Category: Culture

Navigating Cultural Differences In Korea

Moving to a new country is always a mix of excitement and uncertainty. When I moved to Korea, I was eager to start my job as an English teacher and learn all about the beautiful culture. In my first few weeks, I quickly realized that understanding the nuances of Korean etiquette was going to be an important part of adapting and making the most of my new life. With an open mind and a little bit of key knowledge, you can navigate these cultural differences and fully enjoy your time in Korea.

 

Showing Respect

One aspect of Korean culture that I knew about from all the dramas I watched was the emphasis on respect and cultural hierarchies. In Korea, two different forms of the language are used depending on if you are speaking to someone older or younger. Polite language, (존댓말, jondaetmal) must be used when speaking to strangers and elders as a way to show respect. In addition, it’s customary to bow when you greet someone older and the depth of your bow should reflect the other person’s age and status compared to your own. These small nuances can go a long way in showing your respect and appreciation of Korean culture and will help you integrate into daily life. I have adapted so much to bowing that I can’t stop myself from bowing even when I travel back home to Canada which is a cute new quirk of my international life!

 

English teachers posing at a temple in Korea wearing traditional hanboks

Dining Etiquette

Another way to show respect in Korea is at the dinner table. When eating with others, it’s polite to wait for the oldest person at the table to start eating before you do. If you’re offered food or drink, it’s best to accept it with both hands as a sign of respect. When pouring drinks for others, you should use two hands and pour for the eldest first, then serve the others. Everyone should wait until the eldest takes their drink and it is customary to turn your body away from the eldest while you drink as another way of showing respect.

 

Social Nuances

One part of the culture that surprised me at first was the different attitude towards personal space. Seoul is a mega city with millions of people so it’s not uncommon to find yourself in very close quarters with others in public transportation or markets. People can be pushy in these situations and seem to ignore your personal space but it is not a rude gesture, just a part of daily life here.

 

Another big difference I have noticed between Canada and Korea is the compliment culture. Back home, if someone told me that my haircut looked pretty, I would probably respond with “Thanks!” Koreans value modesty, so when receiving a compliment, it’s more likely that someone would try to avoid bragging and reject the compliment in order to show humility.

 

Embrace the Experience

Living in a new culture has its own challenges, but I have found that adapting to Korean culture is really rewarding. All of my Korean friends and coworkers are patient and understanding and have gone above and beyond trying to include me in their customs and to teach me the nuances of the culture. As you start your time teaching and living in Korea, don’t be shy to ask questions and to embrace the differences of Korean customs and etiquette. Not only will this help you integrate smoothly, but it will make your experience more meaningful!

 

English teacher, Michelle Duquette at Chungdahm Learning

Michelle Duquette, Marketing Assistant

Michelle Duquette is from Toronto, Canada and moved to South Korea in 2015. She has a Bachelors in English literature and a Masters in ESL Education. Michelle has taught at Creverse campuses in Gangneung, Songpa, and Mokdong and currently works as a CDI and April Trainer. Michelle never set out to be a teacher but fell in love with Korean culture and the excitement of being in the classroom. Michelle lives in Seoul with her partner and two cats, Cherry and Frost. 

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0052.JPG

Teaching And Living In Ilsan

Where I'm From

I’m a beach girl who spent the last few years in big cities—from NYC to Madrid back to NYC. The moment I decided to pick up my life and move across the world to Korea, I knew I did not want to be in the big city anymore. I missed waking up to the sounds of nature, but I was also wise enough to know I had become accustomed to access. Access to variation and choices, which I wasn’t necessarily willing to give up. I held my breath. With little research and a lot of trust in my amazing recruiter, I ended up in a place that more than met my desires and even exceeded them! Here’s what it’s like living in Ilsan!

 

Where I'm At!

A few months before my departure from New York City, I was informed I would be placed in a city called Ilsan, or ‘a mountain’. Ilsan is about an hour northwest of Seoul in Goyang. I figured, in the worst-case scenario, I could always commute to Seoul on the weekends. However, it turned out that Ilsan is its own vibrant haven. Home to the biggest man-made lake in Asia, there is so much to do outside and many unique places to eat. You can rent bikes and coast for miles or have a picnic in the massive space that is Ilsan Lake Park during cherry blossom season. There are even multiple water parks in Ilsan

 

Endless Access

Ilsan is easy to walk, but it is also connected by endless bus lines and subways. I never feel isolated. The variety of things to do is something I least expected. Some days I get off late, and some days I’m off completely, so it’s nice to have activities that meet those time differences. There are dance studios, two huge open-street shopping malls (Western Dom and Lafesta), endless pochas, 24-hour spas in basements, movie theaters, and endless opportunities to do karaoke. 

While I am still exploring my new home and becoming accustomed to my surroundings, I am thankful to be in a place that feels extremely local and quaint yet well connected and accessible. I highly recommend considering teaching and working in Ilsan if you want to be in the center of nature, with full accessibility to the benefits of city life!

Jasmine Phillips is a wanderlust explorer currently living and teaching English in Ilsan, South Korea. Jasmine is originally from Virginia Beach, VA but has lived in many places, such as Berlin, Madrid and New York City. Her undergrad is in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in international social justice. Her hopes are to eventually continue her studies in Ethnomusicology in South Africa. When Jasmine isn’t working she is curled up with a heart-wrenching memoir, spending time with strangers or painting giant canvases.

Safety In South Korea

A Stark Difference

When my friend from America visited me, we were walking down an unfamiliar street one night on our way to dinner when she said, “You know, I would never do this in America. I’d be too scared.” Thanks to CCTV coverage and good legislation, I find myself almost taking for granted the safety I experience in Korea. My friend’s comment was a reality check and a reminder of why I’m so grateful I moved to Korea in the first place. Random acts of violence in Korea are extremely rare, which is why I feel so safe when walking around Seoul at night time, even as a woman alone!

 

Low Theft

One of my favorite parts of living in Korea is that I can leave my stuff virtually anywhere and no one will take it. I once left a suitcase next to Suseong Lake for an hour-long boat ride and returned to find it exactly where I left it. I frequently leave my phone or laptop out at cafes when I need to use the restroom or grab my order. Not only is this a very common occurrence in Korea, but I also feel genuinely comfortable leaving my stuff out. In the time it’s taken me to write this blog post at a cafe in Seoul, I’ve left my laptop, phone, and wallet unattended twice. Does it sound too good to be true? Check out this video that tests the theory that theft really isn’t an issue in Korea.

 

(Disclaimer: I am not recommending you make it a habit of leaving belongings unattended for long periods of time! Of course, you always want to proceed with caution, but many will reiterate the same experiences.)  

It’s not just personal items that aren’t being stolen. In Korea, there are self-service stores, meaning you can walk into the store where there are no employees! Given the language barrier, this is really great for those days when you want to pick up a snack after work, but you don’t want to speak with anyone! Plus, I think it really shows just how trusting Koreans are! 

 

No Gun Violence

In my opinion, the only thing better than the low theft rate is the lack of gun violence in Korea. South Korea has strict gun laws, which means no one lives in fear of mass shootings. Every time I step into my classroom, I feel unbelievably grateful to live in a place where the children I teach can get their education in peace. Moreover, I feel such comfort knowing I can do the job I love without fearing for my own safety.

 

A Native English teacher in a classroom with Korean middle school students in South Korea
Seoul city streets at night

Safety For Women

In comparison to other foreign cities, Korea is extremely safe for women. My friends and I have never experienced cat-calling, and I frequently walk alone at night without worrying about the men around me. In America, I honestly never walked around alone at night without pepper spray or another method of defense close at hand. No matter where you are, it’s important to remain cautious. However, as a woman in Korea, I find I’m able to enjoy myself when out far more than I ever did in the U.S.

 

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Getting My F-4 Visa

My Heritage

I’ve wanted to experience living in South Korea since I was 11-years old. Some of my fondest childhood memories are watching my grandmother’s Korean variety shows while eating rolls on rolls of her fresh 김밥(Kimbap, Seaweed rice). 

 

An overseas Korean and his mother
A picture of me and my mother who is half Korean and half Puerto Rican.

In the summer of 2022 I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and this past spring 2024 I received an offer to teach in South Korea. In order to legally teach English in South Korea, a work visa is required. I was under the impression that I would be using a regular, 1-year, E-2 Teaching Visa (E-2 Visa Info); however, I was shocked to learn that I qualify for a 교포 (Gyopo, National), F-4 Visa (F-4 Visa Info). For context: a 교포 (Gyopo) is someone who is ethnically Korean, but has spent most of their life living outside of South Korea. 

 

Overseas Korean

To preface, I’m 25% Korean, 25% Puerto Rican, and 50% White. Aside from a few family friends,  I grew up in an extremely small town with little to no Asian culture. In 2012, I was exposed to the idea of teaching English overseas. Once I learned about this opportunity, it felt like I received a golden ticket to learning more about my Korean culture. 

 

Family picture of an overseas Korean family.
My Korean grandmother and Puerto Rican grandfather with my mother and her sisters.
An overseas Korean family.
My Korean Grandmother at the center of it all!

I qualified for the F-4 Visa due to my grandmother previously holding Korean citizenship. She moved to the United States in 1973 after marrying my Puerto Rican grandfather; therefore she was eventually naturalized as an American citizen. Here are some pictures of my grandparents!

 

F-4 Visa: Overseas Korean (Gyopo)

The F-4 Visa is reserved for someone who’s parents OR grandparents have previously held Korean nationality and withdrew their Korean citizenship; hence the word 교포 (Gyopo, National). This visa has more benefits than a traditional E-2 Teaching Visa such as:

  • not needing a job contract to move to South Korea.
  • being able to legally tutor students as a part-time job. (Must be registered with your local Ministry of Education Office.)
  • holding the visa for 2 years with easy renewal. (After first renewal, it is valid for 3 years.)
  • the ability to apply for the F-4 Visa for while in South Korea on a tourist visa.

While the F-4 Visa has some great benefits, much more documentation is needed to receive it from a Korean consulate. Each consulate office requires different documentation, so applicants must call their local consulate office to double check their requirements (List of all Korean Consulates in the USA). With that being said, here are the documents that I was asked to prepare for the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Washington DC:

 
  • FBI Background check specifically apostilled by the Department of State (Instructions on how to apostille documents)
  • Completed visa application from the Korean Embassy website
  • 2 x 2 printed color photo of the applicant
  • 2 x 2 printed color photo of the previous Korean national
  • A Korean family registry
  • The applicant’s passport and birth certificate
  • The previous Korean national’s passport, naturalization papers, etc.
  • The applicant’s mother’s proof of nationality (birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers, etc.)
  • The applicant’s father’s proof of nationality (birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers, etc.)
  • The applicant’s grandfather’s proof of nationality (birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers, etc.)
  • $55 cash

            When in doubt, bring everything you can to prove your family member previously held Korean citizenship and is no longer a Korean citizen. This can include: marriage licenses, death certificates, photographs, retirement documents, etc. The more legal documentation you can provide, the better chance you have of receiving the F-4 Visa as quickly as possible.

 

A record of an ethnic Korean's family tree
This is an example of an official Korean family registry.

To Be Continued..

Preparing all of the documentation listed above was a grueling process to say the least. With my turn-around time being only 2-3 months, I made sure to get started on finding these documents as soon as I finished my call with the Korean Embassy.

My meeting with the consulate is going to be in June. Stay tuned for an update on how my F-4 Visa meeting goes and the amount of time it takes to receive it!

 

Gabriel (Gabe) White is a soon to be English teacher in South Korea. He is a Korean, Puerto Rican-American  from the Richmond, Virginia area and received a bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. Being involved in student organizations like Filipino Americans Coming Together at VCU (FACT@VCU) and VCU Globe during his college years, Gabe learned just how much he enjoys experiencing new cultures. In his free time, Gabe loves teaching local dance classes, spending quality time with his loved ones, exploring new cities, and watching nostalgic movies. 

How To Take A Weekend Trip To Busan

One of my absolute favorite parts of living in South Korea is how safe, affordable, and fun weekend trips can be within the country. Here are some of my best tips and recommendations for visiting Busan!

 

Getting There

You can get to Busan by plane, train, or bus. I opted for the train. After work, I took a taxi to Seoul Station for about 16,000 won, which is only about $11 USD! Taking public transportation is totally feasible, but I decided to splurge to get there a little faster. The train stations are extremely easy to navigate in Korea. Once I was there, I grabbed some snacks for the journey and boarded the high-speed KTX bullet train. Two and a half hours later, I was in Busan! (One-way tickets can be as cheap as $25 USD for a regular train and $37 USD for a high speed train.)

 

Where To Stay

Korea has all the accommodation options you would expect to see in the U.S. from AirBnB to hotels and hostels! There’s something for everyone regardless of budget. I actually met up with some family from back home, and we splurged on a nice AirBnB overlooking Gwangalli Beach. However, budget travelers don’t need to worry. We saw many inexpensive accommodations along the coast. While Haeundae Beach is another popular area in Busan, I loved staying near Gwangalli Beach!

 

What To Do

Now that you’ve gotten yourself to Busan and have somewhere to stay, the fun part begins: Exploring the city! Here are a few recommendations I have from my recent trip!

  • Mereumereu: With a balcony view and a cute puppy to greet customers, this little cafe is a great brunch spot for anyone taking a weekend trip to Busan! If you’re staying near Gwangalli Beach, this cafe is on the way to Haedong Yonggung Temple! I recommend the souffle pancakes!
  • Haedong Yonggung Temple: A temple by the sea! Haedong Yonggung Temple is a must see for anyone wanting to see what a Buddhist temple is like and enjoy the beautiful South Korean coast!
  • Yungkangjjie: We stumbled upon this Taiwanese restaurant completely by accident, but it turned out to be a Michelin star restaurant! Casual, delicious, and quick, this restaurant is a must visit while in Busan. I especially recommend the mapo tofu and fried eggplant!
 

Be Spontaneous

Korea has taught me to be spontaneous and look off the beaten path when it comes to travel. Whether you’re hoping to move to Korea or already live here, I encourage you to book the train, plane, or bus ticket and start exploring this beautiful country on the weekends!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Staying At a Buddhist Temple In Korea

Stepping Into Another World

When I first walked up the steep incline from the bus station to the entrance of Guinsa Temple, I felt a little like I was stepping into another world. A quieter, more tranquil one. Nestled between the mountains, Guinsa Temple’s beauty is both unexpected and awe-inspiring. I knew immediately my weekend at the temple would be unforgettable.

This is one of the many reasons why I love living in South Korea. While I live and work in Seoul, the nation’s capital, it’s easy for me to hop on a bus or train on the weekends and explore different parts of the country. Buddhist temples in South Korea offer temple stays, a unique experience where you can spend the night at a temple and live like a monk. If you choose to move to South Korea, this is an absolute bucket list item. I’m already planning my next temple stay!

 

Roofline of a Buddhist temple in Korea

Food For Thought

The first thing I did upon arrival was change into the clothes the temple provided for me, a simple set of pants and a vest that I wore over my own shirt. Next, I went over to the cafeteria for lunch before the experience officially began. Guinsa has a public cafeteria, where they loaded me up with delicious vegetarian food. Rice, soup, green beans, tofu, cantaloupe, and, of course, kimchi were just a few of the things I ate while there.

 

A traditional Buddhist meal at a temple in Korea

Next, I went over to the meeting hall to make mala beads with the rest of the temple stay participants (about 15 people from all over the world). Afterwards, we went to have afternoon tea with a monk. This by far was one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire experience for me. Guinsa Temple actually has more female monks than male monks, and we got the chance to speak with a female one. Although she spoke Korean and I only know English, our guide for the temple stay was a wonderful interpreter, so I never felt like I was missing out!

 

Buddhist beads that were made by a visitor on a temple stay in Korea

Witnessing The Ceremony

After a tour of the entire temple grounds, we attended an early evening ceremony. It was fascinating to participate in a religious tradition so different from the one I was raised in. I thought I might feel uncomfortable or out of place, but I never did. While I have no plans to convert to Buddhism any time soon, having this experience at all has challenged and expanded my worldview for the better.

 

Finally, after dinner in the monks’ private dining hall, I went back to my room for bedtime. I shared the room with strangers, three women from around the world. I’d like to say we all went to bed early, but that’s not what happened. We spent hours, in typical sleepover fashion, oversharing everything on our minds: Travel, dreams, politics, inside jokes created just a few hours earlier.

 

This Is Why I Did This!

One of my favorite parts of living abroad is all the opportunities I’ve had to meet people with different experiences and nationalities from my own. These are the types of memories I know I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, whether it’s connecting with a 72-year-old Buddhist monk or laughing until midnight with a fellow American who grew up on the other side of the country from me. 

 

People taking a walk inside the grounds at a Buddhist temple in Kora
A view of the Guinsa Temples nestled in the mountains in Korea

Life-long Memories

Eventually, we went to sleep but not for long. My alarm went off at 3 a.m. I rolled out of my bed—a sleeping pad on the floor—and made the trek back up to the main temple. Huddled in the cold, we waited outside for the 3:30 a.m. ceremony to start. This time, it involved meandering the grounds with the monks before making our way back to the temple, where the ceremony continued. The mountains in the middle of the night are quiet, reverent things. I won’t forget the chill in the air, the sound of the monks singing, or the feeling that I was a part of something special any time soon.

 

Check out templestay.com to check out all the different temples and locations you can visit!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Visiting Japan While Teaching English In Korea

Teach English And Travel!

Perhaps my favorite thing about teaching English in Korea is how easily accessible travel is. In just six  months of living in South Korea, I’ve traveled to 4 bucket list cities in the country and spent countless weekends exploring Seoul itself. From Jeju Island and its clear blue water to Jeonju and its beautiful architecture, South Korea truly has so many epic places to explore. Join me on my latest excursion visiting Japan!

 

Native English Language teacher taking a picture in front of cherry blossoms in Japan

Popular East Asian Destinations

When I decided to take my first international trip (yes, it’s financially and logistically possible to travel internationally while teaching English in Korea), I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was so delighted to realize that traveling internationally from Korea is just as easy as traveling domestically. Some popular international destinations from Korea include Japan, Vietnam, China, and Thailand.

 

Tokyo Travel Costs

For my first trip, I flew to Tokyo, Japan for a week.  Gimpo Airport and the flight (2 hours and 20 minutes) were a breeze. When I lived in the United States and would travel internationally, I always suffered from horrible jet lag. This time, I got to have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation while never switching time zones from Korea or dealing with the fatigue and brain fog that accompanies jet lag. I ended up staying in a hostel for my week in Tokyo, which only cost me about $160 USD in total. Plus, I got to meet people from all over the world!  Airfare from Seoul to Tokyo is extremely affordable in my opinion. Depending on when you decide to go, it can cost as little as $170 USD! 

 

The first time I set foot in Asia was when I moved to Korea to teach English. The most rewarding part of vacationing in Japan was getting to see a different side of Asia than what I’ve been exposed to in Korea. It gave me a deeper appreciation for Korean culture, particularly the food and the language. A few of the highlights were learning to make gyoza and visiting Sensoji Temple. It brought back memories of visiting Guinsa Temple in Korea last fall, and it inspired me to sign up for a kimchi making class here in Seoul!

 

Residency Pays Off!

When I returned to the airport in Korea, I got the best surprise. Because I am an ARC holder (the residency card you receive while teaching English in Korea), I got to go through the line with Korean passport holders and skip customs with the other citizens. Not only did this feel a little like having a super power because the line was faster, but it also made me feel like I belong in Korea in a way I’ve never experienced before! It was the perfect homecoming after a week of international travel visiting Japan!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Korea’s Cherry Blossom Season

Full Bloom

If you’re teaching in Korea this spring you won’t want to miss out on the Cherry Blossom season. Cherry Blossoms typically bloom in late March to early April, and cover the country in beautiful pink and white flowers. Keep in mind that the exact timing can vary each year due to factors like rainfall and  cold weather. This year, you can expect the season to be in full bloom by the beginning of April. I will share with you some of my favorite parts of the Cherry Blossom season!

 

Cherry Blossom Hotspots

Lotte Tower seen through Cherry Blossom tree branches and Seokchon Lake in South Korea

Cherry Blossom trees can be found across Korea but there are some really magical spots that you should definitely check out.

  • Seokcheon Lake: This is my all time favorite place to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms. Smack dab in the middle of the lake is Lotte World- a famous indoor/outdoor amusement park. And just a block away is Korea’s largest building – Lotte Tower! I recommend taking a walk around the lake to enjoy hundreds of trees that have transformed into cotton candy clouds! Here’s a sneak peak:
  • Gyeonghwa Station: The atmosphere here is super romantic and is the perfect place to take Instagram pictures. You can find this train station in Jinhae City which features a Cherry Blossom tunnel that looks like it’s from a fairy tale. Jinhae is a 29-minute taxi ride from Busan.
Cherry blossom trees in full bloom at Gyeonghwa Station in South Korea
  • The Garden of Morning Calm: This park is located in Gapyeong which is an easy day trip from Seoul and honestly feels like the set of a Disney movie. I recommend going there during the evening because the garden and pond are lit up with colorful lights at night.

Themed Desserts & Drinks

Another thing I love about Cherry Blossom season is all the themed desserts and drinks. Cupcakes, macarons, and ice cream are some of my favorite seasonal treats that feature the bright, delicious sakura flavors and color palette.

 

Cafes also offer lattes and teas that you can enjoy. I recommend the Cherry Blossom White Chocolate Latte at Starbucks that can be found at locations across Korea starting in March. I also like to order Cherry Blossom tea in local cafes which is super fragrant and delicious!

 

Cherry-blossomed themed tumblers from Starbucks in Korea

When you’re teaching English in Korea, each season brings something new to enjoy and the Cherry Blossom season is definitely a highlight of the year! I hope you check out some of these beautiful blossoms and enjoy them while they last.

Michelle Duquette is from Toronto, Canada and moved to South Korea in 2015. She has a Bachelors in English literature and a Masters in ESL Education. Michelle has taught at Creverse campuses in Gangneung, Songpa, and Mokdong and currently works as a CDI and April Trainer. Michelle never set out to be a teacher but fell in love with Korean culture and the excitement of being in the classroom. Michelle lives in Seoul with her partner and two cats, Cherry and Frost. 

Coolest Technology Innovations In Korea

Exploring the Coolest Tech Innovations In Korea

One thing many people know about Korea, besides K-Pop and K-Dramas, is that Korea has seamlessly integrated technology into everyday life. From robot coffee shops to futuristic bus stops, Korea is pioneering new innovations that make your daily life as a teacher more convenient. Let me tell you about some of the coolest technology innovations in Korea I use or see almost every day!

 

Smart Bus Stops

Waiting for the bus is usually uneventful, but my daily commute has never been more enjoyable thanks to smart bus stops. These high-tech shelters have interactive touchscreens that provide real-time bus schedules and weather updates. Another feature I love is that there are built-in WiFi and USB charging ports so you don’t have to use your data while waiting for the bus. These shelters even have heated seats so you can stay warm in the winter.

Smart touch screen at a smart bus stop in Korea
Charging ports and hand sanitizers at smart Bus Stop in Korea

Umbrella Dryers

A man following directions on a standing sign on how to use the eco friendly umbrella dryer.

There is nothing worse than lugging around a wet umbrella, especially during the rainy season. However, Korea’s umbrella dryers have got you covered. Dryers are located outside of most subway stations and corporate buildings. They use a combination of air and UV light to quickly dry your umbrella. The dryer is really user-friendly, and is one of the most practical and appreciated bits of technology. Innovations like this makes my life in Korea more comfortable.

 

Robot Coffee Shops

Have you ever had your coffee made by an AI barista? In Korea, robot coffee shops are popping up all over and make for a fun and unique cafe experience. These automated cafes not only serve up delicious beverages but also showcase the latest advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence. The cafes are really cool to experience, and have different drink options available.

 

People waiting for coffee to be made at a robot coffee shop

VR Cafes

Inside a VR Cafe in South Korea

Another cool place to grab a coffee and unwind after a busy week of teaching is a VR cafe. Korea is home to some of the world’s most advanced VR cafes where visitors can immerse themselves in virtual worlds and experiences. The cafes offer a bunch of different immersive games to play on your own or with friends. I recommend you check out VR Plus Cafe in Gangnam located near Gangnam Station Exit 1.

 

In conclusion, these technology innovations have transformed the way I live, work, and play. If you’re looking to change up your present life and teach in Korea, one thing is clear: the future is already here, and it’s super cool!

Michelle Duquette is from Toronto, Canada and moved to South Korea in 2015. She has a Bachelors in English literature and a Masters in ESL Education. Michelle has taught at Creverse campuses in Gangneung, Songpa, and Mokdong and currently works as a CDI and April Trainer. Michelle never set out to be a teacher but fell in love with Korean culture and the excitement of being in the classroom. Michelle lives in Seoul with her partner and two cats, Cherry and Frost. re she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Tips For Learning Korean

Tips For Learning Korean

Before I moved to Korea, I didn’t know what to expect with the language barrier. Would I love it? Hate it? Struggle with it? Now six months into living in South Korea, I can honestly say one of my favorite parts of living here is the language. Not only is Korean beautiful but the language barrier has pushed me to try something I never thought I would: learn a second language. While big cities like Seoul are English-friendly, the challenge of reading and speaking in Korean has been one of the most rewarding parts of this whole experience! It’s given me a deeper appreciation for communication and more passion for teaching my own language! Here are all my best tips for learning Korean.

 

English teacher standing in front of a mountain and Han River in South Korea

Learn To Read Hangul

Learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet, has to be your first step. It’s easy to fall into the habit of searching online for the Romanized pronunciation of Korean words, but in the long run, this is only going to hold you back. Korean sounds and English sounds are not one-to-one, so save yourself the trouble and learn Hangul before anything else. I didn’t learn to read Hangul until my second month in Korea, but once I did, I felt so empowered!

Ask Your Students For Help

Of course, don’t ask them to teach you during class time, but I’ve found my Korean students love teaching me Korean before class and during break times! Adults have a tendency to overcomplicate things, but kids usually give the simplest answer. This can really help when it comes to Korean, especially if you’re a beginner! Plus, letting your kids teach you little phrases can go a long way in class. It helps them know you’re approachable and just as passionate about their language as you are about English!

Take A Class

I took a two month Korean class, and I can’t recommend it enough. It gave me structure and helped me develop my confidence speaking the language in a safe space before using it out and about in Korea! Sometimes, the hardest part is starting, and a class is the perfect way to kick-start your Korean journey! Here’s a brief look at a few different options.

  • Hagwons: Hagwons are private learning academies, and Korea has everything from science and math to English and Korean hagwons! This was the option I went with, and I’m so glad I did. It gave me a great foundation for understanding the language. Also, since I teach at a hagwon, it gave me insight into what my students are experiencing when they come to class each day!
  • Free Courses: There are plenty of free resources online as well as community centers in Korea that offer free classes to foreigners. Some of my friends have done this option and have loved it. Free courses tend to have bigger class sizes, but of course, you don’t have to pay for them! Here is an online class on Coursera by one of the top Universities in Korea.
  • Online Tutor: Learn Korean from the comfort of your apartment! I’ve met with an online Korean tutor a few times, and the best part is the one-on-one attention. Just like my students, sometimes it’s hard to ask questions in front of my peers. This option allows you to focus on your own personal shortcomings as a student and specialize your learning based on your interests and needs! But the best part? You can start learning now with an online tutor and not have to wait until you’ve moved to Korea.

Listen To K-Pop & Watch K-Dramas

Everyone I know who has spent time watching k-dramas and listening to k-pop has had a significant advantage when it comes to learning Korean. Immersing yourself in Korean entertainment is a fun way to absorb the language. While you probably won’t become fluent this way, it’ll definitely help you get a sense for the language! Netflix is great because they have English subtitles.

Don’t Get Lazy & Don’t Get Discouraged

In cities like Seoul, it’s easy to get complacent when it comes to learning Korean because Seoul is so English-friendly, but I’ve found locals really appreciate it when foreigners speak Korean. The best way to learn a language is to use it as much as possible, so even when you’d rather just switch to English, challenge yourself to use your Korean! Most importantly, don’t get discouraged! Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Making mistakes is all a part of the learning process, so don’t be afraid and don’t beat yourself up over it. Learning Korean has been so much fun for me – and trust me, I don’t have a natural affinity towards language learning – so I know it can be for you too! Hopefully some of these tips for learning Korean will help your own your journey!

 

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances.