Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

The Awkward Hallway


Yesterday after school I was exhausted, went on a youtubing spree, and ended up watching all of season one of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” which is absolutely hysterical, and the “Awkward Hallway” episode got me thinking about my own awkward hallway. Which is to say, all the hallways at my school where I might run into people.

When you meet people, even in passing you should 인사 (insa: greet) them and bow. Not like, a colonial-style hand-in-the-front-and-knees-bent-like-a-fop-type bow, nor is it a complete 90 degree plank (well, unless it’s a more formal occassion than a happenstance hallway meeting), but nodding your head and a little bit of movement at your waist is generally fine.

You see, what makes this so awkward is that I’m the youngest teacher at my school, which means that I should greet people first when I see them. Now, this isn’t always the case, and some teachers will preemptively greet me (probably out of pity), but for the rest it’s like an awkward game of bowing chicken. 

When do I bow?-Where do I put my eyes?-We’re the only people in this hallway, is it rude to not make eye contact?-Is it rude to MAKE eye contact?-Oh god it’s like I’m staring her down.-Look away LOOK AWAY.-Oh no, now that teacher probably thinks that I’m being rude and not acknowleding her presence.-Look back.-Smile.-What an idiot she can’t see you smile from here.-Stop smiling.-Oh wait, you can see her mouth so she can see yours, so she just saw you stop smiling and look awkward.-Okay okay okay I’m just going to do it.


I should’ve waited, we’ve still got like half this hallway to go.-When I pass her do I bow again?-What on earth is the etiquitte for hallway bowing?- Oop here we go, aaaaand we’re passing.


Why did I do that?-Why did I say anything?-That was so awkward.-THAT WAS SO AWKWARD.-Well, at least I’m done-Oh.-Here comes another teacher.

AND repeat.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.