Teaching English in South Korea: Y.O.K.O. (You Only Korea Once)

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Teaching Location: Seoul, South Korea
Type of Teaching Job: Academy, Private Elementary School
Student Age Group: Kids
Monthly Salary: 2,400,000 won (~$2,200 USD)
Monthly Rent: 1,000,000 won (~$880 USD)
Living Arrangement: 1 bedroom apartment
Monthly Savings: 1,000,000 won or (~$900 USD)
Contract Bonuses: Airfare, Severance of one month pay, lunch/dinner, housing

Teaching English in South Korea - Blog Story by Lindsey Clifford

⋯ By Lindsey Clifford ⋯

“YOKO, YOKO!” My friends and I would shout this every time we tried a new experience in Korea. We all knew this was a special time in our lives and would be a year that would be full of adventure. I sit here writing this post shortly after I have signed on for my fourth year in Korea.

Turns out, you don’t only Korea once.

Baegun Lake, South Korea
Boating on Baegun Lake

Adjusting to Living and Teaching English in South Korea

Culture Shock

When I first arrived in Korea, I hated it. After traveling around Europe and South Eastern Asia, Korea isn’t too exciting on the surface. It’s a city that sprawls for miles, has no distinct skyline, has neighborhood names that are hard to pronounce, and is full of old men spitting on the street.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the food either which killed me. The people aren’t super friendly at first and all of the signs are in Hangul which looked like scribbles to me.

Food Selection and Aggressiveness

Over my years here, the things that I initially didn’t like about the city continue to be the things that I struggle with today. I’m not a big meat eater and the food here is very meat heavy. Korean BBQ is a go-to for most people but I always will stick to the tofu soup.

I’m still not used to how pushy of a culture it is either. You’re constantly being elbowed by grandmas and shoved by business men on the subway or pushed in line by children at the grocery store.

Urban Sprawl

Finally, the city is huge. And I mean HUGE! This is a love and a hate for me. There is always something to do or some new place to explore, but I have felt like I tend to travel to the same few areas.

I know this tends to happen wherever you live but I feel like I miss out on things I don’t even know about just due to the size of Seoul.

Seoraksan Mountain, South Korea
Hiking on Seoraksan Mountain

What I Love About Teaching English in South Korea

Love of Culture and People

I ended up staying in Korea because I fell in love. I fell in love with the city, the culture, the people, and the most amazing man. He taught me to look at everything I hated about Korea differently.

I also love the culture. I love how I get bowed to every morning by all of my students. I enjoying seeing young boys offer their seat on the subway to an older man who gets on or seeing people pay at a supermarket using both hands to show respect. I love watching the traditional guard changing at the royal palace and seeing girls walk around taking selfies in their traditional hanboks.

Busan, South Korea
My boyfriend and I in Busan


Korea has grown on me a lot in the past few years. I love how easy and convenient things are here. You can get all of your groceries delivered to you, most places are open 24 hours a day, and the country is easy to travel around because it’s so small. This is a country built off of pure convenience.


A final thing that I love here is the group of people you meet. There are people from everywhere here! It’s been so much fun learning not just about Korean culture but cultures all over the world. You meet such a wide variety of people and most people here are eager to get out and explore. It’s a really fun group of expats.

Korea has treated me well, very well. I have no plans on leaving anytime soon but I know one day that it’s going to be really hard to leave this country and its people behind.

Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon
With friends at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon

Contact Lindsey Clifford

Twitter: @lindsc1989
LinkedIn: Lindsey Clifford

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6 years ago

I love how you ended up loving Korea (the good and the bad). As humans, we always adapt to our environment which is a very good thing. 🙂

6 years ago

Hi, I really like how Lindsey reprted and shared her language and cultural story in Korea. I have been so lucky to travel around the world and experience new life form and meet new people everyday. However, Lindsey’s story is very impressive to read. I feel like I traveled there and got the same experiences as she did. Good luck Lindsey

6 years ago

Being that I lived and taught English in several countries and three continents before settling in China and opening up a language school, I can certainly relate to your culture shock. There are always things to celebrate about a new place and things that will continue to cause some discomfort even after several years. I’ve found that learning the language (that is, REALLY learning the language) helps the most in feeling at home wherever I go. Everywhere I taught I was always already ready to tackle the culture and the language. I have always chosen places based on which languages… Read more »

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