Korean Lifestyle: Getting Personal with Coworkers
When I arrived in South Korea, I didn’t really have any expectations of how my work life would be. I had never taught before, so I had nothing to reference to Korean lifestyle. Before coming to Korea, I worked as a retail manager for a fairly large store. The store had roughly 50 employees, and out of those 50 I made friends with two people. I never hung out with my co-workers or got to know them in any intimate nature. We never had dinner or met for happy hour. We weren’t even Facebook friends.
Coming to South Korea has opened my eyes to a very personal relationship amongst my co-workers.
To start, most of the teachers in Korea live in an apartment complex that is located on school grounds or near the school. Most of the time, the teachers have to room with other teachers. Not only do they live together and work together, but they choose to hang out with each other outside of school. It is not unusual for your co-workers to invite you for dinner, or even to stay at their family home.
I find this whole experience very refreshing. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with most people, so shouldn’t we take the time to get to know them?
During my surgery, my co-workers knew very intimate details about my body. In America, my boss would have known I was going for surgery and that’s about it. She would not have even stepped foot in the hospital to visit me. As a school, we all get together monthly to have teacher dinners, or have getaways to do something cultural. Again, I worked at my previous job for two years and I went to eat with my boss once.
I find this whole experience very refreshing. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with most people, so shouldn’t we take the time to get to know them? I think it makes for a more cohesive working unit. However, the big difference here is that most teachers live away from their families during the week, so their co-workers are their family.
During my surgery, my co-workers knew very intimate details about my body. In America, my boss would have known I was going for surgery and that’s about it.
As a guest English teacher, it makes it easier to adapt to your new culture, it allows you to have a built in network. During my first week here, I got invited to a fellow Korean teachers home for dinner. It was the perfect way to be introduced to Korean culture. My friends have very similar stories of bonding and forming relationships with there co-teachers. I have friends who have gone to women saunas with their fellow teachers. There are no boundaries.
The willingness to bond and have friendships doesn’t just extend to the workplace. I have regular dinners with my landlord and her family, my next-door neighbors, feeds me and helps me with my laundry. I never knew any of my neighbors in America or even who my real landlord was.
At my next job, I would like to implement some of the things I have experienced here.
Korean Lifestyle: Getting Personal with Coworkers, top photo by Unsplash.