Monday, December 31, 2012

Selling My Car

My Baby... We have been together for 9 years

I sold my car on the weekend. I was originally planning to hold onto it so that when I come back to Australia I have something I can drive but in the last 12 months it has cost me quite a bit of money to keep on the road and every few weeks something new seems to break. I spent Thursday cleaning out my stuff and giving it a really good clean. It looks like new.... Almost...

  1. There was a very bad leak in the clutch system hydraulics  As soon as you ride the clutch for any length of time (i.e. Pressurising the system) it drops all the oil on the road. Gear changes have to be fast and a bottle of clutch fluid is required to top the system up on a regular basis. 
  2. The gas lift struts for the bonnet are buggered
  3. The shock absorbers need to be replaced
  4. The fuel cap is snapped off (this happened about 3 years ago and I never bothered to fix it)
  5. The drivers side seat is broken. When you sit in it your bum sunk all the way to the floor and the angle adjustment knob for back support has broken off.
  6. The window tinting had started to bubble and warp in some places
  7. The indicators sometimes don’t work. Instead of blinking on and off they turn on and stay on.
  8. The roof lining is falling down
  9. The drivers side window winder knob falls off when you use it
  10. The aerial is snapped off
  11. The air-conditioning is broken
  12. One of the back tyres was scrubbing badly on the inside and was not road legal.
  13. The fuel gauge shows full even when the tank is almost empty
  14. The remote central locking buttons on my key are totally worn out. There is no rubber left. You have to push down on the tact switch inside the key to use it.
  15. There is a leak round the windscreen somewhere. Whenever it rains heavily water seeps in and the car has a unpleasant wet smell. 

I was really worried about how much the clutch problem would devalue the car. Luckily the car salesman walked just around the car to do a visual inspection and then turn the engine on to see how well it started and have a listen to it. He asked me about the air-conditioning and I was upfront and said it didn't work, but I kept my mouth shut about everything else. I followed him around and looked over his shoulder at what he was writing down. Pretty much the only thing he spotted wrong was the broken fuel cap.

Below are some pictures of my baby (and the things that were wrong). I have had this car for 9 years. 

Clutch fluid lead. I am very happy this failed in my driveway one day and not up the coast a long way from home.

Broken fuel cap. It is one of those things that I was planning to fix for about 3 years.

You can see how bad the tyre is scrubbing on the right hand side. The groove should go all the way to the edge of the tyre.

My roof lining is falling down. the best thing about my seat breaking is that I sat lower and the roof lining no longer hit my head.

The drivers side window winding knob falls off as soon as you try to use it. Maybe if I got the air-conditioning fixed I wouldn't have worn it out :)

Broken aerial. I snapped it off on a tree while reversing out of a driveway.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 4

Good news! On the Christmas day I checked my inbox to find that I had an email from my recruiting agent (Gone2Korea). I have been offered a job in my city of choice, Daejeon. In the next week I should receive my NOA (Notice of Appointment) and job contract in the mail. Once I receive them I can start to organize my Korean working visa. While I wait for that I will be busy working through the pre-orientation course on the EPIK website. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 3

I called the ATO (Australian Tax Office) this afternoon to find out the tax implications of working in Korea. There is a calculator here which will ask you a series of questions and then tell you if you are still considered an Australian resident for tax purposes. To summarise... either way the ATO screws you.

Australian Residents
Australia has a tax treaty with South Korea. I am not sure on all the technical details but I will try to summarise. If you are an Australian resident and you give your employer in South Korea a letter of Australian residency from the ATO you won’t pay any tax in Korea but you will have to lodge a tax return back in Australia. If you are lazy and don’t give your employer a letter of Australian residency you will be taxed in Korea AND in Australia. Yes, you read that right. Tax will be taken out of your pay in Korea and you will still have to lodge a tax return in Australia. On your Australian tax return I think you can claim the tax paid in Korea so in the long run you wouldn’t be any worse off, but it would mean you have less money in your monthly pay packet. 

Non Australian Residents
If you are not considered an Australian resident you don’t have to pay any tax to Australia on money you earn in Korea. HOWEVER, if you have investments or savings in Australia you will have to lodge a tax return in Australia and pay tax (at a significantly higher rate) on any income generated from those investments. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 2

Stage 2 Update
I posted my Stage 2 documents last Saturday (20th). They sat in the Australia Post post office all weekend and for most of Monday (21st) too. According to the tracking service they were picked up late in the afternoon and were processed in Brisbane at 2:45AM Tuesday (23rd) morning and on their way to Korea. They were delivered to the Seoul Gone2Korea office on Wednesday (24th) at 3:30PM where someone did a final check to make sure everything was correct before forwarding them onto EPIK. According to James at Gone2Korea I am among the first of the applicants he is managing to get my documents to EPIK ^^. Fingers crossed it means I will get to work in Daejeon (my preferred city).

Australian Residency Certificate and Tax questions
The next thing I need to organise is my Australian Residency Certificate. This will mean I don’t have to pay tax on my income in Korea ^^. Unfortunately it looks like I will have to pay tax in Australia on any money I earn in Korea. Talk about greedy. I am not even in Australia using any government resources but I still have to pay tax? Pathetic. Anyway. Rules are rules. Some things I need to investigate
  1. In Korea I will be provided with housing. Do I need to pay some sort of fringe benefit tax on that? Will my accommodation appear on my pay slip as a cost?
  2. Will I still be classified as an Australian resident after June 2013 (the start of the new tax year in Australia)? Reading the residency rules here I am not sure. Technically I will be living in Korea so I won’t “always” have lived in Australia. 
  3. How the Korean currency I earn is converted into Australian dollars for tax purposes.
I guess on the plus side as an education professional there will be some things I can claim as a tax deduction (see here). Also, from July 2013 the tax free threshold in Australia will go up to $18200 (see here) so fingers crossed most of what I earn will slide under that.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 1

So long story short I am going to teach English in Korea next year (2013). My plan is to document the adventure via this blog to share it with others :)

I guess the first thing to talk is about applying for an English teaching job in Korea. EPIK (English Program In Korea) is a Korean government program which sources people from select western countries to work as English teachers in Korea. As an applicant all communication with EPIK is facilitated and managed by a recruiting agency. I have been told there are only 5 or 6 recruiting companies EPIK uses but there are a lot of 3rd parties who find applicants and then funnel them through the official recruiting companies. The official recruiting companies change from year to year so be careful of that. I contacted two of the official recruiting companies. 

Recruiting Agencies
The first company I contacted was teachaway. In short they took months to get back to me only to say that apparently there were no jobs available (which I knew was a load of bullshit). If you don’t want my business fine, just say so. Don’t feed me lies. I DO NOT RECOMMEND TEACHAWAY.
The second company I contacted was Gone2Korea. These guys are based in Canada and are fantastic. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about them. Every step of the way they were prompt with replies, professional and helpful. A couple of days after sending them my resume and cover letter I had a friendly chat over Skype with them to help kick off my EPIK application. 

The Application Process
I won’t focus too much on the technical details as they can be found on the Gone2Korea and EPIK websites and are likely to change from year to year.

Teaching English in Korea has become VERY popular. As a result, for the first time there are more applicants than there are teaching positions available. I think this is due to two things. 
  1. The tsunami in Japan and the following nuclear accident I think has scared many people away and as a result they are applying for the next most modern westernised Asian country (Korea). 
  2. The global economic down turn means there are a lot of people looking for work and are very worried about the long term future of the USA. 
When you apply for an English teaching position you can request a city or region, but you must be flexible to working ANYWHERE in Korea. EPIK will do their best to accommodate your request, but they can’t create teaching positions out of thin air. They operate on a first come first served basis. The sooner you get your documents to them, the better your chances of working in the city you want. Something to note (that I didn't find on any websites) is that there are multiple stages of documents that need to be submitted. Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

Stage 1 is your initial EPIK application which has things like your personal essay, a lesson plan, medical history and what city you would like to teach in. You also have to include two letters of recommendation which must be from a supervisor at a company you have worked for. EPIK doesn't care about reference letters from friends and family. Stage 1 is an electronic submission (you don’t have to post anything). Take your time to get this stage right. It is what will determine if you get an interview with someone at EPIK.

Stage 2 is (I think) the most important stage because it is the most time critical. When they say that the first people to get their documents submitted are the first to get jobs and the most likely to get work in their preferred city, they are talking about getting stage 2 documents submitted. Depending on your qualifications they will vary, but for me stage 2 included an:
  1. A notarised and apostilled copy of my engineering degree
  2. Apostilled copy of my criminal record check
  3. A signed hard copy of my application I electronically submitted in stage 1
  4. Hard copies of my letters of recommendation
  5. Colour photocopy of my passport profile page
  6. Photocopy of my TESOL certificate
I am Australian, and getting these documents together was expensive and all up cost me about $370 by the time I posted them to EPIK. A rough break down of the major expenses
  1. A notarised copy of my engineering degree cost $110. I then had to get it apostilled which because when it is notarised it becomes a double sided document, costs $80. So that is $190 for one piece of paper right there! Talk about a licence to print money :@
  2. Your police check will cost you $42 and take between 15 and 25 working days to be issued. Since it is also a double sided document, getting it apostilled will cost $80. Note that if it is dated too early (more than 6 months before you start) EPIK will reject it. Talk to your recruiting agent for more information.
  3. I used the “Express International Courier” service Australia post offers. They didn’t have any 500gram satchels so I had to foot the bill for a 1kG satchel which cost me $51.60
Something to note is that you won’t ever see your stage 2 documents again. EPIK keeps them and will not return them to you (even if you are unsuccessful in getting a job).

I won’t discuss Stage 3 and Stage 4 as I have not been through them yet. Stay tuned for an update in the next few months.

The Interview
I was freaking out pretty bad about my interview. It was the make or break thing. I couldn’t be a pedantic perfectionist about it like my stage 1 documents. If the interviewer got the impression I wasn't serious or just didn't like me.... no job for Phil. James at Gone2Korea helped me out by sending me some great information to help me prepare for it. I was interviewed by Korean woman over Skype one morning just before lunch. She spoke excellent English and was very nice. I greeted her with a friendly “Annyeonghaseyo” and the biggest simile I could muster (you know what they say about first impressions). By the end of the interview I caught her smile (just for a second before returning to her stern face) a couple of times. She finished with a “It was very nice to speak with you, I had fun” and I was done. Two days later I was notified by my recruiter that I had passed my interview and I could send my documents whenever they were ready. 

I will leave it there for now. Stay tuned for more updates.