As I'm writing this, still in Galway, I'm watching the Rugby World Cup Final. After that I'm going to see the new Bond film (Spectre) in the cinema. Might be my last splash of Western culture for a while. Ultimately though, probably not. From what I've learned so far of the TEFL community, we have a natural tendency to try and live out our Western or Anglosaxon norms wherever we go. I'm all for cultural integration. Some of the highlights of my first year in Spain were the nights I would only hang out with Spanish people; learning to think as fluently as possible in an entirely different language is an interesting experience. I threw myself in at the deep end in terms of only having native friends, and it paid off dividends for my cultural and linguistic integration. Returning to Andalucía as a TEFL teacher though (this time to the beautiful, if not huge, seaside and surf town of Cádiz), I didn't overwhelm myself with attempts to assimilate to their way of life. On the contrary, I embraced a wonderful, proactive group of TEFL friends almost entirely composed of Irish and English people, and together we shared in a year of trying to improve our dodgy surfing, being complete beach bums, hiking Andalucían hillsides and brilliantly hedonistic nights out. In my own defense, this was partly due to the fact that I already spoke the language; while I only improved it a little, I was able to call on it whenever I needed.
Korea, then, will be a somewhat different experience. I won't be able to fall back on Spanish to instruct students, and I'll feel even more communicatively inept than I did when I first moved to Seville in 2012. I would expect that my group of friends will be almost exclusively comprised of other expats (as of yet I have no idea what the general level of English is among Korea's 20-30 year olds), and the culture shock will be far more significant. I'm sure there of lots of things to learn about how different the Korean headset is to that of a European.
I arrive neatly then, at the name of my blog. I felt if I had named it "An Irishman In Korea" I would have been adding to a series of "An Irishman in..." blogs which presumably already exist. Furthermore, I don't really feel like being Irish is one of my defining characteristics. If travelling and living in Spain have taught me anything, it's that you meet like-minded people most places you go. And for every person you really click with, you meet 20 with whom you don't. While the Irish share a sense of humour with the British (and that can be a significant factor in who you befriend), it's not my nationality that's going to define my experience in Asia. It might be my continent though, or that I'm a "Westerner". Instead of defining that though (because really, who cares), I'll give a brief introduction to myself (in the off-chance that you don't already know me).
My name is Eoin, at the time of writing I'm 24, I'm a languages student, a passionate Guardian-reading leftie, a keen musician, inescapably middle class, a spirited atheist and secularist, a bad surfer, a good yogi, and I'm lucky enough to be able to move to South Korea for what will presumably be a year.
I'm not sure to what extent I'll update this blog. If I don't have a lot to say, I won't say anything. If I do, you'll find a perhaps somewhat censored version of it here.