Teaching English in Korea: Is it For You?
So you think you want to teach English in Korea and are wondering if this is a good choice, or not. This is totally normal. Packing up all your stuff into 2 suitcases and moving to the other side of the world is a big decision. Today, I’m going to talk about pros of teaching English in Korea to help you decide whether or not it’s for you. Stay tuned-tomorrow it’ll be all about the cons.
Airfare and Housing are Often Included
If you’re looking for an ESL teaching gig with the softest landing possible, Korea is probably it. Airfare is often included in contracts and it’s sometimes even pre-paid. For my first job in Korea way, way back in the day, I got a physical ticket couriered to my house if you can believe it! Then, once you arrive you’ll be picked up at the airport by your new employer or the recruiter and brought straight to your furnished apartment. Sure, sometimes it’s a mold-infested crap-hole, but most often it’s a somewhat decent place to live. Whatever the case, you don’t have to figure any of that stuff out yourself like you would in a country like Taiwan or Vietnam.
Remember- nothing says “culture shock” or (mis)adventures abroad like having to find a place to live when you’ve only been in the country for a few days and don’t speak a word of the language.
Expectations for Teachers are Ridiculously Low
If you’re not a real teacher, don’t worry! Koreans don’t actually expect you to be and they actually hire based on your physical appearance way more than your actual teaching ability. Blond hair and blue eyes = love it! Small head = Awesome! S-Line = Okay! You can just bumble your way along playing some hangman or whatever, kind of indefinitely and have no fear about losing your job as long as you smile and people like you.
Of course the other side of it is that if you’re a real teacher-you know, you actually have some sort of training and experience then you’ll probably be pretty unhappy with your professional life and I’m not sure I’d recommend teaching here.
Fun will be Had in Abundance
Like drinking and big nights out? Korea is most certainly your country and I’m almost totally convinced that no country in the world does a big blow-out better than the Koreans. BBQ + Soju shots, more drinks, singing room, more food and shots, convenience store snacks and drinking-the nights go on and on until the sun comes up. Even expats who didn’t really drink before coming here (me!) can often be found having a ridiculous amount of fun, often at staff dinners.
Salaries are still Quite Good
Despite the lack of salary increases for English teachers in Korea in the past decade or so, it still does remain a pretty decent place to save money. Most people who teach English in Korea are able to put away $1000 USD a month without that much effort. If you kick your frugal-living action into high-gear or do some OT, it’s possible to save a lot more. For everything frugal living Korea, check out: 101 Frugal Living in Korea Tips.
University Jobs are Some of the Best ESL Teaching Gigs in the World
If you can get a university job in Korea, you’ll probably be pretty happy for at least a few years. Here’s why-although my job seems almost too good to be true, it is in fact the reality of my life. However, be warned because although these jobs seem so, so prime, they are in fact the best dead-end job you’re ever going to have so be sure to escape before it’s too late. Want some advice on how to secure yourself one of these jobs? Check out University Jobs Korea.
Oh Korea-we kind of have a love/hate relationship and although I’ve really enjoyed my time here, I do know that it’s time to go. It’s great, for a few years but it’s not ideal forever. If you’re looking into teaching English abroad for only a year or two, it’s a pretty decent choice and you’ll likely have a great time but just be sure to do your research first about hagwons so you don’t end up at a totally sketchy school. Here are my top 5 warning signs of sketchy hagwons.
If you want to make teaching ESL your long-term gig, consider somewhere else besides Korea where foreign teachers are held in much higher esteem and there are actually opportunities to move through the ranks into administration and management positions.