The final months before moving to Korea can be an anxious time, as you have to interview for positions, fill out forms, acquire essential documents, pack and say goodbye to family and friends. In my case, I spent so much time thinking about all that stuff, that I gave very little thought to what Korea would actually be like when I got there. So what will you face when you finally get to Asia? Here are several tips so you can survive your first week teaching in Korea!
First – the obvious stuff – jet lag. Korea is roughly 12 hours ahead of North America so you’re basically swapping night for day. If you’re a seasoned traveler, then I’m sure you already have a plan that works for you. But if not, I believe the best strategy is avoiding naps and adapting immediately to the local time. If you land in Korea in the morning, force yourself to stay awake until it’s nighttime. A jog and a shower are also nice ways to rejuvenate after a long international flight.
The next step is getting some food in your belly. Whether a co-worker shows you around or you start exploring on your own, I recommend perusing the nearest convenience store. You’ll probably recognize many snacks in there, but you’ll also find some uniquely Asian treats. My recommendation is samka kimbap, which is Korea’s version of sushi that is shaped like a triangle (it’s delicious!) For a more substantial meal, head to one of the many Korean chain restaurants like Kimbap Nara or Kimbap Cheonguk. Unless you like the guessing-game, look for places with pictures menus, as the restaurant staff likely won’t speak English.
Once you’ve satiated your appetite, start exploring your neighborhood! That way you can feel more comfortable because you’ll slowly start to learn where things are, like restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, shopping centers, and anything else you might need. If you want to dive right into Korean culture, relax at a jimjilbang (a spa), belt out some tunes at a noraebang (a karaoke venue) or play some games at a pc bang (internet café).
Lastly, learn some Korean before you arrive! I’m not saying that you have to be fluent, but knowing some basic phrases will go a long way in making your first week in Korea enjoyable rather than intimidating. At the very least, spend a few hours learning hangul, Korea’s phonetic alphabet. It’s helpful because you’ll be able to sound out street names, subway stops and other useful landmarks – a great way to survive your first week teaching.
Your first week in Korea will definitely be a whirlwind, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Follow these tips and you’ll survive your first week teaching in Korea!
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