Here we are again, English Teachers! Being picked on for our choices – whatever shall we do? There’s this theory that English Teachers are simply pushing back the deadline of adulthood by staying in South Korea or wherever. I’ve heard this multiple times and usually I brush it off but I saw a comment about English Teachers being ‘irresponsible’ by staying abroad and not coming back to their home country to work in a ‘real job’. You might think I’m reacting to negative comments and giving them energy (you would be correct) but I feel I must clarify. This is not to save my own face; if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I haven’t listened to anyone for a very long time. I’m writing this post because some people might not get the bigger picture and I’m going to paint it for you. I always feel that if we understand one another better – we might just be nicer.
Why are English Teachers teaching abroad?
1 – They enjoy it
This post could stop right here. It baffles me that this isn’t enough of a reason for people to stay. What if they simply love the country and enjoy the job? No, no. That is not enough for society. Humans must live as society wants.
2 – They’re paying off considerable debt
It’s no secret that the salaries in South Korea have a very large disposable income bracket and people often come here to save. Some people manage to pay off student loans or credit card debt without having to count pennies. Take three years of your life to pay off a sizable chunk? Absolutely. It’s more responsible for your mental health than getting further into debt by working an entry-level position you hate.
3 – They’re not sure of what to do next
This was 100% me when I first came here. I was 28 and at a loss because I hated what I was doing. South Korea gave me the breathing space I needed to take a timeout without becoming a financial burden on a loved one. I had tried so many things and nothing seemed to have clicked. By coming here and experiencing a stress-free existence, it allowed me to see my path a little clearer.
4 – They don’t fit into their home country
This is also me and I know my sister feels the same way. My home country has never felt like home and I’ve never fitted in comfortably. This is something I’ve become incredibly at peace with and understand that it’s no one’s fault – least of all mine. By going to live in different countries, you have the opportunity to find a new home, which is beautiful. We have the ability to pack up and move somewhere to start a new life. It still blows my mind.
5 – They’re supporting their families back home
This is more common than you think. Hard times come and go but often we need to make sacrifices. I’ve met several (awesome) individuals who are working here in order to send money home to help their elderly parents or even their kids. I find that incredibly selfless and responsible.
6 – They’re paying their way to their next step
This is my situation to an extent. I’m currently doing my Post Graduate Certification in Education and I’m paying for it at the same time. There is no way I’d be able to do this in South Africa but I can’t believe I’m going to graduate without a cent owed. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position.
7 – They want to grow as a person
It’s very rare that I find people who have never left home experience the growth that people abroad experience. I understand not everyone has the means to do it but then they shouldn’t be sitting at home judging. I saw this quote and it really stuck out to me:
“We’re in a time when setting up your own life is within your grasp. You can create what you want out of your own life.”
8 – They want a better quality of life
I remember sitting in my childhood bedroom at 28 writing a list of pros and cons about Korea. I’d also written out a monthly income vs expenditure list for both South Africa and South Korea. My salary in South Africa was extremely decent (for my age, gender, and position) and I couldn’t live a comfortable life. This totally depends on where you live and your spending habits, but for me – I couldn’t travel often on what I earned and live alone. Also, I was working horrendous hours and getting emails 24hours a day 7 days a week. The quality of my life was low and I can imagine this would be the case for others too. It’s not healthy to be in a constant state of stress and once you live a more carefree environment, it’s hard to go back. In Korea, I literally spend my free time traveling and exploring new parts of this country or even going abroad for the weekend. I cannot begin to express what living here has done for my mental health – a better quality of life has given me such peace.
9 – They are entrepreneurs
I’ve met a fair amount of start-up guys here who are teaching and then working on their side hustle. It’s the perfect environment for it as Korea has the fastest Internet and a very tenacious work ethic. I feel inspired here because you either see dozens of people working their asses off in the cafes or you see the elderly working out in the parks like they are 21 years old.
10 – They found their happy place
I want to finish with the most important one. It seems that people would often put public opinion over their own happiness and it breaks my heart. We are spinning around this earth until we die and that’s what we’ve got. Take the time, to be honest with yourself and place your body in a position that will make you happy.
I hope you learned something from this post and that you understand us strange folk a little better.