New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

Adapting to Korean society

(This section of advice was written by KOTESOL, the local English Teacher's Association)

Culture Shock

When first arriving in a country, one is usually excited and eager for new experiences. After a while, the newness wears off, and homesickness begins. Do not judge yourself too severely at this point. Homesickness happens to everyone in varying degrees.

Overcoming homesickness, for majority of people, is just a matter of time. As you continue to cope with the realities of living here, you begin to take things for granted. Life becomes pleasant that you no longer care about the small inconveniences deriving from cultural differences. You suddenly find that you like kimchi; you realise your students are interesting people to know - that helping them improve their English just adds to that interest; you begin to understand your friends who are willing to show you the Korea outside the foreigner's community; you begin to try to learn some Korean and use it. There are many foreigners in Korea who have come to and remain at this point - not so much assimilated, but a part of one country in their own niche here, and want to spend a long time in Korea.

For many others, however, the feeling eventually comes that it is time to leave. With luck you will realise it before it affects your life too deeply. It is time to leave when you begin to be negative about the country and its people. When you no longer want to go to work; you dislike your students; you become irritated with everything and everyone and have angry discussions with others of like mind, it is time to go.

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