Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Living in Korea is a little bit like living in a bubble, surrounded by people who call themselves “yellow” – and I’m not a racist. My students actually call themselves “yellow” people! I live a homogenous country and stick out like a sore thumb, but thankfully there are other people with me in my little bubble. There is a strong foreigner presence, here in South Korea, made up of mostly English teachers all over the country, and of course the 28,000 American soldiers stationed here as well. There are other waygookin (the Korean world encompassing all foreigners) here as well; university professors, journalists, engineers, etc. But the bubble, or the “yellow submarine” as I have just coined it in this blog post, of English teachers is definitely its own subculture.
Trekkies, Hell’s Angels, hackers, swingers, gamers, bodybuilders…step aside. English teachers in South Korea is a subculture force to be reckoned with. All the native English teachers love to exchange lesson plans, commiserate on dealing with life in a foreign country, and share funny stories about students (seriously, they are never ending). Below is just one of many hilariously on-point videos people have made about teaching English in Korea. It’s nearly impossible to sit in silence with another English teacher for very long. First of all, we are all generally naturally outgoing; you have to be in this profession. Second of all, as I just mentioned, we all have 3 very easy conversation-starters upon meeting one another. We create hilarious YouTube videos about our interactions with Koreans, we have extensive websites to share lesson plan ideas (visit waygook.org if you’re interested!), and of course we all love to hang out in Seoul on the weekends. We read endless blog posts about upcoming events, constantly hoping for a visit from a familiar western music group.
I also want to be clear: the Waygookin in Korea do step out of our bubble often. Many, many people date Koreans, have Korean friends, go to dinner with their co-workers, etc. This is just a general description of the “bubble.”
Just for fun…I taught my students “Yellow Submarine” in my pop music lesson. Would you define The Beatles as pop? Yes? No? Maybe? Discuss amongst yourselves. But I don’t think there is any question about how wonderful these ladies are. (I had to give them candy in exchange for permission to film!)