Sh*t My Students Say

During my 15 months of work at a “Nameless” English academy for adults in Seoul, I kept a secret detailed log of interesting tidbits from my students.  Some are interesting, some came as a shock, some were funny.  My students came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ranged from extremely conservative to progressive and liberal, came from many different walks of life, and were of all ages.

These are reconstructed from my notes in class, so it is not a verbatim account.  But I’ve tried to maintain the integrity of their points.  I also don’t intend for this to be a sweeping generalization of Koreans.  These are just some statements that struck me, and in no way am I insinuating that “all” or even “most” Koreans feel this way.</disclaimer>

Without further ado, here goes:


  • “I feel pressured to wear makeup all the time.  It’s like a courtesy to others.”
  • “I want to get a tattoo, but I want to get married, so I can’t.”
  • “If someone is born with an abnormal number of toes, it’s more common to have 6 than 4… I considered going to America with my wife after our son was born.  I was afraid that he couldn’t live a normal life without being teased in Korea for having a missing toe.”
  • “I’m seriously thinking about changing my habit of drunk driving.”
  • “In America, the southern part of every state or city has a lot of black people.”
  • “My parents gave birth to me, so they have the right to control what I do.”


  • “Koreans don’t have enough time to protest against the government; they’re too busy studying and working all day!”
  • “I think bosses want to create a ‘family’ atmosphere at work, so they feel more comfortable giving people extra work.”
  • “Networking means ‘how to be good at pretending to be connected with people.'”
  • “Marriage is seen as a matter of possession.  We should treat our spouse like they’re on a train platform.  Go in with no expectations, and know that they can leave or be free anytime.  Then we won’t take them for granted.”
  • “I don’t have an active imagination because I was taught not to.”
  • “I feel more nervous speaking in English in front of Korean people than native speakers.  Koreans have higher expectations, and they might correct my speaking mistakes.”


  • “If I were Native American, I would have named my first son Tear of Condom.”
  • [Lower-level male student in response to the question “What does it feel like to be drunk?”]  “I feel like bling-bling on the cloud!”
  • Q:  “Who is your favorite rap artist?”  A:  “Maroon 5!”

I plan to write more about the issues that came up in our classes, and the various discussions we had.   I always refrained from giving my own opinion during class, so I’ll use this blog to reflect and explore my own views too.

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