Kids Want to Finger Your Butt: Adventures In Teaching Abroad
Are you a native English speaker? Do you like money? If so, then countries like China, South Korea, and Japan would like to hire you as an English teacher, even if you have absolutely no prior teaching experience whatsoever. And we know what you're thinking: "Someone wants to pay me to go live in beautiful foreign locations and teach them English, the thing I already use for free every day like a sucker? Alright, what's the catch?"
The catch is a level of culture shock that is alternately hilarious and mortifying. At least, that's according to veteran educators Fred Colton and Josh Anonymous, who told us about how ...
Kids Will Try to Stick Their Fingers Up Your Asshole
Look, we understand that no matter where you go, little kids do things that would get an adult ostracized from society forever. It's just that you don't really grasp how messed up kids are until you see them out of the context of your own culture. For example, if you get a job at a school in Japan or South Korea (as our two sources did), you may find that it's not uncommon for a pupil to sneak up on you and suddenly jam their fingers up your ass. Then the student will run away laughing, as if having scored a point in a game that exists only in their depraved little-kid mind.
Hell, in America, that kid would be expelled simply for making a gun shape with his hands.
This popular school "prank," which probably has never been referred to as such by people on the receiving end of it, consists of putting one's hands together, extending the index fingers, and then plunging them between the cheeks of the chosen target for (hopefully not literal) shits and giggles. It's kind of like the East Asian equivalent of the wedgie, only it's perfectly acceptable to pull it on teachers -- like Fred, who almost fell victim to it many times while teaching in South Korea. There, the digital assault is known as "ddong chim," meaning "poop needle":
"I have a little 2nd grader here who has marked me as his target for this. He follows me into the bathroom and often breaks out of the crowd, using taller students as cover while he approaches for the attack."
Basically, imagine being stuck in a building full of miniature, psychotic proctologists trained by Jason Bourne.
The same practice is known as "kancho" (literally "enema") in Japan, where it's become the bane of the existence of many foreign teachers. Although for accuracy's sake, we must point out that ddong chim differs from its Japanese counterpart in that you can also get "poop needled" by old women on the subway, which a friend of Fred's once had the misfortune of learning firsthand. We're assuming this was followed about at least a decade of trauma therapy.
The Students Say the Most Offensive Shit Imaginable
"I was in China in 2011 when the big earthquake hit Japan," Fred explains. "I was doing a warm-up game with some 4th graders, asking 'How are you?' and a nine-year-old girl told me that she was, 'Very happy, because many Japanese are dead.'"
Yeah, it turns out that when you combine children's lack of a filter with wacky cultural misunderstandings, you get some pretty dark stuff. In the above case: in China, many people still hold a grudge against Japan, whom they perceive as the bad guy of World War II. The same opinion is also commonplace in many parts of South Korea, and the kids are happy to echo the hatred they hear from the grown-ups. Likewise, another teacher working in South Korea told us, "If I show a video with any person of color in class, I will always have students just randomly yell out the n-word. I've also had students personally call me that, even though I'm white."
"The proper word is 'cracker.' Class, can you say 'cracker?'"
Again, they're kids. They don't know what they're saying. And when they see you react in horror, well, they think that's quite hilarious. During Fred's entire career, he has never seen his students more motivated than when they were learning English curse words. Because it doesn't matter where you are; all kids are basically tiny versions of drunk adults.
"I'm sure you've heard of the penis game, where you and your friends each say the word 'penis' louder and louder, until someone finally gets caught. A lot of Chinese and Korean kids will also do this, but with English swear jar words. So I'll be teaching and suddenly hear elementary school kids squeak out 'fuck,' 'shit,' or 'ass,' slowly getting louder each time. It's pretty hard not to burst out laughing when a 10-year-old kid who literally can't even say 'hello' in English is sitting there with a demonic little grin, tossing out phrases like 'shit, teacher, SHIT!'"
It warms our heart to know that children the world over are united by a love of shouting inappropriate words.
And sometimes you may even pick up some new material from the kids, like when Fred had a Chinese student who would constantly stick his head into his office to ask, "Hey, big tit! Why so yellow!?" before sprinting away laughing his ass off. Yellow, by the way, means "sexy" or "horny" there (ie, pornos are "yellow movies"). One can only imagine the collective disappointment of Chinese audiences when Yellow Submarine first came out over there.
And speaking of wacky dick-based misunderstandings ...
They Want to See Your Penis
If our last article about male South Korean students feeling each other up in class didn't tip you off yet, let's just say it like it is: Asian countries are less paranoid about sex than most of America. You could argue that that's a good thing on the whole, even if it does occasionally result in Fred's prepubescent students making kissy faces at him and constantly asking for his phone number. But add in the natural fascination with foreigners and multiply it by a kid's inability to give a shit, and you end up with a bunch of students in rural Korean schools constantly trying to get a glimpse of Fred's dick.
"Is it true that American penises look like Hulk Hogan?"
"I had to give up using the urinal because the kids would poke me and grab my legs and weasel their heads around my thighs to spy on my junk. When I used a stall, they'd pound on the door and literally try to crawl under the divider just to ... wave and say hello and giggle."
Even after Fred switched to a teachers-only bathroom two floors up, his students weren't deterred, and started following him in there, too. Things eventually got so bad that Fred had to ask some of the teachers for help. Their response was to hold the weirdest class assembly in history, during which it was explained to the youths that they shouldn't aggressively pursue a grown man's penis as if it was made out of Disneyland tickets, as there were a multitude of ways that could go very wrong.
"It can be very dangerous. When surprised, a white penis will rear up, flare its hood, and strike."
And no, it wasn't a freaky, isolated case -- Josh went through the exact same thing: "I would try to use the latrine, and this group of eight or nine boys would line up behind me and try to sneak a peek. I wouldn't even be aware of it until I turned around and saw this group of half a dozen kids standing in a row, staring at me."
At least Fred and Josh can take solace in the fact that none of their students tried to grab their dicks. No such luck for this American teacher in Japan, who had to deal with 12-year-old kids begging to let them feel up his A-grade American salami.
"Isn't this what you kids have the internet for?!"
But when watching the kids with each other, you start to realize they're actually treating you as an equal: "There's a hugely popular game / hazing ritual amongst Chinese boys called aluba," Fred explains. "It works like this: you get a couple of friends, you grab your target, and you then carry him spread-eagled up to the closest pillar or flag pole and ram his junk into it while screaming 'ALUBA! ALUBA!' There were four or five different times when I'd be in the office planning lessons, and I'd suddenly hear the boys outside screaming as they smashed some other kid's kibbles 'n' bits into even tinier bits."
On one the hand, some researchers consider aluba an important part of Chinese culture, a rite of passage for male youths. On the other hand, Fred observed that aluba was mainly used as a punishment in a "game" in which kids would take turns poking each other in the dick, and then pole-smash the guy who got a boner first.
Hard Drinking Is Considered Part of the Job
Drinking as a social lubricant is such an important part of Japanese culture that they even have a special word for drinking parties: nomikai. As an English teacher at a Japanese school, you will be invited to these all the time throughout the year. And for all the ill will between Japan and China, it turns out that both countries see eye to eye about filling their educators with high-proof Teachin' Juice.
"Sorry, 'accommadable' has two M's, so now Miss Peters has to take a shot."
As Fred told us: "There is a phenomenon in China called Teachers' Day. It's in September, and it's basically an excuse for all the teachers in the school to get super drunk. A banquet room is rented, the teachers feast on dumplings and fish, and then the bottles of baijiu (rice liquor) come out, and to decline a shot offered by a co-worker is like murdering their family and then peeing on their graves."
If that wasn't enough, many of Fred's coworkers even took it upon themselves to trick him into drinking more.
"It's either this or aluba. Your choice."
For example, two teachers would approach Fred and say they wanted to do a shot. But as soon as he knocked one back, one of them would suddenly turn around and act as if he got distracted by something. Then he'd turn back to Fred and say something like: "Come on! Let's do that shot, which you obviously haven't done while I was looking away." Before you know it, you're riding a stolen bicycle atop the Great Wall, wearing the top half of a police uniform and nothing else.
Or, like Fred, you black out and wake up in your apartment wondering not just how you got there, but how you were allowed to get blackout drunk at a school event. Oh, and you probably can't help but wonder how much non-consensual penis-grabbing occurred while you were out.
Though the number of Facebook pictures that show them holding it like a prize trout should give you a rough idea.
Fred Colton lives in South Korea and is an English teacher and definitely not a CIA agent planning the invasion of North Korea, follow his exploits at fredcolton.com. Special thanks to Austin Vavrovics for helping out with the article. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more insider perspectives, check out 6 Ways My Real Kung Fu Training Was Crazier Than Any Movie and 5 Things I Learned Cheating (and Getting Caught) in a Casino.
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