VLOG: Passport Tag

Evan and Rachel created a little Passport tag on their YouTube channel and asked me to participate. While we’re preparing to head out today, I thought I would shoot a quick response.

If you have a passport, and are keen to answer the questions, here they are:

1. What is your most recent stamp?
2. What was your first stamp?
3. What’s your coolest looking stamp?
4. What’s the most meaningful stamp?
5. What was the most difficult stamp to get?

Teaching in Korea: Questions and Answers

teachingRecently I put it out to the interwebs that if anyone had a question about teaching in Korea, I’d be happy to field their question. Here’s what came in:

Hi Steve! Thanks for fielding questions on this topic. I’m currently teaching at a juku here in Japan (basically the equivalent of a Hagwon in Korea). I’ve been here just about two years and I’m thinking of transitioning to Korea. I know, as an American, I need to get everything apostilled and a background check from the FBI. Whats the best way of going about getting started there being stationed here in Japan? I need fingerprinting, apostilles and it’s all a bit daunting. Sorry for the novel and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

– Jason B.

Jason, thanks for writing in!

It’s actually pretty easy to get everything done and doesn’t require a whole lot of extra legwork if you’re currently overseas. The most important thing for you to do is partner with someone back in the US to handle the “legwork.” I would recommend enlisting a family member or close friend. When I needed to get my paperwork apostilled, I asked my mother for assistance and she was able to get things done quickly and efficiently, despite not knowing what the process really was.

To teach in Korea, you need to have degrees and an FBI check apostilled. Since you’re in Japan, I’d recommend getting your fingerprints done there. US Embassies don’t provide this service, so you’ll have to find out where you can get this done. In Korea, most police stations are happy to fingerprint foreigners requesting this service for background checks. The fingerprints must be on the official FBI sheet, which can be printed from their website (or you can pick up actual cards from the Embassy). I recommend getting a few sets completed just in case something goes wrong or a print is not clear. Pay for the background check with a credit card and send it off. It’s important to request the DOJ notarize the results so you can apostille them later. Have the background check sent to your partner in the US (this can take several months to complete).

Once your partner receives the background check, have them apostille everything at once. When all this is done,  it’s finally time to apply for a job. So if you’re thinking about making the switch to Korea, you’ll need to plan about 3-4 months in advance to allow for the FBI check.

Great question. Thanks for asking it.

I’ve a good  friend who has a Korean girlfriend living in Pusan (long distance for about a year). Anyhoo my friend is about to lose his job as a partner at a big law firm in SF (partners have the luxury to know they will get canned 6 months in advance). He asked me what kind of salary can someone like him expect from teaching english in Pusan and in Seoul. In addition to being a graduate from Berkeley, he went to an Ivy League law school. Would these be plus factors at all despite him never having taught anything?



Thanks for the question Simon.

Currently wages in Korea are pretty much uniform around the country. New teachers with a BS or equivalent can expect to earn 2.1-2.4 million won. Those with advanced degrees can earn more, but usually salaries cap around 3 million won per month. Another truth of the market, is that many schools will market your degree like crazy if you attended an Ivy League school, but not want to pay for that background. However, it would make the candidate more sought after and make getting a job easier.

The standard raise for teachers is 100,000 won more per month for every year of service. So if contract year one is 2.1 million per month, year two is 2.2 million. While it is rare for someone without teaching experience to land a university job, having the advanced degree would enable those opportunities eventually. Pay at universities vary greatly (a combination of degrees obtained and teaching experience), but usually come with reduced teaching hours (15 hours per week) and extensive vacations (8-16 weeks).

Thanks again for sending in this question!

If you have a question, please feel free to leave it in the comment section or send it to me at questions@qiranger.com.

It’s NEAT!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding the cuts in teaching positions in South Korea. Many are under the impression that there are no jobs left here. That is anything but the case. In this video response to viewer questions, I calm those fears and introduce the Korean NEAT!

Do you have a question for me? if so, drop me a line at questions@qiranger.com and I’ll be happy to answer it!

Viewer Question: Gluten-Free Options?

Kali wrote in recently asking if there were plenty of options for those allergic to gluten or wanting gluten-free meals. Here’s my personalized answer:

Many thanks to Joe at ZenKimChi.com for helping with the answer. You can also send a question in about to Korea or about traveling to questions@qiranger.com.

*** UPDATE***

Many thanks to @Rebikita for providing this helpful link to restaurants in Seoul.

Korea.Net provided this: if you are craving for the texture of bread (like I am), then visit Yanggae Hanaro Mart (농협하나로마트 양재점)서울 서초구 양재2동 230번지, 02-3498-1000, http://www.nhshopping.co.kr/, they have bread made only with rice.

Whisper Chase shared this link! www.iherb.com and recommends making everything at home!

Viewer Question: What about cars?

I’m on vacation, but that doesn’t mean I’m not checking messages while I can. We’ll be out on the water for the next week with little or no Internet, so things will be a little vacant here. However, Eulus sent in this question:

Hello Steve, I’m following your video blog, it’s very useful, thanks for your time and effort, I have a question, about cars and costs, my plan for Korea is to stay for a quite reasonable time and I’m car dependent. Are those expensive, what brands are available, what about sport tuning and street legalities ?

Since time is short, I’m recording just a video response to this:

The summary: One really doesn’t need a car in Korea (if living in a big city). Gas is expensive. They have lots of makes and models. Street tuning is available, but you’ll have to do some research for it.

If you have a question, feel free to send it to me at questions@qirager.com.

On our last video, I received a comment asking why so many foreigners eat bibimbap (비빔밥) with chopsticks. Here’s my answer:

Do you have a question for me? Ask one here and you could get your own personal video answer.


Teaching in Korea: Questions

Congratulations! You’ve made it to Korea, got settled into your new home and are about to step into your first class. Standing next to the whiteboard, you eagerly write your name for all to see and then it happens in rapid-fire succession.

“Where are you from?”

“How old are you?”

“Where do you live?”

“Do you know Korean?”

“Do you like spicy food?”

“What is your blood type?”

“Do you have a boy/girlfriend?”

“What kind of phone do you have?”

“Can I have your phone number?”

Wait. What was that last one?

“Teacher, can I have your phone number?”

While most of the previous questions are pretty standard and easily answered (okay, the blood type question may seem strange, too – but it really isn’t once you understand Korean culture), having students asking for your phone number usually throws many new teachers for a loop.

What would they need that for?

In most cases, students really don’t really need your phone number. They aren’t asking you for your phone number because they need it. They’re asking you for it because they like you.

In Korea, work is a high priority, since good paying jobs are scarce. In many families, one or both parents work five or six days a week and for very long hours. As a result, children are placed in academies to either learn or simply be watched over. Because of this, they really don’t have any adult role-models they can talk to or see on a regular basis aside from their teachers.

Connecting to you via obtaining your cell phone number is a way students are expressing their trust with you and that they like you.

Most English teachers don’t give out their number because they fear that students will call them endlessly. In my experience, that isn’t the case. Most of the students that have my number have never called or text messaged me. Those that have, usually send one or two messages after they first obtain the number, but never after that.

However, because we’ve shared numbers, I’ve been able to obtain a better rapport with students in class and with their parents. This relationship has made all the difference when teaching in Korea, since most students arrive to class with homework done and are eager to participate in all the activities.

So when a student next asks you for your phone number, consider giving it to them. It could make the difference in their life and make teaching in Korea, that much easier.