Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting sick in the winter

Christmas isn't the time to get sick, but it happened.

I went home early today because of a cough and a cold I just can't shake. There weren't any classes, so I felt better about not being there. I told my coteacher, who in turn told the vice principal, and he said I could go home. "Thanks, I will go to the pharmacy," I said to him in broken Korean. He smiled and wished me well. The cough medicine I picked up on the way home is working.

I've only gone out sick one other time: Last Friday I woke up with a lot of stomach pain. Otherwise, I've never taken any sick days in over three years here. A combination of heretofore decent health, dare-I-say good eating habits, and a work culture that doesn't exactly function like the USA's accounted for why I'd lasted so long:
One of the most difficult cultural differences for many Westerners to accept in Korea is how sickness is dealt with in the professional environment.
At home, if you’re sick, you’re usually encouraged by your boss to go home, stop spreading your germs around the work environment, and rest up. You’ll be more productive with a day or two’s rest than you would be if you spent those days half passed out at your desk.
Not so in Korea. While Koreans will go to the doctor as soon as they catch a sniffle, they take the prescribed fistful of medicine (and usually a shot to the “hip”) and suffer through their time at work. It’s considered bad form to call in sick, especially to a school, where it means your co-workers have to scramble to cover your classes. While it’s standard to give 3 days a year sick-leave in a contract, you are encouraged not to make use of them. Some schools will only give you sick time if you are actually in a hospital bed.
 -- From Ulsan Online's " Feeling sick? Too bad! Get to work, lazy!"
 Anyone considering living and teaching in Korea should consider the above. It's not that people can't take sick days, it's that they're frowned upon. Heavily. I would still advise anyone to note that the EPIK contract does allow for sick days and many schools will be fine with a teacher calling in. I called in on Friday because the class load was light and they could easily be made up. Ditto today.

Stay warm and stay healthy, everyone.
Happy holidays!

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