A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Korea
Have you ever wondered what life is like for someone who travels overseas and teaches English in Korea? I compiled a few YouTube videos that help answer this question. If you are already in Korea like most of our audience, it’s still fun to watch these videos and compare the vloggers’ lifestyles to your own.
For the most part, teaching English overseas provides a nice, egalitarian atmosphere among expats. Most foreign teachers fall into the same, relative pay-scale, so the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” dissipates upon arrival. While pay scales are similar, there are usually considerable differences with accommodations, job stress, commutes, and work hours.
For example, I lived in a smaller apartment, never owned a car, and never lived with another person. Near the end of my time in Korea, I only had to teach from 1:00 to 5:30. Additionally, my students were far more demonic than the nice rural kids featured in the three videos below.
Every person has a different experience.
Is the Transition to Korea Really that Difficult?
In a word — no. But, the biggest factor that influences adjusting to life in Korea is an expat’s initial working environment. If peaceful and non-stressful, Korea becomes a cultural wonder to sample like free chocolate in a candy store. If an initial teaching job is stressful, learning the day-to-day idiosyncrasies of life in Korea feel more like being pummeled by small pebbles after running a marathon.
In my opinion, the infamous midnight runs, the act where a teacher suddenly flies back home without informing friends, coworkers, or employers, are often the result of awful work conditions — not “culture shock.” This is why I advise those coming to Korea to contact their future coworkers to confirm reasonable accommodations and working conditions prior to accepting a job. Korea is not a difficult country to adjust to, but if you start with a horrible, stressful job, it will become a nightmare.
Regardless, check out the videos below. I hope they help fill in some missing pieces of what you can expect when you come to teach abroad. And to clarify, when I refer to English teachers, I really mean ESL, EFL or TESOL instructors. I mean no disrespect towards those awesome Korean instructors who teach English; you folks understand grammar better than I do.