appreciate the fact that you “were there”.

BUT, if you don’t like the concept of looking back in appreciation that you did something unique, you’ll hate teaching in Korea so you’re better off staying home.

DSC02750If you don’t like the idea of eating other culture’s foods at the source, you will hate it in Korea.

There’s got to be something wrong with you if you go vacationing in another country and don’t eat their food. Not wrong with me – YOU! Even if it looks, smells, and sounds repulsive give it a try. However, most cuisines around the world have truly awesome dishes as well. This includes Korea without question. What a place to stuff your face.

However, if you’re strictly meat and potatoes and you don’t like the idea of challenging your taste buds then stay home. You’ll hate teaching and living in Korea (or anywhere else).

You hate travel.

DSC00731Korea is an awesome location if travel is one of your reasons for teaching abroad. It is centrally located in East Asia and both Seoul and Busan can take you anywhere in Japan or China in just a few hours.  In the time it takes to go from NY to LA you can also make it to SE Asia – which is where everyone wants to go at some point.

Travelling is such an incredible sensation. I, like most people, just never did it when I was back home in America. Somehow, coming to Asia has made me more proactive in traversing the travel adventure scene. Now that I’m travelling regularly on my vacations, it’s hard to imagine my life without it.

However, if you’re of the mindset that I once was; that travel is something best saved for your later years when your careful retirement planning has hopefully come to fruition, then sitting idly in Korea will annoy you. Don’t come. You’ll hate it.

You’re going to meet some unique people.

There’s no simple or politically correct way to put this. In Korea…there are some interesting characters. They range from silly to creepy, and jolly to annoying. Sometimes I just sit back and watch them. They’re just so – KOREAN! This is coming from a Korean too.

That’s the thing about being abroad. You get to see the different cast of characters and meet them often times.

You just can’t do that back home. It doesn’t matter what part of K-Town you’re in either. I’ve been there in NYC and it’s just not the same. Here in Korea, the unique personalities are unhindered, raw, and unaware that a world outside of their own exists. Like the indigenous, untouched tribes of Brazil in a way. You have to be here to appreciate it.

You have to be here.

If you don’t like any of these ideas, these essentials of life, then don’t teach in Korea. You will hate it.

Here’s some sage advice though; take a deep breath (or 1,000 deep breaths) and give it a shot. I promise you won’t hate it. Someday your mind and heart will filter out the toxins and you’ll be left with an irreplaceable experience.


Comments

  1. Marlize ten Krooden says:

    Your videos and post are amazingly helpful. I’ve been in Busan for a month now, coming from South Africa and having never travelled before this has been an eye-opening experience. I love the food, still getting used to the spicy ones though. Sitting on busses and using Daum Maps to GPS live-track myself to just make sure I get off at the right stop. But it’s all part of the experience. Beig a little bit of a perfectionist I have trouble with just accepting things as they are, because people cannot explain things to me in detail because of the language barrier. So I already feel myself growing in a positive manner. Thanks for all your help when I was still back home preparing to take on this new challenge in my life. It is truly a life-changing experience!

    • That’s really great to hear. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it so far. You’ll eventually have your ups and downs but just stay with the great attitude and you’ll enjoy your time here in Korea.

  2. I always enjoy reading your vlog Tom, wise words as always!
    Starting to truly love something takes both ups and downs, just like everything else in the world.

    • Thanks so much. Everything definitely has its ups and downs. I’ve had my share, but with patience and a positive attitude it’s hard not to love the experience.

  3. Elisa S. says:

    Hi, I came across your youtube video, which led me here. I have taken a very serious interest in South Korea over the past several months, and I’m thinking about coming to live for at least a short period of time. I have no teaching experience though, so does that eliminate that possibility for me? Do they train you how to teach before you’re expected to? Do you have any websites you would recommend to use to find good teaching jobs?

    • It’s ok in most cases to have no experience. Some places will train you, but essentially you’re on your own. This shouldn’t scare you though. The job itself is pretty easy and straight forward.

      You should always keep an eye on Dave’s ESL, but there are numerous sites out there.

  4. Thanks so much for the share!

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  1. […] It’s up to you to choose whether you’ll love Korea, or hate it. … It’s all good. …. you don’t like any of these ideas, these essentials of life… Read More […]

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