Friday, February 26, 2010

Vote for me and YOU WIN!

I want to be even more special than my mom/wife/dog makes me feel. Vote for Ask the Expat in 10 Magazine's online poll and I'll buy you your very own Crossfire. I promise.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Korean Bathrooms: A Photo Diary

Here's the question:
My name is Bernal and I am 28 years old. I developed IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) a few years back. Thanks to that I feel uncomfortable at places without bathrooms. So every time I go to a place the first thing I do is try to find the nearest bathroom, and when I located it, I feel better.  I will go to Korea in June for a while. I was wondering if you can tell me how often you can find a bathroom in Seoul, and if is true that since the world cup, is some type of law in which allows any foreigner to use any public bathroom, even buildings and stuff.

I'm from Guatemala and here you dont find public washrooms.. only restaurants and stuff like that.
That sounds pretty awful, Bernal. There's nothing better than a spastic colon on a hot June day here in Seoul. 

Determining bathroom locations is also a pastime of mine, but not because I have to poop a lot. My concern --while drinking usually-- is that I'll only have to go to the bathroom if I don't have the luxury of a bathroom. I think I developed this problem in college on backpacking trips. Before we started packing, I would try to force myself to poop so I wouldn't have to poop on the trail. I was fine dropping one at the campsite, but the hike-poop was always rushed and uncomfortable. 

Bathrooms in Seoul are actually quite common. Depending on where you are in the city, you should be able to find some sort of public restroom within a minutes' walk. Some will be clearly marked with directions and others will be more allusive. The trickiest ones to spot are the ones that hide in the three or four-story "villas". There's usually a sign on or in the building somewhere that says "화장실". If not, just ask someone and they'll point in the right direction. Honestly, I've never had a problem. Even at the park, there are toilets all around.

Some Photo Warnings...

 They don't care if you're there or not.


They're not all like this one, but...

 ...they're not like this, either.

This is pretty common... 

 ...but this is the norm. 

Confused? Don't be.

Just drop it in that trashcan.

Get used to it... 
...but there probably won't be any soap, anyways.

Don't kid yourself. There will be plenty of smoking.

Just not much toilet paper. 

 Accept it.

Purchasing Korean Basketball Tickets in Korea

Here's the question:
I want to take my girlfriend to a Korean Basketball League game on Valentine's day.  I have a Korean teacher at my hagwon helping me with tickets.  He called and got some info.  You can't purchase tickets until 1 week before, and they are only available online.  The only tickets that will be available the day of at the box office are the left overs, from what hasn't sold online throughout the week.  He helped me with a profile on ticketlink.  But I've heard that even with this profile, foreigners can have difficulty purchasing tickets online, something about the citizen ID # being required.  So I'm assuming that my ID # from my Alien Card won't work.
I didn't actually get around to answering the question. Luckily, the questioner told me that he had solved the problem. Check out his answer and his blog over at Rip City to Seoul.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Summer Camp Jobs

Here's the question:
I'm currently working in Korea, but my contract ends in May. I don't really want to get tied into another 12 month contract straight away (unless I can find my dream ESL job!) so am considering teaching at summer camps.
Do you know if any recruiters specialise in recruiting for summer camps? And when do summer camp jobs normally become available? Finally, is there much competition for these positions?
Summer camps are great ways to pick-up some nice, quick cash. They're really great if you're already in-country as well. Being February, there won't be many summer camp gigs being advertised yet, but in April you'll start seeing more and more.

There are a couple different types of summer camps as well. People who teach in public schools know that"summer camp" does not mean really mean "camp" and it usually requires longer days (sometimes with better pay). But you're looking for a contracted summer gig that usually lasts 4-6 weeks. Some jobs will be longer/shorter, but most of them offer pretty decent deals. 

I personally don't know any recruiters who specialize in summer camps. I doubt the cash-flow is consistent enough to warrant an agency dedicated to that, but I might be wrong. As far as competition goes, it's usually not that stiff. The busy hiring season in Korea is in the spring and fall, so the applicant pool isn't as crowded. That means that summer/winter camps often look for teachers who are abroad as well. Since you'd be here, I'd think you'd have an easier time locking in a job. Remember though, the market has tightened a lot over the past couple of years, so get your resume ready and start scouring the job boards in about two months.
I'd shoot for Jeju. That seems like a nice parting-image from the country.

Anyone else have any leads?

Monday, February 22, 2010

"After-school" Programs in Korea

Here's the question:

I am still in Canada searching for teaching work in Korea. It's been like two months and I just don't know what job I want. There are so many that advertise LONG hours and those don't appeal to me and these so-called recruiters never listen to my demands.
Nothing better than new young teachers who want a job, but don't like working. That mentality --in part-- is why I don't hire young teachers or anyone fresh out of college anymore.
I started to see more afterschool and afternoon positions recently. They sound great! Why doesn't everyone want those? Are they hard to get?

First of all, there is usually a difference between  "afternoon" and "after-school" positions. An "afternoon" position is at a hagwon and will typically start at 3 or 4pm and run till 9 or 10pm. An "after-school" position is at a public school and typically runs from 12 0r 1pm until 5 0r 6pm.

It sounds like you want to an "after-school" position. I've worked at several in my time here and all of them are essentially the same. Although the venue is a public school, you are actually working for a recruiter/education company. For example,  ABC Education is a recruiting/education company. They have a curriculum, books, managers, supplies and teachers all within their company. These companies go from school to school trying to make contracts with the principals. Once they have the contracts, they choose the teacher who best suits each school (which means the prinipal has a say). So, each teacher is not actually working for the public school system, but rather a separate company.

The pay varies greatly as well. If you're north of the river, then expect your pay to be less than if you're in the south. And even in the south, you'll be paid based on the neighborhood. For instance, in Yangjae I was making okay money, but then I moved over to Songpa and was making 30% more. Now, I'm in Gangnam making nearly 60% more than I was in Yangjae. Of course, the higher the pay, the more competitive the job is.

You asked "why doesn't everbody want those" jobs? Well, a lot of people do want those jobs. In fact, many of those positions require an in-person interview which puts teachers abroad at a disadvantage. However, it's still worth trying.

On a side note, the after-school jobs are oftentimes looking for teachers on the F2 visa. They do that because F2's are easy to hire, have been in Korea for awhile and usually have housing already. These days, however, some F2's are even being forced to submit the same paperwork at E2's. I protested at first but soon realized that if I didn't do it, then I wouldn't get the job.

In short, the afterschool jobs are great. You're typically teaching medium-sized Elementary classes (10-20 students), have relative freedom in the class (even with the Korean co-teacher) and get a lot of free time. The details of the contract depend on the job and company, but for the most part, they're super sweet gigs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is this the end of Seollal and Chuseok?

Here's the question:
Since so many people live in Seoul now, what's going to happen during Chusok and Chinese New Years in the future? No more traffic jams? 
I can't tell you how many times I've thought about this. In fact, I often take it a step further and wonder if some of the traditions that make Chuseok and Seollal so fun and unique will go the wayside once the 70+ generation dies off, presumably changing the "hometown" from a provincial town/village to Seoul or another big city. 

This recent Seollal doesn't appear to have been much different from the others before it. Tons of people headed to their grandparents/parents or in-laws for the holidays just like they always have. The Korea Times reported that 3.6 million people were heading out of Seoul for the holiday and over 22 million people were going to be moving around the country. That's a pretty big number. The population of South Korea is hovering around 50 million these days, so we're looking at nearly half of the population still heading somewhere for the holidays. For now, it seems that the holiday and the adherence to the traditions seem safe.

However, as Seoul's population continues to increase and more and more people are considering Seoul as their official "hometown", it'll certainly be interesting to see how that pans out in the future. I know  from personal experience that many Seoulites are opting to either delay the family visit and take a much needed vacation or are skipping the holiday altogether. They're probably in the minority though. 

I guess I could speculate that younger Koreans might not be as "into" traditional holidays as they used to be and maybe that would be true, but I think that there are other factors working against the holidays. The biggest obstacle --to me-- seems to be that the majority of Koreans are not buried anymore; they're cremated. And not only are 60% of Koreans cremated, but 9 out of 10 Korean prefer cremation to burial.

That's fine except that one of the crucial ceremonies of both holidays is 절 or the bowing to elders/ancestors. Most Koreans have a tomb they visit where they offer some form of alcohol, fish or fruit before they bow and pay respects to their ancestors. That ancestor is typically a parent, grandparent or maybe even a great-grandparent.  One would think that this trend would continue for some time since Korea is such a rapidly ageing society, but the issue is not a shortage of old people, it's a shortage of tombs and space.

That shortage is the crux of my argument. As each generation trucks on, the ancestral tombs will fade further into the grey. Honestly (and you might not agree), no one wants to visit the tomb of their great-grandmother every year. I've seen my great-grandmother's grave in Indiana twice and that's enough for now. Maybe some Koreans will drop-in every five years or so if they're in the area, but the annual traffic-fighting voyage to a town that isn't your "hometown" anymore just doesn't sound realistic to me.

Just because the tomb trips might become less common or Seoul is their official "hometown",  doesn't mean they can't partake in the traditions though. As with everything, traditions usually take a hit as times passes. That's normal. Still, Koreans can still bow and the family can still gather for the holiday.  It might just mean a trip from Gangnam to Nowon, rather than Seoul to Daegu and if that's the case --well-- I guess there will be more traffic in Seoul, but that's nothing new.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Morning Clam

I must apologize to my questioners and readers. I've tried to answer some through email and I intend to catch-up next week. On a side note, I've been putting in some time on my old blog which I moved over to Wordpress recently. I haven't exported any of the old stuff, but there's plenty of new posts to read.

Check it out...

" takes a look at the current states of American and South Korean politics in an effort to garner a better understanding of both the domestic political climates in each respective nation and how they interact with each other on the world stage."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Help from fellow expats: A car question

Here's the question:
A day or two ago I wrote to "Ask A Korean" because I had a question about getting rid of a car in Korea.  He wrote back and said he has never owned a car in Korea, but recommended I write to you and ask.
And here's the AAK question:
I am an English teacher about to finish my third year here in Korea.  A while back, I bought a (beautiful 1992) KIA from a woman who was leaving. We went to all the correct offices and did it by the book.  I have insurance, the title, etc.  However, now my time here is ending and a couple people want to buy it but in a more under the table kind of manner.  Do you know how to get the vehicle out of my name with out putting into somebody else's?  Or, going a different direction, do you know if there is a company who buys back used cars?  This probably wouldn't be a big deal in Seoul or Busan, but I'm like in Pohang.
Like The Korean, I have never owned a car in Korea and don't know anybody who has tried to sell a car under the table. I'm a motor-scooter guy, so this is out of my league. 

Any of you guys have any ideas?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Where is Yie Eun-woong?

Recognize this?

 No? How about this?

Our favorite stalker, Yie Eun-woong, is standing right next to Pagoda Tower in Gangnam. Which means he's quite close to where many English teachers (including myself) live, work and socialize. 

So to all my fellow Gangnamers: Keep an eye out for for this cunt-bag. He's in our neighborhood and he might be stalking you, your friends or your family. I would recommend turning the tables and "following" him just like he "follows" us because not only do Korean men rape and molest children dramatically more than teachers, but he fits the demographic: 40, single and pathetic.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to maximize your earnings on an F2 visa in South Korea

This is a question from Gary of Dagseoul on one of Paul's (Paul Ajosshi) Facebook 'status updates'.
Does F2 actually do anything for you?
A big YES! on that one, Gary. I've been on an F-2 for two years and in that time, I've seen my salary nearly quadruple. Sounds tricky at first, especially because there's an awful lot of noise surrounding the "dirty visa", but it makes sense since there's very little usable info to go on. 

First of all, the F2 allows you to work in nearly every industry in Korea. Of course, qualifications actually get you the job, but the F2 visa allows people to become more industrious and consider fields they once thought were off-limits. As we all very well know, the E2 limits you to language education and your visa sponsor, aka boss, pretty much controls your earning limit as well as a bunch of other things you once had control of in your home nation. 

Once on the F2, you can leave the education industry. That might sound very enticing to some. I've known people who have gone into writing, publishing, entertainment, video production and recruiting. Leaving the education industry might appeal to some, but unless you are producing something yourself, the income level is ultimately controlled by that industry. What I mean is that if you decide to take a job as an editor with KTO, you'd be free from teaching, but your income still hovers between 2-3 million a month. 

Before settling into what I'm currently doing, I tested a lot of different educational waters and weighed my options. I first thought that I would continue teaching at a hagwon and then pick-up advertised (and taxed) tutoring jobs. After all, if you post your resume on a website like Worknplay, you'll continually be offered positions and tutoring gigs all over the city. That sounded pretty good at first, especially since many of them paid nearly 50,000 an hour. But once you actually look at the time and numbers, you're only making an extra 1-2 million plus you've gotta be traveling all over the place with the possibility of having cancellations. That wasn't concrete enough and since marriage requires a certain level of stability, I continued searching for the right combination.

There's also the option of doing privates on the F2, but with Kang Shin-who's tabloids running in the KT and admitted stalker/pervert/cunt-bag Yie Eun-woong going through peoples garbage, it just isn't worth the hassle. Regardless of the facts (something that those two fail to understand), getting involved with the police over teaching English would be embarrassing to you and your Korean family.

After a few months of putting it all together, I decided the best way to do it was to work in two schools. You get the split-shift and add an afternoon program in the middle. One of the unwritten perks of the F2 is its persuasive power to increase salary. To a school, the F2 represents longevity, experience, interest in Korea and -this is the kicker- simplicity. Hiring an F2 takes five minutes. All they actually need is a diploma. The background checks and all the other immigration garbage is gone. Schools like that are willing to negotiate on salary. They also know that toying with you or playing games is much harder since you not only have been around, but also have a spouse and Korean family to back you up.

The afternoon school is a little trickier. Most will require you to get the same documentation (criminal, medical, transcripts etc...) as E2's, but again you can negotiate. Hiring you might be only a little easier than an F2, but longevity comes into play again and schools hate losing teachers. 

What I have right now took a little time to get, but it works well. I'm the manager at my adult language institute which means I choose the hours I work/teach without losing any wages. That's to say, it's very flexible. Secondly, I work for an afternoon program that's literally 30 SECONDS away from my other gig. On top of that, both gigs are within two minutes of my house.

How much do I work a week? 

Depending on how much energy I have, anywhere between 40-55 hours a week. 

There are tons of ways to make it work and probably lots of you who have made it work even better. Care to share?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Demo Class Tips for teachers in South Korea

Here's the question:
I just had an interview with a kids hakwon and they told me I have to give a demo class. What the hell!!! I've never taught EFL to children and am totally freaking out! The demo class is only 10 minutes, so I just need a few ideas. Can you or your readers help?
Well, since you've presumably been in the adult racket for a contract or two, you know something about the industry. I don't think I need to go over lesson plans with you. It wouldn't help in a quick demonstration anyways. There are, however, a few tips that schools look for.

Before we start, I should say that the people observing these classes usually aren't fluent so they're forced to focus not on what you say, but how you carry yourself in front of a class. They will judge you based on how they think a teacher should act.

Enthusiasm is huge and always helps. I'm not talking about smiling more than usual though it doesn't hurt, but when in front of that demo class, you need to have a little more gusto. I recommend moving around the classroom more, engaging the kids equally and responding to the answers from each kid with an overly interested facial expression and tone. Some of you might be thinking that I'm telling her to do the 'dancing monkey' routine, but when you want to get hired, it works. After you get the job, then you can employ any method you choose.

Having the kids repeat after you is a simple way to get positive feedback from a prospective school. Those of us who have taught kids before know that it gets old and question its effectiveness, but there are very specific things that these guys are looking for. A short demo class allows for very little exploration into ones teaching methods and abilities, so just hit the basics.

Controlling students can be hard. Sometimes kids will try to take advantage of the new teacher. We all did it when we were in school and Korean kids are the same. Mix that in with the fact that many young students don't take English classes seriously and you could have a toxic combination for a demo class. When they start to get wild, don't tell them to be quiet or sit down; not in a demo class. Simply isolate the problem and bring them into the lesson. It might not work, but that's not the point. The point is that the interviewers are looking for how you handle that situation.

Making yourself marketable is important to you and in this case, it's even more important to your potential employers. We all know the hagwon game and it's the mothers who run these places. They can make or break a teacher and a school. Sweet-faced women and cute-faced men tend to do the best, but hair, make-up and clothing all play a role. However, marketability extends beyond appearance. After the demo class, they'll probably ask you what you thought of the kids or if you liked the material and you need to just BS the whole thing. Be flexible and overly eager.

Demonstration classes are nothing to stress about. If you play the game and understand what the school is looking for, you'll always get the job. Once you've settled into the position, then you can take root and test out some new, less superficial methods,  but you've gotta get the gig first.

Anyone else have any ideas?