The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

#TRAVEL – SOUTH KOREA: THE DMZ

The North Korean way of life is perceived negatively throughout most of the western world, but many of us are equally fascinated by it. North Korea is located north of South Korea (SHOCK); the two countries have been separated since the 1950’s, and now a 150 mile long & 2 1/2 mile wide barrier runs between them. This barrier is known as the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone.

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Anybody visiting or living in South Korea (it’s highly unlikely you’ll see many South Koreans there though) can visit the DMZ as part of a tour. The majority of the tours depart from Seoul and most companies offer both morning and afternoon options.

When I visited in 2015, I used a company called VIP Tours. They were very helpful and provided a great service. I’d recommend them!

You can check them out here VIP TRAVEL

VIP Tours and most other DMZ Tour operators offer several different options, two of the most popular being:

1) DMZ TOUR

The cheapest and most common option allows you to visit several interesting places –

The Bridge of Freedom – A park full of statues and monuments, built to console the families of both the North and South Korean people.

Dora Observatory – From here you can look into North Korea. On a clear day, it’s very impressive.

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Dorasan Station – A brand new railway station built to connect South Korea and North Korea. However, in 2008 the North Korean government stopped the service accusing South Korean government of a confrontational policy. So now it stands empty.

DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall – Full of artifacts and information on the Korean war and the DMZ itself.

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The Third Infiltration Tunnel – My favourite part of the tour! In 1978 a tunnel was uncovered. The tunnel was built by North Koreans trying to pass under the border. The tour allows you to travel deep underground and see for yourself.

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2) DMZ & JSA TOUR

The second option allows you to visit all of the above AND the JSA or the Joint Security Area. The JSA is where North and South Koreans discuss diplomatic engagements and negotiate.  This option does cost a bit more and require a but more time, but a good experience for those who are interested.

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If you are interested in the Korean war and/or are curious about mysterious North Korea, or maybe you just have some time to kill in Seoul, I’d definitely recommend checking this tour out!

If you’re going to South Korea, make sure you take your guide to ensure you don’t miss anything –

#TRAVEL – SOUTH KOREA: GLISTENING GEOJE

When thinking of countries that boast tropical islands, Korea isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. I didn’t think the R.O.K would have much to offer in terms of island beauty, but how I was wrong…

#TRAVEL - SOUTH KOREA:  GLISTENING GEOJE
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Geoje Island is a small landmass located in the southeast of Korea. It’s so close to mainland, it’s connected via a road bridge.


I visited in May 2015, and it was hot. Perfect timing!

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Green. The first thing I noticed, whilst driving along the coast to our pension was the colour of the ocean. It was majestic. It is easily comparable to that of an ocean view in South East Asia. Later, I did find out that the water is a lot colder than those famous oceans, but when the suns out, who cares?

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Geoje island is not just a pretty face—in fact, there is plenty to do. You can participate in many activities from sea kayaking (beware of the armies of jellyfish) to quad biking, where you can drive an ATV through the sun-dappled forest and find some extraordinary views.

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A handful of tour groups offer a selection of trips to Geoje that depart from various cities across the country. I used a company called ‘Waegook Travel’; they were decent, but a bit overpriced.

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I would recommend a few days on this island to both travelers who are in Korea, and the many people that call Korea their home.

26 Reasons to Teach in South Korea

South Korea is an exciting country, and teaching there can be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Here are 26 reasons why –

1 – Live Abroad

Living abroad has limitless benefits on both yourself and your CV.

2 – Teaching Experience

Whether you want to become a teacher in the future or whether you’re deciding if teaching would be right for you. What a excellent way to get some experience!

3 – Save Money

In comparison to the cost of living, the salary in Korea is quite high. It isn’t difficult to live well and send home around $1000 a month.

4 – Learn a language

Who doesn’t want to learn a new language? Spoken Korean might take some time and effort to master, but the alphabet system; Hangul is very easy!

5 – Make friends for life

This is cheesy but true. Whether you live, work or party with your friends, you’ll create a unique bond that’ll last for life.

6 – Technology

Technology in Korea is super advanced. The WiFi is one of the fastest in the world.

7 – Dating

Don’t come to teach English in Korea for this reason alone, but the different dating cultures can be quite fun to experience.

8 – Transportation

Korea’s transportation system is nothing short of brilliant. It’s effective and very cheap.

9 – Develop your teaching skills

Whether you teach in a public or private school, it’s sure to open your mind to different teaching methods and help you develop your teaching skills.

10 – Islands

Korea isn’t Thailand, but it does possess numerous stunning islands! Jeju, Geoje and Namhae to name a few.

11 – Mountains

One of my favorite things about Korea are the mountains. They are plentiful and dramatic. Seoraksan, Bukhansan and Taebaeksan are among some of the best.

12 – Beaches

It may surprise you, but South Korea isn’t short of beautiful sands.

13 – Food

I could write a post alone on this! One of the best things about living in South Korea is having countless delicious food easily at your fingertips.

14 – K Pop

I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m talking about here, but I heard it’s huge!

15 – Jimjilbang (찜질방)

Don’t be shy, get naked in a Jimjilbang and give it a try!

16 – Noraebang (노래방)

I’ve never been much of a singer, but these private Karaoke rooms can be barrels of fun.

17 – Seoul

Seoul is a vast concrete jungle surrounded by mountains. It has a variety of different areas that suit all types of people. The city also boasts a pretty impressive subway system that will get you to anywhere you need to go!

18 – Palaces

Korea may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of palaces & pagodas, but they have some good’uns!

19 – Culture

Experiencing a new culture should always make your list when deciding to live abroad.

20 – Paid accommodation

All teaching jobs in Korea provide free accommodation.

21 – Paid flights

Most teaching jobs in Korea pay for at least a flight to the country. Many pay for a round trip.

22 -Travel Around South Korea

On your weekend or during vacation, travel around South Korea, there are many things to see and do!

23 – Travel Outside of Korea

Geographically, South Korea is positioned in a fantastic location. Take advantage of this and travel to nearby countries in your spare time. China and Japan are both only one hour away!

24 – North Korea

Many people view this as a reason not to go, but on the contrary, go visit the DMZ and learn about the sad, but fascinating, North and South divide.

25 – Safety

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.

26 – Nightlife

Drinking culture is massive in Korea. After a hard weeks work, grab some soju, unwind with your friends and hit some of the numerous party spots. In Seoul; Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon are 3 of the top locations.

I hope you enjoyed my list.  If there is anything you think I’ve missed,  please comment let me know below!

I tried (and failed) to learn Korean. However, I do recommend this book. Maybe you’ll do better than I did?

Why I Hate Teaching Kindergarten

Why I Hate Teaching Kindergarten (…and why I love it)

Today my class staged a full-on rebellion. Crayons were thrown; blocks were spilled. “No,” their 20 little minds simultaneously decided, “Now is not classtime.” Trying to round them up was about as successful as herding cats.

The first month is always the hardest, especially with kids who are attending school for the very first time. Not only do they need to learn to understand you, they need to learn what school is and how it works. It can take weeks before the routine begins to sink in and they understand, “Okay, now is the time to sit, now is the time to eat, now is the time to play.” For a good while, you’re just the bad guy who interrupts their never-ending playtime to repeat the same strange sounds over and over again while pointing at pictures. In an ESL school you may look strange, you’ll definitely sound strange, and it’s normal for some kids to be terrified at first. Many kids cry for their parents during the first week of preschool anyway and it’s bound to be worse if their teacher looks and sounds like an alien. The concept of learning (“Oh, I’m supposed to repeat these words, draw these symbols, sing these songs…”) can only begin to be absorbed once the sensory overload subsides.

One of the most frustrating things for me is starting from scratch every single year. You spend 12 months getting these kids to the point where they understand instructions, can express their wants & needs, know the rules, and have a basic foundation of letters, phonics, numbers & vocabulary on which to build. You teach them how to hold their pencils, zip their coats, and make a line; you work on sharing, helping, and apologizing. Then you send them off to their new teacher and have to start back at ABC, 123.

There are times when it feels like all that hard work was for someone else’s benefit—as if their next teacher is getting off easy. But you gotta remind yourself that it’s not about you, it’s about the kids. If you feel you’re passing off a class of students whose skills have greatly improved, who have shown huge progress and learned a great deal, then you should take pride in that. Seeing them learn in leaps and bounds is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. Getting to know the huge personalities bursting out of little bodies, coaxing out their strengths, bolstering their weaknesses, and admiring their unbridled creativity is what makes it worth the tantrums and tears.

I’m not saying kindergarten teachers have it the hardest. It’s true that the older grade levels have their own challenges: Instead of the alphabet, it’s complex grammar and more abstract vocabulary. Instead of nose-picking and pants-wetting, it’s social drama and raging hormones. Instead of crying for mom and pouting in the corner, it’s testing boundaries and challenging the rules.

If anything, I’m lucky that popping in loudest, most colorful video I have can turn a room full of rampaging toddlers into slack-jawed zombies. With today’s uprising quelled, they morph back into their wide-eyed playful selves—cuddly little balls of raw emotion and unlimited potential—and I know I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

-Ashley

Troubles Abroad: Life Without Peanut Butter

Ants on a Log. Fluffernutters. Classic PB&J. And who didn’t make a pinecone-peanut butter bird feeder as a kid?

We put it on bananas, slather it on french toast and of course eat it straight off the spoon.

No matter what country I’m headed to, you can be certain I’m tossing a couple jars of skippy in my rucksack. Whether it’s for a familiar snack, a quick spoonful of energy, or to tide me over til I figure out the grocery situation, peanut butter exists for me in the gray area between “luxury” and “necessity” when backpacking.

It’s one of those things you don’t realize how much you miss until you wake up with a craving for a nice PB&J. All of the sudden the idea of collecting all THREE ingredients at the same time seems an unbeatable obstacle. Decent peanut butter, fresh sandwich bread, and a jar of grape jelly just never seem to exist in the same place at the same time once you cross the ocean. If a simple sandwich is such a challenge, you can forget about chocolate-peanut butter ice-cream in the summer heat or that big bag of Reese’s cups come Halloween.

Getting peanut butter while living abroad can be a challenge—you can try to make that jar from home last as long as possible, but soon you’re scraping the bottom and praying someone will pay international shipping on a care package full of Jif. Still, sometimes it’s not as far away as you think, so long as you know where to look.

Below is a bite-sized guide to finding Peanut Butter abroad, compiled from both my own PB-hunting adventures and those of my fellow expats:

North America:

Canada & United States: In US & Canadian supermarkets it’s hard to miss—peanut butter is spotted taking up a good chunk of the aisle, with various brands, sizes, and flavors.

Mexico: While not as popular as in the rest of North America, PB is still fairly easy to find in Mexico, especially in big-box stores like Walmart, where Peter Pan and Great Value can be found at a decent price.

Asia:

China: IF a store has it, it’s often found in the sauce aisle near the mayonnaise. Since neither mayo nor PB are popular, they can be hard to spot—and smaller stores don’t care it at all. It’s hard to find western brands, but Chinese peanut butter is decent (if a bit dry).

Indonesia: This one’s tough, guys—despite boasting world-famous peanut sauces and peanut soups, I’ve yet to actually locate a jar of PB in Indonesia. If they’re out there, they’re hard to find.

Japan: Right where it should be, near the breads and jellies. You can even get the giant tubs at Costco in Japan!

Korea: Often found near the bread in the bakery section, surrounded by nutella & banana spreads. Korean peanut butter is actually pretty good and comes in both crunchy and creamy.

Laos: While difficult to find in the store, PB is a surprisingly common topping for roti pancakes (one of the best street desserts you’ll find in SE Asia). You’re best bet at finding it in the stores is near the nutella or by the actual peanuts.

Malaysia: Finally, another country that appreciates PB! Malaysia is one of few SE Asian countries that actually offers variety, often located near the sauces and seasonings.

Philippines: Boasting world-famous peanut spreads that rival American brands, the Philippines are a Peanut-Butter Oasis. Thinner than what North Americans are accustomed to, Filipino PB is a bit grainy and just as sweet.

Thailand: Perhaps one of the easiest countries to find PB in, Thai stores carry multiple US brands including Jif and Skippy, conveniently found near the Jams & Jellies.

Vietnam: Vietnam carries store-brand and local peanut butters which will often be found near the soups & seasonings, and while delicious they are often quite oily and runny.

Central & South America:

Argentina: So far, no one I know who has travelled through Argentina has been able to locate PB.

Brazil: Similar to Argentina, PB seems to be a near-impossible find.

Chile: Walmarts in Chile have Great Value (store) brand PB.

Costa Rica: Peanut Butter is often found in the “imported foods” section of the grocery, with many familiar brands.

Peru: While there are rumors that some expats have been lucky enough to find a jar of Peter Pan, American-style peanut butter is almost non-existent in Peru, and unfortunately I’ve never heard the local style described in a manner even close to edible. Your best bet is to look near the condiments.

It’s always exciting delving into foreign cuisine, but sometimes you just need those familiar tastes of home.

-Ashley

Visa Guide: Korea

Getting Your Work Visa in Korea

South Korea has one of the most complex and time-consuming Visa processes of all the countries I’ve been to. The amount of paperwork involved is intense and unlike most countries, you really need to begin the process of collecting documents long before you’ve actually secured a job. Further, while most countries process these applications at their foreign consulates, your documents will actually need to be sent to Korea before you can proceed. Let’s start with the basics—here’s what you’ll need to collect:

  • Three sealed copies of your University transcripts
  • Notarized copies of your degrees
  • Two copies of an FBI Criminal Background Check—depending on where you live, this can be quite a hassle. In order to obtain the correct check, you need to supply them with fingerprint cards. Getting your fingerprints taken in the past meant walking into any police station, but these days finding one that still does it (or even better—does it for free) can be hard to do. For the process on ordering or to print out fingerprint cards, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks/identity-history-summary-checks . This one has to be timed correctly as well—these checks often take up to 3 months to get back to you and they need to be less than 6 months old to be valid.
  • Signed Health Statement—this will likely be provided by your school or recruiter.
  • Resume with at least 2 letters of recommendation
  • Copy of your Passport Information page
  • 5 Passport-sized Photos
  • A signed copy of your new school contract.

So far this seems pretty standard, right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated. You’ll now need to take your notarized degree copies & FBI Check and have them apostilled. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with this process, welcome to the club. It’s a needlessly complicated and expensive way to basically notarize the notary—double-confirm that the document is real. In the US, each state has a designated office that can issue apostilles, each with their own fee ranging from $0 – $35 per document. You’ll need to send your degrees to the office of the state they were notarized in. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to send them to the state they were issued in instead—make sure you clarify this with your recruiter or school before sending your documents.

Your background check will need to be apostilled at the federal level, so you’ll need this form (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/183033.pdf ) and will send your documents to the Department of State.

For those not in the US, apostilles may be obtained from:

Okay, so now you’ve spent a few hundred bucks and wasted hours waiting for the mail to arrive, but you’ve finally collected all your papers. Now, you’ll need to send them to your school or recruiter in Korea. They’ll then file for your visa issuance number and send the required documents back to you. Now, you’ll need to collect the documents you’ll need at the consulate:

  • Passport
  • E2 Visa Application form (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Consulate’s Checklist (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Passport Photo
  • One set of sealed university transcripts
  • Visa Issuance Number

The final step in the process, after your documents have been reviewed, is an interview with the consulate which can be scheduled via telephone, although most require you to appear in person for the actual appointment. They’ll mostly just ask about your employment, your housing, your long-term plan, and your medical record/vaccinations—all pretty basic.

You then need to wait for your passport to arrive with your newly minted Korean Work Visa, and once it arrives you’ll be on your way!

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #8 – PLAYDOUGH

In order to inspire creative thinking and maintain active engagement in the classroom, teachers need to sustain a dynamic environment. One great way to get kids involved is to involve more tactile activities and there are so many fun ways to include playdough in an ESL classroom! Not just for kids, either—even my adult learners have enjoyed some of the more challenging activities and welcome the break from books & paper. Below are some of my favorite activities:

Younger Learners:

Letters & Numbers: Definitely the most simple activity, having your smallest students practice their letters and numbers in clay is a fun way to help them focus on the shapes while also benefiting their developing motor skills. Offering them free time to create whatever they want afterward is also a great reward and as their skills grow you can challenge them to first spell out what they want to make afterward.

Footprints & Textures: For this activity, you’ll need small toy animals or hard, textured items like brushes, legos, & coins. Spread the playdough out on the table and make impressions while one or all students close their eyes, then have them try to guess what made the marks. This is great with toy dinosaurs or other plastic animals that can make different footprints and gives the opportunity to practice phrases like “I think”, “I see”, and “Is it…?”. Afterward, let the kids experiment with making their own impressions and see what pictures and stories they can create.

Intermediate to Adult:

Storytelling: In this activity, allow the students roughly 5-10 minutes to create anything they want, then have them present it to the class by telling a story about it. For those with lower speaking skills, ask questions (What is it? What is its name? Where does it live? What does it do?). It is a great way to maintain students’ attention as well, as they always seem interested to see what their classmates were able to create.

Pictionary: In this version of the game, a student randomly draws an English word or simple sentence and must create it out of playdough for their classmates to guess. This can be done in teams (with two students sculpting for their teams at the same time and the first team to guess wins the point) or individually (where a point will be awarded to both the guesser and sculptor if someone gets it right). However, this is best done in small classes—in larger classes being able to see what is being made quickly becomes a struggle.

This is just one of many ways to get students away from their books and into a more colorful lesson!

– Ashley

EPIK

This post is the second part to – http://tefltravelling.com/2016/01/26/the-korean-hogwan/

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a program set up to help students learn English throughout the country. EPIK has been in existence since 1995 and has been used by thousands of teachers and students. Run by the Korean government, it is operated in public schools located all over Korea, catering to both elementary and high school.

EPIK should not be mistaken for the Korean private school system: The Hogwan.

Many ESL teachers choose to teach with EPIK for wide varieties of reasons that are briefly listed below:

Pros

Housing

All EPIK program jobs come with free housing; however, utilities are not included. Accommodation is usually standard but fine for its purpose.

Free Flights

EPIK provide an entrance allowance for teachers to purchase airfare to Korea (this is reimbursed during your first month). Upon competition of the contract, EPIK will also provide an allowance for teachers to purchase a flight to leave the country.

Paid Vacation

EPIK allow teachers 18 days paid vacation in addition to the 13 – 15 national Korean holidays. Vacation days can be used during the summer and winter breaks.

Regular Hours

In my personal opinion, one of the main differences between an EPIK and a Hogwan are the working hours. All EPIK schools run between 8/9.30 – 4/5.30, 22 hours of which is teaching time. Hogwans can start and finish at a wide variety of times and teaching hours drastically change between each one.

No Parent Involvement

Another HUGE benefit of EPIK over the Hogwan system is the lack of parental involvement. In many Hogwans parents basically run the show, which is not how a place of education should be run. In most cases, EPIK schools are run by professionals and people with experience.

Bonus

After a year at EPIK you will most likely be offered the chance to re-sign your contract, for which you will be given a re-signing bonus. It is also worth mentioning that for each year you stay at an EPIK school your salary will increase.

Training

Being an EPIK teacher requires you to participate in an EPIK training program.  This can be great for those with little experience or those looking to create a social circle within Korea.

Cons

VISA Process

The VISA process to work in Korea normally takes time and can be quite costly. In addition to the usual documents required for the E2 visa, EPIK candidates also need to provide 2 letters of reference.

Application Intake

A job at a Hogwan can be found all year round but this is not the case at EPIK. February and August are EPIKS two main recruitment periods; they need to have teachers in the country before the semester starts so they can complete the EPIK training programs.

Located Anywhere

You can be placed anywhere. EPIK places teachers not only anywhere in Seoul, but anywhere in the country. However, couples that apply together will stay together.

Training

EPIK training can also be a con because you can fail it.  Also, you won’t necessarily find out your location until after training and they are sorting you onto buses.

It is clear that the pros of working at an EPIK school dramatically outweigh the cons. Many argue that there is simply no contest between the Hogwan and EPIK.

Whether you chose to work for a Hogwan or use EPIK, it is always recommended that you use a good recruiter with a great reputation.

-Liam

5 Weirdest Superstitions Encountered Abroad

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So you’re bumming around Cambodia and happen to piss off the wrong person—word gets around that a hail of bullets may be in your future. Do you:

Call the cops? Nope.

Invest in a Kevlar wardrobe? Nah.

Make a beeline for the nearest tattoo parlor? Bingo!

Traditional tattooing in Cambodia is commonly believed to hold mystical powers, with their “Yantra” tattoos being able to bring both good luck and protection. If someone feels their life and health are at risk the may seek out magic tattoo artists, a practice especially popular among both soldiers and kickboxers.

While snagging yourself some magic ink may sound appealing, just remember that each one generally comes with a set of rules which, if broken, can decrease or eliminate its power. Common rules include abstaining from alcohol, avoiding bridges, and of course promising not to use its power for evil.

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After narrowly escaping Cambodia you stop over in Thailand, where you sit around on oxen sipping Ovaltine with your friends Bank, Letter, Ping Pong, and Apple. As your colleagues Fork and Spoon approach, you turn to them wondering if it’s all just a fever dream—only to finally learn those aren’t their real names at all (no way!).

It was once a frequently held belief in Thai-Buddhist culture that calling a child by their given name made them an easy target for evil spirits. While these spirits could be powerful they apparently held the IQ of a potato, because not knowing a kid’s real name was enough to utterly confuse them while kids with boring or unflattering names were simply overlooked.

While most Thai people still use nicknames, they are often more playful or creative in the younger generations. Still, don’t be surprised if Thai locals insist on giving you a new name “for your own protection”.

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Laos people aren’t all that concerned about personal space—it isn’t uncommon for someone you’ve just met to pet your arms or shoulders, while complete strangers see no reason not to lean up against you at the market or on the bus. Yet, strange as it seems, they do indeed have a personal bubble—it just only encompasses their feet. While the head is outright holy, the feet are considered dirty. No matter how often you scrub your tootsies, they will always be seen as offensive to the point that so much as pointing at someone with your feet—let alone touching them—is incredibly rude. However, keeping track of your feet is also practiced for your own protection—if you happen to step over the legs of someone older than you, you’ll be cursed with bad luck for the foreseeable future.

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Superstitions are generally beliefs held-over from a time when faith in the supernatural was commonplace, with many dating back thousands of years. Superstitions in Korea are no exception, with their most common conjecture dating all the way back to the 1920’s.

Wait, what? How could the same decade that blessed us with both penicillin and PEZ also have let loose a new and dangerous mystical power into the world? Indeed, a demon was unleashed: The Electric Fan.

“Fan Death” is considered a true threat in South Korea, as locals believe sleeping with your fan or AC on can lead to sudden and inexplicable asphyxiation. Most fans are equipped with a timed, automatic shut-off in case you doze off with your death machine running. Korean adrenaline-junkies know no greater rush than sleeping at a comfortable temperature on a hot night, cheating the Reaper even in their sleep.

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Okay, so you’ve dismantled your air conditioner, invested in a full-body tattoo, changed your name, and aced your exam on foot etiquette, but you’re still feeling unlucky; fear not, my friend. A quick trip to your local Thai food market can offer a quick solution.

Oftentimes you’ll find buckets of turtles tucked away in the fish markets, which many horrified travelers assume will be eaten. If your hippie-heart is aching to rescue one of those cuties and grant him glorious freedom at the nearest riverbank, then consider your bad-luck woes a thing of the past!

It turns out the Thai people aren’t heartless turtle-murderers at all—caring for a turtle and setting it free is said to bring good luck and longevity. By collecting those unintentionally caught in fishing nets merchants can basically sell luck to their customers—but with so many strange and unexpected superstitions out there, it may be worth the price!

– Ashley