You’ve made the decision to teach in Korea. You’ve had your interview with your Recruiter, got an offer from ChungDahm Learning, accepted the offer, and put together all your visa paperwork - including everyone's favorite: the background check. Now, you’re waiting for your visa code to be issued. This waiting game shouldn’t be frustrating. Instead use this time to prepare for your move across the world! There are lots of different ways to prepare, but here are a few key things to do before you board the plane to Korea. Not only will these things get you more excited about coming while you wait, but they'll make your transition to life in Korea a whole lot easier!
Culture: Before traveling anywhere, take some time and read up on the culture. This is especially true for Asian countries, where there are different rules for etiquette and behavior than the ones in western cultures. Here are some rules for Korea:
- One of the most important things to know for Korea is taking your shoes off before you go into someone house or apartment, or some restaurants.
- Another important thing is, if you’re out in public, on the subway, bus, in a store, etc. and you’re talking to a friend or on your cell phone; try to keep the volume of your voice down. Recently I was on the subway with a friend and didn’t realize how loudly I was talking and the person sitting next to me requested that I speak softer. Just be respectful of other people, and you’ll have no problem fitting in.
North Korea: Don’t freak out about North Korea. News outlets, such as CNN and BBC tend to make a huge deal about things going on politically in North Korea and make the region sound much scarier than it really is. As a westerner, I tend to know about things that are happening in the North, while my Korean co-workers don’t know, simply because it’s not headline news material for South Koreans. This isn’t to say that North Korea isn’t a threat. But while there have been 2 incidents in the past year and a half, people aren’t running for the hills in fear. Koreans aren’t worried, and you shouldn't be either. Reading Korean news is a good way to alleviate any fears you or your family have. You should also read this blog about safety in Korea written by one of ChungDahm Learning's teachers, Hope Gately!
Food: Korean food is AMAZING. If you have the opportunity to go out for Korean BBQ before you leave - do it. You should absolutely try soju and/or kimchi before you come if you can find it near you. Check out this teacher video of ChungDahm teacher TJ Lee doing a "Soju tasting" in Korea; maybe it will inspire you! Going out to eat is a huge part of the work culture, so if you have an inkling of what to expect with the food before you come you’ll be at an advantage. At many restaurants you prepare the food on grills built into the table, sort of like going for Japanese hibachi, but you grill it yourself. It’s always a lot of fun to go out to eat and meals can last for hours.
All this food for just 2 people!? Gotta love Korea!
Language: Learning the Korean alphabet is actually pretty easy. I taught myself most of the letters by reading subway stop names while riding the train. Unlike Chinese, Korean has an actual alphabet not characters. And words are pronounced exactly how they’re written. Try to learn to read the name of your city in Korean before you come. If you have any food allergies you should definitely learn how to read and say those foods so you don’t run into any problems while eating out. Learning basic phrases like “hello,” (안녕하세요- annyeonghaseyo ) and “thank you,” (감사합니다- gamsahabnida) are good to know when you first get here.
Help yourself out and do your best to become familiar with life in Korea before you actually get here. You will feel more confident and have a much easier time adapting.
Melissa Bellish has been an English instructor at an April English branch in Bucheon since January 2011. After four fabulous years at Pennsylvania State University studying International Affairs, she decided the best way to expand her knowledge first-hand was to live and work abroad! She decided to go to South Korea to teach English as a way to experience a completely new culture and try to figure out her life. Melissa loves meeting new people, taking crazy pictures, cooking and shopping, which makes living in Korea a perfect fit for her. Have questions about teaching in South Korea? Follow Melissa on Twitter at http://twitter.com/aclipsemelissa or send her an email at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org!