Question from a reader: personal questions



A reader writes in (question edited for length):


A reader writes in (question edited for length):

Hi, I am [T.R], I am 24 and I happened upon your blog while looking about living in Seoul. It said that you dont mind receiving emails, so I hope its ok if I pick your brain about information.

I just got my TESOL certification and I am looking into teaching young children in Seoul. I saw through your blog that you are really enjoying Korea and just wanted to get some perspective. I am a little nervous about committing to teaching and to Seoul because I have never taught a specific subject such as English. Nor have I ever taught by myself. Was Korea the first time you taught?

How was it like meeting people? Expats plus Koreans? I know one person in Seoul, so I will definitely need to meet more people.

I am really bad at learning languages and although I want to try to learn Korean I dont know how successful I will be. My friend says that I dont really need to learn Korean because everyone will talk to you in English. Do you know Korean and if not do you have a hard time getting along without it?

I dont usually have a hard time adjusting to a new place, I have lived in several countries but I feel as though I might have a hard time with Korea. Did you experience any difficulty?

Looking forward to hearing from you.


I had been a teacher in the US – a T.A. in college for a couple years, as well as computer classes at my local library – but those experiences definitely didn’t prepare me for teaching kids in a foreign country. It’s a big culture shock, to be sure – one I’m sure every expat has had. I teach with an elementary school after-school program and evening classes to adults – two very different working environments, that’s for sure.

There are literally tons of jobs around, and Korean parents put a lot of emphasis on their younger kids. Being a caring, concerned teacher will take you far, so simply mention your experience and any real-life examples to help you out. Bear in mind that few schools can or will guarantee your schedule or students. It goes without saying that some flexibility is required – but being picky means you usually get what you’re looking for.

You’ll get to know people without trying – just get out and do it. It’s no different than moving to a new city in your home country where you don’t know anyone. It’s a process of discovery – the only real shortcut might be inheriting someone’s brain…

FYI, I’m not very good at languages either. With time and repeated exposure, you pick up the basics. After a few months here, I could order at a restaurant, get in a taxi, etc. – most expats tend to plateau at the ‘survival Korean’ level unless they’re genuinely interested in learning more. If you are, there are ample resources. Most people don’t make Korea home for long enough to want to learn it, and it’s not exactly helpful elsewhere in the world.

The biggest difficulty I had in adjusting to Korea was finding a balance. There’s a Western life that can be had (McDonalds, KFC, Western-friendly-bars) and there’s the Korean life (Korean food, traditions, etc.). At home, my life is distinctly Western; elsewhere, I try to make a balance between the two cultures.

There’s lots more words I’ve already written on this and similar topics – check this link out for all the questions I’ve answered in the past.

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