What to Expect

 

WHAT TO EXPECT –YOUR LIFE AS AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN SOUTH KOREA

 Welcome to Korea, the most sought-after destination for serious ESL professionals. Korea has much to offer the individual who wishes to broaden their experiences, both personal and professional, and is home to tens of thousands of ESL teachers and researchers yearly.

TEMPLE

Modern day Korea is a stunning blend of the ancient and modern, setting the stage for a spectacular experience where adventure and travel possibilities are nearly endless. The traditional aspects of this near 5000-year old culture are still evident throughout the cities and countryside, owing to the diligence of the Korean government in protecting its valuable heritage. From breath-taking scenery to towering temples and palaces, Korea has successfully managed to retain its beauty and the cultural identity that is marveled at by all visitors to this once-hermit kingdom.

But make no mistake. Korea is nothing like the land of the morning calm that it once claimed to be. It is now described as one of the most dynamic countries in the world, having successfully hosted world-renowned events such as the Olympics and the 2002 World Cup.

In fact, Korea now boasts one of the top ten economies in the world, and is famed for being the most wired country on earth due to its cutting-edge technologies and advancements in the IT industry. Gearing up to become the new hub of Asia in commerce, trade and finance, you will find Korea to be an exciting place to live, work, and get connected with people from all over the globe while gaining insight into the workings of a people 24 hours on the move.

However, living and working in a foreign country is not for everyone, as it can prove daunting for some, a challenge for others.

Once you step off the plane and take in your new surroundings filled with unfamiliar signs, faces and customs, it can be more than just a little unsettling. However, if you keep in mind that Korea is one of the safest countries in the world with an appreciative attitude towards ESL instructors, you will soon be able to adapt and enjoy the subtle and sometimes the-not-so-subtle differences that this unique culture can offer. As most teachers and visitors have experienced, you will soon realize that everyday life is really not so different. Like anywhere else, life in Korea will be exactly what you make of it, and all the adventure and experience one can handle are abound for those who wish to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition, most modern and western conveniences are available to you around the clock; ranging from familiar western fast-food chains and international cuisines to mega theaters and 24-hour convenience stores. In fact, you may even find that Korea has even more things than you may be used to seeing back home.

 


KOREA: QUICK FACTS


Weather and Climate

The Korean peninsula’s climate is characterized by four seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Spring: Generally, spring starts in March and lasts until May. All plants and flowers bloom in this season.

Summer: From June to August. The temperature in summer is between 28 C to 34 C. There are many beaches and bays surrounding Korea. It may take only 2 hours by car/training/bus to reach the nearest sea. Most beaches offer swimming, water skiing, wind surfing, jet skiing, etc.

Autumn: Autumn starts in September and lasts until November. Autumn is the most beautiful season in Korea. Many people go to the mountains to enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Winter: Winter begins in December and lasts until February. Skiing is a popular sport in Korea. Winter temperature is between 5 C to -10 C. There are nine ski resorts located 1~2hours from Seoul by car. Even though the average snowfall during the season is an abundant one meter per month, artificial snow-making facilities are installed on all slopes.

 

Nightlife

Koreans work long hours and like to “let off steam” at the end of the day, contributing to South Korea’s lively night-life scene.

Pub and club areas are colorful and vibrant, with neon everywhere you look. Most drinking spots have a selection of local and some imported beers, or you can try the potent potato vodka, soju, or the more traditional rice wines, dong-dong ju or makkoli. A bottle of soju (400ml of 22% alcohol) costs about W1000 (approx. 80 cents CAN) and beer is about the same at the supermarket.

Nightspots consist of nightclubs, pubs (called hofs), restaurants and outdoor food and drink stalls (pojang matcha). Generally, all the above are open well past midnight.

Music lovers will find a range from jazz to rock or classical in bars and cafes. The ubiquitous noraebong (singing rooms), is typical of the Korean experience, where up to twelve friends can cram into a room to belt out songs to the karaoke machine.

Night owls can enjoy midnight shopping or take a boat cruise to see the cities after dark. Be sure to take in the night view from the Seoul Tower after the sun goes down.


Culture and People

Population: over 46.9 million (1999 est.)

Koreans descended from the Mongolian race in prehistoric times. Periods of occupation have also added Chinese and Japanese blood to the gene pool. Although they have borrowed from other cultures, especially Chinese and Japanese, Koreans have maintained their own distinctive language, culture, and customs. It is a family-orientated society, heavily based on Confucianism, which even in modern times retains the basic patterns and manners of family-centered life.


Language

The Korean language belongs to the Ural-Altic family of languages which also includes Turkish and Mongolian. Although the language contains many words derived from Chinese and printed media still use Chinese ideographs to represent many of those words, structurally the two languages are very different. Korean is closer to the Japanese language linguistically.


Food

Rice is the staple of the Korean diet and appears at almost all meals. A typical meal includes rice, some type of soup, sometimes a main dish of meat, pork or poultry, and various side dishes. Kimchi, the most common group of side dishes, includes various vegetables (cabbage, radishes, and various roots) fermented with spices (garlic, red pepper, and ginger).

Korea produces several types of grain alcohol, most notably soju, among others.

Nowadays, many people eat more and more Western, Japanese, and Chinese food, with pizza becoming more popular than kimchi among the younger generation.

 

Be sure to read our FAQ for info on securing ESL jobs in South Korea.