LETS COMPARE SEX APPEAL
So, today I wanted to share a few contrasting images of what the many of us in the Western world find aesthetically pleasing compared to what is accepted as attractive in Korea 😉
LETS COMPARE SEX APPEAL
So, today I wanted to share a few contrasting images of what the many of us in the Western world find aesthetically pleasing compared to what is accepted as attractive in Korea 😉
On Saturday we decided to arm ourselves with Paris Baguette pastries and cakes and have a picnic up at the fortress, near where we live in Cheongju. A lovely little old man gave us some cherry tomatoes, corn and tree bark ( yeah, tree bark) for looking after his backpack while he went on a trek around the fortress and two guys who spent 6 years as cleaners in Australia offered us some home made Korean candy. Ben even treated us all to his special log roll down the hill. When we decided to call it a day and look for a taxi we realized that there wouldn’t be any taxi’s coming up there any time soon. After waiting for the bus for 25 minutes we were relieved when we saw it coming round the corner. What we were greeted with however was none less than a vehicle that had about 25 people too many on board. There were arms hanging out of windows, people wedged between other people’s arm pits and at one point on the journey I even found an old women crouched on the floor by my feet. The journey down from the fortress is somewhat windey and we spent the whole time screaming like gimps. Some of the Korean men on the bus were absolutely shit faced and kept telling Allie how beautiful she was and continued to pull on my pony tail. It was wayyyy to sweaty and uncomfortable to even begin telling them to stop so I spent the rest of the way home having my hair yanked like some kind of Shetland pony.
We spent Sunday having a picnic and reading in a gorgeous park near our apartment. The fields were filled with flowers and reminded me a bit of the field in Rihannas ‘Only Girl in the World’ video. I know in her video the flowers are tulips but hey, close enough!
Inside the apartments in Korea there are like tannoys that enable messages to be boomed into your bedroom at any time of the day. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: George Orwell’s 1984. And, I would tend to agree with you. Obviously, as the speaker is Korean and usually the apartment’s security guard, you cannot understand a bloody word of it unless you are learning Hangul (Korean language) and it is just a tad annoying when you are being informed in Korean that it is National Tree Planting Day at 7am on a Tuesday. Even if something serious was going to kick off, i.e war, I wouldn’t have any idea and have spent the past couple of weeks analyzing the tone of the guards voice just in case I sensed Kim Jong Un’s peeps had touched down in Cheongju and we had to evacuate quickly into a underground bomb shelter.
Civil Emergency Exercises.
On the 15th day of every month the Korean government hold nationwide civil emergency exercises. Although I have never been caught up in one, one of my friends has been locked inside a shop while sirens rang and asked to get down on the floor and stay away from the glass. These exercises are routine and have taken place for a long time (not quite sure when) but I must note they are not a result of the tensions that are presently evident between the North and South of Korea. This is the travel advice the British Embassy offer to travelers:
‘The South Korean authorities normally hold nationwide civil emergency exercises on the 15th day of the month, eight times a year (not January, February, July or December). Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people are asked to take shelter in metro stations or basements. You should check local announcements for further exercises.’
Handy Hints for People thinking about TEFL in South Korea
WHERE TO GO??: When looking at where to TEFL, Korea has the best package to offer for newbie TEFLers. So yes, you may get higher wages in Japan but you need to sort out and pay for your own accommodation ect ( not so fun in a foreign country). I have searched the internet for hours looking for packages better than Korea to no avail. Sure, there are other great packages worldwide but you usually have to have a CELTA/PGCE/ over a years experience teaching. In Korea you starting salary is around 1,280 British pounds per month and you get your accommodation and flights paid for by your school. The tax you pay is also very low so you are getting the majority of that 1,280 pounds at the end of every month. Some people blow their money travelling to the Philippines or Hong Kong on their days off and some people save their money. You can save 600 British pounds a month pretty comfortably and if you wanna live on a budget you can save around 800 British pounds per month (unless you live in Seoul where the cost of living is higher.)
HAGWON V’S PUBLIC SCHOOL. Okay, so education in Korea is taken very seriously. Parents want their kids to be the very best and will enroll them into numerous after school academies to ensure they are performing better than their peers. Thus, there is a huge market for Private Academies (Hagwons) in South Korea, They are usually open between the hours of 2-10 after kids have finished school, but I know lots of teachers who work 3-8pm schedule. So which type of school is the best to work for?? Okay so I work for a Hagwon because public schools do not accept couples unless they are married. However, if I was a single applicant I think I would definitely apply through the Public school program: EPIC. You work a 9-5 and have a native Korean teacher in the room with you at all times. There is less pressure for the kids to get good grades in public school so you have more room to be creative in what you are teaching. You can even incorporate English games into your lessons. The downside of working for EPIC is maybe you hate getting up in the morning and want to get away from a 9-5 routine BUT the holidays with EPIC are soooo much better than Hagwons, where you only get 10 days off in a year ( and some employers try to avoid even giving you that.) The only other downside of EPIC that I can think of is the application process; they want reference letters and sealed transcripts from your uni too. Hagwons are fine too; I work for a Hagwon and I’m enjoying myself. However, keep in mind they are a business. If your classes aren’t performing well or parents are complaining, you will be fired ( but hopefully you will have a warning before they just fire you. But, these businesses are not like businesses at home. They are cut throat and sometimes difficult to work in. I feel annoyed sometimes as I feel like my school doesn’t tell me anything, its all one big secret. Co teachers come and go and I don’t know they are leaving until they have left. Or, there is a big school test and I don’t know about it until I walk into school that day. The majority of my friends have this same experience at their Hagwons. Also, if the school is losing kids and they cannot afford to stay open, again, you will be jobless. So, that’s the risk you take. Remember to check how long a school has been open before you take a job and also, how many kids do they have. If its under 60: don’t work there!!!! Also, ensure that the school gives you the email addy of the previous English teacher so you can ask them what the school is like before you commit.
RECRUITER: So, I would advice getting a recruiter to help you secure a job as I think it would be really hard to find a job independently. Once you are in Korea it is more flexible and finding jobs through word of mouth or through friends is easy but if you are sitting at home in the UK id say get a recruiter. If you are British I would advise against going with companies like Footprints or Gone2Korea. If you are North American, no problem and I’m sure many British teachers have found work through these big companies but personally didn’t have much luck. They are the biggest companies and because they have so many applicants you are not really their priority and although I was signed up with them for months I didn’t get one interview. Also because they are based in North America it’s hard to get hold of them if you have questions. I was also told that it would be hard for me to get a job because I only had a 3 year Uni degree and I didn’t have over 80% in my degree. Obviously they have no idea about British Universities and their time scales/grades so again not helpful!! They are very biased towards North American candidates in my opinion too.
HOW MUCH MONEY TO BRING: Ok, so this will obviously change from person to person. Before I came I thought that a great figure to bring with you would be about 1000 pounds. That was me being optimistic. Raising 1000 pounds before coming here was difficult and I fell just under that threshold and came out here with about 800 pounds. I didn’t start work for another two weeks after I arrived, due to the fact that the Hagwon decided that the departing teacher still had to work another two weeks of her contract, and didn’t tell me until I got there. One of those things you quickly get used to in Korea is the fact that your boss tells you everything at the last minute. I was lucky that I brought the 800 to tide me over. Also, my boyfriend was here working for about one month before I came, so he got paid after working a month. He only brought 500 pounds and was completely fine. Considering everything runs smoothly and you start work on time you should be completely fine on 500 pounds, but I would say that this is a minimum. You have to pay for your health check. You may want to buy a mobile phone. Going to the supermarket and doing a big shop is advisable, this will save you money in the long run. I certainly found that the first two months in Korea the money just seems to disappear before you know it, and it takes you a while to get used to the price of everything.
Culture Shock Part 2
I remember creating a blog back in October about the differences I had noticed between Korea and the UK, but now I have been here 7 months I want to update that list. Here goes…
Convenience: In Korea you are never really far from convenience. I mean convenience in the form of cash machines, convenience stores, restaurants, coffee shops, public toilets ect. Most convenience stores have hot and cold water machines, so if you have some instant noodles or instant coffee ect you can just pop in and fill your cup. Paying your money into a cash machine or sending overseas remittance payments can be done at the touch of a button. I’m not sure how easy overseas payments are in the UK as Ive never had to do one but its such a relief in Korea that I don’t have to go to the bank every time and play a game of charades with the teller trying to tell him what I want to do in a language I know all 50 words of. Some coffee shops are open until 2am. This is great when you finish work at 10pm but still want to meet friends for a coffee. Too often in British culture would this after work coffee have to be an after work wine or beer because in most cities Starbucks closes around 7. I drink a lot more in the week in the UK as there aren’t many activities that don’t involve drinking. Think about it. You can even get a beer in Odeon now.
Leisure Activities: At home in the UK I go out for meals/ shop/ get my hair done/ go to the cinema/ go for a walk/ go see a play etc during my weekends. I love the UK and being British but coming to Korea has made me realise we are lacking in things to do besides stuffing ourselves with food and alcohol. I know if we take the time and effort there are all sorts of things to do in the UK: rock climbing, paintballing, horse riding etc, but for the sake of an average Saturday in a British city ( not London) Id argue we are lacking. In Korea there are all of the basic things to do: cinema ( for 2 quid after 11pm woop)/ hundreds upon hundreds of restaurants in every city ( Korean love eating), shops, theatres, art galleries, clubs, ice rinks ect.
However, Korea also has amenities such as Jinjilbangs and Nori Bangs to keep people entertained. Jinjilbangs are a bit like Roman bath houses where you bathe in hot/cold baths. Each bath specializes in healing different parts of your body. For example, last week I went to a jinjilbang where the baths soothed muscle pain, abdominal pain, helped reduce the onset of pre cancer cells, helped with depression/anxiety and even one that helped make your hair shiny. You pay about 4 quid to go in and after you have bathed and had a scrub/massage you head down into the communal area in your pj’s for a nap in the sauna/ sleeping area. You feel so cleansed and refreshed afterwards, all for 4 pound. You see so many young people there with friends just chilling out, I know I sound like an old bag saying this but it’s refreshing to see teenagers just relaxing together and not drinking down the local park because there really isn’t anything better to do ( not saying all UK young ppl do this Btw.)
Nori Bangs are also very popular and widespread throughout Korea. Noribangs are basically karaoke rooms. You hire out a private room with your friends/family for an hour or two and sing until your heart’s content. You can drink alcohol, eat snacks ect in there and its about 5 pound for all of you for an hour so can be as little as 50p each if there’s 10 of you. Not only drunk people do this. Kids’ go after school, families go on a Sunday after noon.
DVD bangs have a little bit of a bad rep here in Korea, but still great all the same. So, if you want to get out of the house and watch a movie with friends but dot like what’s on in the cinema you can go to a DVD bang. A DVD bang has private rooms and a hugggge selection of DVD’s for you to choose from. Take friends and watch a film for about a fiver for all of you and eat and drink as much as you want. You can buy food there or take your own. Taking your own food into bars ect in Korea doesn’t seem much of a problem. Obviously there are some places that mind but most just expect it and let you get on with it. The bad reputation DVD seem to have is attached to the idea of a couple going there to get away from their parents to have sex. In Korea sex before marriage is a huge taboo in society and teens are too afraid to even tell their parents they have a gf or bf let alone take them to the family home. Thus, the good old DVS bang comes into play.
Alongside DVD bangs, Nori Bangs and Jinjilbangs you also have PC Bangs. PC bangs or game rooms are hugely popular with Korea’s obsessive gamer addicts. Computer and phone games in Korea are overwhelmingly popular. Even middle aged men are sat in restaurants not being able to tear their eyes away from their latest game of Bounce Ball. It’s a nightmare in school trying to tear a phone out of a kids hand, especially in the middle of a game. Its enough for them to cry for the remainder of the lesson. So DVD bangs are really popular with kids and teens and even middle aged men. You can eat snacks, drink ect and hang out all afternoon until the computer has impaired your vision, if that’s your cup of tea.
Festivals. So, Koreans will make a festival out of any occasion and its amazing. In the UK the majority of our festivals are music festivals and great they are. However, it would be really cool to see some of the Korean style festivals popping up in the UK too. For example they have: apple festivals, ice festivals, ice fishing festivals, mud festivals, blossom festivals, trout festivals, apricot flower festivals, music festivals, tea festivals, culture festivals, soybean festival, Great Battle of Hansan festival. You get the picture! There is rarely a week end that goes by that there isn’t a festival to attend.
Manners: Now I know we have our arrogant pricks in the UK but on the whole I would like to think we are reasonably polite. For instance if you were in Topshop, putting a dress on the counter and getting out your purse to pay, would some girl come from nowhere, shoulder barge you out the way and put her stuff on the counter to pay? Would the cashier then continue to serve her and not you without a bat on an eyelid? I’d like to say no. Here it is a very different story. That has happened to me around 5 times in the past 2 weeks. The last time it happened I shoulder barged the little ***** back and shouted NO!!! in her face. This seemed to do the trick 😉 In Korea everyone is in a rush. And, I know we say people in London are always in a rush but never in London have I witnessed people sprinting to the door of a public bus and scrambling with other people just so they can be ‘first off the bus.’
Manners 2: This isn’t to say the Koreans aren’t a polite race. A lot of the time their etiquette towards each other is very respectful indeed. People give and receive things with both hands as a sign of respect. People bow to acknowledge and phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ are different depending on your age. For example, you should say ‘Anyonghaseyo’ to a person older than you, but ‘Anyong’ is okay to a friend of the same age. A child should never say ‘Anyong’ to an adult. Some kids have told me they would get a slap even from their own mother for greeting her in that manner.
Monopoly: What interests me is also the idea of Korean monopoly. I know in the UK some people moan that there are too many Tesco’s and small businesses are suffering ( which I agree with ) but in Korea it’s a completely different ball game. Practically on any street corner in Korea you will find these stores: Loterria ( like MC Donalds) Dunkin Donuts, Paris Baguette, Angel In Us Coffee, Café Benne, Café Pascucci or Baskin Robins. Literally anywhere. You see a Paris Baguette and literally ten steps down the road there’s another one. You would think that there wouldn’t be enough custom for both to survive but they really do. I don’t kno the in and outs of the politics of the whole system but the majority of Koreans seem to like this monopoly just fine.
I really would go on and on, Ive go so much more to ramble on about but I think Ill leave it there for today and follow up with part 3 in a couple of weeks.
The Log Cabin: Part 2.
So, after an hour of driving and several packets of chicken flavored popcorn ( that everyone claimed to hate but continued to stuff down their necks) later, we arrived at our destination. After a few of the group had accidently started urinating in the wrong cabin, Jon had attempted and failed to climb a nearby tree and numerous ‘this cabin doesn’t look like it did in the brochure’ comments, we dragged the remainder of our luggage into the cabin and put the kettle on.
The cabin was one large room with a kitchen and a bathroom. There were no beds, just a huge pile of blankets and pillows to arrange about the floor. It took us a while to figure out how 16 of us were going to sleep in this one room but paper cups of tea quickly turned into paper cups of wine and people were getting hungry. After Allie whipped up some amazing pancakes and maple syrup, people started talking about going out for a walk. I didn’t go out to the countryside to get fresh air, I came to lounge about the floor and eat carbs and sugar, so I decided it was high time to put my pajamas on and become part of the furniture.
Later on that night, after everyone was starting to fall into a meat coma after the fatty pig fest on our indoor BBQ, Anna had a bright idea about playing a drinking game that required a cardboard box. Now this is where the real competition came out in people. The rules of the game were: you had to pick up the box using only your mouth, no hands allowed to touch the floor. But, every time a person took a turn they had to rip the box so it got smaller. I know people reading this may this think this sounds sad as fk but what would you do in a Korean lob cabin, miles away from anywhere, with no wifi, TV and a shop that sells only Cass beer and wooden carved penis statues??? And, the wooden shaped penis statue shop really is an actual place. I couldn’t believe it either when the lads told me about it but the next day I saw it with my own two eyes. Wooden penis’ as big as trees just casually standing outside a run down looking shack. Tamsyn and I were even lucky enough to receive a wooden hair clip carved by the Penis carver himself, what a guy!
After a few hours of drinking and a topless strip around the outside of the Koreans family apartment, we decided to get a grip and go to sleep. Jon was having none of it. After statements like ‘ hey, would you rather live in a sink or a toilet??’ I decided to take him for a walk to shut him up. Lawson and Jade were awake too so we took to the streets ( if you could call it that) in our pajamas and other peoples coats. Now, this is where it all starts to get a bit fked up. So, in Korea they have karaoke rooms called Nori Bangs, Basically, you pay like 6 quid for an hour and pile as many of you as possible into a private room to kill songs like Sweet Child of Mine or Hey Jude. You can buy alcohol there or just take your own and there are always snacks and such to eat. I’ve heard you can even get prostitutes there if you want, but I’ll save that for another blog entry.
Anyway, so these Nori Bangs can be found practically in any town in Korea. But, we were not expecting to find one in a place that didn’t even have as much as a convenience store and looked that something from Siberia. Inside, it looked like a seedy brothel with red lights and damp carpet. I was worried about getting the bottoms of my pajamas pants wet, Jon was worried because they said they were out of alcohol. There were two men, around 55, who looked like they hadn’t seen human beings in about 5 years, never mind a bunch of white people in pajamas. So, after trying to explain to them that were wanted beer, they pointed to a fridge. After further inspection Lawson discovered that all the beer in the fridge had actually been drank and what remained was just a fridge full of empty cans. After a few confused glances between us we decided maybe it was time to leave, the place was clearly closed and had probably been closed since 1995. Just as we headed for the door, the second guy emerged from the back room with a 6 pack of Cass. Bingo. 10 quid poorer and 5 minutes later we were in full swing making Beyonce look like an amateur, and Jade even pulled an imaginary drum kit from somewhere and started busting out some shapes. With Lawson on the mic and Jon on the tambourine we weren;t a force to be reckoned with.
After our little escapade we trudged back to the cabin and settled onto the floor to sleep (except Lawson who sat up with his can of beer, asking people whether or not they wanted a sip.) The next day was filled with just as much fun and double the amount of meat. We played our own game of Don’t Tell the Bride and Jon continued to ask people whether or not they would prefer to live in a sink or a toilet. By the time the bus came to pick us up on Sunday afternoon everyone vowed to never look at another piece of fatty pig meat again and we spent the duration of the way home burping up the remains from the night before ;(
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