EPIK

How To: Get Along With Your Korean Coworkers



Before I write a single word, I want to preface this with my awareness that my advice is based only on my own experience- I am not, by a long shot, the expert on cross-cultural office relations. However, I do get along quite well with everyone in my office, so if that's proof enough for you, please read on!


Step 1: Eat delicious food together.

How to Talk to People in Korea

AKA Slow Motion Teacher Talk.

It's a disease.

The first symptom, as you might guess from my subtitle, is slower speaking speed. Unsurprisingly, if you speak quickly to someone in a language they aren't super comfortable with, they won't understand you. It's the same for me with Korean. If someone mumbles or talks too fast, I can't catch anything, but if they slow down for me, suddenly a world of comprehension opens up for me.

When I first started teaching, I was nervous. When I'm nervous, I speak more quickly. I think a lot of people do this. In an ESL classroom, though, fast talking is not gonna fly (though it is great for saying things you don't want your students to hear). That was the first critique I got from my co-teacher: slow down. So I did. Suddenly, a classroom full of unresponsive glassy-eyed students began to understand me. Maybe not everything I said, but finally I was getting through to them on some level.

From the Mouths of Students

Teaching is hard.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. A good portion of my students on any given day don't give a crap about learning English. When I first started teaching, I really let that get to me. I sincerely care about these kids, I want them to learn, so every student who talked or napped through my class was like a personal wound. Right in the feelings.

Open Letter to Prospective and Current Epik Teachers,

If you’re anything like me, the closer you come to getting on that plane, sending in that application, or whatever step you’re at, the more freaked out you are. I get that feeling. As I recall, my entire last month in Seattle was split between frantically trying to see everyone I knew, and obsessively looking up such seemingly inane yet vitally important things as “Can I buy toothpaste in Korea?” (Answer: you can, but it tastes odd) Because I know where you’re coming from, my biggest advice to you, in the timeless words of Douglas Adams, is this: Don’t Panic.

How to Make Your EPIK Job Awesome #5 – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!

This is part 5 in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This final tip is an all-encompassing one: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Shake things off. Insert other cliche but true statements here. ;)


How to Make Your EPIK Job AWESOME #2 – Be Prepared for the Unexpected

This is the 2nd post in a 5-part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This one is really important. Doing your research into the culture before you come is vital to managing your expectations about the life you will have at your school. In general, but especially in regards to your job, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. While in most situations there’s nothing you can do but accept it, there are a few tips I have to share that may alleviate some of the stress caused by last minute situations that can occur in your school.


How to Make Your EPIK Job Awesome #4 – Participate in Your School

This is the 4th part in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! Being an active participant in your school and having a good relationship with your coteacher(s) is so important. I really can’t stress this enough!


How to Make Your EPIK Job AWESOME #3 – Make Your Office Comfortable

This is the 3rd post in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome. This tip is more straightforward but surprisingly causes new teachers a lot of grief, especially if its unexpected. You will be spending a lot of time during the hottest and coldest days of the year sitting at your desk. Here are some tips to help make your office more comfortable!


How to Make Your EPIK Job AWESOME! #1 – Use and Learn Korean Manners

This is my 3rd year of teaching public school – at the same school! I’ve loved my school from Day 1 and I feel so so so amazingly lucky to work here. You hear horror stories about public schools too, not just hagwons, so I basically won the Korean job lottery! Working at the same school has also given me the opportunity to observe and learn a lot more about the way Korean schools are run. Now that I’ve been at this school longer than many of my coworkers, I’ve also been able to compare how teachers treated me in my first year when I had no idea what I was doing, to now, as someone that can converse with them in Korean or English and adheres to Korean manners. This makes new teachers feel comfortable around me, and they see me as another respected staff member and not just “the foreigner”. This is so important in how you feel about your job and your time spent in Korea. I know it has made all the difference to me.


Say What?! Episode 10: How Do I Poop at School? Squat Toilet Tips

One of the biggest anxieties that I hear about from new or prospective teachers applying to EPIK is about the bathroom situation at public school! I hope these tips will help you calm some fears about using squat toilets, which you will most likely have to do if you work at public school!

1.) Find the 교무실 (the teacher’s room) in your school, and look for the bathroom nearby. That bathroom will usually have toilet paper and soap!

2.) Keep soap, hand sanitizer, and tissue in your desk. I would keep tissue in your bag/purse whereever you go, but keep an extra set of tissues just for school!

3.) Depending on your office situation, teachers may chip in to buy office supplies, snacks, coffee, and tissue. Ask your co-teacher or officemate about the system they use. But I’d go ahead and bring everything you need and keep it in your desk just in case! Ask your co-teacher if they have a system or if you should donate some money to buy tissue for the office.


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