Recently I’ve seen a lot of questions regarding the dress code at school. Knowing this helps a lot, because you can leave behind all of those unnecessary things and pack more important things. I’ve mentioned it briefly in the “10 Questions Every Newbie asks” post, but didn’t realize that I never actually posted about it. Whoops! So here it is! I’ve asked my best friend to help:
Aaaaanyways…. dressing for school in Korea is pretty much the same as dressing for any semi-professional company in South Africa. There are, of course, some key things to remember. What seems appropriate in South Africa isn’t necessarily appropriate here in Korea and vice versa. Here is a perfect example:
This really explains a lot! :) In Korea, wearing short short shorts is fine. Showing shoulders is frowned upon and showing cleavage might get you a few words from an Adjumma! So when it comes to school, you need to be even more careful. It’s all really simple actually:
- Don’t show any cleavage – This includes semi-see through shirts. Come on, they’re middle school boys. Think about it…
- Try your best to cover your shoulders. This is also a respect thing. I often wear short sleeved shirts in summer but you can pack away those sleeveless ones.
- Like mentioned above, they like their short shorts, but you are a teacher.. Rather wear knee length skirts or pants. The teachers room is usually air-conditioned in summer, so no, you won’t die.
So what do you wear?
If you are a suit guy, bring one or two. You probably won’t be expected to wear a suit, but it doesn’t do any harm if you wear one for the first week or so. It depends on your school, but you will probably be expected to wear neat pants and a dress shirt. If you don’t want to do the suit thing (please don’t buy one!!!) throw on a tie for the first few days. Don’t bother buying expensive dress shoes. Will comment on this later. Bring a pair of nice, neat jeans. Some schools are fine with jeans as long as they aren’t baggy / washed-out / have holes in them. If you pair up the jeans with a dress shirt you’re good to go. (aaaah I sound like Glam Guru!!! The JOY!) Invest in a nice jacket or coat for winter. It doesn’t have to be classy, just neat. Like the jeans. And warm…. Your teachers’ room will be heated in winter, but might still be a bit chilly.. and the school hallways are the complete opposite of hell.
No shoulders… No cleavage… sounds difficult… It really isn’t. I brought some shirts from SA and realized they were just a bit too revealing (according to Korean standards of course) so I threw on a spaghetti-strap underneath and fixed it.. hehe! I usually wear neat pants to school and pair it up with either a short sleeved button shirt or a long sleeved one… I often wear long-sleeved t-shirts in the colder months, with a jacket/jersey/coat. With pants, make sure you don’t show any underwear when bending down. Middle school boys are at *THAT* age, so really make sure you don’t have anything see through, revealing or inappropriate. In summer I wear three quarter shirts or short-sleeved shirts.
Don’t bother buying expensive shoes for school. When you get to school you will take off your “outdoor shoes” and put on “indoor
shoes”. These are usually sandals… like “Hang Ten sandals”!! Schools usually have spare ones for visitors (like when the parents come watch the open classes), but it’s best to bring your own pair, as you might find your toes hanging over and your ankles touching the floor…..! And they will definitely point it out to everyone. Ladies, if you’re wearing a really nice skirt and you really don’t want to wear these, you can wear other sandals (strappy ones etc) but they can’t be worn outside and it would be best to wear secret stockings with them. Some female teachers don’t wear the secret stockings anymore, but it is still frowned upon by most Koreans. They don’t really believe that feet are very clean. The pretty sandal + secret stocking thing is revolting at first, but you get used to it and it’s really not too bad. Also, you might go to a school dinner after work,which you’ll only find out an hour before. It’s slightly awkward when you have to kick off your shoes before entering the restaurant and you’re not even wearing socks! On that note make sure your socks are clean and hole-free and that they match! Your students will see your socks every day. Don’t worry about socks with bears and hearts and duckies on them.. your principal will wear them too… with his suit. :)
So, last thing about “what to wear” at school – Always look professional. The best thing you can do is find a few teachers who are roughly the same age as you (if there aren’t any, choose the youngest one) and use what they wear as a guide. If they wear neat jeans, you probably can too. Don’t wear suits the first week and then rock up in jeans the next Monday – Friday. They’ve seen you at your best, so tone it down gradually. Always remember this: ”When in doubt, throw it out.” If you’re standing in front of the mirror and doubting whether or not your shirt is too revealing, it probably is.