You’re miserably sick? Excellent, please pass it on.

Koreans don’t seem to believe in sick days. My Korean coworker cracked a rib and still came in to work the very next day, and every day after that. Amazing.

As a foreign teacher here, I get three ‘sick’ days. Sick as in I’m dying in the hospital and can’t make it to work, sorry.

So basically every day I get a bunch of students who, being very young, have no sense of hygiene. They cough and sneeze and wipe their snotty hands all over me. They’re my precious students, but I don’t like how they come to school no matter how sick they are. I don’t believe that kindergarten students should be at school when they have fevers or can’t stop coughing long enough to say a full sentence.

Now I know the particular Hagwon where I teach is quite expensive, and the parents have to pay a lot of money for each class, but sometimes it still seems very unreasonable.

Today two of my students had fevers and were very sick, but had to go to class anyway. One was in Kindergarten, and the other was in grade 4.

When I had a fever growing up, I didn’t go to school. There are a few reasons for this.

1) Stress on the body, aka school, is not going to help you get better. Sleep will help you get better.

2) Nobody wants to get your germs. If you go to school sick, then it’s easy for most of the people around you to get sick too. Teacher included.

I can’t even count the number of times I wash my hands every day. It’s futile. I cannot evade the voracious appetite of vulturous viruses that circle the hallways and classrooms.

This is written as I am hacking out a lung and sniffing a black hole into existence.

The high cost of classes is not the only reason the parents may send their sick children to school (coupled with the intense desire to see their children succeed in English).

Maybe both parents work and there is no one at home during the day.

Maybe both parents happened to be busy that day with other plans that they could not cancel.

Maybe they couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice.

Who knows.

But the fact that this is such a common occurence makes me wonder.

I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I let both of my sick students rest in class today. The fourth grade student, especially, is one of the best in the class. She was so obviously miserable that I walked to her desk, closed her book, and told her to just sleep.

I don’t understand the point of sending your child to school, when she can barely keep her eyes open and focus. It makes much more sense, to me, to let her stay home and rest, so that she can recover, and be fully able to catch up much sooner than she would if she strained her body by going to school.

I guess my views on this are very Westernized.

My students have my utmost sympathy.

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7 thoughts on “You’re miserably sick? Excellent, please pass it on.

  1. The idea that it’s perfectly fine to inflict your plague on everyone around you seems to infest all ages in SK. Worst of all, I managed to avoid catching any such plagues until the day I left, whereupon a businessman on the AREX platform at Seoul station spent half an hour walking back and forth around us, coughing and sneezing in our faces (literally, he sneezed right in our faces several times), spluttering into his bare hands and wiping them on every available surface – handrails, door handles, his own pockets, you name it.

    I don’t think it’s just a Western Sensibilities thing. There’s a fundamental grasp of basic hygiene and the vectors of transmissible diseases here which triggers our disgust at such behaviour. There is in SK either a lack of education on the matter, or a lack of respect for other people catching your diseases; neither are pleasant.

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  2. Good lord, here in Thailand we’re given 10 sick days and 15 personal days a year… and many take more than that! Talk about a difference in cultures…

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  3. I was sick soon after I arrived in Korea, as in really dizzy and unable to stand, nauseous. etc. Having not had time to learn this aspect of Korean culture I took the day off,a Friday, then had the weekend off. I came right. But hte day off caused a huge to do.

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