Since it’s in the title of my blog, I figure I’m justified in posting about being introverted once in awhile.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but in many ways teaching ESL in a foreign country (Korea specifically) is the perfect job for an introvert. I have the best of both worlds here in that I interact with people every day as part of my job, but at the same time the burden of upholding conversations and making small talk is entirely alleviated.
I can eat in the teachers’ cafeteria, surrounded by coworkers and other teachers, and be silent the whole time (save for a greeting and goodbye to the people sitting with me) without seeming rude. I can walk down the streets, go to the store, ride in a taxi in complete non-awkward silence, cushioned by the comfortable language barrier. Only my fellow introverts can understand what a relief it is to be able to totally retreat into your inner thoughts without feeling pressure to speak in the presence of others.
Because of my foreigner-ness, I will never be expected to converse with others. It’s a nice shell to retreat into when I’m feeling a little drained – and unlike in America, this shell goes everywhere with me. I can retreat at (almost) any time, no problem.
I’m not saying I never try to interact with Koreans or speak in Korean. I’d like to be fluent someday and be able to hold full conversations in Korean. But anyway, Korea is not a chatty culture when it comes to strangers. In America, you might exchange pleasantries with a fellow customer in the check-out line or the fast food worker behind the counter. Here, not so much. So even if I do become fluent in Korean someday, I will never have to make small talk with the person behind me in line while we wait for our turns. And that is a relief.
Of course, the flip side is that my job requires me to be in front of a fairly large audience multiple times a day and speak and teach and interact and be “on.” But I actually enjoy that part just as much because it involves kids. If I wasn’t working with kids, I have to say I would probably be less than enthused. But because it’s kids, that type of social interaction energizes rather than drains me.
It’s a nice balance.