Surviving a year in a Korean school | The Jeju Weekly

My month in Korea last year sets me up well for dealing with a lot of cultural differences in the work environment that many expat teachers find very hard to begin with. For example, in the above article, I’ve already got tips 1, 2, 6 and 8 of 8 under my belt. Of course we were in a non-standard working environment, so there’ll still be plenty of things to get used to, but I’m much less afraid of those than I think I would be had I not had that month.

Something that has had me worrying lately are numbers 4 and 5, because of the fact that I’m a vegetarian and I don’t drink. I’ve previously discussed how I’m partially giving up vegetarianism, but I’ll still probably come across as a bit fussy. More significant is drinking. The impression I am given is that using alcohol to cross cultural and language barriers is a vital part of becoming part of the school’s team of teachers. And in Korea (I keep being told) difference is less tolerated.

It is very difficult to judge just how important this is: just how much these facts about me will damage my contribution to the school. What I can do is think about the things that I can do to mitigate the effect. The first is making a real effort at Korean. A lot of foreign teachers don’t, which sucks. So far my effort has not been very serious. I should make it so. Secondly I have my enthusiasm. My experience has been that I’m better than average at bringing energy to a working environment; finding positives etc. I’m rarely a source of energy with friends, and never with family, but I’m good at it when there is work to be done, so I should capitalise on that.

I think that these two things should cancel out any difficulties I might have thanks to some of my lifestyle choices.