So I moved to Korea…

March 29, 2010

Nearly one month shy of the half-way point of my year in South Korea, it’s about time I started blogging about my experience here. I am living in Seoul teaching English at a hogwon, or after-school academy. I teach children of all different levels from first grade to seventh grade or so. Sometimes I like the kids, sometimes I don’t. I think that feeling is mutual. (The other day, for instance, a girl responded to some classwork by announcing, “I don’t like Sarah teacher,” then five minutes later asked to take a picture with me on her cell phone.)

Living in Seoul, the culture shock is relatively minimal considering I moved to the other side of the world. I owe it to globalization for a pretty smooth transition; a big city is a big city, and Seoul is no exception. There’s coffee shops everywhere (Starbucks), fast food (McDonald’s), shopping (Uniqlo, Forever 21, American Apparel), crowded subway cars (rush hour), taxi cabs, street vendors, loitering teenagers, Jesus peddlers and old ladies with grocery carts.

There’s also English everywhere, although in most places it’s really “Konglish” (Korean English). They use shampoo and rinse (pronounced “lins-eh”) instead of conditioner, cider (“cideh”) tastes like 7-Up instead of apple juice, and a woman wears a one-piece instead of a dress. (I learned that last one this week when my student asked me if I “like one-piece” and I didn’t understand why she wanted to talk about bathing suits in March.) The majority of English you see, though, is limited to signs, headings and titles. The language barrier is my greatest challenge. Almost five months in, I’m still shamefully intimidated by day-to-day interactions. But my survival Korean and charades skills are slowly improving.

Some of these trials and tribulations, observations and anecdotes deserve their own blog posts and shall have them in time. We have a lot to catch up on. I’ve walked through palaces and other Seoul landmarks, vacationed in Thailand, learned to like spicy food—and even some pickled food (kimchi), nearly perfected the angry teacher face, and watched way too many reruns of The Hills. I’d like to post updates regularly. So… see you in another five months? Just kidding. I’ll do my best to stop watching old reality TV and start blogging.