Greetings and salutations! This past Thursday (June 28th), I appeared once more on Arirang Television’s Korea Today. Before leaving the apartment for the 6am call, Jo snapped this photo of me doing my best Telly Savalas. Working in Korea allows me to pull off such great puns! Who am I kidding, no matter where I live, I strive to pull off bad puns!
reviewing my Inbox, I found an email from Katie with lots of questions:
1) How is it like working in Korea in general, or in various job/career fields?
2) How hard is it to learn Korean for a native English speaker? How different are the two languages?
3) Do you think there’s an age that best suits a time to live in Korea? Do you think it is better to go to school in America as a child or teen, then work in Korea as an adult, or retire in Korea as an elderly?
4) Would you recommend Au Pairing in Korea?
Thank you very much, in advance!
Those are a lot of questions, and I’ll do my best to tackle them!
Working in Korea
Truth be told, working in Korea is pretty much the same here as it is anywhere. You’re hired to do a job and if you complete the tasks required, on time, and without error, you’re rewarded with raises. If not, you’re let go. However, in some cases, hours can be longer and include weekend work. Some of my friends in non-teaching roles have the expectation to be in the office before their boss. The same goes at the end of the day… they leave after the boss does. It is common to work 12 or more hours a day to get the job done, what ever it takes. Rumors still abound of software engineers working so hard it literally kills them.
Vacation time is also a little different in Korea. Teachers usually fare out the best with two or more weeks per year. Many companies max out at only two weeks per year. This is in addition to the “red days” on Korean calendars signaling public holidays. Sometimes employees are not able to take a full week off at a time. They are awarded long weekends (Friday – Monday), however. Those in the entertainment industry rarely get time off, because they are constantly working. There has been a general call for more leisure time in Korea to help offset the negative population growth; though, with the economy pushing forward like it is, that hasn’t happened.
The beauty of the Korean written language is that it is so incredibly easy to learn. When one sits down to study Hangul, you’ll be able to pick it up in just a few days and know it like the back of your hand. This doesn’t mean you’ll know what you’re reading or saying, but it’s a huge leap in the right direction.
Like learning any foreign language, putting together the vocabulary is the toughest part. It takes time and dedication. Thankfully there are tons of resources available online like Talk To Me In Korean. If you have the funds, you can also purchase Rosetta Stone or attend a Korean class. Through using both these tools, I’ve been able to learn enough Korean to have basic conversations throughout the nation. It just takes time and effort… and be something you’re willing to do. For me, the hardest part has been knowing when to use various levels of speech and understanding why there are multiple verbs for the same action.
When to Live in Korea
Unfortunately, this is a question I can’t answer, as it’s highly personal. My point of view is that where ever one chooses to live in the world, it needs to be the right time for that person to do so. When I chose to come to Korea, I was at the right juncture to do so. I think that if I came to Korea 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been ready. I hadn’t had the right experiences to prepare myself for life abroad. By waiting until I was ready, moving to Korea allowed me to adjust easily. The one thing I will say is paramount is familiarity with Asian cultures.
Au Pairing in Korea
Again, this is one area where I can’t lend any expertise. If any of my readers have any experience, please share them in the comments. What I can share are tidbits of information from the interwebs I’ve seen. First, some of the live-in nanny positions called for 6- or 7-day work weeks with one day off a month. Others allowed for 4 days of vacation per year. Some offered to provide room and board with a salary of
W1.0-1.5 million per month. Hourly workers usually averaged W10,000 per hour, which isn’t a lot.
I have not seen any Au Pairs in Korea, so I don’t know how they are treated. When observing au pairs in other Southeast Asian countries, it’s my opinion they are treated more like domestic help than members of the family, as per the traditional au pair scheme.
Katie, I hope that was helpful. If anyone has any thoughts on her questions, please leave them in the comment section below. If you have a question, please send them to email@example.com.