10 Pleasantly Surprising Things About Korea

1. People Don’t Stare As Much As You’re Told They Will

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Before I moved to Korea, like any Expat, I tried to learn as much about my new home as I could. I read blogs, I watched YouTube videos, you name it. And a reoccurring theme that popped up was “be prepared for stares.” Now, maybe it’s because I’m an almost 6 foot tall, curvy, walking canvas, but people here don’t really stare any more or less than people back home. Kids? Sure. Older folks? Sometimes. But, for the most part, if you live in a city, most Koreans are used to foreigners by now. So, if you find a lot of people staring, then you may either A. be in a rural area or B. have food on your face. Maybe both.

2. It’s Super Easy to Get Around

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Public transportation in phenomenal here! I come from a small city, with minimal public transportation, so if you didn’t have a car you couldn’t get very far. That is not the case in Korea. The public transportation is some of the simplest and most efficient in the world. It’s so nice not having to deal with a car and everything that goes with it, while still being able to get where I need to go. Pro Tip: If you have a Korean Bank account you can use your bank card instead of a T-Money card to tap in and out of buses, the metro and taxis.

3. There’s WiFi Everywhere

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Okay, maybe not everywhere, but close enough. In most major cities you can find street wi-fi and if you can’t, just pop into one of the dozens of cafes or restaurants on any given street and they’ve got you covered. This feature has been indispensable to me.

4. There Are So Many Things To Do

Where I’m from, the only things open after 10pm are Wal-Mart, convenience stores, and bars, and even those close at 2am. Not ideal for a night owl. But, I’m right at home in Korea. There are 24 hour cafes, arcades, PC rooms, and even night markets. Best of all, Korea is one of the safest countries, so I feel perfectly comfortable exploring parks after dark.

5. People Probably Won’t Steal Your Stuff

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On that note, people probably won’t steal your stuff. No, not because Koreans are morally superior to other people (although I have had a few Korean people try to tell me this). It’s actually because there are cameras everywhere! Literally, everywhere. If you try to commit a crime, nine times out of ten you’re going to be caught. So, many people feel perfectly comfortable leaving a laptop or their cellphone on a table when they go to pick up their coffee, greet a friend, or go to the loo. I’m still not completely confident in this area, because it’s not how I was raised, but it’s still pretty neat. *Disclaimer* This does not apply to heavily crowded, dark places. So, if you’re in say… a club, best to stow your belongings in a locker.

6. Food Delivery in the Park

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Yes, you read that right, you can get food delivered to the park, and pretty much anywhere else. Sitting in the grass in a non-descript area beside the Han River? Food. Going camping in the mountains? Food (and grilling equipment). In a park and having a killer time on the swing set and you don’t want to leave because some punk 12-year-old will take your spot, but you’re super hungry? You can get food there, too. Basically if you can drop a pin on your location, you can probably get delivery there, in Korea. Of course, there are exceptions, but the point is, the food delivery culture here is insane. Downside, it doesn’t really work if you don’t have a Korean phone or basic Korean skills…

7. Service!

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This is one of my favorite things about Korea! Free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Korea is such a densely populated area, and there are dozens of businesses in the same market vying for your patronage. So as incentive, many businesses offer “service” to first time or frequent customers as a way to ensure continued business, or show appreciation for your business… I guess if I lay it out like that, it sounds kind of sad… but, it’s how things work around here. Also, I’m a poor teacher, I need all the free stuff I can get.

8. Sweet Potato Everything

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Okay, maybe not all the free stuff. This is more an interesting-surprising thing, rather than a pleasantly surprising thing for me. I love sweet potato, don’t get me wrong, but sweet potato cake and ice cream? Too far Korea, too far. But hey, just because it’s not up my alley, doesn’t mean it’s not up yours. You do you.

9. Outside Food in the Movie Theater

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The first time I saw a family bringing a bag of take-out into the movies, it was as if the clouds had parted and all the little children had started to singing a heavenly chorus. That’s not a thing where I’m from. Where I’m from you have to sneak in outside food like you’re smuggling drugs over the border, or forced to pay exorbitant prices for some mediocre popcorn. But here, ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

10. Movie Food Doesn’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

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On that note, if you do decide that you just want some good old-fashioned popcorn with your movie, it’s not going to cost you your first-born child. Most likely due to the outside food policy, they don’t ridiculously hike up their food prices because they know you can go somewhere else. That’s just a hunch, or maybe it’s because movie theaters here aren’t run by a fire-spitting demon. Who knows? All I know is I appreciate it. Thanks Korea!

 

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Tinder in Korea

As a single, 24 year-old woman, having just moved to a new country, knowing absolutely no one, it’s only natural that I would find my way here at some point. And I would just like to say: pr1.jpeg

Tinder is garbage.

 

I don’t care who you are. I don’t care whose friend of a friend met their husband on Tinder. We all know that those stories are an exception, not the rule.

The rule is: Tinder is what you do when you’re bored, sad,lonely, hungry, or under the illusion that “this time it will be different”.

It’s never different.

And Korea really cinched that for me.

I thought the guys in the US were bad. *sigh* Try dealing with the same thirsty ass men, plus a language barrier, PLUS the misguided notion that foreigners are easy, and you have a recipe for some very cringe-worthy encounters.

Exhibit A

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Clearly.

I used to have the terrible habit of unmatching guys as soon as they started getting weird, when I should have been documenting them.

Granted, this is not how the majority of guys will come at you. And, of course there are guys that do this in every country (which doesn’t excuse it), but the language issue is what really makes me cringe. I mean, if you’re going to try to spit game at me, at least make it grammatically correct, in whatever language you’re using.

*Side note-*I did not call him dumb for his struggles with the English language. I called him dumb for his tactlessness. *

Honestly, I was never looking for anything serious on Tinder. I mean, a girl can dream, but I’ve always known what it is. I was, however, looking for some human contact. Being alone in a new country is terrifying and it’s nice to have someone to talk to. Oddly, enough there are some guys on Tinder that just want to make friends or find language exchange partners (or so they say), so it’s not terrible in that respect. But those encounters, intertwined with these…

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I don’t think he was referring to my love of IKEA furniture

I’d rather leave it. Essentially, what I’m getting at is, Tinder is trash no matter where you are. It’s best to develop a sense of humor about it.

Swipe at your own risk.

 

 

My weirdest experience in Korea, thus far. Pt. 1

This is part one of a potentially infinite part series. I feel like I’ve had so many moments in which I’m just at a loss for words. But there’s one in particular that comes to mind immediately. I’ve actually documented the incident on my twitter page, so rather than write it out again, I’ll just share those.

I was just at a complete loss. He didn’t seem especially intoxicated, but who knows? All I know is that is probably one of the weirdest, not to mention creepiest things to happen to me so far.

Why Moving To A New Country Is The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

Growing up, my family moved around a lot. When I tell people, their initial reaction is usually something along the lines of, “Oh! that must have been hard for you.” And sure, sometimes it was. Leaving people behind is always hard, but I loved the adventure.woodland-road-falling-leaf-natural-38537.jpeg

Even as a child, I was always excited to start a new school, make new friends, soak in whatever experiences I could. Not all of them were great, but it gave me a taste for change. To the point that, if I stayed in one place too long I would get restless. Which was what was happening before I decided to move half way around the world.

Before the big move, I had been stuck in the same place for 7 years. That’s the longest I’ve ever been in one area. And although, I wasn’t necessarily in the same home for the whole 7 years, I was surrounded by the same people, the same experiences, it felt like time was standing still.

Every day seemed like the one before. I was sinking into depression and I started picking up some less than ideal habits as a result. After graduating from University, I decided to take a trip to Europe, I needed to get out of Ohio for a while. It was an amazing experience.

I was only there for 5 weeks, but I visited 7 different countries, met countless wonderful people, and I had a blast.

But, so did my wallet.

In that… it exploded, and not in a good way.

I didn’t save up enough money before I left on my excursion and was forced to use credit cards while I was there… If you can take away one thing from this article, it’s that using credit cards on travel is not the most brilliant plan. I was already not in the best place financially. I never have been, but I made it so much worse. I’ve been supporting myself since I was 17, I was usually working 2-3 jobs at a time to put myself through school and keep a roof over my head. So you would think I would know better than to do something reckless. But honestly, at the time, I didn’t care at all. I needed an escape and I got it.

The plan was, I would go to Europe, have the experience of a lifetime, come home, stop waiting tables (because I had been doing it for 6 years and it was getting to me), get a steady corporate job, in a pretty good company, that my friend worked for, so I could pay off my debt and become a normal, functioning member of society.

That was the plan.

And it’s what I did. I started working a regular 9-5…. well technically 7-3. And it was interesting for a while. I met some new people, learned some new things, both of which are things I love to do. But, after 6 months….

I hated it.

And I wasn’t making enough money. I had student loans, rent, utilities, a car payment, car insurance, gas, a phone bill, credit card payments, health insurance, dental care payments, and on and on and on.

I felt like I was sinking.

pexels-photo.jpegI was working 3 jobs again. I would work from 7am-3pm at my friends company, then I would go straight to my side job at a tattoo shop from 4pm-10pm, and in my free time I would pick up shifts at a restaurant I used to work for.

I had virtually no social life. I would occasionally get out on Saturday, but I was so drained from the week behind me and the thought of the week to come, that I just wasn’t any fun. My life consisted of paying bills, and I absolutely hated it. Something had to change.

So I made a change.

A big change.

Being in Europe was the happiest I had felt in a long time. I knew I wanted to travel more, but I also knew I did not have the financial capabilities to do so for leisure. So, I did a quick google search for “Jobs that let you travel”. Bing-Pot

A couple of options came up.

Working remotely-don’t have the necessary skills (I have a bachelors in psychology..???).

Travel blogger – intriguing but not reliable.

Flight attendant Strict schedule

And then I found it: ENGLISH TEACHER!- necessary qualifications for most of these jobs… is to just to be a native English speaker??? It sounded too good to be true.

I had wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but somewhere along the line, people got into my head with the “teachers don’t make any money”, “teaching is hell” rhetoric, and so I went into psychology pexels-photo-325924.jpeginstead.

In my third year at university, I realized that I did, in fact, still want to be a teacher, but by that point I had almost completed my Psych degree, and would have had to add on 2 more years of schooling and many thousands of dollars, which I did not have, in order to get an education degree. So, I toughed it out, completed my degree with the thought that somewhere in the future I can get a Masters in Education, when I’m financially sound (hahahahaha).

But, now I didn’t have to do any of that. I looked into it for many months before making my final decision. Non-English speaking countries are always hiring native English speakers, and for some that’s their only requirement as far as qualifications go, but those countries don’t necessarily offer the most benefits to their teachers. And I am a University graduate, with a degree dealing with the study of minds, specifically child development. Which had to be worth something.

It was as it turns out. Mostly it’s helpful because the country I chose to teach in, Korea, requires their English teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree. Just a Bachelors degree. Doesn’t really matter what it’s in. But, I’m still pleased with my area of study, because it gives me an edge in the teaching field.

So there I was. I had my goal. I just had to figure out how to reach it. It took a lot of hours of research, anxiety, organization, communication, and so much confusion. Honestly, everything moved so quickly it’s a little mind-boggling, how much I was able to pull together in a few short months, but that’s a story for another time.

What’s important is that I made it. I’m a full-fledged teacher and I could not be happier. Sure, nothing is perfect. But I love my job, on the good days and the bad. My students bring something new to the table every single day. They’ve made me laugh. They’ve made me cry. They’ve made me want to rip out my hair and bang my head against the wall. All in the same hour.

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He stole my phone and managed to snap some selfies before I noticed.

I feel like I’m always learning. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but it’s a struggle I’m willing to go through, because I get to make a difference in someone’s life. Teachers are so much more than the subject they teach. I’m a confidant for these kids. I’m someone who cares for them, when they feel like no one else does. They come to me with their trouble and their heartbreak, just like they come to me with their triumphs and successes. I can’t think of a more tumultuous or a more rewarding profession.

But it’s not just the kids. Yes, they are a huge part of my life, and I love them to piece, but they’re not everything. I’m not sure what you know about Korea (I know I didn’t know much before I decided to move my life here), but it is a rich, and vibrant cultural epicenter. I live just south of Seoul, which has a booming fashion and entertainment industry. There are skyscrapers right next to 600 year-old palaces. My apartment is a 10 minute walk to a fortress built in 1794, that surrounds my city. It’s a beautiful blend of historical and modern life. And the best part, I have the option to travel to numerous surrounding countries, without spending an arm and a leg.

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Why It’s Taken So Long To Start This Blog.

I’ve been in Korea for about 8 months now. When I left the United States I told everyone I would document the experience in one form or another, but it didn’t happen.

The truth is, it’s hard. There has been so much to see and do, that there hasn’t been time to sit down and write about it. Life is just happening. But, I feel like things are slowing down. I’m finally settled and comfortable and ready to share my experiences with others.

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