Teach in Korea | 5 Tips for Expats in Korea

Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa

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Funny clip by popular comic in Korea Luke Martin

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So the new troops are rolling in and it’s time to share my tips for expats in Korea… the new ones that is.

Yes, a new batch of expats just arrived in Daegu this Thursday to fill the district’s request to have at least one Native English speaker (NET) in each school starting this semester.  It’s all a part of the Korean Ministry of Education‘s  eager plan to boost the country’s appetite and  mastery of English.

To fellow expats of my EPIK generation

Woo hoo! We made it to the six month mark! Through good times and bad, we rocked through it this far. Checklist

got my mobile phone

I love my Korean apartment

I found friendly western stores to shop at

I figured out foreign banking,

I am coping with culture shock

I suffered battles with a challenging Korean co-teacher

I found my expat community

The big question : will we re-sign our contract for another year?

Word to Newbie  expats

A big ANNYEONGHASEYO to the expat family and to the crazy Korean EFL lifestyle!

Like a marriage, you’re wearing a ring newly-sized for a year-long journey with Korea. Expect to struggle in places, stumble in others;  overall, this journey will be as rewarding, as it is awesome, not so great, frank, crazy, cool, boring and fun.

5 Tips for Expats in Korea

1. Only one person will make or break your experience here- You.

They say the role of your co-teacher can make or break your experience in Korea.

Having had a co-teacher who wasn’t welcoming or helpful from the start, this felt true. That is, until I met friends with worse apartment or job situations, and who helped me leverage my bad experiences with gratitude for the other blessings I do have.

My advice? You can’t change your situation or environment, but you can change your perspective.

Children are susceptible to the vibe we bring to our work. Vibes are viral and contagious. Despite the fact, I was struggling with a growing resentment for co-teacher I couldn’t change; I forced myself into an attitude adjustment. I changed myself, instead!

For every ounce of frustration I experienced, I’d triple-inject the joy, love and enthusiasm for my work and my students!

“How will I inspire my students to love English, today?” is what surfaces in my mind each day as I pop alive, as I enter the school yard. Thinking this way has had a positive side-effect on my environment, the people around me and most of all, myself.

2. Be open-minded and flexible.

These may look like cliche adjectives on a “How To Write Resumes” word list, but there’s real meaning behind them.

In Korea, you have to be able to roll with the punches.

You’re in a new culture, experiencing different foods and people and adapting to an unpredictable work environment. It’s safe to say, you will experience the overwhelm of everything all at once; and those punches can occasionally feel like whallops.  It’s all part of the experience and the beauty of the challenge of living and working abroad.

Open.  Stretch that mind wide open and go with the adage: What doesn’t kill you, just makes you stronger!

It’s a nice panacea to apply to bruises and aches.

3.  Change is Good.

The Korean work system is infamous for its unpredictable and last-minute changes. They don’t call it Dynamic Korea for nothing!

You’re going along your day with an easy flow, then bam! … a last-minute change, you didn’t see coming. It’s generally, followed by some explanation in gibberish and results in a frustrated bitch session with your expat friends over your new workload and very last-minute deadline! The Korean rug will feel pulled out from under you.

Don’t worry, Koreans have to deal with this too. Ironically, they seem even less conditioned to handle it than you.  They’re actually fragile people. And being Korean, their job is worse. They actually have more responsibilities and are expected to handle them.

Korea is very bureaucratic and lots of paperwork is involved. “Public documents” (forms,  documentation, reports, etc…on everything from classes and summer camps to reasons why you left school early…) plague the workload of Korean teachers. In many cases, this can even take more of an importance over teaching.

On the bright side:  1) You’ll hone your abilities to adapt at a moment’s notice and 2) you’ll thank God you don’t know how to write in Hangul.

4. Become a weed.

Weeds are the most resilient plant forms. Despite extreme weather or terrain, a weed can survive anything.

Likewise, despite how good or bad it gets, you’re much more resilient than you think.

Korea isn’t a communist country, is an ultra safe country to live in. It’s cheaper than the U.S. and even possesses more state-of-the-art modern conveniences that you won’t see in western countries. In many respects, living in Korea can feel easier than where you came from. You just need to understand how the culture works, roll with the punches, and let some things slide.

My advice? Become a weed.

5. Make the most of your time: travel, experience, explore.

When you’re in the thick of trying to make your life in Korea work, can’t understand why you experience spells of inexplicable loneliness, are struggling with language and cultural barriers AND wondering why you traded the comfort of your home for this… challenge, take time to remember why you’re here.

Adventure. Travel. Exploration. Yup, you wanted change and difference. Now you’ve got it, so make the most of it!

Take language classes at the YMCA, explore photography, festivals or foods of different regions. Make it your quest to try every jjimjilbang in your city or take a city bus tour.

Related Posts:
5 Reasons to Join your Expat Community.


This post contains affiliate links. I never leave home without travel insurance- I use World Nomads as it covers travel theft and adventure activities that basic plans don’t. But here’s a trip insurance finder tool  to find a plan that matches your budget. 

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