Travel, Teach, Live in Korea
In order to bond with someone they need to see you as a trusted friend. In order that that happens you need to show some level of understanding to their way of life and the kinds of cultural experiences they go through. You also need to be sensitive to them, show them you care and be willing to give first, even if you think that they've never given you anything before.
In Korea, team work is very important. Especially in a big city like Seoul or even Busan where there are millions of people always fighting each other to be first on the bus at Jamsil station, or get the first seat on the Seoul subway system. Just a little bit of kindness or giving from a foreigner who isn't supposed to know anything will position you as a rising star in their eyes and your co-workers will be excited to invite you in their daily lives.
Now most Native English Teachers teaching English in South Korea approach their teaching experience from the "expat" point of view. That's OK at first if you need to do that to help you get comfortable in the country and satisfy your basic needs. After the first month however, the more you indulge in the idea that you don't need to learn about Korea culture or be aware of the way Koreans show love and appreciation to each other the more you move away from being perceived as a trusted friend. If you're not "the trusted friend" you're probably "the temporary guy teaching at the school who I don't need to get to know since there'll be another one next year."
What kind of legacy is that? Well, it isn't a legacy. It's just average, like what most people do. How do you bond with your co-teachers? Study their culture and how they show love and kindness to each other. To save you the research, I've give you two here. One for men and one for women.
For men it's easy. All you have to do is go drinking with them, pour them some alcohol and let them pour some for you. Drink it and you're done! Do that a few times at the beginning of your contract, and even if you don't go out drinking after that you don't need to worry because in Korea, first impressions are very important. You will also want to pay for lunch once in a while. It won't cost you more than 50,000won, which is about $45.
In my first year I made the mistake of never treating anyone to lunch which positioned me as a miser to my co-workers. They never told me anything about it, until a year later one of my co-teachers who I'm good friends with told me what everyone was saying. I was shocked, but I never knew. Koreans don't like confrontations so they never go up to you, the foreigner, the person who doesn't even know better to let you know what's going on. It's up to you to figure these things out on your own in Korea.
Now for women it's a little different. Instead of having your meal and drink paid for and just drinking it, for women you have to go out of your way more than you do with men. Go to your local "dtock" shop, you can find them along most major streets. These stores sell rice cakes individually packaged, go to one of these stores and buy a bunch. Now give them to all the co-workers in your office. You don't have to give one to every since teacher in your school, just the ones in your working area. Or you could give one to all the English teachers who you work with. Or you could give one to all the English teachers in your school.
This tradition of gifting is popular in Korea, but most expats don't know a thing or two about it. If you present yourself as a native English teacher who "does as the Koreans do", you'll win instant bonding points and build trust between yourself and your co-workers and co-teachers.
Dan teachers Native English Teachers how to survive in Korea by cooking, giving and being loving at their schools. Join his free newsletter: http://www.survivalinkorea.com.
[Edited by Administrator (admin) Wed, 06 Jul 2011, 07:13 PM]