Your Obligatory South Korea is Interesting and Different Post

It’s Thursday, which means it’s your weekly helping of Vanessa. No, you cannot have seconds. 

Teaching English to (mostly) adults has some pretty neat perks. For one, I get to have delightful discussions in my conversation classes about a whole range of topics — travel, weddings, philosophy, aaaaand, my absolute favourite… money! I bring up money and the economy SO often and I love hearing opinions from people of a different culture. Here are some things that I’ve learned:

Girls get an allowance until they’re married, men until they have a good job: Most parents feel that their children shouldn’t have to have a part-time job while in school (or in the summer) because their job during that time is to get A+ grades. The select few employed students I know are ones who have taken temporary, part-time jobs over summer vacation. In order to afford $5 coffees and “playing with friends”, Korean youngsters receive an allowance each week. And, seeing as Korea is INCREDIBLY sexist at every turn, girls continue to get their allowances until they’re married. This makes sense, in a way. Young Korean women have A LOT more expenses then men (beauty!) and earn a heck of a lot less money.

Women grow up to be housewives: Woe upon he who suggests that the father stay at home while the mother works! In fact, when I suggested this to one of my classes, I was met with peels of laughter from both the men and the women. Similar responses were had when I suggested that women put their babies in daycare at a year old to go back to work. Korean women don’t seem very career-oriented and I’ve only met one high-up businesswoman in my time here.

Eating out is delightfully cheap: Why? The minimum wage is $5 and there is no tipping necessary. Sure, some restaurants tack it on at the end of the bill (I’m looking at you, stupid TGI Friday’s!), but generally you’re paying a total of $6 for a full meal — mainly because labour costs are negligible. The service is better too!

Bank notes are in small denominations: When I first got to Korea I took out $300 in Korean won — most of which came in 50s. I used my 50s as I would back home — Anything that I needed to buy over $30 was paid for by a 50 and anything less was paid for by a 10. Imagine my surprise then when producing a 50 was met with either a deep sigh or a confused look. This bill has been around for 5 years! This isn’t supposed to be a shocking transaction! Later, in my classes, I understood. There is this weird, deep resentment towards the 50,000 won note. Koreans see the bill as a way to spend more money easier and as a better way to hide cash from criminal activities. What? Debit cards exist! No criminal has ever thought “oh gee! Now I can really ramp up production since I’ll be able to carry 5x less bills”!

Korea is really wonderful and definitely a way different place from what I’ve ever seen. As a frugal girl looking around, I’m definitely envious of Korean teenagers who have a ton of free money and lots of cheap places to spend it :/

Screw Democracy. Why Dictatorships Are Better For The Economy

It’s Thursday, which means it’s Vanessa time. Hey, at least somebody is writing in this thing. 

If you read quality academic studies of economies under dictatorships, you’ll find that the economy generally falters. However, in the entirely unscientific survey that I took with my English class, 3/4 people think that the best way to grow an economy is by having an authoritative leader. THAT’S 75% OF ALL KOREANS! #stats

“Surely she must be joking!” you’re all saying. “Dictators have terrible human right violation records and democracy is A+!” Yes, well, like all pretend economic situations, we must make A LOT of crazy assumptions. Also, in economics, human rights don’t exist — the sole use of your population is to provide labour and to spend money.

Let’s play that balanced budget game — the one where you have to cut spending and raise taxes in order to balance the federal budget. As a regular politician, I would have to think about my population… They need better education, a good, safe neighbourhood, etc. As a dictator, I need to focus on spending money to grow the economy and to protect myself from a potentially riotous population (highly paid military, anyone?). Obamacare? Gone. Social Security? Gone. Tariffs? Raised. Corporate taxes? Eliminated.

The result of these cuts in the newly-named Vanessaland is that businesses will come and grow, GDP and incomes will rise and after many years, I can reinstate health card and social security. Remember, in a purely economic exercise we don’t need to concern ourselves with the basic needs of the people. If the people happen to have a hard time surviving, they would simply be considered to not be dedicated enough to the ultimate goal of a strong Vanessaland economy.

To be clear, we are not talking about communism. There is no centralized economy that’s making sure that enough loaves of bread make it to each city and stopping citizens from moving for work. No, no, no. People are free to do whatever they’d like (except rebel!) and can live wherever they choose. I’m not a monster.

Now that we’ve outlined the reasons why dictatorships are good for the economy, let’s liken this to a family. In most families, a single person is in charge of the whole family’s money — he/she collects the income, doles out the allowances and saves the rest. This is how it should be, OMG. I don’t want to sit and have a parliament-like discussion every week to balance the budget or talk about a new spending demand. Likewise, I don’t want to open my bank account one day and see that someone has spent my our savings.

From a purely economic standpoint, my way makes sense. I get to plan out the number of coffees that I buy a week and, since we already know that boyfriends are expensive, I can cut someone’s spending down to one Subway sandwich a week instead of a heart-stopping SEVEN. (Ed. note: It’s not seven, dammit) Pre-dictator spending: $14+$84. Post-dictator spending: $14+$12. Total savings: $72. GO VANESSA!

Unfortunately, I can’t look at relationships and families from an economic point of view. I mean, it’s ok for a country’s population to hate a dictator — he has an army for protection! — but, I sort of need my family to like me if I’d like to wake up the next morning.

(Nelson’s note: I’ve been known to refer to democracy as “the lowest common denominator.” I think if by some miracle that we could find somebody who was smart and not corrupt to run the country, we should do so and just put them in charge. The problem is, as we all know, that power corrupts. Looks like we’ll just have to stick with our system.)

Why Do We Discourage Boomerang Children?

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to read words from somebody much more pleasant than your’s truly, Vanessa. She talks about millennials and boomerang children, because if there’s one thing the internet doesn’t have enough of, it’s hand wringing about the young people.

The megaphone seems like a slight overkill.

The megaphone seems like a slight overkill.


One of my favourite things about my new job is that I get to talk to Korean people all day long and see their points of view on various things. This week I sat in on a conversation class ran by my American colleague and we discussed boomerang children. I knew, just from the tone of my colleague that this class would yield an interesting discussion — and not just because of the Korean opinions.

My colleague started off with a simple statement: In America, when you turn 18, you move into your own apartment and it’s not normal to live with you parents anymore.

This isn’t news to most of us. The idea of boomerang children has been in the news for years now and, while I’ve read many articles about how American children are lazy and that the boomerang generation is just absolutely THE WORST, I don’t think that I honestly looked at it from an outside point of view until now — how weird is it that we just kick out children out of the house and refuse (or ostracize) them shelter if times get tough?

In Korea, young adults live with their parents until marriage (27-30). By living at home, they aren’t forced to take crummy part-time jobs to pay rent in a dingy student apartment, they aren’t required to go without meals or drop classes to work more hours and they’re free to either save their money or to spend it on more consumer goods.

Let’s do a comparison of two people that readers of this blog know:

Nelson lived at home until he was 25. He saved all his money, rode his bike everywhere and then bought a house and had it paid off by 30.

I moved out at 18 and bounced back a few times before moving out permanently at 22. I’ve spent over $19 000 in rent — plus utilities, toiletries, groceries etc. My trade-off, of course, was that I lived closer to work and school and saved time on my commute.$19 000 can but a lot of stocks though, and I shudder to think about how much more money I would have today had I continued to live with my parents.

In this clear example, it seems foolish to move out on your own at a young age — think about how much more successful young people would be if they were able to use their limited resources for investing! Why don’t we encourage this type of behaviour? Why is living at home until you have the resources to be a fully-functioning member of society stigmatized?

The answers to these questions can only be speculated. In my opinion, the reason is two-fold:

  1. We have the idea of the American Dream so ingrained in our heads that to accept any leg up to become successful is stigmatized (like borrowing from your parents). We need to have the same starting ground as everyone else (move out at 18) and to work hard and pull up our boot straps in order to get ahead.
  2. We have the stereotype of a spoiled American girl who lives at home and spends all her money on shoes and make-up (or, loser boy who plays video games in the basement all the time). We believe that, people who live with their parents past 18 are destined for this stereotype and we do our best to discourage it.

What do you think? Should we start reforming the way that we treat our young adults or should we continue to push them into the world after graduation and watch them make their own way?

How Much Does It Cost to Teach English in Korea?

It’s Vanessa’s Thursday post, about a certain country you might be sick of hearing about. Sorry in advance, but not really. 


Hello! As you’re reading this, I’ll either be in the air somewhere, or in San Francisco, eager to land in Seoul after the longest flight I’ve ever taken on the biggest plane that I can imagine. Despite moving my entire apartment, sorting through a TON of stuff, packing and repacking my suitcase to a disgustingly tiny 50lbs, someone here at the popular Financial Uproar blog insists that I write a Thursday post. What’s more, he tweets this:

Honestly, you’d think that there’d be some perks to sleeping with the boss, but alas, here we are.

Anyways, Nelson and I are off to South Korea this month and, now that my visa is finalized and my bags are packed, I can figure out how much does it cost to teach English in Korea.

  1. Since my university is so old and fancy, my degree is entirely in Latin and needed to be translated into English. $15
  2. Despite paying “transcript copying fee” throughout my university stint, I still needed to fork over $20 to get copies of my transcripts.
  3. I needed to prove to the Korean government that I am not a criminal and so fingerprinting and a background check were required. $70
  4. All of my documents needed to be certified as true by the Korean embassy in Vancouver, which meant that I needed to have them notarized before sending them over. $68.25
  5. Canada Post “Expresspost” envelopes, which promise 1-3 day service between major city centres took 3+ days to get from Calgary to Vancouver and back again. 4 envelopes in all for a cost of $61.94
  6. A bunch of lovely people took my photograph for a total cost of $66.13
  7. Fedexing my certified documents to my employer in Korea cost $80.98. Fun fact! My documents went from Calgary to Memphis to Seoul. Why.
  8. Administrative fees including money order costs and visa application fee came to $86

The grand total comes to… $468.27. That’s the minimum of how much it will cost to teach English in Korea. I took a Korean language course and a TEFL course as well, which boosted my costs to $1090.62. These two courses, while optional, allowed me to get two job offers which resulted in a higher than average salary.

THIS is how you decide whether education is worth the cost — research the market ahead of time, look at the value of the skills you’ll have at the end and leverage those skills into a higher paying job. Running off willy-nilly and getting degrees and diplomas with no examination of the job market is foolish and is why people end up under-employed.

Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis, shall we? With today’s exchange rates, my monthly salary comes to about $2600. My pay packet also includes an apartment which provides me a net benefit of $500 (my rent cost in Calgary). Base income (excluding pension, bonuses, etc.), comes to $3100 — a $700 increase on my monthly Calgary salary. At this rate, I will only have to work one and a half months to recoup my initial outlay — everything else is $$$ in my pocket!

Or, looking at it another way, that’s a return of 800% annually. That’s not entirely accurate because I’ll have to work for it, but you get the idea.

I’m Too Cheap to Pay For my Own Life Support

It’s Thursday, which means Vanessa is back. And so is this blog, after publishing nothing yesterday. I should really get more ahead of the game, but like that’s going to happen. Things are on the TV. 

In the news lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about how Quebec has legalized euthanasia. Like most of the things Quebec does (politically, socially), a petition has sprung up in protest. I link to it because its “logic” and “reasoning” are flawed and it made me laugh.

Anyways. How does this relate to the popular Financial Uproar blog? Well, simply put, living is expensive and my word, if I was at a stage in my life where I thought that dying would be better than living, I would choose death simply because of the cost-effectiveness.

I mean, I like being alive and all but, if my “life” is an empty shell of a body, or a body which doesn’t work, I absolutely cannot think of anything worse. And, despite people’s claims that I’m being selfish, I really can’t see a more selfless act than wanting to maintain an independent life with a functioning mind.

Now, before people start commenting that I’m completely off my rocker and that saving money is a terrible reason to choose to end hypothetical life support/euthanize my future self, let’s crunch the numbers in a very general way, shall we?

Let’s imagine for a second that my near-death experience last year had resulted in more permanent injuries than a traumatized brain. Let’s say that I was in the hospital and the doctors were unsure if I would awake or that, if I did, whether or not I would walk again. Eventually, a decision would have to be made about whether or not my family members would consent to withdraw life support. In our hypothetical scenario, they do not consent and I keep on “living”.

Evidently, I will need to leave the hospital. Ignoring the costs of transporting a comatose person with all her government-lent equipment home, the biggest immediate expense is a 24 hour nurse because, obviously, a comatose person can’t just be left to her own devices, hanging out in the spare bedroom.

At an average cost of $25/h, a 24 hour nurse, in Alberta, would cost $219 000. For 40 years. Sure, I might wake up and sure, my family would have the peace of mind knowing that I’m around and might be able to hear them but OMG. No. I would go from earning say, $31 000 a year, to earning negative $219 000, meaning that it would cost a quarter million dollars each year to keep me alive — on top of the various medications and IV drips I would need. I would end up costing my family, and later, once they ran out of money, the government about $10 million by the time I’m 65.

Getting back to the euthanasia, let’s pretend that I wake up from my coma and can’t walk. I need less supervision but am now alive and am using resources that I otherwise would not have used while in a coma (food, entertainment, etc.). In addition, I would probably need more medication (MEDICAL MARIJUANA, because why not?), rehab, therapy, modifications to my house so that I could wheel around and a special car to transport me. Let’s estimate about $300 000 in upfront liabilities and a few thousand per month in residual costs. Yes, this is a far cry from the quarter million per year that Coma Vanessa costs but, wow, this is still a LOT of money more than what I earn in a year, meaning that it, again, would cost my family more money to keep me alive than what I’m worth.

Aside from the financial cost, the terrible-quality-of-life factor plays a HUGE role in my decision. I’ve lived with a disabled person and I’ve been around enough terminally ill people in my life that I can’t even imagine being that reliant on other people and frankly, I have no interest in needing someone else to clean me or feed me.

So, to conclude, I am happy that Quebec has introduced this new law so that people, like me, will have another option when they feel that they are becoming too expensive to keep.