It has been as very weird experience landing back in another Asian country to teach. After our time in Thailand we thought that life in Korea would be pretty similar. However there are massive differences between the two countries making this second experience of living in Asia completely different to the one previously which is actually a great thing as it means we don’t feel like we are ‘reliving’ Thailand in a different country!
So what’s different?
1) Locations and Surroundings
We live now in Geoje Island, an island right in the South of Korea with a huge shipbuilding industry which the island depends on. It is well populated, (but not over populated) got lots of shops, lots of mountains, tall buildings, foreign restaurants (even a Starbucks!) along with the foreigners to fill them.
Compared to our home in Phrae, Thailand it couldn’t be more different!! In Phrae we were surrounded by rice fields, with only a handful of foreigners, food markets filled with street vendors, the nearest sea was a 12 hour bus ride away and the restaurants were almost all Thai food.
In some ways its nice not to stand out so much in a crowd… although part of me quite liked it!!
2) The food
I feel it’s too early to judge the food in Korea just yet as it took me much longer than a week to get used to the food in Thailand. Some of the food is fantastic, like the Korean BBQ- lots of meat with the most ridiculous amount of side dishes you will ever get! Some of it is more of an acquired taste for example Kim Chi.
Kim Chi is served with literally EVERY meal, it is a pickled spicy cabbage and the Koreans LOVE it!! I cant quite get my taste buds to like it…. give me a few more weeks on that one!! Andy on the other hand LOVES it!
The food is not as spicy…. or at least nothing I have tried is that spicy (considering most meals in Thailand I rated on how many tears the food made me shed!) Like I said I think it is a bit early to judge as when I first moved to Thailand I was not a fan of Spicy food…. now I cant get enough of it!!
Korea (or at least Geoje) is REALLY expensive compared to Thailand…. especially meat!! Gone are the days of coming out of school and buying a whole pineapple for 20 baht, (70 cents/45 pence) here a pineapple will set you back around $10/£7. Although saying that the wages do reflect this with my monthly Korean salary almost 3 times that of my Thai one!
4) The School
This is the biggest difference by far! It might be an unfair comparison as Thailand was a public school and my new Korean school is private…. however in terms of how they differ to me… WOW!
Firstly, our school in Geoje (Tree House English) is incredible! Before you even get to the education and schooling part the school is miles ahead in terms of looks, style and feel of not just of my school in Thailand but most I have been in! It has been designed with bright inviting colours, an overall ‘tree house’ feel that has the cedar wood and smell to go with it! It has air con, loads of window for natural light and the walls and cupboard doors double as white boards. (which I think is a great idea- looks great!) When you think my classes in Thailand were dark, mostly chalk boards with all the seats and tables jammed in together you can see why this new school excites me!
Secondly, the size of the classes are very small with only 4-12 pupils per class, each class comes to the school 1 hour a day 5 days a week. Compare this to my Thai classroom of 35-49 children seeing me once a week I’m sure I don’t even have to explain why this has a huge impact not only on teaching but the children’s learning also.
Thirdly, the curriculum…well for starters it has one! Makes things much easier when you are not just given a timetable and told to do whatever you want. Not only is there a set curriculum but books and materials to go with it as well, something I didn’t have in Thailand!
Finally, the working day! I had to be at school in Thailand for 7.45am or if I was on gate duty, 7am with an end time of 4pm. My new working day is 2-8.
Now like I mentioned before this is slightly unfair to compare private and public schools as even public schools face the same problems here as they do in Thailand.
I loved my school and my home in Thailand and really I wouldn’t change it… however this year it is nice to be in the school that is so different to Methangkarawas and a city to different to Phrae so I don’t end up reliving my Thailand experience in Korea!