Feb 8, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Two: People as Places as People

To answer a question
It'll probably take more
If you're already there
Well then you probably don't know
Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we were the places that we wanted to go
--Modest Mouse

Considering a move to the hermit kingdom?  Blogs and recruiters will tout the financial and cultural benefits, both of which, depending on your lifestyle, can be very true.  But there are other, less obvious benefits available to those whom risk the change in continent, lifestyle, and career.  Here are five of my favorites.

Racism: The other side of the coin. 

Most of the teachers here are white, and most of us hail from North America, the UK, or Oceania.   Though our generation has been raised with an emphasis on racial empathy, it's good to live somewhere where you are a minority.  Further, it's good to live somewhere where many people disapprove of you based on your skin color.  It will primarily help you examine your own beliefs and preconceptions about minorities in your own country.  Secondly, it is freeing to live in a world where people are predisposed to find you an annoyance or, at best, a novelty.

Corrupting the Youth

This will depend on whom you teach and how old they are, but many teachers here end up with kindergartners in the 4-7 age range.  Taking kids who don't have English names and who barely know the English alphabet and turning them into English speakers who, for example, love the Beatles, quote the Princess Bride and Bill and Ted, and who sing "We Will Rock You," has made my year very rewarding.  What would you teach youngsters about western culture?

You don't need Twitter for Social Networking

By about the age of 25, most people have their friends set for the rest of their life.  Moving to a new country is a great equalizer; everyone is in the same boat.  You can meet so many more people, in the big cities in particular, than moving to another city in your own country.  The social networking for expats is excellent--you can easily find clubs and organizations for everything to soccer, hiking, rafting, drinking, and improv theater. 

It's the Great Outdoors.

Seoul won't be mistaken for Edinburgh, Melbourne, or Paris any time soon.  But Korea is a scenic, beautiful country--minutes of leaving the city reveal a rolling green countryside that belies the uber-urbanization associated with South Korea.  The valleys are full of rocky swimmable rivers, the islands have gorgeous, campable beaches, and everywhere you go are the mountains.  Seoraksan, pictured here, is a vastly scenic area replete with hiking trails, hot springs, hermit caves, and waterfalls.

Information Vacuum

In many ways, this is my favorite.  Korea is already a little out of touch with the rest of the world, and without a tv (or at least without English news) you can escape the over-dramatized uber-sensational programming mislabeled as "news" in the west.  Escaping the barrage of banality is a major boon; the mental equivalent of selling most of your useless stuff and paring down to the essientals.  If your ears ache from hearing too much celebrity gossip, I suggest you start developing a taste for gimchi and start thinking about what to pack. 

In fairness, you will probably have more challenges in Korea than if you stayed in your home city.  I have known many teachers here who had great difficulties dealing with how different the people, attitudes, and the culture is.  But dealing with challenges isn't always a bad thing, either; if you are open to new things or want to become so, then teaching abroad may be for you.  If it's ever crossed your mind, I say "go for it!" 


Cilicia said...

Very informative and interesting.
You summed it up well.

Ahimsa said...

Thanks. I thought you'd like the choice of music too.

Cilicia said...

Oh yes, forgot to mention the music choice is perfect.