Tag Archives: English teaching in Korea

English teaching in Korea

Did you ever think about teaching in South Korea? These days, it’s so popular, I can imagine there is a surplus of teachers and that competition for good positions is dropping.

Back in 2016, I was interviewed by the company EPIK, with a view to teaching in 2017. When I failed to be chosen, I looked at other companies before getting a job with Pagoda. Whilst I was disappointed I couldn’t place with EPIK, who seem to have the best reputation for English teaching, I think I did well to work with Pagoda. The class sizes were really nice, and I got on well with the majority of my students. By that I mean I struck up some really good relationships and got to know them outside the classroom too.

Whilst I did find living in South Korea difficult, none of it was caused by Pagoda. When they decided not to renew my contract, I was disappointed. Looking back, I probably didn’t give it as much effort as I could have. I was lucky to have laid-back students and a light schedule. Many people might look at English teaching as the kind of job anyone can do, it’s the teachers who work the hardest and have the most professional attitude that are kept back every year.

I enjoyed my time in Korea. I probably wouldn’t work again as an English teacher unless I had the freedom to choose my students and a choice of material. There are too many good teachers in South Korea, and it is my understanding that recruiters have a bias towards teachers who are female and under thirty.

My verdict: a good job for those prepared to really put the effort in. In a hagwon you’ll be with professionals who will have a work ethic that will put you to shame. Get used to criticism. Some of it will be harsh and unfair. I was told that the students all loved the outgoing teacher and that I should try to teach like her. It wasn’t the best advice and made me doubt my own abilities. Koreans don’t always speak openly and may act as though everything is fine whilst they criticise you to the hagwon manager. I sometimes regret choosing South Korea over Japan, but that was the choice I made.

Getting lost in Busan

I have been here for nine months now and I thought that I would feel more at home here by now. Actually it’s more like the opposite of that situation. It seems that the longer I stay here the stranger it seems. And the things that I don’t like become more unappealing. Not that I don’t like it here. I would never have come all this way if I didn’t like it here. But if you stick around in Busan longer you can find more things to dislike.

Land of the old and ignorant

The old people that ride the subway every time of the day, barging through everyone, are something I can never understand. Aren’t these the same old people who spend their weekends trekking up mountains, who at 65+ are entitled to free transport, when everyone else has to pay for the privilege of having to stand up for most of the journey.

I can understand the old people for not being able to speak English, but for the young people to be barely conversant with even basic spoken English is something I find hard to get my head around, when you consider how important English is for almost every job.

The land of shopping malls and overpriced coffee

The consumerism is something else. There are more shopping centres than museums and theatres combined. Almost Nothing is free. Every item of clothing has to be brand new-looking. It’s not possible for Korean people to wear anything that might be even a little faded or ripped (although somehow clothes that have been artfully distressed escape this injunction). The concept of wabi-sabi, something along the lines of beauty in imperfection, does not apply here.

If its coffee, it has to be drunk in the most expensive cafe. You want to buy a cake and you end up spending double the cost of a lunch. Fruit is so expensive that I’m going with out fruit. Everything comes bundled in plastic polystyrene and good luck finding a rubbish bin.

All kimchi’d out

The food is good, but it’s hard to get excited about trying the same varieties of kimchi jiggae, samgyeopsal, and fried chicken. A chef in Korea must have the most boring job in the world, because there is no room for innovation or change in traditional Korean restaurants.

Dating Hell

The Korean system of relationships, with its taxonomy of dating conventions, is baffling to any outsider. The concept of couples wearing matching outfits would be fine if it was Halloween, but on any other occasion it is simply daft.

I’m seeing adverts warning men about taking photos of women’s underwear. I Guess they’re aimed at Korean men, supposed protectors of women’s dignity against foreign playboys. I guess it would be nice to take a photo of some of these women though, and besides what is the problem of a harmless picture?

Office ostracism

I’m also in the difficult position of being one of the only non-Korean teachers at work. And even though most of the teachers can speak more than enough English to have a conversation, they would rather spend their time speaking Korean. I’m sick of being ignored when it comes to sharing snacks, eating lunch, conversations, all because I’m not Korean.

My life is non-stop boredom and hard work, and relationships that fail to blossom. And that’s why it can be so hard living here. There are so many occasions where it could be possible for things to be better, but it doesn’t change.Somehow, I doubt I will be working here next year.