Shauna & Janet on the “Most useful phrases in Korean”- Part 1

It’s always useful to have a few phrases in Korean before you come to Korea. Right? That’s what we thought anyway. And by “we”, I mean Janet and I. Janet is the person behind the blog.She’s also Irish and living in Paju so we thought we’d try a vlog over some Barry’s Tea. Since we want people to be involved, we let our Facebook followers choose the phrases we put up. Here’s what they came up with;

1. Hello– 안녕하세요. Anyeong ha sayo.

2. Thank You– 감사합니다 Gamsa ham ni da

3. Yes– 네 ney

4. No– 아니요 ah ni o

5. Where is the ___________? ________ 이 어디에 있어요? ___ o d eh is oh yo?  For example, “Where is the bathroom?’ The word for bathroom is 화장실( hwa jang shil) so the sentence becomes 화장실이 어디에 있어요?

6. How to I get to _______? _________ 어땋게 가요? o ddeok kay gay yo? For example, How do I get to Seoul is 서울 어떻게 가요?

7. I’m sorry– 미안해요. me ann ham ni da. There are a few ways to say I’m sorry. You can use this for any situation where you should apologize for something.

8.Discount Please, 갂아 주세요. Gakk ah chew say yo. This can only be used when the price isn’t set. For example at a market or somewhere.

9. Simmer down/calm down; 침착해요. Chim chak hay yo. A great one if you’re out and about and someone is bothering you or something like that.

10. How much is this? 이거 얼마예요? e go ul mah eh yo? (이거 being “this”).

11. Directions; 직진- jik jin,  Straight

오른쪽 oh ruhn chuk, Right

윈쪽 wen chuk, Left

여기 세워 주세요. yoh gi say woh Chew say yo, Stop here please

12. Really? 진짜? jiin ja? I love this word! Even these days when I can’t follow my student or whatever I just reply “진짜”?

13. One moment please, 잠깐만요. Jam can man yo, . You can use this when getting off the subway, bus or just to say “wait a minute”

It’s not very much fun just reading it here is it? No. That’s why Janet and I put together a little video of how to pronounce it and we loved it so much the memory card ran out of space. So this video is part one and we’ll post part 2 next week!

Since we’re not Korean we probably made mistakes in spellings so apologies. If you want to see us do any more videos on Korean or life in general in Korea or whatever, leave us a comment or tweet us, @iamshaunabrowne or @janetnewenham.

Coming to Korea- F.A.Q’s

Someone I know very well is getting ready to come to Korea for a year. This means that there are many questions so I thought I’d do a blog on the most useful.

DISCLAIMER; This information as to the best of my knowledge. Rules and regulations change all the time. Be sure to speak with your recruiter to confirm any queried you might have.

This blog is written with Irish people in mind.

Q1. What documents do I need?

The following are the required documents for an E2 visa application

  • Signed Contract
  • Original Degree (Apostilled)
  • Sealed  University Transcripts
  • Copy of the information page of your passport
  • 4 colour passport pictures*
  • Signed copy of your C.V.
  • Apostilled Criminal Check.
  • Personal Health Statement

Apostille – I’ve just gotten my documents reapostilled in the run up to my renewal (long story about what happened the first time) and they came back within the week so it’s a pretty speedy process.

Q2. When should I start preparing my documents for Korea?

This depends on the country you’re coming from and every situation is different. For Irish people, I would say 4 to 5 months. The Garda check must be recent (within the last 6 months) so keep that in mind. After that the transcripts and apostille vary from university to university so getting them organised 5 months in advance is no harm. The last thing you want is to receive a job offer and not have your documents ready. Be prepared!

*The contract is the last document you need to collect and you will get it upon receiving a job offer.

Q3. How do I contact a recruiter?

So many choices here. If you know someone who’s already here, ask them. If they’ve had a good experience with their recruiter, chances are you’ll have a good experience also. If you don’t know anyone, then do some research. Read other blogs from expats teaching in Korea and see what they say.

It might be a good idea to know what you’re looking for in a job. Do you want to be in Seoul, a suburb, the south, the east, where? Do you want public school (EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE) or an academy? Do you want to work mornings or start in the afternoons and finish later? Think about what you really want so you can make it easier for the recruiter to find you a suitable position.

This is a list of recruiters from a popular expat website here,

Q4. After I’m offered a job, how do I get a visa?

This is something your recruiter will take you through. When you have all your documents ready, DHL or FED EX them to your recruiter ( so you can track them). You recruiter checks them and sends them to your employer who brings them to immigration. Your employer will be given a visa issuance number and will send it to you via email.

You then make an appointment at your local Korean embassy. Bring your passport, do your interview and you will be given your visa in a number of days.

Then you’re good to go!

 Q5. Do I need to get vaccines to go to South Korea?

If you want to you can. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s a completely personal choice.

Q6  What are the holidays like?

Again, it depends school to school. Public school and private schools have different vacation allowances. In my school, for example, I get approx 10 days in summer, 10 days in winter and 2 or 3 at the end of the term. That’s just my school though. You can read about vacation allowances in your contract or ask it when you do your interview. There are also public holidays….

Q7. What is an alien registration card, when do I get it, how do I get it and why do I need it.

If you intend to stay in Korea for longer than 90 days you must apply for an ARC.  The card has a number on it that you need to open a bank account, get a phone in your name, get cable, visit the hospital or anything like that.

Once you arrive in Korea, you school will bring you for your health check and when they receive the results of that, they will apply for the ARC.

When you get it depends on the immigration office and how quick you can get the health check done. I waited just 2 weeks for mine but I heard my friend say that she waited 5 weeks for hers because of some backlog so just ask at immigration and they’ll know.

Q8. Is it difficult to get a phone and bank account?

Once you receive your alien registraion card, head over to your chosen bank and ask to open an account. Most banks have someone who speaks enough English to understand what you need.  If you want to save and send money home, I recommend KEB. Here is an article about banking in Korea,

For a phone; Once you have a bank account and an ARC, head to a phone store, choose your plan and phone and they will set you up. It’s pretty easy and most of the time someone speaks enough English to get the message across or you bring someone Korean with you. It’s up to you but don’t be afraid to try it by yourself.

Q9. What should I bring?

Remember you are coming for a year and you only have about 23kgs to pack it in to. So pack wisely. Winter here is super cold and summer is hot.

  • Base layers,a down jacket and a pair of boots for winter
  • 1 or 2 towels to get you through until you can buy more.
  • A super big bath towel.
  • You’re favourite shampoo/hair dye/perfume/ makeup or whatever. At least enough to get you through until you figure out how to get more.
  • Pictures of your family and friends or some things that you can bring to remind you of home.
  • International Plug
  • Work clothes
  • A good attitude

Q10. How do I get involved in expat life?

The Irish have a strong community here.  The Irish Association encourages Irish culture in Korea. Their website is . The Seoul Gaels are a sporting organisation  There are also plenty of meetups happening for every interest. Check out and search for your interest in Korea. Check out for expat living in Korea.

My best piece of advice is “over prepare, then go with the flow”

Feel free to leave questions and comments!

Every family should visit you abroad.

When I share stories about my life here with other people, most of the time they don’t understand. It’s not their fault. They’ve usually never been here and don’t understand the culture or the way of life  so the significance sometimes gets lost.  If someone back home were to look at my Facebook page for example, they might be lead to the conclusion that I spend my time travelling, playing music, sharing funny stories about my students and socializing. I’ve spent every Skype call for the past four years reassuring my family that I am indeed doing alright. I have a job, money, accommodation, friends, a life. They’ve spent four years asking questions, “what do you do out there?, when are you coming home?, what’s the food like?, hows the weather?, what do you do at the weekend?, do you ever get a holiday? is it not dangerous so close to the North?”. The questions go on and on and sometimes I do well answering them but most of the time I don’t. It’s something you must experience.

Before I left for Korea in 2009, the final words my mother said to me in Dublin Airport were “Shauna, if I think you’re going to stay a long time, I’ll come to visit”. I’m not exactly sure if she had an exact timeframe in mind when she said that, but I guess four years is it. A few weeks ago, my sister told me of their big plan to come out here. My mum and older sister are now halfway through a two-week visit and I can honestly say, it’s the best thing they could have done.

The things that I take for granted are such novelties for them. The first day they walked into my apartment, my sister asked where my keys were as she watched in fascination as I entered my door code.  The idea that I can actually read and converse in Korean is a novelty and they are thinking of ways to get my gas range back to Ireland.  My mum calls my phone addiction “networking” and my sister hides her iPhone minus 1 for fear of ridicule from Koreans.(Honestly, I don’t know what version it even is but I haven’t seen it in Korea EVER). The giant screens, the technology in the subway stations, buses and everywhere else is so fascinating. High rise apartment buildings and shops that are on a floor other than the ground floor are possibly the most greatest fun.

Of all the things they’ve done and seen, I think what surprised them the most was how strong Irish culture is here. We organised a session in Seoul for our visitors (my family and my friends family) and Mum couldn’t stop talking about how great the Korean musicians were. I’ve spent over three years telling her but it was only after she heard us playing that she understood.  We’re also heading to a ceili on Saturday night and I think that it’ll be this experience that Mum will take home with her. When Mum asks me how I know people, I mention the Seoul Geals and she’s even more astonished that there’s sport as well as music/dancing. Now she understands that although we look in pictures like we’re enjoying ourselves at Irish events, we also put in the hard work to make them happen. She wouldn’t have understood had she not come here and seen it for herself.

Coming to Korea and indeed to Paju has gone a long way to showing them that living close to North Korea doesn’t mean anything in day-to-day living.  Every time North Korea pop up in the news, people at home gain images of military swarming the area and checkpoints and all kinds of tension and so on.  They now see the reality that life here is  safe and actually a little boring, not at all living up to the images they had conjured up.

This week, I have their schedule jam-packed with lunches and dinners with my friends to make sure they meet every one of significance. Putting faces to the names that I talk about and seeing a bit of the personality behind those names is great. Whenever I’ve had a problem in Korea, although Mum gives great advice, it’s these friends that have been there to help me out of it.  For my real family to see my Korean family brings with it a certain knowledge and comfort that I’m far from alone out here.

Most of all this trip reinforces the idea that this isn’t just an extended holiday I’m on. I have a real job, real responsibilities and a real life. So many times, when North Korea pops up in the news or something bad happens, we all get the emails to just “come home”. Now, my family see that dropping everything and heading back to Ireland isn’t all that easy.

Living abroad, it’s always great to return to the comforts of home for a visit and share the stories of your travels. Having your family walk a mile in your shoes, however, is the best way to help them understand how you live your new life, how you made this life what it is and what keeps you where you are.

Fmily and friends

I know my mother is here because……..

My apartment is cleaner than it’s ever been. Ever. Cleaner than the day I moved in. Mum is definitely here. It’s cleaner than the clean it was when she arrived. It’s cleaner than it was in this picture……………AmazingMy new apartment

The dishes are all washed, always. It’s like magic. I, as usual, throw them into the sink for later. But later, they have not only been washed but dried and put away.korean-slang-lesson11

The bottle of wine is still in the press. It’s been there for a week. I fear it might be going off…………….

My social life has been narrowed down to dinners with friends.

20130322_193604 Except we don’t eat pizza, we eat healthier food. (Trying to qualify for “responsible grown up” status)

I’m in bed earlier than I’ve ever been. What’s going on?  10.30pm is too early to go asleep!

I’m discovering how comfortable the floor really is to sleep on.

The clothes get washed every few days. Usually this only happens when I realise the basket is getting full or when I run out of something and realise it’s time to do the washing.

There is so much food in my apartment, I’m running out of space for it. Honestly, you’d swear we were feeding the entire population of Paju. It will never be this way again.

wpid-20130211_200756.jpg    This is only a fraction of the food that you can find in my apartment. Honestly.

I’m only eating relatively healthy food in an effort to make it seem like I’m qualified at being a grown up. There is a box of Dairy Milk still not eaten that screams at me every time I open the press.

I’ve been to tourist sites that I haven’t been to since the first year I arrived in Korea.

Mum Here we are in Seoul at the Cheongaecheon stream.

My Korean seems to be brilliant. Beside people who don’t speak one word, I seem fluent. This, will also never happen again. The only thing I’m fluent in is Konglish.

I have money in my wallet for “petrol”. I never get petrol money from anyone over here………..

Dearest mother……

Dearest mother,

I received your letter yesterday and would like to respond to your numerous questions. I feel like maybe you have the wrong impression of this country altogether. We should clear this up before you visit otherwise you’ll be very disappointed.

Despite what you read, South Korea is a first world country so yes, we have clean, running water. It also comes in still and sparkling should you prefer to buy some in the shop. We use a monetary system to acquire our items so best bring some along. No, you can’t get it in Ireland, you’ll just have to wait until you get here.  I know you’re a fussy eater, but seriously, there’s no need to bring your own food, we can buy it here.  Times are tough, but not that tough.  We do have Rice Krispies but I’m not sure if they’re called Rice Krispies because I don’t like eating cardboard. I know I usually write letters to you but honestly we do have internet and phones.

You expressed fear about your Western fashion standing out.  Let’s have a little chat about this. Your fashion standing out should be the least of your worries. When people stare, it won’t be because you’re wearing the latest Dunnes fashion, it’ll be because you’re( sit down for this one) FOREIGN!  Since we have free choice as to what we wear here, chances are that they’ll be at least 5,000,000 people in Korea wearing the same t-shirt/shorts combo as you. And should you still be fearful after you’ve arrived, you can always buy your clothes from any of the 200,000,000,000 clothes stores there are here.

That’s if people even manage to see something other than your head.  There are a lot more people here than in Ireland. I mean a LOT more. Koreans are everywhere. So although I live in the “country” ,I really meant that it was more country that downtown Seoul. There are still a lot of people in Paju. You should prepare yourself for this. There’s no such thing as going out to feed the sheep in the morning. In fact, you would be hard set to find a sheep in my part of Paju so best of luck if you’re trying to feed them.

I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’ll be staying in a space a lot smaller than our house in Ireland. It may only have 2 rooms but it’s what I call “home” so it’ll have to do. If you see a house in Korea, you should take a picture, most people live in apartments.

About the safety thing. Mum, this may be Asia but apart from being half way round the world, it’s not all that different from Ireland. Just do what you do in Ireland and don’t do what you wouldn’t do in Ireland and you’ll be set.  But this image you have of thieves and gangsters roaming the streets is so far from the line, that the line is now just a dot.

Mother, mother, mother, have many times have I told you that there is no reason to fear our pesky friends up North? What would they want with you? Nothing, that’s what. If you were planning an emergency evacuation plan, don’t. You’ll only be here for two weeks and yes, we will go to the DMZ because why wouldn’t we? We’ll have a whale of a time, I tell you.

Anyway, pack well and remember that 20kgs is what I got to start an entire life out here so surely you can pack for 2 weeks and be under the limit. Don’t forget the tea bags and treats.



p.s. Since we have cars and petrol here and roads that work, I’ll pick you up from the airport.

Letters from Ireland

Not everyone can lay claim to the world’s best parents, but I can.  Mammy and Daddy Browne are a force to be reckoned with.  They are the ultimate team and when I grow up , I hope I can be somewhat as brilliant as they are.  But although they’re the best, I didn’t think they’d actually reply to all 28 letters I sent them as part of my letter writing challenge in February.  But they did!

As I sat with my cup of Barry’s, I couldn’t help but laugh.  These letters, in 2 sides of an A4 page, managed to give me a full run down of the local news, gossip and goings on as well as a “back in my day” revision.  They were so brilliant, I reckon my parents should start their own blog. Just the perfect balance of Irishness with a hint of parent.  There were definite themes that kept arising in the letters so I’m going to outline the views from Ireland below.

My mother on all things Korean; Anything my parents know about Korea either I told them and they don’t believe or they hear it on the news and take it as completely accurate.  When enquiring about the movie scene here it was; “Do you have cinemas over there and if so are you behind or in front of us in terms of movies”?

Following on with the idea that I play music in Korea.  Replying to my letter where I explained about playing at St. Patrick’s Day with my trio she said, “Are they Korean nationality or do they speak English”? Can’t be both, you must choose one!

Later, she asked if there were any supermarkets or was it all just small shops.  She’s going to get such a shock when she arrives (possibly later this summer) to find that you almost need a map to get out of Home Plus alive.

Thankfully, they were all quite impressed by my mad Korean skills ( I wrote half a letter in Korean).  According to Mammy Browne however, Korea is “like Morse Code” and “I don’t know how you do it”. What can I say, mad skills……

My mother on Roscrea and its supermarkets; Our local town in Ireland is Roscrea.  It’s not that big, actually it’s about 10 times smaller than Paju, that gives you an idea.  It’s a regular Irish town, nothing special apart from the country’s best rashers, sausages and musicians.  This is the town that we go to all the time for groceries, bank, everything.  According to Mum, in the 4 years since I left, “the town of Roscrea has gotten so quiet, no problem getting a parking space in the centre”.  That’s how we measure economic growth in Roscrea, availability of parking spaces in the centre.   There are also 4 supermarkets.  but in these bleak economic times “I really wonder how the four supermarkets stay open, there is a fierce piece competition between them all”. Then there was the usual rant about Easter related products ripping people off. And people buying it all up anyway.  Mum, if you’re reading this, is there any chance you’ll send me a maltesers Easter egg? Or just the maltesers?


Love; A good number of these letters were dropping hints on the notion that I should soon start thinking of getting married.  Dad went as far as to pick out an eligible candidate and send a letter with his credentials, road frontage availability etc. Excellent.  Mum was much more subtle in her hints.  While talking about the “anything goes” fashion of today, she mentions how she only buys clothes “for the special occasion”. Nod nod wink wink. She also dedicated a letter to the discussion she had with Dad about how couples meet each other these days.  And there started the “and back in my day, and I’m going back to 1975” speech.  This lovely trip down memory lane outlined how couples would meet at the dances and spend ages picking out dresses and hair styles and shoes and how everyone knew the dances (heaven forbid they wouldn’t know the dances). And they would all spend great times looking forward to meeting each other.At that time marriage was forever not like the “young wans these days”.

So I think the message is, hurry up and get married but don’t be in too much of a hurry because you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong person (possibly someone who doesn’t know Ceili dancing or hates Irish music).  I’ll work on it.

To finish things up I’ll give you a review of the things I’ve learned from the letters that nobody thinks important to tell me on Skype;

1. My mother has been playing the concertina for ages and I didn’t even know. She has also been studying theory of music and the piano and is always doing exams.  She’s now only 2 grades from finishing all 8. Fair play Mum. Fighting!

2. My mother has no sense of rhythm.  Although this is what she says but I always knew I got my rhythm from my father.  

3. For my grandfathers age, he has great eye sight and is in great health “not a fear of him” I hear.

4. My cousins are so big now, that most of them are in school, or leaving school.  I don’t know why I’m so shocked, it has been 4 years.

5.  Even though it’s been ages since I’ve been home, everything is the same.  Nothing has changed and it’s business as usual.

My letter writing challenge- the half way stage.

My first letter started with the words “Hello everyone, it’s me.”  At this half way stage, I didn’t expect to blog about this but it’s proving quite the adventure.

Although I’m a person that’s never really stuck for words, my first letter was a general summary of my week.  I just didn’t know what to say. It’s not like an email that has a purpose, it’s a letter where I was free to say anything I wanted.  I felt like that Sunday morning RTE show about the roundup of the week’s news.  Then when I finished and put it in an envelope, I realised that there was so much I forgot to tell them.  Thankfully, I just remembered it the next day and wrote it then. 

Since then my letters have taken on somewhat of a “Day in the life” form.  I have taken to writing the letters at the end of the day and write thoughts on paper that I would never dream of speaking in real life.  It’s like confession.  I can write what I truly feel and not worry about the consequences.  But it’s not just me writing these letters.  I’ve enlisted the help of my friends and their children because I figure it’ll make it more interesting for those back home to get letters from people other than me.   

It all started when I was eating dinner with some friends.  Their children were bored so I took out my notepad and told them to write a letter to my mum in English.  After the initial “what am I supposed to say”, they go into the swing of it.  Here is some of what they wrote;

                                                                                          alex letter

 The one above is probably one of my favourites.  I especially like the “My favourite soccer players are Ronaldo and Messi because they are handsome”. 

                                                                                                        pic 2

I even got so confident that I wrote a quarter letter in Korean.  Then I realised that they would have no clue what it said so I wrote had to write in English.  At least I tried……….

                                                                                                                    korean letter

The saddest letter was one written by a middle school student.  It’s just so sad how he describes what he does everyday and I can imagine my family reading it in otter disbelief that he has no real life outside school;

                                                                                                        last letter

            The funniest one by about a mile is the one below.  It supposed to be a question answer type thing, I think.  But I think the child got slightly confused.  Makes for great reading.                                                                                                   

            pic letter

The real adventure is whether any of these letters are ever going to make it to Ireland.  I started sending them on the last day of January thinking I’d have a head start.  But as of today, February 20th, my family has yet to receive one.  So there are 21 letters out there  just waiting to be read. 

I  think it’s something to do with the lady in the post office.  Everyone morning I arrive  at the same time and send the same letter, in the same yellow envelope to Ireland.  But she never listens to a word I say so for all I know, she could be sending them all to Iceland!!!!!! Or she just be taking them out of the post box herself and using them as a way to learn English (I’ve noticed a slight improvement lately).  Or taking the letters out to see what will happen when I realise they’re never going to arrive in Ireland. Either way if they don’t get to Ireland soon, she’s getting the blame.

It doesn’t really matter because I’ll still continue to write them and send them as has become routine.  Then at the end of the month, I’ll stop and wait for my reply letters to start coming through the letterbox.