Five Awkward Things I Do Now…After Teaching In Korea

All things considered my adjustment into teaching in the United States has been rather easy. However, being what is called a third culture kid and now a third culture adult, culture around me has always been a focal point. There are just some strange moments that happen because my brain automatically short-circuits to think like one culture over the actual one I am living in, here are some of the weird moments.

1. In Korea, writing a name in red is cursing them to death.
So even though it isn’t a bad thing in America, I still spend extra time finding a black or blue pen before I write a students name. One day my students were writing on the board and one student wrote another student’s name in red and I worried for a split second before my brain caught up with the culture I was in.

2. We just had parent teacher conferences.
In Korean culture it is normal to show both hands when shaking hands or handing things over to another person (It is respectful). I caught myself many times placing my left hand on my right elbow when shaking parent’s hands. I am sure they didn’t notice or thought I had a weak arm or something but I noticed multiple times.

3. Accepting gifts from parents.
A parent, at the parent teacher conferences,  handed me a coffee gift card. I took it and said “thank you” but once she left I turned to my department head and asked, “Am I allowed to accept gifts?”. See in Korean society accepting gifts for your work is like accepting a bribe. So I was worried that I would get into trouble for accepting the card. My department head joked that I should give it to her but then told me I could of course accept gifts.

4. Confusion by all the trust that is given to me.
Of course this is school by school in both countries, but at my current school the trust us with so much (like supplies, lesson plans, getting work completed ect). At my school in Korea there was hardly any trust even after working with them for three years. As my friend pointing out it is as thought I have post traumatic stress syndrome from my school in Korea. I am always asking my new school, “Is this okay?” “Can I do this?” “Should I turn this (insert pretty much everything I can think of) in?”. My new co-workers and bosses are awesome and are always patient with me as I am still adjusting to the school’s culture.

5. Circling right answers.
In Korea you circle right answers on assignments. After three years I now do that. In the United States you don’t do that. It panics my students every time to see all that red on a page. However, they are getting use to it. I actually like it. I circle right and dash wrong answers. I told my students now that I can learn their way again if they want me to. Once they remember that is how I grade they don’t care too much.

Overall, I am still adjusting to being back in America but after three years in another country, I think it will take longer than four months for me to forget the Korean teaching culture.





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