We love keeping in touch with Say Kimchi teachers across Korea and hearing their stories – both good and bad! We recently caught up with Brittany who we placed in Paju, Gyeonggi Province earlier this year. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you came to teaching in South Korea?
I am half Korean, but my mom was adopted when she was about 3 years old. That being said, I had no idea what the culture was like. I have also always wanted to travel abroad either to volunteer or work, and I spoke to someone who had taught in Korea. She loved it, so I thought that teaching in Korea would be the perfect opportunity for me.
I had graduated college December of 2013. By the time March came, I still had not found a job (I am very impatient), so I decided to go for it and apply. I honestly thought that getting an interview was a long shot, but was hoping I would get the opportunity to come teach in Korea.
After interviewing for a school in Busan, I was not offered the position. I was crushed. Barely a week later, if that, Anne had another school wanting to interview me. It was in Munsan, which is VERY close to North Korea. I was nervous, but Anne assured me that North Korea was not a problem. I took the interview and got the job! I have been at Three Kings Education for about 1 month and love it!
2. How have you adapted to the culture?
It was very extremely easy for me to adapt to the culture. Because Munsan is a smaller city, there is not a lot of English spoken here. I was a little nervous at first, but everyone seems to be very nice and helpful. It also helps that my boss lived in America for some years and speaks good English, as does the receptionist. So anytime I need help, I always go to them.
I was shocked about a few things that are taken advantage of in the States, which is where I am from. For one, toilet paper is not always in the restrooms. By not always, I mean it is about 50/50. I have not been to the bigger cities much, because I have been going on other trips, so I can’t speak for them. Also, soap in the restrooms is also 50/50. Therefore, I always keep toilet paper and hand sanitizer on me. But honestly, if all I have to do is carry around a packet of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, than this culture really isn’t so bad.
The other thing that makes living in Korea a tad difficult is me being pescatarian (it’s like being a vegetarian only I still eat seafood). A lot of the food here will have meat in it. I am slowly trying to figure out if I want to try to start eating meat again anyways to be able to experience more of the food. But we will see.
The people here, though, are amazing. I feel so much safer here walking home than I did in the states. I also find that it is easier to trust people here. For example, there is a local bar I always go to after work. I feel completely safe leaving my backpack on the couch and just not worrying about it all night. In the states, there is no way I would do that. I am still careful of course, though.
Also, cars here do not always stop at the red lights. It is still something I am trying to understand. The first taxi I rode in was running through all the lights and going super fast. I love thrills, but that was a little much for me. So cross the streets with caution and don’t always trust the walking green man light. Those are probably the biggest shocks I have had while being here, which really aren’t that bad at all.
The culture here is honestly nothing to be nervous about. As long as you are open to new things and experiences, you shouldn’t have a problem. Korea is very westernized.
3. Have you been able to make some new friends?
It is soooo easy to make friends here. Most of my friends are foreigners, so I haven’t made friends with too many locals yet, but I do have a few. In Munsan, where I work, there are not many foreigners. AT ALL. So there is a group on Facebook called the Geumchon Crew. This is a group for teachers who live in the Paju area.
We will get together maybe once a week for dinner. Also, there are two travel groups on Facebook that I have used. One is Wink (When in Korea) and the other is Hunter’s Experience. I highly recommend doing this if you want an easy way to meet people. Some of the trips can be pricey, but you can just pick and choose what you want to do.
There is also a website/app called Meet Up. One of the locals actually advised me to use this. It seems to be yet another easy way to meet people, but I have not used this yet. Honestly, most people who come here are in the same boat as you. They come here wanting to have a good time and learn about a new culture, and most of them don’t know anyone either.
That being said, the people I have met seem to be really laid back and cool. I will go on a trip knowing one person and leave having contact information for many more. It really just is a great time. I really do feel so lucky in this sense. So if you’re worried about meeting new people, don’t be. You may just have to travel a little more than what you are used to. But the subway is super cheap and easy to use. And guess what…there is an app for that too!
4. What was your relationship like with Say Kimchi Recruiting?
I was in contact with Anne the WHOLE time: from the stress of my interview, to getting all the paperwork finished, to getting to Korea. She was there for it ALL. She was amazing. She answered emails promptly and answered every question I had even if all I had to do was look on the website for it.
Before my interviews, she would email me to tell me good luck. I know she probably has a lot of people she is doing this for, so just remembering that was impressive and gave our relationship more of a personal touch even though I only knew her through emails.
By the end of the process, everyone back at home knew who Anne was. This was only because of how much interaction was between us, and she would come up in conversations about Korea. When talking to family or friends back at home I always said, “Well Anne said…” and they would know exactly who I was referring to. I honestly would be missing out on so much had she not helped me! She is great and I would recommend Say Kimchi Recruiting to anyone.
5. Any advice for recruits wanting to go teach in South Korea?
Don’t think about it, just do it!!!! If you don’t like it, go back home. Easy as that. But don’t be afraid of the what if’s.
Read more Teacher Stories to see what life is really like in South Korea!