Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Open Letter to Foreigners Teaching English in Korea,

Congratulations on accepting your new post, be it at a hagwon or public school or corporate training center or whatever else. Before you jet-set all the way over here, consider this list of items to bear in mind:

  1. You are a foreigner in a foreign country. Remember this. The same rules do not always apply. Things will be inconvenient for you at times; you will not be able to do some things as easily (or even at all). It's not because you're a foreigner, it's because you're not a citizen. There's a subtle difference. Bitching about racism in Korea has its time and place, but not because you don't always get your way all of the time.
  2. Learn to read Hangul before you get here. Your life will be that much easier.
  3. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can even learn some token phrases and keywords so you're not entirely screwed on your own. Numbers, too. I'd rather a clerk assume that I understand Korean numbers (correct assumption) and give me an accurate price than try to muddle through English and tell me fifteen thousand won instead of fifty thousand. Every bumbling foreigner he encounters just further reinforces the stereotype that we are fat hairy numbnuts without two braincells to rub together.
  4. Go places besides Itaewon.
  5. Give Korean food half a chance.

If you keep these suggestions at the front of your mind, your time (and mine!) in Korea will be a lot easier.

Katherine 코바

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