Teach English in Korea! Everything you need to know.
Teach in Korea: Part 11 – Getting a cell phone
I recommend you get a cell phone in Korea. Go with a Korean co-worker to buy it—they can translate for you.
It’s good to have for emergencies. If you have any questions or need any help, you can call your director. Don’t bug your director with silly questions, but don’t hesitate to call if it’s important.
A cell phone is also great for keeping in touch with the other foreigners you meet.
Cell phones plans in Korea are very cheap. I talked on my cell phone day and night and it only cost me $35 a month. In Korea, you only pay for calls you make. Incoming calls are free.
Your apartment should already have a land line. It will cost about you about $5 a month.
Teach English Korea: Part 12 – Phoning home
You can buy international calling cards at any convenience store, but if you have internet, Skype is the cheapest way to call home. All you have to do is download Skype, put some money on your account, and you are set to go. You can even do video chat to stay in touch with your family members.
Technology is wonderful. You can go anywhere in the world and feel like you are in the same room as someone.
Teach in Korea: Part 13 – Access to Internet
You can pay to have internet installed in your apartment. I believe it is about $50 a month, but it’s the fastest in the world, and you get 500 GBs a month. In your own country, you would only get about 30 GBs for the same price.
You will also have internet access at the school you are working at.
Teach in Korea: Part 14 – Technology in Korea
Some of the world’s most famous companies are Korean, such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai.
And Korean companies have built some of the most famous buildings in the world.
Teach in Korea: Part 15 – Electrical outlets
The electrical plugs in Korea are different to the plugs you have in your country. The plugs in Korea are round and have 2 prongs that are wide apart.
You can buy an adapter in Korea, so you can use your computer, and whatever else you decide to bring. An electrical converter costs about $30.
Teach in Korea: Part 16 – Dealing with Jet lag
Korea is on the other side of the world, and when you get there you will suffer from jet-lag.
It will take about 2 weeks for your body clock to fully adjust. Be patient. You are going to feel disoriented and tired until it does.
Teach English Korea: Part 17 – Culture shock
Culture shock is a real phenomenon, and will contribute your feelings of disorientation when you first arrive in Korean. Expect it.
I felt like Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole. Everything you think should be one way is another. The faster you realize this, the better.
Remember you are in another country. They don’t do things the way you are accustomed to. Don’t say things like “They don’t do this in my country”.
You are no longer in your country and the same rules don’t apply. Koreans have their own way of doing things.
In Korea, couples are not publicly affectionate. You don’t see men and women walking around holding hands or kissing. This is all kept behind closed doors.
However, you will see men walking holding hands with other men. You will see women walking arm in arm with other women. They are not gay. Men/women show affection with the same sex in public. Sometimes you may even see a man sitting on another man’s knee. This just means they are good friends.
Men in Korea even wear pink! Koreans don’t consider pink a “women’s” colour.
Koreans defer to elders. Older women will cut in front of you while you are at the store. This is completely acceptable in their culture.
When you go to dinner with someone older than you, the older person always pays. Always hang out with older people. 😉
If it is your birthday, the Korean custom is to treat all of your friends to dinner. Maybe you should keep your birthday a secret!
If you write a student’s name on the white board in red marker, it means they are dead. I learned this one by experience! Don’t do it.
When you share a toast with an older person, the top of your glass should touch the bottom of their glass. This is a sign of respect.
You should bow when you say “hi” and “bye”. When you bow, your eyes should be looking down as a sign of respect.
Koreans speak to elders formally. You always need to show respect.
Koreans will not eat any food unless kimchi is present at the table. If you are inviting a Korean friend over for dinner, make sure you have some kimchi at the table or your guest will leave hungry.
You know that old trick where you say to a kid, “I got your nose”, and then pretend to take their nose? Then you stick your thumb under your index finger so it looks like a nose? Well that gesture of the thumb under the index finger is swearing in Korea. Do it with one of your students, and I guarantee you “a lost in translation” moment that will not make your director happy.
Never forget that you have tumbled down the rabbit hole.
Teach English Korea: Part 18 – Drug testing
You will undergo drug testing when you get to Korea in order to keep your visa. You will be screened for illegal drugs and HIV. You will do a blood and urine test.
If you fail the drug test, you will lose your visa, and you will have to pay your own way home. If you suspect you may fail the drug test, do yourself a favour and don’t bother applying. It will be an expensive trip home.
Even certain prescription medications can be a problem so please notify us of any medications you are taking before going to Korea.
Don’t do drugs in Korea. Even Marijuana use is considered serious in Korea, and will result in the loss of your visa.
Teach English Korea: Part 19 – Teacher Training
During your first few days at the school you will observe another foreign teacher in their classroom, so you can see what is expected.
This is all the training you will get. For this the reason many teachers take the TEFL program to ensure they feel confident in their abilities.
The curriculum is set by the school, and all books will be provided for you. You will generally teach a page out of your book each day.
Teach English Korea: Part 20 – Dress code in the classroom
Korea is a very conservative country. And you are being hired as a professional. Always keep this in mind.
Schools prefer men to be clean shaven and have short hair.
Female teachers need to dress like their Korean counterparts. Korean women wear shirts that have a high neck line, long skirts. They also wear padded bras because it is less revealing.
Don’t wear see through clothing.
And please, keep tattoos and piercings hidden.
Teach English Korea: Part 21 – Private schools
Remember that you are teaching at a private school. Private schools are businesses. They receive their money from parents. These parents are usually professionals.
They have the money to pay for quality private education, and they expect their child to receive it. If they feel the school is not providing it, they will enroll their child in another one. If your director thinks that you are the reason that students are leaving, you may be replaced.
To read Part 3, click here.