I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

Kids here are really obsessed with a few things, some are very weird…

1. Shit – Yeah, shit. Whether it’s teaching lessons on the five senses, drawing a birthday cake or just in your everyday “make fun of the teacher who can’t speak Korean,” bringing up “ddong” (shit) happens quite often in school. The really weird thing is that every student draws shit the same way, looking like a volcano.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEN TEACHER!

There is no other variety. I have seen AT LEAST 20 pictures of shit and they are always the same, meanwhile I can’t get a consistent answer from most kids when I ask them what their favorite animal is. Go figure. Is making students draw shit a part of the curriculum?

2. Poking people in the butt (especially teachers) – a day doesn’t go by where I have my back turned to the wall, or I’m walking down the hall and some kid doesn’t try sneaking behind me and poking me in the butt. It’s really weird.

3. Kai Bai Bo (aka rock, paper, scissor) – I played this about 20-30 times a day my first two months, now I’ve got the kids on other games or they just ask me to pick them up as high as I can in the air and fling them around. It really makes me wonder if kids in Korea ever heard of a shoulder/piggy back ride. Still, the students use rock, paper, scissor to settle important things like who will do their presentation first. I won’t lie, I’ve even used it a couple times with my friends or coworkers to decide who the person is who’s going to do something.

4. Sharp Razors – more of a weird thing than an obsession, but these are in EVERY kids pencil case and it is quite disturbing…


I see them used as a scissor, but some kids also sharpen their pencils with them. These things are EXTREMELY sharp and I don’t see how they are more useful than a pencil sharpener for a student. I was appalled when I first saw these in my students' pencil cases.

5. Saying an absent student is dead – This is me taking attendance on one of my first days here…

Ben – “William….”(silence)
Blaire – “William die…”
Ben – “What?”
Blaire – “William die…I kill” (class erupts in laughter)
Ben – “You killed William?” (just playing along, seeing where this goes)
Blaire – “Yes…Scissor (makes cutting gesture) cut head” (class laughs again)

(William walks in 10 minutes later)

Blaire – “ZOMBIE!”

Other class…

Ben – “Martin…”
Martin – “Here”
Ben – “Martin how are you?”
Martin – “Terrible”
Ben – “Why terrible?”
Martin – “Teacher die!”
(class erupts in laughter)

Not only is it rude, but the grammar and structure of the sentence is off. What they are trying to imply is that they feel terrible because the teacher is alive, and they want me to die. “Teacher die” is the way of saying that in two short words.

This happens all the time as well. Now I know all my students’ names, but I still ask where they are if they are out and more often than not I hear “die”…“I kill”…“bus hit” etc. It’s disturbing but amusing.

6. Asking if you have a girlfriend – This was one of the first questions I heard from students upon introducing myself. I told them my name, and then they asked where I was from, my age, height (weird), weight (weird) and if I have a girlfriend. There’s almost a look of disappointment when I told them I don’t have one, and I think that has to do with the family values in Korea. Having a girlfriend/boyfriend makes you sort of…complete. Telling someone here you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend, will get you the same sort of response if you ask someone in the US what they do for work and they say they are unemployed, “oh…(looking down/changing subject quickly)”

7. Asking for your phone number – every class has asked for my phone number and/or email address. In general, it’s rude to say no to anyone over here. I get offered some weird snacks every day and the first time I said no thanks I got a very disappointed look from this girl and I felt bad. I ask people for directions and sometimes they want to BRING me to the place I ask them about, even if it means them jumping from behind their desk at work and going outside. No joke! Anyway, I can’t think of anything wrong about having their phone numbers (except texting someone when I’m drunk and clicking on their name instead, which hasn’t happened…yet….), but it is pretty weird. In America if kids had their teacher’s phone numbers they would be getting prank calls ALL the time. Here I just get random texts which say “hello Ben teacher, this is Mario. Have a nice day.” It’s cute, but I’m still concerned about the late night text finger slip. It’s done me in many times before (shaking my head thinking of past moments of feeling embarrassed).

8. Stickers and stamps – Kids here LOVE little stickers with cats, hearts or anything for that matter on them. They ask me all the time for stickers and I started putting them on their homework if they do a good job. I know this is done in the US with cheesy things like a gold star, but stationary stores here are FLOODED with sheets of stickers that kids buy and also hope they get from school.

Stamps are another thing. Same as stickers, they come in the shape of a pet, or say something like “very good!” When grading homework/classwork I have to circle their paper in red to confirm I looked at it. Recently I purchased a box of stamps and have been using that. On my first class using it, when I stamped a students page they freaked out, all the other students ran over to see and were amazed. I told them they only get it when their work is done and they all ran back to their desks and got cracking. I stood there and patted myself on the back. Remember, I only just started teaching, so I’m learning how to trick kids into doing their work.

Not sure if there’s any I missed, think I got it all…

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

So youre basically saying you send your students late night drunk texts, then they come into school and touch your butt? normal....

Ben Gwynne said...

No, I said I've been known to send a late night text or two that I've regretted in the past. I'm HOPING that I don't send an inappropriate text to someone here, and I REALLY hope I don't choose the wrong name. Yikes.

Nice try Kush!!!!

Anonymous said...

the shit drawings reminds me of the penis drawing scenes in superbad. :)

Ben Gwynne said...

Good call. I need to start taking pictures of all the shit drawings the kid make and use that as a post.

Roselle said...

the shits drawing are super funny..i thought koreans are known to cute doodles, when i type korean doodles in google it always shows me cute stuff. weird kids.hehe

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm MJ. I read your posting. Obviously, students draw shit isn't curriculum.
However, korean tend to enjoying talk about "shit". It is a silly sense of humour.
In korea, there is "ddongchimi" that is Korea's child character brand.
"ddonchimi" is action that means same "goose". It's very funny.
And I read several your postings. Your postings very interested and made think about Korea.
"You live in korea" is not esay, but, I hope that you have good time in part of your life.
I mean it. (+ My writing skill is not good. May be you don't understand. Please...:D)

Ben said...

Thanks MJ. I understand what you said, thanks for writing.

I love living in Korea, although there are some things which seem strange to me, I like the food, the people, and the culture. Sometimes I might comment on the things that are weird to me, but overall it's been a great experience. Thanks!

Wondosama said...

This is really funny. I laughed a lot - especially when I read #5. Their evill jokes work so well for me (ye, I'm korean) haha. Kids are weird animal. :P

Ben Gwynne said...

They are funny, I'm sure I would have said some weird things if I had a teacher with a major language barrier.

turkoid said...

As a Korean, this is really funny to hear about young students in Korea from a foreigner's perspective. Hope you learn lots of good things about life. Maybe even become enlightened with infinite wisdom from their poopy artwork.

Ben Gwynne said...

Well, now I know how amusing DDONG is to them. In a lesson where we have to write sentences about the 5 senses, I use "The DDONG smells terrible" as an example. It makes em laugh every time.

squeak said...

heya ben,
i solved the danger drunk texting by saving all my students' numbers with a QQ in front of their name. of course, then they wanted to know why their names made me sad...

kids in my class also freaked out when i used red pen on their papers... bad luck?

i hope you can escape fan death this summer. :)

(i was in incheon in 04-05)

Ben Gwynne said...

Hey Squeak.

Yes, I put STUDENT (then the persons name) in my phone.

Only some of them freak out about the red pen thing, usually the younger ones. Sometimes I forget about it, oh well.

Incheon is changing quite a bit, building a bunch of new subway stops for the Asian Games which are happening in 2014, come back in a few years and you will hardly recognize it!

brue h. ilda said...

your posts are funny but true. try giving-out some treats. this works well with young korean students.

Ben Gwynne said...

Yeah, I offer up treats under various circumstances...

a) holiday - halloween i gave every kid a lollipop
b) i give them some sort of puzzle for homework and if they finish it
c) we finish the lesson early, i have a ton of grading to do, then i break them up into teams (usually, sometimes i let them do it solo) and give them a puzzle to finish..i usually give it to the winning team

if my kids have a birthday, one of them is moving, etc., ill do it as well, i spoil these kids rotten, trust me!

Ben Gwynne said...

thanks for commenting by the way, hope you keep reading

zibidi said...

lol..Actually i am thinking live in Korea as an English teacher.Your posts are very helpful,thanks:)Keep writing:))

jesse said...

Hey Ben,
I was searching for what it was like to live and teach in Incheon and came across your blog. EVERYTHING you talked about is 100% true! I taught in Busan for a year and experienced all of those for good and for worse. I'm wondering how did you like Incheon compared to other cities?

Ben Gwynne said...

Ummm, it really depends on what you're looking for. If you want to or don't mind having a quieter life during the week, being surrounded by less foreigners, then Incheon might be for you.

If you want the beach, well, then you know that Busan is for you. SK is a small country, Seoul is only 45-50 minutes from me so I can have fun when I want, and be in a quiet area when I want too. I love it, but I'm soon leaving...sigh........

Anonymous said...

I'm still only young but reading your blog has made me want to become an English teacher in Korea even more :)

I was a little scared by the idea, but Koreans seem really really friendly .. and interesting :D

Ben Gwynne said...

REALLY friendly. You'll love it over here. Good luck and keep that dream alive, hopefully you do it in a few years.

darialois said...

"bus hit" xD
Ironically, I was in USA learning Korean from a Korean church and kids do these things too haha~
Anyways, they don't poke foreign female teachers in the butt, do they? hope not....awkward...:P

Ben Gwynne said...

Nope, just the male teachers unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

they sharpen pencils with those knife thing because most korean kids take art classes and in art classes, you have to be able to sharpen your pencils with that thing.

Breaking Dawn said...

Hey i know im really late in 2012. but if you're still on this can you tell me something: i want to teach english here, but i dont want to actually take classes to be a teacher. im going to double major in english and international studies. so should i scrap one of those and just do the teaching? or is it still possible to get a job without a teaching license? i mean im going to study abroad there too. so i was jw what your advice was. (or anyone elses, for that matter.) thanks! :)

Breaking Dawn said...

Hey i know im really late in 2012. but if you're still on this can you tell me something: i want to teach english here, but i dont want to actually take classes to be a teacher. im going to double major in english and international studies. so should i scrap one of those and just do the teaching? or is it still possible to get a job without a teaching license? i mean im going to study abroad there too. so i was jw what your advice was. (or anyone elses, for that matter.) thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Dude,

All you need is a BA to teach, you don't need certification. Check out the Korean forums here

http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/

There will be tons of info if you have questions. Or you can try me. Either way. Good luck man!

bg

Dave said...

Very interesting. I don't teach, so I miss out on this demographic when travelling in Asia. The youngest Koreans I've met were about 19, and kai bai bo still featured heavily in their social lives.

When I was in Taiwan, one weird question people asked me was my blood type - I don't know if this is common in other countries too? I guess it could be practical to hang around with potential donors in the event of a medical emergency or something...

Anonymous said...

- yes, i believe it's common throughout Asia. my students were SHOCKED i didn't know my blood type, lol

- bg

Anonymous said...

Your posts are definitely entertaining and truthful at the same time. Do you still work in Incheon?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I appreciate the positive feedback. I do not work there anymore, but I long to go back some day. Thanks for reading

- bg

eclecticspot said...

this is fucking fantastic.

Anonymous said...

glad you like it!

bg

Esther Uluikadavu said...

Hey Ben i absolutely enjoyed reading through your blogs. Well i have a very close friend whose due to leave New Zealand to come and do exactly what you're doing, is to teach english. Im planning a farewell for her, and what i wanted to ask you is, for gift ideas, as you're on that end and you would know better. Thnks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Esther,

Glad you enjoyed it. I still check my blog out even though it's been a while since I left Korea, but I hope to go back some day. Let me know if you have any questions!!!

bg

Anonymous said...

Well Ben, I have been to a few Asian countries and I have taught koreans in the philippines etc as well as dating some in my own country. I think i would never go there, i think they are very strange people who are not honest about their intentions and always want to feel superior. I think they have lousy culture and I think they are way too religious and also white supremesist types with the odd hitler restaurant there from what Ive seen on google.

Anonymous said...

I am really sorry you feel that way. I felt nothing but love when I lived in Korea, and to be honest one of my biggest regrets in life is not staying for another year. I loved it. I hope you change your mind though and give it a chance.

- BG

gopark said...

Hi! I am planning to move to Korea and would like a teaching career. I have experience teaching Koreans but was wondering..did you need a TESOL certificate or English teaching degree to get employed? Also, you said you didn't speak Korean, did it not pose any problems?

The Misadventures of an Average Waitress said...

Hi Ben,
I know you said you have left Korea now, but I was just wondering how you went about going to teach there, my fiance` and i have been wanting to go and teach in Asia for about a year now and we are not quite sure how to go about it, did you find the job your self? did you do a tefl course? i would be very interested to know how to go about being a teacher there. I am a early years teacher but my partner doesnt have any qualifications. cool Blog.

Anonymous said...

you should email, I have a link to my email address on my blog, I can answer questions in more detail that way

- bg

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to correct the person who thinks Korean culture is lousy and that there are white supremacist restaurants (LOL) in Korea...from what he's seen on Google image. :\ That symbol is an ancient religious symbol used in BUDDHISM, JAINISM, and HINDUISM. There are no Korean "white supremacists"(wtf?). I hope you're just a troll. Please do research before you make ignorant assumptions based on Google image.

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Anonymous said...

The jocks at my high school used to play the finger in the asshole game or the nipple flip thing.... i was a pot head and never understood it but doing it to a teacher.... Thats kinda ballsy!!!!

Cha Ji Rah said...

In my country, (Malaysia) we also ask to the new teacher if they are married, had a gf/bf or single.. we kinda get disappointed when haven't got one... I think this is a culture in Asians...