Ready to teach English in Seoul? Get the lowdown from an ex-pat about what it is like to live and work in Seoul, South Korea. Find out about teaching, a typical work schedule, classroom logistics, and more.
Which country are you teaching in/ have taught in?
Seoul, South Korea. My husband is Korean, that’s why I originally moved to South Korea.
What is required to teach English in Seoul, South Korea?
Any bachelor’s degree and if you need to have your visa sponsored, you need to be from a native-speaking English country.
What is the best thing about living in Seoul?
The country is beautiful. The best part is being able to travel around the Korean peninsula and see all these beautiful places
What is the worst thing about living in Seoul?
The language barrier. I find it extremely hard to study Korean and many local people don’t know English.
Is there a big ex-pat community? Is it easy to make friends?
Yes, many foreigners are living in Korea, especially English teachers. Still, I find it hard to make friends as many people only stay for a year or 2 and then go back home or go to the next country. So to find people who will be staying long term is quite hard.
What is the cost of living?
I used to live in London before, so in comparison with that, Korea is very cheap. A 2-bedroom apartment is about 700$ a month. You can eat out in Korean restaurants for 10$ a person. Going out is quite expensive as a proper beer costs a minimum of 7$ and cocktails or shots go for way more. Another expensive thing is fruit. Korea has to import most of its fruit, which makes it more expensive.
Find out about the salary of an English teacher here!
How did you find your teaching job?
I moved to Korea first before looking for a job, so that makes it a bit easier. Most of the time I found my teaching jobs through a friend that was leaving the country.
How did you find your accommodation?
Facebook. You’ll find many ex-pat Facebook groups for jobs and apartments. I found my place in one of these ex-pat groups. Again, a foreigner was leaving the country.
What did you do to prepare to move abroad?
First, I wasn’t planning on staying in Korea long-term, so didn’t really plan my move properly. Initially, I was only going to stay for a couple of months. But I would recommend studying some basic Korean, so you can read the menus and signs. Learn about the working culture and the area you will be moving to.
Did you get culture shock? How did you overcome this?
Yes, the working culture is quite different from back home. There is a bigger hierarchy and speaking up to someone higher than you is most of the time frowned upon. So, this is something you really have to learn to deal with and accept. There is no other way around this.
In the classroom
Which grade(s) do you teach?
On average how many students are in the class?
What classroom materials and tools are available?
The books are provided, a cd player and a blackboard. Any other games or things I want to use during the classes are at my own expense. I don’t generally buy extra stuff except for one class that has been with me for over 2 years. It’s a group of 3 girls, who are now in middle school but still come back to my elementary hagwon, just for my class. They are lovely, and we can have very nice conversations. So, for that class I would lend them some of my personal English reading books as I know I can trust them and they will return them undamaged.
What is your favourite classroom game?
Hangman. After a lesson, to review the words learned, we play a game of hangman. This way they practice the spelling of the words.
Do you have any funny experiences from teaching?
In Korea, many people are wearing t-shirts with English words on them. Most of the time there are spelling mistakes, or the sentences don’t make sense. But sometimes, the sentences have a sexual meaning, so seeing this on a 10-year-old is hilarious. I always try to explain to them why that is a t-shirt they shouldn’t be wearing.
A typical workweek
What is your work week like?
I work at a private hagwon for elementary students. We start around 3 pm and finish at the latest at 7 pm.
What do you like to do when you are not teaching?
I used to be a full-time teacher, but I’m now only teaching a couple of days a week. The rest of the time I work as a digital marketer and work on my Korea travel blog.
Do you have any bad experiences teaching in South Korea?
Yes, I have had experiences with a hagwon where I wanted to go on holiday for 2 weeks and got permission from the hagwon. During those 2 weeks, they got a replacement, but the replacement wanted to work for a minimum of 1 month, so for 2 weeks after my holiday, I wasn’t able to work (unpaid). I never went back to that hagwon, as that’s not how you treat your teachers.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going abroad to teach English in Seoul?
Prepare yourself. Learn about the teaching system, the culture, the language, etc. I would also recommend getting a TEFL certificate and aim to get an EPIK teaching job.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The kids. If you have the same kids for a long time, you create a stronger bond and during the holidays or vacations, they would text me to say they miss my class. That’s really sweet. Any other comments that you would like to add?
Meet the guest blogger
Marie Boes Shin:
My name is Marie, I am a travel blogger living in Seoul. My blog is all about living and travelling in South Korea. I have been living here for 3 years with my Korean husband. During the winter month, I am a ski instructor in a ski resort, 1 hour away from Seoul.
Blog: Be Marie Korea
Looking to earn extra cash whilst you teach English in Seoul? Consider teaching English online too!
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