Positives and Negatives of Living and Teaching in South Korea

Updated 2011-06-15 10:12

5 best and 5 worst things about living and teaching abroad in South Korea

Chris Westergaard is the owner of TLH TEFL in Prague and posted this question to past graduates that were working or had worked in South Korea.

Here's what they posted

Heather L.

The Good

1. People compliment you in the streets, good self-esteem booster.
2. Awesome food, if you love spicy food.
3. Drinking in the streets is legal.
4. Noraebongs are actually fun entertainment.
5. Strange dancing girls, or mimes, or men on stilts performing things to advertise a company on random street corners.

The Bad
1. Pollution, gray skies nearly every day, which leave a strange smell that takes awhile to get used to.

2. Lack of organization in many hagwons and you`re expected to change your plans to meet the new classes or meetings.
3. Asian style expectation that westerners should work as hard as they do....which is all day every day.
4. Illness - caused by Koreans feeling the need to work when they are sick and spread germs making you sick every month.
5. Strange game children like to play which involves sticking their fingers together like a gun and shoving them in your butt crack, called dong chim or something like that, it's always unexpected and awkward.

Matt L.

The Good
Public schools in Korea:
1. 2-3 hours of prep/lesson planning time a day.
2. 22 classes a week and you get paid for full time.
3. Huge online community with tons of resources.
4. Korean co-teachers who can help with classroom management.
5. Great vacation time, usually almost a month for summer and winter break.

The Bad
1. Some co-teachers don't contribute.
2. School politics can get a little bizarre, the principal and vice principal are like gods in the school.
3. Class sizes can get a little big, I've had 40-50 student classes.
4. There can be huge differences in levels among the students, depending on who goes to hagwons and who doesn't.
5. Co-teachers and the textbooks sometimes try to teach some very strange English. Korea is a great place though, I just signed up for my 3rd year at my schools, the people are great, the food is awesome, great expat community, the basics of the language and reading are pretty easy, and its really easy to get decent flights all across Asia.

Mike B.

The Good
1) You will gain an immense appreciation for having a normal/real childhood.
2) The pay is great and start up costs are super low.
3) In Busan or Seoul there are many foreigners and a pretty lively nightlife.
4) You can drink in public.
5) You get to live in the twighlight zone. There are more things that will make you say "wtf" than one can even imagine, and It is more often amusing than annoying.

The Bad
1) Its way more expensive to travel to a different country than in Europe.

2) There are alllll kinds of problems you can have if you choose the wrong hogwan or get placed by epik in the wrong public school.

3) pollution and the garbage system.
4) Everything is backwards here. Even the count in a baseball game. I could go on all day on this one but thats a whole nother thread.
5) Ajummas - A vast fleet of eldery korean women who believe that their superior age not only entitles them to automatic respect but also gives them the right to disrespect all those younger than them.

Rebecca L

The Good

1. The pay is good and the jobs provide apartments for you to live in. The utilities, gas, and internet are usually below $100 for all three combines. So sodt of living is low.
2. The beaches are just a subway ride away. Great in the summertime.
3. Costco and Homeplus or Tesco provide western food to buy, so I can cook the same food that I eat in the US.
4. The cost of flying to other Asian countries is fairly low and the cost of hostels or hotels is really low too! And you can get massages really cheap too!
5. The public transportation rocks! So cheap!

The Bad

1.No matter your size, if you are a foreigner, you are considered fat. LOL! I know a girl who is size 4, but she is called fat. It's crazy! They are so vocal to you about dieting and exercising.
2. Everybody takes public transportation, so people get pushy and crammed on the subways and buses. You learn to get pushy back. LOL!
3. They put chili sauce in everything! Even if you order fried chicken with no sauce, you get chicken that was first coated with chili sauce then had the breaded stuff put on, so even that;s spicy.
4. If you work in a Hogwan, or private institution, you have very little vacation time.
5. People burp and spit freely here. It's GROSS! If they are sick, they hack up loogies, too! Right in front of you!

So what can we take from these comments? It seems as if the pay and teaching conditions are quite good. You just have to be able to put up with the locals calling you fat while spitting on you, old ladies cutting you in line, and the ever sneaky Korean kid trying to cram their fingers up your butt. Don't worry though, since alcohol is allowed in public, you'll be drunk most of the time and won't care.

Count me in!

Chris W
TEFL Prague Courses
The Language House

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