Office highlights

I have two students who pop into the teachers’ office every day to say hello and make small talk.
The first one has been chatting to me for most of the year. I’ve recently made a breakthrough as he’s finally remembering to greet me before diving into a story about his many interests/obsessions (trains, the FBI, zombies, Home Alone 2…).
I had a slow start with the second one. He comes in at the end of every day to fetch his class’s cellphones. He’d always greet me (in Korean) and I’d greet back (in Korean). He’d then tell me my Korean is very good. Because I’m a total dweeb, I started saying it to him, too. For some reason this became a thing. After several weeks of this mindless exchange, he got a little braver and started making basic small talk. His vocabulary is limited, although he manages to express himself well regardless. He’s been getting increasingly more confident and it’s been fun to hear him practice new expressions. He’d ask my co-teacher for translations when he got stuck.
When he asked me “How’s it going?”, I didn’t think much of it. But then he explained to my co-teacher that he learned it from me, because that’s how I greet him every day. Apparently he picked up on it some time ago and has been anticipating the perfect opportunity to use it. He was very proud of himself, and of course my heart swelled, too!
Now excuse me while I go learn some new informal greetings 🙂

Raging against the machine

Is that what I’m doing?

I have many pet hates, but on most days, there’s one that overpowers all the others.

Whatever happened to hello?


We live in a day and age of cyber communication. And as convenient as all that is, it seems we’ve lost our manners.

Before coming to Korea, I was teaching at a high school. I had endless problems with learners butting in when I was busy talking to someone else. At first I was so annoyed at their obvious disregard for anyone’s but their own immediate needs. It took me a while to realise that they probably had no idea they were being “rude” by traditional standards.

Waiting until “call-more time” is a thing of the past. Even before smartphones, applications like “mxit” made text-chatting a more convenient and affordable option. You could spend hours texting any number of people. No-one had to wait for you to finish your sentence before sharing their next thought.

And then, of course, there’s now, where just about everyone has a smartphone and just about every smartphone is equipped with every messenger app known to mankind. The result is that you’re in constant communication with, well, everyone. Conversation picks up and dies down as if the other person is sitting right there next to you.

The benefit of all this is that you don’t really have to wait until a time that’s convenient to both of you before starting a conversation. The downside is that people are so quick to grab their phones for just about anything, even while in the middle of a conversation with someone.

But now I’m just getting distracted. I sincerely dislike modern-day phone etiquette, mostly because, well, there isn’t any. Being in constant communication has its perks, though. As an expat, I’m especially grateful for my smartphone, as the time difference makes keeping in touch with people back home challenging at times, and now we get to squeeze in quick catch-ups all over the place.

And as convenient as all that is, what I really miss is for nothing more than just a good old-fashioned “hello” to accompany the first message of the day.


C’mon, use the damn word!