Whenever I mention that I want to teach English in Korea, the first question is usually, “Why Korea?” I can’t take credit for the idea – it was my girlfriend’s. She started doing research and dropped a bunch of information on me all at once – the job market’s not overly competitive, wages are good, expenses are relatively low, and she’d found some companies that seemed reputable. Anyone familiar with our earlier attempt to teach English in Prague knows how important these things are. It sounded like Jen knew what she was talking about.
Besides the favorable-sounding job market and work environment, I was intrigued by her choice of location: Korea. It’s small, out of the way, and I know almost nothing about what makes it culturally distinct from its neighbors. My family once vacationed in Thailand and Hong Kong when I was very young, and I consider myself well traveled, but my knowledge of east Asia and its people is limited to the following stereotypes: They eat weird seafood and fermented cabbage, enjoy monster films, love technology, and have few qualms about authoritarianism. This level of understanding sounds typically American, and I’m sure some of you know how I feel about being typically American. (Full disclosure: I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for quarter-pound hamburgers, Wayne Brady and NFL football.)
Naturally I’d love to get over there and check it out for myself. Maybe I’m not fermenting enough vegetables. And maybe they prefer films with cute talking animals as the protagonist. I’ll never find out if I don’t go.
While my current knowledge on this region of the world might be shallow, others’ tends to be even worse. When I tell them I’m looking into Korea, the typical reaction is one of fear and/or bewilderment. After asking, “Why Korea?” people usually warn me to stay away from the demilitarized zone. Also, Kim Jong Il is apparently so evil/crazy that he would detonate a nuclear device in the tiny country immediately south of his own. Or something.
With this out of the way, I’m also usually asked, “Why would you want to leave America, anyway?” To which I usually answer, “Have you looked around lately?”
Okay, I know no place is perfect. Maybe I’ll show up and find out Korean big-box stores are even bigger and have even worse parking, but I doubt it.
On the positive side, while people don’t appear to be too excited for me, at least they seem concerned. It sounds odd, but I guess I should be thankful that people are worried and fearful on my behalf.
I know it’s still months away but I’m excited about the possibility of moving to another country and eager to see what challenges await me there. As I learn more about our chosen destination, I’ll do my best to post my reactions here. Hopefully this crazy scheme works out and you’ll be able to experience it vicariously through this blog. (Also, hopefully we’ll be able to get a better blog header. Baby-steps…)