Lorna es una maestra de inglés en Gyeonsan y, como yo, es natural de Puerto Rico. Es amiga de una amiga y hemos estado intercambiando experiencias por Facebook. Su experiencia hasta ahora ha sido bastante diferente a la mía porque ella trabaja en una escuela pública a través de EPIK (English Program in Korea) y yo trabajo en un English Village (no me he olvidado que tengo que explicar lo que es). Aquí les dejo el escrito de Lorna sobre su primer mes como maestra de inglés en Corea:
My One Month Korean Experience
by Lorna Camacho Souchet
Ok, so I have officially been in Korea one month and for those of you who have never been here is a recap of my experiences!
At most restaurants, it is customary to take of your shoes and sit on the floor to eat. Meals always consist of rice, some type of soup, and meat. Meals are shared by everyone. The main dish is a type of meat that is cooked at the table and you are provided with an array of side dish options to accompany the meat. You pick whatever your going to eat, from these comunal side dishes with your chopsticks. They rarely use napkins at the table as eating with chopstiks, I think, minimizes the chances of needing them. They have their own version of a taco, although they don’t know what a taco is! Their tacos consist of you picking up a piece of lettuce, putting on meat, and whatever side dish you want on that piece of lettuce, then folding it and sticking it all in your mouth in one bite!!! Trust me not an easy feat at first, and it’s difficult to chew at first as well!! =)
The best way to describe Korean food is by saying that it feels like fire in your mouth. Literally! The food is very hot and spicy, but eventually the fire subsides and you get used to it. The only problem is that they usually do not have anything to drink while they eat, so it is difficult to quench the fire at first!!
After the main dish, they usually eat rice or soup or both and then finish it with tea. As a foreigner it is difficult to keep up with the speed that they eat!! Since Koreans tend to be busy and always in a rush they also eat very fast!! (I’m starting to catch up!) Also, as soon as everyone is done they get up and go abruptly. They do not stay to rest or talk.
They have all kinds of soups such as seaweed, egg, beef, corn, etc. Some are really spicy and some are not. They also eat all kinds of meat, and yes in some parts of Korea they eat dog, but they are dogs that have been raised to be ate, not picked up off of the street. So far I have eaten beef, fish, squid, blowfish, duck, and chicken, (I think that’s all). They also eat silkworms here, which I tried to try, but could not get myself to chew! =) The thought of chewing it was too revolting!! =}
They also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and all kinds of mushrooms, all kinds: round, flat, long, small.
Finally with regards to food, everything and anything they eat is described as “healthy”. EVERYTHING!!
As I am working here as an English teacher I have new experiences with their school system. First of all they have Elementary, Middle, and High School. Elementary are grades 1-6, Middle is grades 7-9, and HS are grades 10-12, but they refer to the Middle and High School grades as first, second, and third. I.E. ” I am in 3 grade middle school”, which at first is a little confusing. Also, teachers in HS and MS are still allowed to hit their students and they do, with sticks, not their hands. I think all MS and HS teachers go to class with a stick, and most of them use it!!! In MS classes last 45 minutes. They have 6 regular periods starting from 9:15 AM to 3:20 PM. Afterwards, they have 2 after shool classes from 3:40 PM to 5:20 PM, and I think they have to pay for those.
In addition, no piercings of any kind are allowed for boys or girls and girls’ must maintain their hair above their shoulders.
Also, after lunch, everyone, students and teachers, brush their teeth. The students have a comunal sink, and they go their after lunch. Lunch only lasts 45 minutes in MS, and they have 10 minutes of break time in between each class. Students, not teachers, have assigned classrooms and the teachers are the ones that go from class to class. The students do not change classrooms throughout the day except to go to the gym for PE. There is a teachers lounge and everyone’s “office” is in that teachers lounge, but there are no cubicles.
When teachers punish students, the punishment usually fits the crime. Example: two boys fought the other day. The very next day their punishment was to go to the teacher’s lounge on every 10 minute break they had throughout the day and hug for the full 10 minutes. (I will post pictures!!)
The students are shy, but curious, and the English teachers speak really well. The teachers are extremely nice and they go out of their way to try to speak English to me; something I look at with the utmost respect!!
In HS classes last 50 minutes and start at 8:20 AM and run through 10:00 PM. High School students are professional students. They don’t have time to do anything else, except study. Girls are allowed long hair, but not their ears pierced. Therefore, most girls and boys get their ears pierced upon graduating High School.
FInally, with regards to school Middle School and High School kids go to school every other Saturday!!
(And you complained about your schools back home!!) Also, the students are the ones who clean the school everyday. They have no custodians, every grade is in charge of a different part of the school. Oh yeah, and in middle school kids take of their shoes and put on sandals before going in. And in both Middle School and High School students bow at the beginning and end of every class. The class president will stand up and say “Attention, Bow” and everyone will bow and say hello. In school everyone calls each other by their last name first and their first name last. Example: a girl’s name in my class is Bora (first name) Lee (last name) but she will be called Lee Bora. Teachers call each other by their last name and then the word teacher. Example: Jina Lee will be called Lee san seim nim or Lee san by her coworkers and new people she meets. Out of respect you are addressed by your job title and not your name.
If you come to Korea, be afraid of Bus Drivers!! Very Afraid!! They don’t really wait for you to be fully on the bus to take off and they rarely come to a complete stop for you to get off!! Also, to use the bus people usually buy a bus card, because the fee is less expensive than if you pay cash, and swipe it on a machine at the entrance of the bus. This same bus card can also be used at the store, on the subway, on the train, with a taxi, or at a pay phone you just have to put money in it.
Recycling is part of everyday life and done by everyone. Garbage is automatically separated before it is thrown away, and food is also separated. It is not included in the garbage but disposed of separatley. And as a society, from what I’ve seen, they are not wastefu.
Playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts and the such usually have a dirt floor as having grass is expensive to maintain.
Water in the bathroom is ice cold, even in winter!
LG, Daewoo, and Hyundai are Korean and therefore huge name brands.
There are street vendors everywhere, and they sell all kinds of trinkets and food.
Make all kinds of food and drinks out of rice. ALL kinds!!
The local E-Mart, which is somewhat comparable to a Wal-Mart becasue they sell everything, but MUCH bigger, actually has employees. Every hallway has an employee, and they all bow if they help you. You can also sample all kinds of foods and breads there.
They have cell phone stores everywhere! And I mean everywhere! In Daegu, the biggest city near my town, there is a street literally called “Cell Phone Street” and has over 30 cell phone stores. How they all stay in business I don’t know, but employees are on the sidewalk and they will try to get you into their stores!!
They are also supersticious regarding Blood types. They will ask your blood type to determine the type of person you are If your are :
A type: kind, it’s hard for them to say no, want to posses their loved ones, lie easily (and can cheat lie detector machines), like to organize things.
B: live in their own strange world, like to take and not give, can embaress others, easily change their minds, AKA “Psychos”.
AB: If they hate something they will avoid it at all costs, like to sleep, want to be called by their friends and not call them, don’t have many friends just a few, prefer friendship to love.
O: cannot stop laughing, can be serious even with small things, are extremely trustworthy, lazy, sentimental (cry easily), have a hot character, cannot keep their thoughts to themselves, relieve their stress by eating!
See if your Blood type matches your personality!
In Korea, you are 2 years older than your “american” age. For example, upon arrival to Korea, I found out that according to them I was not 27, but 29. (I was born in 1981). You see, here once the baby is born they say he/she is 1 year old. Then on January 1st everyone ages one year. So, if you’re born on December 30 you are one year old and then on January 1st you become 2. Everyone ages on the same day, but celebrate their bday on the actual day they were born. Different huh?!
People are always willing to help even if they don’t know the language!
Fashion is also a bit different. Girls, university girls and up will usually be in either heels or sneakers. They wear tight pants and big shirts. Pair blazers with everything. And sometimes wear boy jeans.
Guys tend to wear fitted suits, blazers and vests.
Everything is done with 2 hands out of respect. And what I mean is that when ever you give anything (a piece of paper, money , etc) to someone you have one hand extended and the other one should be on your wrist, on your bicep, or over your right breast. I forget to do it all the time and only remember when I see the person returning my change with 2 hands.
This has been my experience in Gyeonsan. I am sure that other peoples’ experiences will vary depending on their cities.