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Teaching in...Central & East Asia
Though East Asia is about the same size as Europe, it contains roughly twice as many people (about a quarter of the world’s population). This makes the region one of the most crowded places in the world. However, despite the close proximity to each other and their often interlinked histories, each country has maintained its own distinctly different language, charm and social fabric. Modern East Asia offers a variety of experiences, from the soaring towers and hectic life of Tokyo to the scenic village life in rural China. And for all the similarities, these are fiercely independent countries. As such, and probably like all neighboring countries, there is some animosity between the countries. But where rivalry exists between the leaders of these countries, pop culture amongst the youth is in many ways universal; Hello Kitty and Sony are crossing borders where politicians have failed. This is also the place of technical wizardry, where many of the world’s latest inventions first hit the streets.
With the exception of China, salaries in all of these countries are quite high, and although the cost of living is higher than in other parts of Asia, teachers are still able to save a great deal of cash if they choose to do so. A CELTA teacher in South Korea earns $1,500 to $2,500 a month while their counterparts in Japan can earn anywhere in the region of $2,000 to $5,000 a month. Life for the most part in East Asia and the big cities of China is busy and modern. However, though the metropolises of East Asia have seen a merging of their traditional cultures with Western culture, the way of life is still vastly different from that in America. Household comforts, though, have become more similar in East Asia to those enjoyed in American households.
Good jobs in East Asia will often arrange or provide flights, housing and health insurance for teachers and this should be inquired about during the interview. One major benefit of teaching in East Asia, aside from the friendly people and fascinating culture, is the great food and fairly healthy lifestyle (presuming you’re not out partying every night). Also, you’re rarely ever far from either beautiful beaches or stunning mountain views.
People, Culture & Politics
East Asia has an intensely vibrant culture, not least among the younger generation. Keeping up on the music andfashion scenes are very much a part of the lives of teenagers and young adults while their parents’ generation are much more conservative in their outlooks. East Asians can sometimes come across as xenophobic, though in polite circles people are more likely to refer to it as racial pride. There is definitely a lot of mixed feelings between the different Asian countries, and their intertwined histories have not always been amicable. Such animosity is rarely expressed towards Westerners who often receive preferential treatment, however. With the exception of China (and Hong Kong) all of these countries have some form of democracy.
- Many Chinese people do not openly express their opinions. You’d be unwise to take their silence as agreement.
- When you visit a home anywhere in East Asia you should always take a gift and it is customary to remove your shoes upon entering.
- Many of the cultures of East Asia are seniority-orientated and you should respect this as much as possible. Respect for elders is often expressed in language, but also in body language. In Korean, you have to choose between six verb suffixes to accord with the status of the person being addressed. Spanish has two, and English just one.
- Don’t feel obliged to gamble at the horse races in Hong Kong. This popular past-time is as much a chance to catch up with friends as to place bets on the horses.
- Take language lessons while you are in your host country as any effort to speak the language will be appreciated by the locals you meet.
- Japanese admire hard work and team focus, and while the younger generation is becoming more interested in hobbies, it is still the traditional values that bring recognition from an employer.
- Koreans present their business cards (as well as most things) with both hands, directly into the hands of the recipient. Do not simply put the card down on the table as this will offend.
Recruitment & Positions
A lot of recruitment for positions in East Asia is done either through direct applications to schools, replying to job ads or through agents. Because of visa situations, it is important to have a job secured before arriving. Teachers are able to move between jobs once they are in the country, though in some places this will result in a new work visa application. Teachers who go to East Asia looking for work will often find good jobs, though they may then need to leave the country and return again for their work visa to be activated (this is often called ‘a visa run’). Because positions are acquired from abroad, it is essential that teachers do their research. Teachers need to enquire about pay, housing, insurance, working hours, types of classes and flights before they leave. They should also ask for a copy of their contract before they commit. Online research into the town/city where the job is should also be done to avoid disappointment upon arrival.
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