Most of us know at least one person who moved to South Korea to teach English for a year. But what happens when the year is up?
For Stuart Scott, 53, that day has yet to come.
“At 53, I think . . . I’ll probably stay about six more years and then that would allow me to just retire.”
Scott lives in Jeonju, a city of about 650,000, and cites the tight-knit foreign community as its biggest draw.
Fellow Canadian expat and Jeonju resident Dave Van Breda said it was that community and the lack of job prospects in Canada that prompted him to return after his first contract.
Van Breda, 26, originally planned to spend just one year in South Korea, but couldn’t find an appealing job when he went home.
“None of the jobs were what I was looking for. I remember just lying in bed thinking how my paycheque was going to be chopped up and how I’d worked for maybe 30 hours a week in Korea and get paid $2,000 a month virtually tax free and I set a deadline for myself. If I hadn’t found a job by my birthday, I was going to actively apply for a job back in Jeonju.”
Finances aside, Van Breda had other motives. “The main reason why I’m staying here — I know it sounds corny — is the community.”
Outside of Jeonju, other expats have their own reasons for sticking around.
Valerie Paulo, 28, moved to Seoul from Montreal in March 2005. She completed two contracts, returned to Canada to get a teaching degree, and came back to Seoul yet again.
Native English speakers don’t need a teaching degree, but Paulo said one of the biggest benefits is the “good salary. I knew with a teaching degree you could get a better salary.”
Paulo said there are other advantages to teaching here. “One of the biggest factors is I love hugging kids, and in Canada you can’t hug a child. Here you can sit them on your lap and tell them it’s gonna be OK if they cry, and they run to you and hug you. Back home there’s so many laws it’s like you can’t even pat a kid’s head. I feel too restrained back home to be myself and be a teacher.”
Steph Davidson is a freelance writer in South Korea.