Doper advice for a successful life: Go teach English in Asia!

I’ve noticed this time and again. Someone will post about how their life sucks so much, they can’t find a job, they have no idea what to do with themselves, how frustrating it is to live in their parents’ basement, they have lousy social skills, whatever, and then some Doper will come and advise sagely, “Go forth and teach English in Asia.”

This, frankly, frustrates me. You know what? If the person was interested in teaching, they would have tried subbing or teacher training or whatever you guys call it in the States. The last thing we need here in Asia is people who don’t care about teaching doing a completely half-assed job. Asian students are not your life therapy.

This is not a rant, more of a tired sigh. It just bugs me that people with no training or motivation should come down here and start teaching. Does it happen all the time? Sadly, yes. But should you ask every random yahoo to go do it because they fail at life at home? I really don’t think so.

This is obviously a commentary based on multiple threads I’ve read here. (I don’t plan to link any threads or posts, because I really don’t like pointing fingers.) I have nothing against the OPs generally because they’re clearly in difficult life situations, whether of their own making or not. I’m talking, instead, to the people who dole out this advice as though everyone is capable of teaching half-decently.

Please, just go advice them to try teaching within their local system first, okay?

Hmm…this needs to be either in IMHO or the Pit. Could someone move this, please?

IMHO it is.

I feel similarly annoyed when people suggest that unsuccessful and unhappy people join the Peace Corps. There was a recent thread about an unmotivated community college student who played video games all day, and what could his father do to help him out? Someone suggested Peace Corps. Fortunately, someone else pointed out within a couple posts that Peace Corps requires a college degree or a great deal of practical experience, but it kind of burns me up that people (and I’m referring not just to the SDMB, but also to general references in popular culture) think that PC is some kind of easy way out and/or some kind of magical way to provide bored young people with motivation. The truth is that getting into Peace Corps is a competitive and really complicated process, and it’s very tough mentally, as well as sometimes physically. It just bugs me that some people think it’s like some kind of key to a journey of self-discovery, or some shit. Yeah, living and working in another country for two years is really eye-opening and can be a life-changing experience, but it’s not going to magically change who you are and I seriously doubt it’s going to give a purposeless drifter some kind of meaning in life.

Unfortunately, Asian schools will also have to stop taking any idiot that comes there way for it to stop being decent advice about how to earn some money quickly, get out of your hometown, and have an exotic vacation at the same time. I have several friends who have done it and none have worked very hard at all. (They did all genuinely like the kids, though.) The last thing I heard was that Korean schools were going to start taking people who had community college diplomas as well as university degrees, and people for whom English wasn’t the first language. I have no idea if that’s accurate, but it sounds like they’re happy to take all the directionless warm bodies that come their way.

For what it’s worth, the two people I know well who went to Korea got exactly what they wanted out of it - they put down a good chunk of money on their student loans and went back to school for professional degrees afterward. They also did seem to benefit from getting away from their problems for a year or two, though I can’t say that for sure. They were not, however, people who spent all day playing video games and getting high - they had just finished university and were considering changing directions, and needed a way to pay the bills while thinking about it and making applications. Hardly the truly directionless and lazy.

Don’t look at me! I wouldn’t recommend teaching in Asia to my worst enemies.

It is true that there are enough half-educated, unmotivated losers looking to get laid here as is. The quality of people who make it out here often leaves a lot to be desired, and unfortunately a lot of their conduct reflects very badly on our culture. However, it’s also true that the schools keep hiring them. Where I live wages are around $500 USD a month and living conditions are poor. You just aren’t going to get the cream of the crop that way.

And, well, for a lot of these losers it probably is a good time. I think it’s disgusting and embarrassing. But it is true that the beer is cheap, the girls are cute and there is money to be made around every corner. It’s true that even very unattractive and socially awkward guys have an easy time finding very attractive girlfriends who fawn over them, getting invited to parties, and making money. For a loser man, it can be paradise, assuming that you don’t feel bad about doing a crappy job and making your country look bad.

I think a lot of people making these suggestions are looking at it from that perspective. Go to Asia and you’ll get laid. And it isn’t not true. If that is your goal, it actually is good advice. Anyway, just another reason why I’m definitely not staying here.

Kyla, I feel you on the Peace Corps thing. Peace Corps changed my life and I’d absolutely recommend it to a bright motivated person in a rut or a person who just isn’t quite sure how to get a career going. It can really kick-start your life out of college and I can’t say enough good things about it.

But for someone who is depressed it’s probably the worst thing they could do. And Peace Corps is somewhat competitive and won’t even take complete losers. It’s a professional organization that does a lot of good and very difficult work. The people who end up do joining are often the future leaders of NGOs and future state department go-getters. And yet it still has the “two year vacation” stigma.

Hey, the guy who taught me company-mandated English for Business in Philadelphia was a Brazilian whose first language was Korean…

The worst ESL teachers I’ve had were all native speakers. There was the one from Kansas who used double negatives constantly; none of them could identify the direct and indirect objects in a sentence. Being a native speaker of a language qualifies you to take part in conversation groups but, in spite of what language schools insist in believing, it does not qualify you to teach it. Specially not when you’re the product of a school system which apparently does not pay a lot of attention to teaching grammar.

It’s still an existing “get some work experience and see the world” possibility.

hmm, well it worked for me. I like to think that I’m not the profile that Even Sven highlighted, which is all too often the case though.

I mean, I did have 2 years of University level chinese under my belt before I first went to Taiwan and did the teaching gig for a year when I was an undergrad. Changed my life in so many ways since it was my first time outside of the Western US.

My first German teacher was Croatian! But what I meant was that the standards were already very low - university degree in anything, with any results, and being a native English speaker - and then they apparently lowered them some more. It doesn’t speak of the school authorities being concerned about the numbers of underqualified losers flooding into the country.

If they were concerned about ensuring grammatical knowledge of English (which they really don’t seem to worry about - all the people I know ended up playing games with small children, not teaching grammar) they would require training in ESL or at least English.

I can’t find the thread (it would be from many, many years back) but wasn’t there a poster who had an extremely bad time getting paid their promised contract amount as a foriegn national teaching English in a school in an asian country (I don’t remember which country)? I remember the thread being many pages long.

I could have sworn that the poster had indicated that it was only after he/she got there and had started work that he/she had found out that getting paid less than promised at that school was the norm. Also, that it had not only happened to them, but to person there before them as well (another a foriegn national). There might have even been comments about them hearing the exact same original promises gushed from the bright-eyed foriegn national innocent he/she was training as the replacement teacher during the OP’s 2-week notice period.

*Only brought up because I always thought I thought the “Go teach English in Asia” meme was just an allusion to that old thread saying in other words, “You think you got it bad? Go jump into this tree-shredder & try to come out with $0.10 on the promised dollar.”

I think it was Paul in Saudi (now Qatar) who was attempting to directly petition the king because his contracted wages weren’t paid.


Well excuse me for caring and not assuming the guy’s a total screwup.

Yes, there are a lot of idiot teachers out there, but there are some good ones, too. If I feel a guy sucks socially and drinks to relieve the pressure, hell no, I won’t recommend going to Asia to teach. That way lies damnation. But the times I have done it, there was nothing to indicate the guy was fundamentally messed up that way. He was just in a rut. That can happen to anybody. It happened to me, and I had to join the army to get out of it, and I would rather see the guy teach English in another country than go that route these days.

As far as subbing in the states? Maybe in your state, but in other states including mine, if you didn’t have a background in education, guess what? It ain’t gonna happen, certainly not in a recession.

And just because there are lazy drunk teachers out there, so what? Does that mean they guy I talk to has to turn into a lazy drunk teacher? Maybe they can learn to adapt and overcome, which will help them when they get back to the states with more money and better experience than anything they’re going to find in America with just a bachelor’s degree. Shit, I have a masters degree, and I doubt I could find a better job than the Korean teaching job I currently hold.

Teaching English in Asia is harder than it sounds, and you have to watch out for con men, and no, some people just aren’t cut out for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad job for everyone or even most people. It might benefit some people. The people I’ve made that recommendation to were stuck in their own headspace and too close to the problems at hand. I’d say that getting out of the continent might be just the thing, especially if they’re young, reasonably healthy, and unattached. If they’ve got health or mental problems, of course they shouldn’t go, but if they don’t, and they’re reasonably well socialized . . . Well, why shouldn’t they take a year to see if they can hack it?

I think there are two good intentions behind the suggestion:

  1. One of the best ways of getting away from your own problems is to help someone else with theirs. Serve. Because a lot of what’s wrong with us is the result of too much self-reflection, too much ruminating, too much emphasis on what we couldn’t / didn’t / should have done. Focus on someone else for a change, you’ll most likely find out you’re not as bad as you thought.

  2. Change of scenery often works. The Journey is a literary tradition, is it not? Going on the road to seek your fortune? Only it’s hard to pull it off without a job.

Heck, in Gone With the Wind, set in the 1860’s, Margaret Mitchell talks about the tradition of teenagers being sent to live with relatives for a while when they had reached “the danger age” without finding a spouse in their own town (or had found one that was unacceptable).

In terms of those employers’ struggles, or complaints by the students - tit for tat, baby. I had plenty of TA’s in Cincinnati in 1984 who couldn’t speak a lick of English and more (foreign or not) who weren’t especially cut out for teaching. So what? We can’t send our best teachers to Asia for ESL, we need those teachers in our schools for EPL! There’s a shortage you know.

People are always advising others to join the military if they have no direction in life and can’t find a job. Well, there’s something to be said for that, but it involves making a big sacrifice with regard to your personal freedom, and potentially being in harm’s way in a combat zone.

Taking one of these English-teacher jobs in Asia is a hell of a lot less dangerous, much less of a commitment, and more flexible in terms of personal freedom, with the added benefit of being able to experience a different culture, work with kids who are actually well-behaved and studious instead of the willfully-ignorant and cruel little bastards that Teach For America might stick you with in some inner-city slum. And yes, an American man in Asia will have many more opportunities with women. What’s so bad about that? Don’t you realize how much someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence is improved if he’s getting laid on a regular basis?

And what’s the worst that could happen? It turns out you’re a bad fit for the teaching gig, and you go home. Whereas in the military, someone who’s incompetent is putting his own life and the lives of his platoon at risk.

I stand by my advice to the guy in that thread.

Its the liberal version of “join the army” - which right now isn’t great advice unless you want to get shot at.

Its forcing a life change. And a big life change. Its a kick in the pants. Stay home and volunteer in the U.S. and you aren’t challenged to leave your comfort zone. Its easy to quit. Leave the country and you are removing your easy access to a safety net. Teaching English in Asia is one thing that is relatively in demand that provides some sort of landing spot (income) outside of the country.

It certainly isn’t going to be workable advice for everyone. But I think that - if you can get in - working overseas for a few years when you are in your twenties (or thirties) is perspective changing. Teaching English, Peace Corp, military, missionary work (the last two less likely to get recommended around here) - whatever. And if you are sitting around whining that your life sucks, chances are a change in perspective will do you good.

Well it’s one thing if guys are out dating nice women of their own maturity level who are looking for the same thing.

It’s another to be trolling the college freshmen for girls spending the night away from home for the first time and are pretty convinced you love them and are going to marry them and support their parents any day now.

In my experience, we get a lot of the latter and little of the former. Especially since in China, it is virtually impossible to find an unattached woman older than college age. The foreign men here are nearly all either dating very young girls with the maturity level we’d expect from young high schoolers, or else they are dating scheming foreign-specialists who are in it for the money. Each comes with it’s own problems and each reflects badly on us all.

I hear people talk. They don’t say nice things. I’d like to say “hey, we really honestly aren’t just here to go after your womenfolk.” But we kind of are.

It’s nice you all get laid. I gotta live with the consequences.

(Yeah, I’m bitter. The guys here don’t go for foreign, and the foreigners are nearly all anti-social losers who couldn’t get a girlfriend in their own country, and in any case prefer pre-teen bodied women who still think Hello Kitty is the best thing ever.)

Sorry that came off harsh. I don’t think any of you are like that. I’m talking about my personal experiences with the people I know. Understandably, my particular area does not attract the best quality of people. A lot of stuff here just isn’t a good fit for me, but I shouldn’t let that bleed over into my assessments of other people.

But I’ll have you all know I am a size 7 and I have to shop at the fat ladies’ stores here. That part sucks.

I’ve never taught English in Asia or anywhere else. And I totally sympathize about how that job probably attracts a certain kind of dysfunctional male that you (the OP) would rather not have in your country.

But one should understand that most North American job boards for college graduates are inundated with advertisements from Asian schools. So part of the OP’s problem is caused by the Asian system, which will provide an English teaching job on a platter to anyone here who wants it.

No need to apologize. I see it a lot here too, and it aggravates the shit out of me, because I know that a lot of Koreans look at me and see those jerk-offs. I’m happily married and would not dream of hurting my marriage, but that’s not exactly something that the ordinary guy on the street can see right off the bat.

But that’s the thing. Not everyone teaching English overseas is out to do that. I would argue that we need more people like the poster in that other thread, who–despite his problems–seemed like a decent enough guy who might well get overseas and then turn his life around.

Whatever we advise or don’t advise, plenty of people will continue to come to Asia to teach English. Among those people will be a certain ratio of drunks, losers, and dipshits who think that places like Seoul or Shanghai are one big kegger. This is inevitable.

Frankly, I think we need more people like that other guy who was complaining that his life wasn’t going anywhere after all that hard work (A jerk-off wouldn’t make that complaint most likely, because he wouldn’t have worked that hard to begin with, and anyway, he probably wouldn’t care where his life was going as long as there was cheap beer available). A guy like that poster could get to Asia and do some good. Maybe change some minds and perceptions and make the jobs of the good teachers easier. Give him a chance to apply his brains to the task, and he can get stuff done. That’s one of the reasons I gave that advice. If I think a guy’s going to get to Asia and just fuck around, I won’t tell him to do that.

I have to disagree with this. I’ve been a full-time Americorps volunteer twice now, and I’ve found it every bit as difficult, or moreso, than when I lived and worked overseas. When you commit to something like Americorps NCCC, you’re agreeing to live and work in communities far away from your friends and family and your local culture. You’re placed in a team of strangers who either become your surrogate family or a major source of stress. You have to handle being with people who may not share your religion/upbringing/social status/life experiences 24 hours a day (I like to say it’s like being married to 8 people for a year). You sleep in cots, fill sandbags, and crawl under houses in 100+ New Orleans heat and humidity. There’s a lot of smart and motivated young people who quit or get kicked out because they just can’t hack it. There’s nothing that pisses me off more than when I tell people what I do and they say, “Oh, you’re taking a year off?” No, I’m taking a year ON.