1. The Foreigner:Korean ratio in Seoul
Alright, so depending where you end up teaching, there could be any number of foreigners in your neighborhood. However, speaking for Seoul and its surrounding satellite cities, the number of foreign residents was way higher than I’d expected. For example, my little area of Suji (just south of Seoul) has a few hundred foreigners who all frequent restaurants and bars in the same area. Chances are that if you are placed near Seoul while teaching English in Korea, your workmates will be just a few of the foreigners you meet in your area.
2. The level of English
When I talk to people planning to teach in Korea, a common apprehension is that they don’t speak any Korean and will have a difficult time getting around. Thankfully, the level of English both seen and spoken in Seoul was shocking to me when I arrived here. All of the subway and bus stops are listed in English along with voice announcements in English. Further, since Foreigners have been a common sight in Korea for awhile, a surprising number of service-workers have bolstered their English communication skills, so you’ll have no trouble explaining what you want while shopping.
3. Coffee and baked goods!
Small businesses and franchises rise and fall all of the time in Korea. I was thinking about how much my neighborhood had changed in the two years I have been in Korea and something occurred to me: several restaurants have come and gone, but every café/bakery that was here when I arrived is still in operation and is busy as ever. Even back home in Toronto, I had never seen such a high concentration of coffee shops (over dozen within a block of my work) that have all stayed in business. Also, diverging from coffee shops in North America, many Korean cafes also specialize in cakes and have bakeries in the back. Also, it was a welcome surprise to find out that waffles are huge in Korea.
To illustrate how much my friends in Korea love buying cakes, here is one of about 5 cakes I had over Christmas.
4. Wow, it's cold here...
Okay, so being Canadian, I am used to the cold. I've gone through 22 winters in Toronto, but the two I've had Korea has given my hometown a run for its money. Last year, there was a cold snap sending temperatures down to below -10 degrees celsius. Meanwhile, this year has been pretty mild, but that hasn't stopped a few brutally cold days from slipping through the cracks.
This winter, Korea has forced me to go full Inuit a number of times.
5. The ease of learning Korean
Naturally, it would be strange of me to simply say that learning some Korean is easy, but before I came to Korea, I had thought the language shared some daunting characteristics with other Asian languages: big scary alphabets and words I cannot pronounce. Thankfully, being able to read Korean phonetically only takes about a day to learn. As for speaking, after having seen a tutor for a year and getting into a couple relationships with Korean girls, I realized that there isn’t too much in the Korean language that you aren’t already used to pronouncing in English (with some minor adjustments). So if you are really enthusiastic about learning Korean while teaching English, you’ll be delighted to know that given the work, it should come easily.
Josh Donner is the current head instructor at a Chungdahm Learning branch just outside of Seoul. Josh grew up in Toronto and after graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, the 23 year old decided to put his History degree to use by starting a career teaching English in Korea. Josh likes to spend his time learning Korean and soaking up all the culture and adventure South Korea has to offer. In fact, Josh has found his time in Korea so fulfilling, he is eager to share his experiences! Follow Josh’s adventures in Aclipe’s Teachers’ Blogs.