Leaving behind everything that is safe and familiar to move across the world is a big decision, not to be made lightly. The list of pros and cons can seem endless, but it’s important to consider them all so you can make the right choice for yourself. After all, there’s only one thing worse than getting cold feet after you’ve already taken the plunge…and that is…actually getting cold feet!
Yes, I’m talking about the literal temperature of my tender tootsies. My feet. As I write this post, sitting at my paper-strewn desk, I’m wearing four layers on top (a t-shirt, dress shirt, wool sweater and fall jacket shell) and have laid my winter coat across my lap like a blanket. Ninety percent of me is tolerably warm. But that other ten percent, my feet, are on the verge of numbness.
It may come as a shock to you, bearing in mind that Korea is one of the most high-tech countries in the world, that Koreans don’t believe in the use of modern heating and cooling technology. It did to me. In the summer, when outdoor temperatures soar into the 80’s and beyond, there’s no escaping the swealtering heat and humidity–even indoors. I had heard about this oddity before leaving, so I had prepared myself as best I could to sweat out the last weeks of summer and early fall. But nobody told me the same held true for winter!
Whether the building is new or old, central heating stays off more than it stays on. At my school, which was probably built in the 1960’s, there not one breeze of warmth to be found in the hallways. No joke, I can see my breath as I walk through the corridor. The offices and classrooms each have their own thermostat, but usually the teacher or someone only turns it on for 15 minutes at a time before switching it off again. It’s at that point that the students’ faces sink a little bit and they let out a groan, slumping back in their seats, their puffy winter coats (which they wear all. day. long.) rustling and swooshing.
Perhaps most flabbergasting of all, though, is when they leave the windows open. Not just cracked. Open. At least one-third to half way! And yeah, I know, there’s not a lot of ventilation in the building so I guess it’s the only way to prevent the rooms from getting super stuffy. But come on! It’s WINTER! The students are cold. The teachers are cold. Everyone’s cold! No one likes sitting on a toilet seat that’s the same temperature as a block of ice. And everyone would appreciate being able to bend their arms at the lunch table, which they would be able to do if they weren’t wearing 5 layers. Just sayin’. New furnace systems, Korea. Think about ‘em.
But alas, such are the wintery ways of Korea. Getting cold feet is a natural part of making any big decision. And for English teachers here, it’s a literal part of daily life as well.