I'm Leaving Korea

Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
Trip End Aug 25, 2013

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ok folks, its official, after three years I've decided to non renew my contract and leave Korea at the end of August. The primary reason is I've travelled everywhere in East Asia and there's nowhere major left to explore. Any trips outside are going to cost too much in airfare so its more economical to relocate or have a geographic reset to a closer hub. 



Since 2008 and by this August I will have travelled to 

China 3x 
Japan 3x
Hong Kong 2x
Malaysia 2x
Singapore 2x
Indonesia 2x
Taiwan 2x
Cambodia 1x
Vietnam 1x
Thailand 1x
Philippines 1x
Brunei 1x
Macau 1x

Places I could still visit are Vladivostok in Russia but getting the visa to China, Russia, or any ex Soviet state is a pain as with my experiences for China and Uzbekistan. I'm the closest I've ever been to Australia and New Zealand but it's still a costly and lengthy flight. I even looked at North Korea but you need a double entry China visa which is another pain. 

During winter break I had to sit in school for five weeks 'deskwarming' when we have no classes and students. If I didnt have my blogs to write for my Taiwan, Philippines, and Uzbek trips my head would have exploded. There's only so much you can do on the internet to kill time otherwise. The Public School Contract insists we have to sit in empty schools outside vacation time and they even cut our renewal bonus days from 10 days to 5 days. 

We are making big sacrifices being away from our family and country for a year at a time and they shouldnt treat us as 'greedy foreigners' taking away vacation time. Its hard to get the time off in summer as they have shortened summer break, you dont know exact days allowed off till late June due to summer camps, leaving you with ridiculous last minute airfares for peak summer travel season. 

Why dont they give us generous time off in winter when airfares are lower and we have to sit in empty schools for five weeks? We still cant take a trip home then as we need to be back first week of February for Graduation Week so this messes up any long vacation plans

Another major reason is I'm fed up with the cold. Although temperatures are warmer than Toronto it actually feels colder as the heating is so bad and expensive. The best way to heat your home is the underfloor heating but you can face gas bills of $150/month for a one room apartment. 

I swear they adjust the rates up in winter as I've kept the underfloor heating off and was only using an electric blanket, yet my gas bill did not drop when I went away for two weeks on vacation. 

Another pain is leaving windows open all around the school freezing the place even more. I'm always having to shut windows and doors and this is one part of 'Korean Culture' that makes no sense to me. 
Food has been another ongoing problem for the last three years. Most meat dishes I cant eat and they have strange vegetables and do weird things to them leaving me with very few choices. Often at school I can only eat the rice as they are tossing meat in every other item including the vegetable soups. Although I like some Korean food overall its my least favourite in Asia 

And finally I think I'm done with public school teaching in Korea. The logic is if you put a foreigner in the classroom the kids will speak english. The Vice Principal is getting overly excited and planning morning classes, afterschool classes, teachers classes, and summer classes. 

If you put me in a room with a Japanese person I will not speak Japanese. The kids do not want to learn, are not motivated, and dont answer questions. I have to keep them drugged on candies to motivate them and get them to do anything. We are not a 'foreigner daycare' to leave your kids with before school, after school, and during summer break with kids that arent really interested and dont show up. 

Its cute to see them jumping around like monkeys and sitting in each others laps but I want to try an older age group that wants to learn. I studied French and German in High School and was always enthusiastic about languages, travel, and learning about other cultures

Even adults that know English wont speak to me and this is an inherent problem in Korean society. Often when I travel I see very high levels of English in countries that do not have a foreigner in every school. Korea has a very low return on investment for the amount they spend on bringing foreigners to Korea, paying for free flights and apartments, salary and other bonuses. 

Yes it is easy money if I was to sit here for another year but it would be a waste of one year of my life as I am not challenging or developing myself on a personal or professional level and have nowhere left to travel. Most of my friends will have left, its hard to keep making new friends, and some of those that have left have gone on to good opportunities.  

It does pay to leave Korea. I get three years Pension refunded, two months severance pay, the $2000 deposit I put on my apartment, and a free one way flight out of Korea. I could 'cash out' and come back later as many people have done before. If I were to return I would only look for University teaching positions. 


My biggest regret in leaving is my Korean speaking level has become quite good now and I'm able to chat with locals on many topics. I'm nowhere fluent and still make mistakes but am having a wider variety of conversations, am able to express myself in many different ways than I could before, and am making more Korean friends.
My plan on leaving is to goto Budapest first for one month to do a Celta teacher training course in September. I looked at many locations and Budapest suited me best as the price was competitive, the dates worked for me, and it's somewhere I've visited twice before and have longed to return to. 

I can do day trips on the weekend to other historic towns such as Pecs, Gyor, and Eger.  Once the course is done I can travel down to Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria heading to Istanbul for my return flight home.  I will get to celebrate my birthday in September in Belgrade.


These are also places I've long wanted to visit and couldnt with the fixed school vacation times in February and August. Now I can travel during low season in October and will have the freetime to explore with no pressures to return to work, something I've never had before. 

I should be back home in Toronto towards the end of October. Then I plan on spending time at home with the family and looking for another teaching job in the next semester in Jan/Feb. When I left my nephew was two and now he's turning five. My mum keeps pressuring me to come back so I want to spend some time at home. I'm looking forward to foods like bread and cheese. 

I hope to find something in the Middle East next. Hopefully with 3 years overseas experience in two schools and the recently completed Celta course along with my earlier Tesol course I would be quite marketable. 

The Middle East pays better, has no food issues for me, and generous vacation time. It is an excellent base from which to explore the Middle East, Turkey, Europe, and North Africa. However, I know the overseas teaching market favours "white foreigners" and that was something I had to deal with before I got the Korea Public School teaching position. 

I just have to sit out the next few months, figure out what to pack, ship, sell, or dump. I just want to take a break and spend time at home with family and see what opportunities come up next.  Things did pickup during the semester and I made more Korean friends so wondering if I made the right decision and whether I could have done another year or not. 


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starlagurl on

Wow. I agree with you on so many of these things. I'm leaving Korea August 12. Not sure where I'm going yet though.

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