Should you teach English in Korea? A 10 question quiz to help you find out

Author’s note: this post is dedicated to the wonderful readers that aren’t in Korea yet, but have been thinking about coming to teach English in Asia. For those readers already in Korea, do the time warp back to before you came to Korea – I’d be interested in hearing your scores as well.

OK, admit it. You’ve been on the fence for awhile now, and you’ve thought that teaching English in a foreign country might be kind of fun. Still a job, but fun. Take it from a guy that’s doing it – there’s a lot more to it than being an Education major or being good with kids. Your entire lifestyle will change, pure and simple. To see if you’re ready for those changes – and to see if you’re cut out for this line of work – take the quiz.

Find a pen and paper – or just open up Notepad on your computer. Without further ado:

1: It’s a Friday night. You’ve been visiting a friend in a city about two hours away from where you live, and the night is young. What are you doing with him/her?

A – exploring the nightlife, one bar or club after another
B – updating your Facebook on a borrowed WiFi connection
C – going to a restaurant your friend has heard about
D – calling other friends to see if they can come
E – looking for the new Italian restaurant you read about

2: You just won a free round-trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world – but you have to use it this weekend. The prize is void after that. What is the first thought that enters your head?

A – “I’ve already wanted to go to Europe…”
B – “If I combine this with my frequent flier miles…”
C – “But I have to work this weekend…”
D – “Is this transferable to another person?”
E – “I’ve been meaning to catch up with my grandfather…”

3: You just won a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world – but you have to use it this weekend. You had made plans to go out with your three best friends. What do you do?

A – tell your best friends you’ll catch up next weekend
B – see if your best friends want to come along
C – sell the ticket on craigslist – friends come first
D – “I’ve been meaning to catch up with my grandfather…”

4: You find yourself trapped in an elevator with five kids, aged 5 to 14 years old. Their mother profusely apologizes because she can’t keep them quiet. It’s going to be at least half an hour to get rescued. What do you do?

A – Stare at your watch for the next 1,800 seconds
B – Find that pair of earplugs in the bottom of your bag
C – Try to entertain the kids using whatever you have around you
D – Pull out your iPod Touch / iPhone and let them play with that
E – Claw at the doors and breathe heavily, feigning claustrophobia

5: Your greatest wish in life is…

A – To help people
B – To make lots of money
C – To enjoy life
D – To cure cancer
E – To travel
F – Assistant manager at McDonald’s

6: A recruiter has responded to an e-mail you sent about a teaching position you found interesting. The school director will call you in two days for an interview, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the job. What is first question you ask the school director?

A – How much does this job pay?
B – How many hours a week do the teachers work?
C – What are the students like?
D – Is it OK that I don’t have a TOEFL certification?
E – Where exactly is the school?

7: Two suitcases and a carry-on is what you’ll take with you. What are you packing?

A – my entire wardrobe
B – a slightly pared-down version of my wardrobe
C – about as much that will fit under the weight limit
D – a few pairs of pants, a few shirts…
E – the clothes on my back – I can buy everything there!

8: You’re already late to a meeting with your friends when you come across a couple that obviously isn’t from around here. Their English leaves a lot to be desired, but you think they’re trying to find a local tourist attraction. It’s only a 10 minute walk from where you are. What do you do?

A: Hurriedly give some directions to the tourist attraction and get on your way.
B: Find the nearest city map and point to the place.
C: Call / hail them a taxi and tell the driver where to go.
D: Offer to take them there.
E: Act as though you’re a tourist as well.

9: One of your college buddies, an international student, invites you to enjoy some homemade delicacies from their home country. You accept, and upon arriving your plate holds a strange black vegetable that looks like it’s still moving, some shredded spicy-looking red things, and a mushy purple stew. It looks about as appetizing as last month’s leftovers, and smells even worse. Your host has already started digging in. You:

A – Choke it down ever-so-politely, silently vowing never to return
B – Jokingly ask what the heck this stuff is
C – Claim to be a vegetarian and ask if he has any fruit
D – Give the strange stuff a chance
E – Push it around and make it look like you’ve tried it


10: Foreign language classes in high school and / or college – how did you do?

A – Not my favorite class(es), but I passed them
B – Did great in them, but don’t remember much from them
C – I actually never used it outside of class
D – One of my favorite classes
E – I can still remember some of the lectures

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Don’t look below until you’ve answered all the questions.

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1: A: 3 B: -3 C: 3 D: -1 E: 5

A and C are both good choices – going out and enjoying the scenery is a sign you’ll make a good
expat. You could update your Facebook at home, however (B), and waiting too long for friends (D) may take away from having fun with whomever you’re with. E assumes a personal responsibility for the trip – you’re proactively planning yourself, not pawning the planning off on your friend.

2: A: 3 B: 5 C: -1 D: 3 E: 3

You’ll be amazed how often your plans will change while abroad. While C shows you’re responsible, opportunities and prizes like that don’t come along very often. A, D, E are all opportunistic responses, but B combines the opportunity with your personal resources.

3: A: 2 B: 5 C: 3 D: 0

Inviting your friends (B) is better than losing an opportunity (C) or abandoning them (A). Choosing your grandfather over your three best friends (D) just because you got a free plane ticket? Not the best use of the opportunity – or the best treatment of your friends.

4: A: -2 B: -2 C: 5 D: 3 E: -5

This is a sneaky way of asking how you deal with kids. Both A and B do nothing to help the situation, while E only makes things worse. Surprisingly, C is what you’ll find yourself doing on a regular basis as a teacher; D is a decent, but somewhat hands-off approach.

5: A: 4 B: 2 C: 4 D: 2 E: 4 F:-10

There’s really no wrong answer here, except F. If that’s your greatest wish in life, stop right now and go back to flipping burgers. For the rest of you, A, C, and E got more points because those are the things you’re likely to do as an English teacher. Want to make lots of money (B) or cure cancer (D)? You’ll make better use of your time doing something else – teaching English probably won’t help those ambitions much.

6: A: 2 B: 2 C: 5 D: -2 E: 2

Both A and B were presumably part of the original job description. If they weren’t, it’s better to review the description or ask the recruiter than during an interview. C gives the school director a chance to brag a bit, and shows you care about that element of the job. D may raise doubt about your ability to do the job, while E can also be answered by the recruiter.

7: A: -5 B: 3 C: 5 D: 2 E: -5

Either extreme (A or E) is a bad move. Packing a bit more or bit less (B or D) is better, but erring on the side of ‘too much’ (C) is better than not enough. This goes double if you’re differently-sized than the locals – some things may be hard or impossible to find. Men, if you’re larger than a 36 waist, stock up before coming; Ladies, bring bras if your cup size starts with C, D, or anything larger.

8: A: 3 B: 2 C: 4 D: 5 E: 0

Kindness and karma go a long way.

9: A: 2 B: 1 C: -3 D: 5 E: -1

There is plenty of weird food in Korea – while your hosts may understand your hesitance, being gracious of whatever is offered the best approach almost anywhere in the world. Assume that if the locals are eating it (and they look reasonably healthy) it probably won’t kill you. There’s something different to be said about the tap water across the world, but Korea’s water won’t kill you either.

10: A: 2 B: 2 C: 0 D: 4 E: 5

Learning Korean isn’t required for teaching English in Korea – but it’s a different story when you’re not at work. If you didn’t like learning them in school, you might like learning them now that you’ll really need it. Necessity is often the reason for really learning a new language.

OK, time to total up your points:

Below 0: enjoy the pictures and live vicariously through the blog, because teaching English is probably not in your future.

1-10 points: it sounds like you’re interested in getting out of your current situation, but you need some more worldly practice or experience. Consider getting out there more and enjoying everything this world has to offer.

11-25 points: An average score – you could probably make it work, but keep learning before sending off those resumes.

26-35 points: Sounds like you’re on the right track – if you haven’t submitted your applications yet, get started. Check out your local Korean restaurant when you get the chance and take a look at hangeul when you get the chance.

36-49 points: You can handle new situations on the fly and have probably already tried kimchi - you’re ready to go. Buy you a beer when you get here :)

50 points: You’re lying – there’s only 49 points maximum. Go back and re-total, you over-achiever.

Teach English in Korea requires more than just the ability to speak English. It’s not even about teaching experience, either. Being open-minded, willing to try new things, and being able to make stuff up as you go are just as important. Being able to adjust and adapt to what life may throw at you is as important as the social graces and diplomacy needed to handle the rougher spots.

Creative Commons License ⓒ Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.

4 Comments

  1. you forgot to ask how someone would handle being a victim of racial discrimmination or assualted, raped…. let’s keep it real ~ we dont know how many are victimized, as the general rule is to fire & deport.

  2. I scored pretty well in the end. I even tried to answer it in the frame of mind I was in before I went over, since I’m considerably more open minded and travel obsessed due to my time there.

  3. I score a 26! Woohoo, just made the cut.

    Fun quiz, I’ll have to try and make one sometime.

  4. Should people come to Korea to teach English? No, they shouldn’t I want a more favorable market. Stay in America, Canada, New Zealand, England, South Africa, or Australia and learn a skill. Coming here will only get you about 1.8 million won a month, that’s like $1500 – management material for McDonalds – The less people here will make wages go up.