Why shouldn't I move to South Korea?
July 26, 2005 9:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm told I'm a shoo-in for an ESL job in South Korea. When I graduate with a BA in English next May, I could move down to South Korea and teach English for a year. Known pros are the mobile tech, friendly people, and first chance to see a radically different culture. The pay's supposed to be good ($3k a month) and the program sets my housing up. So what could the cons be? And am I missing any pros? I'd especially appreciate advice from former SK residents.
posted by NickDouglas to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
intense loneliness.
posted by ori at 9:51 PM on July 26, 2005

Read all the fine print, and don't do it if you don't have enough cash in your bank account to buy yourself a one way ticket back if things go sour. Don't give them your passport no matter what they say. I had a friend who's experience teaching ESL over there go VERY sour VERY quickly and got VERY screwed.

On the other hand, I have another friend that said it was really hard work with long hours but that the pay was great.
posted by pwb503 at 10:16 PM on July 26, 2005

Read our very own stavrosthewonderchicken's take here, and follow it up with Not Another Wonderland for some detailed information on the ESL-in-Korea experience.
posted by Vidiot at 10:41 PM on July 26, 2005

You should have a cruise around the Korea Forum on eslcafe.com to get a feel for things, if you haven't already, NickDouglas. Feel free to email me if you have specific questions that I didn't cover in the post Vidiot linked.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:07 AM on July 27, 2005

You should also contact Idiot Mittens. He spent some time teaching esl in SK and didn't have such a great experience.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:20 AM on July 27, 2005

A lot of people have horror stories about teaching ESL in Asia. I've heard that you get almost no support, they often won't pay you, etc. Thanks to all of the posters for the web stories.

I'd say take a development job somewhere... take an intensive language course in something that is less common, like Arabic or Turkish and you'll be able to get a job a lot more easily through a legit US business/organization.
posted by k8t at 6:51 AM on July 27, 2005

(Honestly, I thought everyone was a shoo-in for these jobs, and that all it took was a willingness to do it.)
posted by smackfu at 8:08 AM on July 27, 2005

That is correct.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2005

I think k8t is exaggerating things. If I went on word of mouth alone than 5 our of 7 people I know who've taught in South Korea were quite satisfied with it (most stayed for a few years, one left after a few months). It depends what program and organization you join. There are thousands of people who do this every year and a wealth of info on the net on which are the good and which are the bad agencies.
posted by furtive at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2005

I have two friends (a couple) that are doing this right now. He keeps a blog of his adventures. And misadventures. We went over to visit them and had a blast. I think that if you were alone, the life is pretty lonely. Only you know if that would be good for you or bad for you. Koreans, while polite and very nice, are hard to get to know -- they're kinda closed, especially to foreigners (in my very limited experience).

Life also is not THAT cheap there. I'd budget something like 60% or 75% of living in an american city (not NYC or SF, but an Atlanta). Food is cheap. Housing is free. Clothes and gadgets and similar are basically american prices. Drinking is a bit cheaper, but not a lot ($2 / beer).
posted by zpousman at 10:21 AM on July 27, 2005

See if the position you're trying for will let you contact the person who held it last.

And ditto on the possibility of long hours. Try and find out what's really expected of you, and how late you're assumed to be working. Again, the last person who held that particular spot at that particular location might be a good resource.
posted by redsparkler at 10:29 AM on July 27, 2005

Well since I was recommended, I may as well post. These are less cons than "precautions"

1) I second the 'intense loneliness' thing. I'm not the type of person that always needs company, but that was something else. Like Lunatic said, my experience went sour, but it was for personal reasons, they wouldn't necessarily apply to you so I won't go into it.

2) Watch your weight, and your health. If you can't stomach their food at first, pay the extra dough for something substantial until you can. And accept that you will rarely be 100% healthy while you are there. I don't know where you live, but the air quality is likely better than Korea.

3) Make sure you trust whoever you are dealing with to get you set up over there, and once you get there, be a shark. Sounds cynical, but it will help you for the first while. Make sure your paychecks are on time and in full and if there's any problems, nip it in the bud right away. Be very respectful to your boss, but if he/she trys to take advantage of you, make a stink.

Ok, forget the numbers. Make friends, meet people, explore, don't focus too much on the money, if you want to save up $10,000 in a year you can probably do it here. Know why you're going and always keep it in mind if things get rough. But although I had a difficult experience, I don't regret going. It's more enriching than working in a cubicle, and if you have time why not?
posted by Idiot Mittens at 2:21 PM on July 27, 2005

I nearly went to Taiwan before I met my now-wife. I originally investigated this after meeting a number of Canadians who went to various asian countries and loved it. They did have issues with loneliness, but were lucky enough to meet up with other folks from the West who were there for other jobs or other teachers, as well as some natives who spoke English very well.

I'd guess the first couple months would be critical...if you can build up a local support network and adjust to local cuisine, it should be fine.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:48 PM on July 27, 2005

A member of my local bdsm group recently posted to our mailing list asking for advice on how to get sex/bdsm toys into the country without customs confiscating them. If this is something that you think might be an issue for you, you're welcome to send me an email and I'll check with her to see what conclusions she reached on the subject. I can be reached at [my screen name at g mail dot com].
posted by Clay201 at 3:38 PM on July 28, 2005

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