Published: April 25th 2012April 25th 2012
So I am really lame at this blog but have decided to sort it out because I have some spare time this week. So in brief recently I’ve been getting out and about in Daegu, climbing Palgong Mountain (the hardest route but awe inspiring and well worth it when we got to the top), going to beer festivals in the rain in Seoul and generally continuing to adapt to life living as an alien in Korea.
As I’ve been in Korea for over two months and have been at my school for two months I thought I’d have a think about the aspects of living in Korea that are different to back in Manchester. I’ll try to update over the next few days.
Being a bit famous
Okay so only a bit famous and not quite to the level that I experienced in India but it’s still different to the UK. People tend to look at me in the street and kids often say hi and want to try out their english. Occasionally a really old person will come up to you and chat away at you with a huge smile in Korean. Last week I got my hand kissed by a cute old woman when she found out I was young gook (English). Another time a woman was so happy that I bought an ice cream and again that I was young gook that she smacked me on the back as I left the shop whilst laughing her head off. So it’s a bit of a different experience to walking around in Manchester.
Korean people are so friendly
Maybe I am used to being British but Korean people are so friendly to strangers. It’s really refreshing and I’m really not used to it. Going to a corner shop is a great experience even if I can barely understand what is being said and have to try to mime to explain what I want. Shopkeepers here are lovely. The woman running the shop next to Ash’s really likes him. So much that one of the first weekends we went in there she sold us loads of stuff (like milk, eggs, yogurts, bread, beer, juice) for 5000won (approx. £2.70). I think she was welcoming us to the neighbourhood with a huge discount. She giggles and covers her mouth with her hand whenever we see her (quite a common action here amongst women to show shyness) and she often gives Ashfreebies. I even got given some free rubber gloves on the street by another random woman the other week.
School and students
Everyday is a new experience. My students really make teaching a great challenge. They are adorable, infuriating, wild and funny at the same time. They know so many words but just need more confidence for fluency so I feel very lucky teaching them as it means we can hopefully do some interesting topics.
Two months in to teaching at my school my novelty has not diminished with the students. Every day when I walk down the corridor or around the playing field to my class students get so excited. If they haven’t noticed I’m there and they bump in to me they often go OOH WOW. Nearly all of them smile wide grins at me and say OOOOHH HELLO TEACHER or HI NATALIE TEACHER! They are preparing for mid terms at the moment and I am not seeing much of them, so on my lunch yesterday they surrounded me as I sat on a bench and started telling me about their boyfriends or which teachers they love, all whilst holding my hand or trying to play with my hair. Oh and they LOVE my ginger hair. I taught them the word ginger and some of them were saying ‘I want ginger hair too teacher!’. Korea is great ;)
My students love pop music, movies and popular culture in general although they mainly only know about these in terms of Korea and America. Being British is quite good because they are really interested in me and are often very unaware of our culture. Because they love pop I’m starting with obvious stuff. One Direction are a big hit where as they are unsure about Girls Aloud. One student told me they are not as good as Girls Generation (a Kpop girl group) because they are too old. Kpop stars here are really young. Robert Pattinson makes them freak out as well. I showed them a Twilight trailer in our movie class the other week and they were screaming like he’d just come in to the room or something. Some students even believed for a second that Johnny Depp was my husband ha its crazy.
I really get on with the Korean teachers too. I have made some good friends with the English teachers. I have nine different co-teachers a week so class experiences can be very different but they are all friendly towards me. One of my older male co-teachers made me sit with him yesterday to talk about England. The conversation started with ‘Natalie I have been meaning to ask you. How is Prince Charles doing at the moment’ haha. We then went on to talk about the Olympics, the recession, Princess Diana and the conflict in Burma! I really enjoy these daily encounters with everyone. Over lunch one teacher will ask me questions about weekend plans, hobbies or my taste in food and then translate to everyone else who will nod their heads and make encouraging sounds. The fact I love Korean food is a big plus here too. I dont think the previous native teacher was that keen.
Another thing that they are great at is giving me compliments. Here are some I have been given recently by students and by teachers:
• You are so beautiful.
• I think you are very studious Natalie.
• Your fashion is fantastic.
• You make the best powerpoint.
• I think you may be the best English teacher.
• You have nice legs.
• You are now an expert with chopsticks.
• Your Korean pronunciation is perfect.
Now as much as its lovely to hear all these things I am inclined to think it may not all be true. In fact pretty much none of it is true but I’m very grateful for the ego boost anyway!