Elwood 5566

Not Perfect but Preferable

Posted in Comparative, Education, Korean children by 노강호 on December 9, 2011

Okay, I’m 56 this month and I’ll probably return to the UK late next year because I need to get a decent job that pays well before I’m too close to retirement. Unfortunately, that means teaching in a British school, a prospect that fills me with terror. I dread returning to Britain, not just because I find the place boring and the people aggressive and somewhat backward, but because I feel I am going home to die rather than going there to live. Britain, as quaint as it can be, as beautiful, has become a little like the Elephants’ grave yard.

The extensive classical CD selection in Daegu’s ‘Kyobo Books’

Britain on the one hand is rich in culture and London is an awesome city but as in so many cultural areas, its culturally void. Accessing the rich variety of British culture is both expensive and inconvenient. It’s one thing for a country to have a vibrant culture but not so great if it’s focused in a view places, thin on the ground, and expensive to access. Take going out for a meal: I eat out everyday in Korea mostly in a range of mid-standard restaurants and occasionally in fancy ones. In the UK, even on a fairly decent wage, eating out is expensive especially if you have a family. While there are plenty of fast food restaurants, and a few top-notch places, finding a decent middle of the road restaurant is difficult. In Korea, there is a restaurant on every street corner in even the smallest towns whereas my village in the UK has 3 restaurants, all small and expensive to serve a community of 55.000 people.

My local rose park. In the UK, such parks are locked at night because of vandalism

In terms of sport, patriots will boast about British prowess but the reality is that while there are excellent facilities in key locations, elsewhere facilities are poor. For example, Colchester, UK, population 155.000, has one mediocre swimming pool and no outdoor swimming facility. Further, it has no concert hall and hence you can’t see the ballet or opera, or a big pop concert. While it does have a decent theater, there’s only one. However, there are hundreds of bars and clubs to get sloshed in, mostly pumping out pop music accompanied by enormous plasma screens and juke boxes. And when you’re pissed and staggering you can lurch to any number of greasy cheap fast food places and then take an expensive taxi home. This pattern, is a major lifestyle for a great number of Brits. Yes, I know not everything is doom and gloom in the UK but my point is that if you want to eat in a decent restaurant every day, possibly twice a day, and do things, it is going to cost you! And then there’s the violence, crime, vandalism and the hordes of a what constitutes a drongo underclass that dominate the streets. Britain is not a nice country and if you think it is you are blinkered. In all my years in Korea I have never walked into an environment in which I felt threatened or intimidated but in my rather small hometown (Colchester), there are places I wouldn’t want to be even in broad daylight. And the rather nicer village in which I live nonetheless feels like a sanctuary protected by the fields and a university which separate it from less savory areas and less savory people.

‘Smart’ street information. Another Korean facility that would be wrecked by vandals in the UK

Going back to the UK is a massive step down in terms of lifestyle, cultural opportunities and quality of life and even the massive hike in terms of pay can’t compensate for living in an expensive, insular little enclave surrounded by a cultural wilderness. My home town has a crappy library designed to appeal to the towns large population of drongoes, a couple of small bookshops, no shops which specialise in classical music and apart from bars and restaurants and sport, there is little else to do. I find it hard to imagine life without PC bangs, multi bangs, singing rooms, health centers, bathhouse, jjimjil-bang, stationery stores, coffee shops, medical clinics, dentists, opticians, hospitals, taekwondo, hapkido and comdo schools, cheap taxis and the rich variety of restaurants. So much of British life and British culture is the product of a  large drongo population. We are denied so many facilities or social niceties as the scum elements we tolerate ruin them. My local town has a rather attractive public garden but it has to be locked at night because the bowls green and gardens are regularly vandalised and when resident swans pair up and produce cygnets, they are killed by local yobs.

A public bicycle pump facility (and free). Another facility British drongoes would smash

Going back to the UK sucks and I dread it! There is no doubt if I was younger I would consider buying a property here and settling long-term.

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©박민수 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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6 Responses

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  1. Joshua Junmo Cho said, on December 9, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Hope you find a satisfying enough (both financially and mentally) job back in Britain.
    This post definitely made me see things in perspective.
    I’ve lived most of my life in Daegu, even though I’ve been here in Seoul for years, and didn’t really appreciate the city as much as I should, always complaining and moaning at the smallest things whilst idealizing the perfect-but-doesn’t-really-exist life in cities of some of the developed countries, London.
    Come to think of it, I was a bit taken aback quite recently when ITV and BBC (and i’m sure many of other news outlets) went absolutely over-the-top apes**t about two new pandas imported to Birmingham Zoo from China, covering even the minute details. Now that I see this post, I’m thinking it might have to do with some of your points.. or not.
    Anyway, a good read for sure, cheers. 😄

  2. Luis said, on December 10, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Hello my dear friend, why don’t you come to Zurich?

    • 林東哲 said, on December 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      I tried telephoning you last week but your number no longer seems to work.

  3. Alex H. said, on December 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    That’s sad to hear. I hope you find something that makes it worthwhile. I’ve found that blogging about a place has forced me to look harder for the beauty in the small things. You seem to have done that with this site. I hope you can take that back with you and see Britain with the same eyes you saw Korea with.

  4. thesupplanter said, on January 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    What about international schools in Korea? Surely with your qualifications, experience and language skills it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibilities? If not Korea, then you’d certainly get something in China. Speaking of which, as I’m now living in China, I can tell you that even here you’ll miss a ‘life without PC bangs, multi bangs, singing rooms, health centers, bathhouse, jjimjil-bang, stationery stores, coffee shops, medical clinics, dentists, opticians, hospitals, taekwondo, hapkido and comdo schools, cheap taxis and the rich variety of restaurants.’ I know I do. I’ve found China strangely anemic compared to Korea.

    I’m in the UK (Leicester) now for a short visit. I’m quite enjoying it in certain regards, but yes, much longer than a couple of weeks and many of the reasons you list as negatives would become more apparent. I wouldn’t teach here unless it was a grammar, public school or at university. Everything else is too ghastly to even consider.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on January 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

      Hey, nice to hear from you again. Hope all is well? I actually taught in one of Korea’s most prestigious international schools. It was an easy life and the students fantastic but management treated you as a total outsider. I was told I couldn’t have an internet connection in my one room and they took won from you at every opportunity. If you were ill or had a problem you were made very aware that if it lasted you be dispensed with as easily as they chuck out the aging rice cooker. Great job, big holidays but I was simply a tool. I now work in a friend’s hakwon and though the teaching, hours, and holidays are not as good, though they pay is better, I feel I belong and if I were to have a problem, they are only to happy to help.

      Have a great time at home. Leicester? Mmm, isnt that the home town of that colourful naughty boy Joe Orton?


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