How to get a job in Korea

Over a few drinks with the gang last night, it was decided that I should write a post about how to get a job in Korea.  So the following are the best hints to secure a stress free journey. 

1. Prepare yourself; Sounds a little obvious but it’s surprising how many people are totally under prepared.  First, coming to Korea doesn’t come over night.  If you are serious about coming to Korea then start getting the visa documents ready NOW! These include an updated c.v. and a nationwide police check among others. 

Revise your c.v. to angle more towards any volunteering/teaching experience to give yourself a head start. You should look like you want the job, not just that you want a year-long vacation! Use easy English since you don’t know who will actually read it.  There’s no guarantee it’ll be the native English teacher. 

Apply for a nationwide criminal check A.S.A.P. Being from Ireland, it’s easy but Americans need an F.B.I. check that can take about 6 weeks to get so applying now is the way to go so as to avoid stress later on.  

2. Put time in to getting a good picture; I’ve known schools to choose the teacher based on their picture alone.  The first school I worked at,I used to interview and choose the new teacher.  Once,a guy, who did an excellent interview almost didn’t get the job because he looked “too scary” in his picture (that’s what my director thought anyway).  My advice is to go to the trouble of making yourself look great, going in and getting a proper passport picture taken and send that instead of an old one. It doesn’t always happen that schools here pick based on pictures, some of them actually go to the effort of reading c.v.’s but it will definitely help your case if your picture shows you at your best. 

3. Prepare for the interview; All of us take this one for granted because we’ve done interviews in the past. However, coming to Korea is different, it will most likely be a telephone interview with either the native teacher, a Korean teacher or in some cases the director of the school.  Some schools have the Korean teacher do it and you should remember that English is not their first language.  Speak slowly, clearly and try to add a bit of enthusiasm to your voice.  If they come away feeling you really want the job, then your more likely to get it than if you sound like you don’t care.  Also make sure the place you take the call is quiet.  It’ll be hard enough communicating without the added pressure of noisy surroundings. 

4. Don’t just take the first job you get; This is a rookie mistake.  Sometimes people are so anxious to get here that they simply don’t ask the necessary questions.  When you finish the interview, ask questions, why is this teacher leaving? what hours would you work? any weekends involved? what is the apartment like? how far is the apartment from the school? are there any other foreign teachers at the school? if so, ask to speak to one of them or get an email address and ask them for an honest response.  The last thing you need is to go to a terrible school because it will ruin your whole year. 

5. Have a good attitude; Korea is different.  It’s a big step for anyone to drop their whole life and just come here for a year.  For my first 2 weeks here, I had to be escorted everywhere by my neighbour and co teacher because everything and everyone looked the same.  Now, I consider this place home so don’t let the small things bother you. Go with the flow,  have a good attitude, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Life in Korea is really great and a great thing to put of your c.v. in the future. 

If anyone wants to know anything else just drop me a line

How finding out “the news” has never been easier.

Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but no matter where you are in the world, there’s nothing we love more than “finding out the news” from home.  Communities in Ireland are small so everyone knows everyone and in turn their business.  I haven’t really realised it up to now but a skype home ends up like Newsround.

Last weekend, I first communicated with my sister.  She doesn’t even live in Ireland anymore but was well capable of telling me everything that had happened to everyone back home.  So after a good old gossip, I called Mum.  Now, Mum generally spends her conversations with me worrying about my visa (why?) and whether I have internet (eh hello we’re talking on Skype?) so gossip doesn’t really happen.  And when it does it’s on more of a national scale like ” Shauna did you know that we’re having a recession here?” But anything she told me I already knew. And I didn’t find it all out in the previous conversation with my sister. So this got me to thinking how emigrants actually find out “the news”?

For me personally I have a three strike approach.  First is Facebook.  Where would we be without it? Not in Korea that’s where.  Anyway, I stalk my way through the news feed and check the necessary pictures and status updates and this method alone gathers a deceiving amount of news. Of course, I’m sure people follow my life with my status updates and photo albums and such so I’m certain that this approach is quite excellent.

Second is the local newspaper websites.  Excellent, find out the news and if further information is needed, consult Facebook.

Third, and my own personal favourite is Twitter.  You can follow anyone from back home who has an account and then spend your day going through tweets.  This also goes for the national media who keep me informed of all the national news.  Twitter is the business.  You can also spread your own news by tweeting yourself.

I just realised how this makes me seem like I have too much time on my hands, but don’t lie.  Everyone who lives abroad has done exactly the same thing.  The only thing left to say is, where would be be without the good old interweb?

The worst thing about living in Korea.

Recently, Geumchon crew learned that one of our favourite couples in the area, Johan and Anel will be taking up      positions in the Middle East in August.  This news literally devastates us here in Geumchon and saying goodbye to friends is definitely the worst thing about living in Korea.

I’ve been here since 2009 so I’ve become quite accustomed to saying goodbyes and it seems like every other weekend there is a going away party.  In fact, once you’re here for a while, you make friends with people who are here long-term and of course Koreans themselves so your core group of friends are stable.  But it’s inevitable, for me anyway, that I would have friends who are only here for a year.  In a way, I think that after a while you learn to detach yourself a little in a friendship so you know it’ll be easier to say goodbye.  Usually when people leave there’s that initial sadness that the person is gone but it’s a quick recovery as you get to know the replacement and life just goes on.  Of course, there are also the people who you are only too delighted to say goodbye to but they are in the minority.

Many of you who regularly read this blog know, I live in Paju city, the Geumchon part to be exact.  The foreigners here have a Facebook page and use it to organise trips and nights out and so on so we’re quite a close community.  Everyone has their own role and it’s amazing to look at the group and see how people take on different tasks and how communication in the group works. Everyone in the group is great and I don’t usually single out people but I’m going to bend my own rules this one time.

Since they came to Geumchon earlier this year, Johan and Anel just made the greatest difference to the group.  If they are going out for dinner or going off somewhere, they literally call around and make it a group event.  They are South Africian but secretly I think they might be part Irish. They have the best sense of humour and whenever we are in their company there’s no social pressure.  It’s like you can turn up and just be yourself and they completely accept it, even if they don’t agree with a word you say. Anel is partial to a nice cup of tea and loves to just “pop in for 5 minutes” so of course I’m quite partial to her company.  She’s also a big fan of the norebang (she has mad skills there, a rare thing) so a night out is always a good bit of craic.  We have spent many the night sitting in our new favourite cafe drinking a bottle of wine and passing the hours talking. They never seem to run out of things to talk about. They are so honest and such true personalities that every time we hang out, they make me want to be a better person!

The best thing about them is that they are so encouraging of everyone. Teachers by profession, it’s their encouragement that most people will tell you is their favorite quality.   A few of us play on the same touch rugby team. Every time anyone makes a mistake at training or at a match, they say things like ” no worries, next time” or “don’t worry, you’re doing great”.   And it makes the world of difference, those of us who used to feel like we were letting the team down and as a result shying away from playing are now so much more confidant and actually improving.

I know a lot of great people in Korea and it’s the people who make me love my life here so much, but these two are completely different to the others. They bring the group together more and they naturally assumed that role when they arrived.   Perhaps it’s that they remind me of Irish people so much or perhaps it’s that they are inclusive of everyone or the fact that you can actually have a conversation with them but having them go will leave a big void in the group.

Saying all that the opportunity in the Middle East is too great to pass up and we all know that they’ll do just as well there as they did here.If there’s one good thing about having your friends leave is that more often than not, they leave for other countries so hopefully we can all add Oman to our new vacation destination!

What do you do when you see a new foreigner in Paju? (or anywhere similar)

As many of you already know, I live in Paju.  I’ve been in this area for the last two and a half years so I know anyone there is to know around here.  It’s just the way it is.  The foreigners here are a tight group.  Tight meaning everyone knows everyone.  Last year we lost many foreigners to the lack of funding in public schools so our numbers diminished.  However, recently we’ve gotten the funding so the foreigners are back! But that in itself means that there are days when one of us is walking along the street and a new foreigner is spotted.  Then, it’s a case of calling everyone to see if anyone knows who they are.  If nobody does and they are spotted again, what do you do?  Everyone in Geumchon Crew has a different approach, so I thought I’d share them with you.  Here we go.

1. The walk up approach; This is pretty straight forward but surprisingly only a few of us actually use this one.  So you see a foreigner you don’t know and you walk straight up to them and introduce yourself.  Simple as that. Doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or that you may be coming from the gym or whatever, just walk up to them.   Sometimes the person is only too delighted to meet you and other times they cannot wait to stop talking to you and get away.

2. Stalker approach; Ok, so this one is potentially borderline illegal. So you see the foreigner and you have a little time so you think “hey I’ll see where they are going”.  Then you proceed to follow them at a safe distance for a while. I’m not going to mention any names here but I had a Geumchonite tell us that once, she noticed a strange foreigner following her.  So she walked into a shop and pretended to be buying something.  She quickly peeked up to see if he was gone and he caught her eye, so she ran behind a shelf.  He waited outside the door shouting “I can see you” at her.  So now you see why this approach is maybe not the approach to take.

3.  The “accidentally run in” to approach; I’m a little partial to this one myself.  So you’re walking along minding your own business and your spidey senses go crazy alerting you to a new foreigner.  You see the new foreigner walking perhaps to the right.  So you cross the road and use a few alleys/shortcuts to get ahead of this person.  Then, simply backtrack, smile on your face and look shocked that you happened to run in to them.  What a coincidence!

4. The “Avoid all eye contact and pretend you’re actually Korean” approach; So I’ve had to pull this one out on a few occasions. This one is for foreigners you spot, who may be new to you but have actually been living in the area for years and don’t want you to disturb them under any circumstances.  This one only really works on trains or buses.  You see them and they see you.  They give you the “if you talk to me I’ll eat your soul” look.  They also look sad (perhaps because they’re living like a hermit?) So if you get this look you must just pretend that it’s you that doesn’t want to talk and sit there, blasse, pretending you’re Korean.

5. The “run like hell and pretend you never saw them” approach; Some people get scared off by other foreigners, especially ones they’ve never met.  They’ll see a newbie, walk the other direction and then casually mention it like a month later (imagine the stalking that could have been done in that time) Disgraceful, that’s what it is.  Definitely my least favourite.  Who does this?

So that’s it my friends, that’s all I got.  I myself prefer type 1 or 3. Also this doesn’t really apply to people who live in Seoul or any big area full of foreigners. But, if it does apply to you don’t pretend that you haven’t, on at least one occasion used one of these approaches to “run in to” a foreigner.  And if you have any other approaches don’t keep them to yourself, leave a comment so I can try it next time!