The friends you make in Korea are probably friends you’ll make for life. Most expats who have lived and taught in Korea can generally agree that Korea bonds friendships in special ways. It has something to do with the Asian factor, the shared teaching experiences, or the adventurous learning moments. The Korean experience shares similarities with the well known term ‘the traveling bond’, yet the major difference being that your friends in Korea are more than just friends… they have or will become your Korean family.
Moving to Korea can be quite daunting for new teachers who are unfamiliar with Asian culture and lifestyle. There are plenty of questions of the ‘unknown’ lurking in the back of your head and the possibility of making the wrong choices weigh heavy on your flight over the Pacific. Once you start teaching there will be bank forms to fill out, Korean bus signs to read, training to attend and Korean students to understand. The friends you make during training week and the first few months in Korea will be sharing similar experiences and going through the same processes as you. These friends become your moment of laughter after a very long day and a shoulder to cry on when you are missing home. They become your adventure buddies and party friends. Your traveling companions, your second siblings.
Your first year teaching in Korea can be really challenging. Even for teachers who have taught before, Korea is a new teaching environment and methodologies vary quite drastically from the West. Korean students also have different behaviors and attitudes to Western children in the classroom environment. There are huge differences between boys and girls, and children are more likely to be introverted and shy. As an English teacher you struggle with kids who are encouraged to shout out during class and children who say nothing at all. Sharing teaching methodologies and classroom ideas with your friends, is vitally important to your growth as a teacher in Korea. Your friends not only become your traveling companions but also your work strategists and help-lines.
Living in Korea you will face many new and strange experiences that will either excite you or weird you out. Expect these moments and embrace them, they are part of the traveling package. The friends you make in Korea will either go through similar experiences, have new exciting stories to share, or they will join you as you go through the moments together. There will be moments when you are at Mud Festival covered in mud from head to toe, or traveling on some countryside bus while being offered dry squid too eat. You might find yourself traveling by scooter to Gunsan, or catching a cab and having no way to communicate where it is you need to go. These moments bond friendships in ways that only people who have lived in Korea can understand.
Not only do your Korea mates become great life-long friends, they also become new destinations to travel to. Expats living in Korea are made up of Americans, South Africans, Australians, British, Canadians and New Zealanders. Once you decide to return to your home country, there will be plenty of opportunities to visit friends abroad and see new cultures and countries. I personally have traveled to London, Taiwan, Chicago and New York just to visit friends I had made during my time spent in Korea over the years.
The Korean Bond is a special phenomenon, that any foreigner traveling to Korea should embrace with open arms. Be excited to meet new people, move out of your comfort zone and make life-long friends with people you never dreamt of meeting. It will change you in ways you never thought was possible. It will enrich your life and bond you to people from all over the world.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email email@example.com to request more information on teaching in Korea!