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September 16th 2007
Published: September 17th 2007
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After dozens of games of Go-Fish, hundreds of WAYGOOK SARAM!'s, and pounds of kimchi consumed, my stint as an English teacher in Korea is *sob* over. I won't go much into the ~technicalities~ of the English business in this blog as Jenni Jen wrote a fabulous guide here but if you want any insight on the sub-legal aspects of the English biz I would be glad to offer advice ^_^

South Korea is a magical fairyland where people pay you $50 an hour to chat at Starbucks and the only "qualifications" you need are to be young and white. I got plenty of that and I figured I'd save just as much money if not more in Seoul as I would back home working at a restaurant, so I spent this summer teaching English in Korea. And I did make $$$ :D

How to Teach English in Korea

There is a hierarchy of the desirability of English teachers. White people are generally preferred over PoC, females generally preferred over males, young people generally preferred over old people, standard N. American dialects have the edge over other English dialects, and if you have blond hair and blue eyes that's just icing on the

if you can't quite make the army cut
cake. It made life easy for me, but it's wrong and it sucks. Even if you don't fit into this "ideal" version of a Native English Teacherâ„¢ you probably won't have that hard a time finding a job. And we need you desperately, y'all got to ~*~shake it up~*~ over there.

I taught all ages, from kindergarten to corporate. They all have their positives and negatives, but I loved all of my classes :3

Kindy My kindergarteners were FLY AS HELL. I probably would have done that job for free because it was so much fun. I was laughing the whole time I was there. However it is exhausting and you have to put 100%!e(MISSING)nergy into it. My limit was 2 hours. I know this puts my blog's "omg cute Asian kids!" level into the stratosphere but:

My kindergarteners

The littlest kid who had no idea wtf was going on

lol :3 My kids all had English names and for one of the kids they were aiming for "Robert" and didn't quite get there so he had the name "Robot" written on his schoolbooks. Heh.

If you do decide to teach kindergarten I highly recommend this game. My kids loved it and they need to run around every once in a while.

Hagwon- Korea's infamous English cram schools. This one's real hit-and-miss. My kids were mostly awesome but you do get the occasional disciplinary case. I recommend investing a class period or two teaching Go-Fish, my kids loved it and it teaches question form.

Corporate- I had some pretty high-flying students. It was a bit scary at first because, well, nobody takes me seriously at home so I'm not used to conversing with CEO's, but it's actually not that bad. Just be confident without being arrogant, talk about how much you like Korea, and listen to what they want. If you're lucky they'll take you out to traditional Korean food (way different from regular Korean food- it involves the paper walls and sitting on floors and beautiful Korean women bringing you dish after dish) I definitely miss being wined and dined by Korean businessmen 😞

Most corporate English classes are for conversational English- there is no better resource than Breaking News English. Our favorite was the Congo the chimpanzee artist article- there is a fun roleplay if you have a class of 6 or so. If you are looking for a textbook I liked the Interchange series.

Bonus topics for conversational English (if you need to spice things up):

- Did you know Korea has four (4) distinct seasons?- Just smile and nod

- Japan. Oh lawd do most Koreans hate Japan. I know the history and I kind of get why, but they tend to take out their rage on strange subjects. For example, Dokdo Island. If you are lucky you will see one of your students wear a fabulous shirt that has "world famous Professor Snoopy" pointing to a map of Korea that says "DOKDO IS LAND OF KOREA". If you are feeling suicidal stand up in front of your class and say "Dokdo belongs to Japan". Also, the Sea of Japan doesn't exist in Korea. It is the East Sea. Just FYI

My favorite subject, however, was Apolo Anton Ohno. When I first came to Korea I kept hearing his name and it sounded vaguely familiar... If you can't remember, he is an American speed skater who recently won Dancing With the Stars. He is also the anti-Christ in Korea. Long story short, he was involved with a crosstracking incident during the 2002 Olympics, and the South Korean skater was disqualified and lost the gold. Koreans are adamant that he pulled a "Hollywood action" stunt and death threats poured in. To add insult to injury his father is a JAPANESE AMERICAN, making Apolo 1/2 JAPANESE and surely this is a sign of continued JAPANESE HEGEMONY! I tried to explain that poor Mr. Ohno was only 19 or 20 back then and that I'm sure like most young Americans he felt little to no interest in the motherland. Anyways, bring up the subject if you need to start a debate. This article might help you get a feel for the politics over there.

Life in Korea

I had fun in Seoul. I spent most of the time working but I did get to go out to Gyeongbokgung and Itaewon (the "foreigner neighborhood" which is kind of lame becaues so many foreigners act like they're STRAIGHTOUTTACOMPTON when they're there but you can get some tasty non-Korean food) etc, and there are some pretty neat bars and noraebangs (karaoke rooms) around.

Surprisingly, Seoul is TravelBlogger central! I got to meet:

stickyrice, deleted_32415, aspiringnomad, & Jenni Jen


Changing of the guard ceremony
exciting ^_^

Proxemics I thought this was veeeery interesting- I'm from Oklahoma, where we must have the largest concept of personal space in the world, with probably a 3 foot radius personal space bubble. So I'm quite claustrophobic. You have to get over that pretty quick when you move to a tiny little mountainous country with 50,000,000 people. Anyways, for the first two weeks in Seoul I would cringe any time someone ran into me (which was constantly) and apologize profusely when I accidentally touched someone. And I kept running into people because, unlike in the US, in Korea people tend to stick to the left hand side when walking. After awhile I adapted to the "it's 6 PM at Gangnam Station and I WILL fight with this little old lady to get on this completely packed subway >:o" mode and life was sweet. But when I came back to Oklahoma and was so used to walking on that left hand side and getting cozy with strangers that during my first week of class I prompted so many "oh sorry"'s whenever I walked by people. It was pretty funny ^_^

What to bring:

*Cold Medicine. I didn't because I figure I never get sick but of course on that germy germy plane ride I did catch something and was left to self-medicate with Korean cold medicine. I took a picture of the ingredients:

Is that supposed to be English? Yeah, it didn't work too hot. However, if you do need medicine in Seoul the pharmacy in Gangnam Station did sell some version of Tylenol Cold and the pharmacist lady is so nice.

*Bras. Don't want to get TMI here but I went bra shopping 1 time in Seoul and it was a horrible, horrible, traumatic experience. Unless you like frilly A-cups with 3 inches of padding, bring it all with you.

*Unless you weigh 95 pounds, clothes. I didn't even try to go shopping. First off, women's clothing in Seoul tends to be in the ~princess~ style which involves a) glitter b) frills c) lace or d) all of the above. At the gym they give you workout clothes to change into and out of so they can do your sweaty laundry for you (v. nice) and I wore the XXXL size. Assa!

*SHOES. K-women rock them 4" heels and there are stalls selling shoes all over for very cheap. Unfortunately there is nothing over a size 8 or so US. I tried to go shoe shopping a couple with absolutely zero success and ended my search forever when a guy said "Korean sizes only" >:[ he could have just said "no!".

*Big Red- the gum is pretty gross in Korea

Fan Death A distinctly Korean phenomenon. It's a killer. I sort of started to believe in it after the 3rd person warned me of the dangers of sleeping with a fan pointed at my face :o

Soccofield Koreans are kind of obsessed with Wentworth Miller, star of Prison Break, so he's in lots of ads around town. I ain't complaining.

Anyways, it was a great experience. I'm back home at school learning how to be a real English teacher. I'll probably go back next summer ^_^

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 28



the magic word
Dunkin' DonutsDunkin' Donuts
Dunkin' Donuts

pretty swanky in Seoul


at COEX Aquarium
Giant Big Man ClubGiant Big Man Club
Giant Big Man Club

my classy 'hood

95% of cars are black, silver, or white

17th September 2007

Another Great Blog!!!!
Kate, nice to hear from you and what an interesting blog. The best I ever heard on Korea. What does TMI mean. You lost me there. I leave for Vietnam Nov. 4, 07 for six months. Say hello to your great family. Warm Regards, Kent
17th September 2007

17th September 2007

"It made life easy for me, but it's wrong and it sucks." I love the way you articulate that tension <3
17th September 2007

omg your photos are so beautiful, is it sad that I'm most fascinated by the LaLa teletubbie creature?
17th September 2007

What's a PoC?
Really entertaining blog entry. I'm a Korean-Chinese-Canadian (my mom's from Seoul) and I definitely want to visit sometime soon! I too think it's atrocious that many Asian countries prefer/only hire Caucasian looking people... For someone who's interested in teaching English, but is partially Asian, this is incredibly frustrating!
17th September 2007

I AM SO JEALOUS, I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO DO THIS! I'm really not keen on the whole sojourning out on my own in a foreign country where I don't speak the language aspect of ti though.
17th September 2007

Hi Melanie
PoC = people of color= non-white person. I got a little sloppy on my abbreviations. And yeah you might have to fight a little bit to get work over here but that K-belief that only white people can speak English has got to go. If you can speak fluent Korean that would be a plus, you do see quite a few ads for Gyopos. Canadians get a 6 months tourist visa free btw ^_^
17th September 2007

i'm coming with you next time
best entry evverr. seriously, i am. sold. i'll give you a ring around christmas time if you're around. have a good semester...
19th September 2007

A gifted teacher.
Being myself a foreigner (meaning not english mother-tongue apart from not korean) I always saw the EFL business from the other side and, believe me, the first quality I used to look for in a teacher was sense of humour, not technical perfection. The teaching school you have enroled in will probably improve your skills but the raw material seems to be already excepcionally good. I somehow loved this entry. Ah, by the way, would I chose a language school employing young and attractive blond girls rather than one where teachers look like mummies? ... YES, I would :-)
19th September 2007

Kate Kate Kate
Kate, what can I say. you are seriously amazing. You should be a writer. I LOVE reading these.
22nd September 2007

Kate has Seoul
You should be getting a commission from the Korean Tourist Board!
16th December 2007

30th January 2008

excellent advice
Hey I just found your blog. Thx so much for all the good info. Im planning on going to south korea in april to start teaching and im so excited. I love reading all the stories on here and the endless opportunities to travel. Do you have any other advice for those teaching english abroad for the 1st time? thx again elisha

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