Well, I guess this is going to be just another New Year blog post. But, minus the resolution in sight. Continue reading “Out with the old. In with the new.”
I was quite disoriented when I first moved to South Korea — a little depressed, a little homesick. I felt like I was on a different planet altogether.
For the first time, I was hit by culture shock.
Korea can be a hard place to move if you don’t know what to expect. Getting settle is confusing and the process is very laborious. Many times I found myself thinking “Man, I wish I knew that before I came …” — and I would like to share with you some of those things.
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01. Pack well. Finding larger clothes (or shoes) to buy in Korea is not easy.
This is especially useful if you’re on the larger side. In big cities, sure, you can go to Western-owned stores; but I am not quite sure if it’s the same case at the underground malls. Personally, I haven’t done any shopping there (except for cosmetics) but I did go to one of the malls we have in Daejeon — not much different than other malls elsewhere, only slightly pricier than back home.
02. Koreans will not smile at you as you pass them by.
I did it many times the first month I moved to SoKo. And gave up shortly after. Well, the culture here is different. Don’t take it personally. After a while, I resorted to just a nod or a bow to show respect / say hello. And, Koreans tend to stare at foreigners – especially the ajumma (아줌마) and ajosshi (아저씨). Don’t take that personally either — that’s just how they are.
03. The level of English is appalling.
Google Translate will be your new bestfriend. You will also have to make do with pictures and gestures. Korean alphabet, hangeul (한글), is very easy to learn. It’ll be good if you know some basic phrases — it’ll make life so, so much easier 🙂
04. Korean’s transportation system is fantastic.
I love the transportation system here. Makes it super easy to travel. Buses, trains, subways, taxis — they’re all equally great. And, super punctual, of course. There are transportation apps you could download: my favourites are Seoul Subway (you need, need, need this if you live/visit Seoul) and Daejeon Bus (well, self-explanatory because I live in Daejeon).
05. Koreans don’t wear swimming costume.
… but they will swim in their normal day clothes. They don’t appreciate women showing their shoulders, or wearing clothes with low-cut neckline in public. But, guess what? Super short shorts or miniskirts are appropriate.
06. Internet speed is amazing.
You can pick up wifi signal everywhere. Yes, everywhere. And, it’s free too 🙂
07. There are convenience store everywhere.
Literally, every 50m from each other. And they all accept payment by credit/debit card for any amount of purchase (I like this, because I don’t like carrying cash) unlike back home where you have to spend a floor amount.
08. Also, millions of cafe.
Really. I’m not even kidding. There are tons of cafes around — Cats Cafe, Dogs Cafe, Hello Kitty Cafe, etc. — you name it, Korea has it.
09. It is very safe.
You can leave your door unlocked. You can also leave your cellphone on the table while you get up to order food. Nobody’s going to steal it. CCTVs are everywhere. So, you can walk around alone without worrying someone will come and harass you.
10. Your apartment will be small.
The apartment that will be given to you (if you take up a job as an English teacher — your apartment is paid for) will most likely be quite tiny and there will be no separate shower, but instead, a shower head in the middle of the bathroom under which you shower.
11. Foreigners are friendly.
There are a lot of Facebook groups for different cities. It is pretty easy to make friends with other foreigners. In fact, the friends I made so far, are all from various FB groups I became member of.
12. Private karaoke and DVD rooms are very popular.
Known as noraebang (노래방) in Korean — just in case you need to find one. This can be found everywhere. So, get a group of friends together and go sing your hearts out!
13. It is not rude to use your cellphone.
Using your cellphone is not impolite. You can use it during social events, at dinner, etc. — in fact, you can use it anywhere.
14. You can’t do anything without your ARC (foreigners’ resident card).
Without ARC, you will not be able to apply for a phone contract/get a prepaid sim, get a bank account or any other services where government ID is required.
15. You do not wear shoes inside the house.
You will take them off at the entrance (well, there’s a specific area for shoes) and walk in with your socks/barefoot. Or, in some places there will be “inside shoes” provided.
So yeah. There you go. There might be quite a bit of downsides living in SoKo but as a whole, Korea is a lovely place to be. And there are so many things to explore. Take the risk, it will all be just fine 🙂
Moving abroad for the first time can (occasionally) be a very baffling decision.
But if you’re considering it, I’d say “Go for it!” —
It will not only be life changing; but a rewarding experience too. Trust me.
So you’ve accepted this amazing job offer in a far-flung land. Go online — get to know where you’re going, talk to people who have been there. You know, do something about it. If possible, ask your new company to allow a pre-visit so you’ll know what to expect when you arrive.
Meet People –
When you first arrive in your new host country, it is important to meet people and make new friends. Get involve at school (if you’re a parent), seek out local groups and don’t just stick to the expats (though I quite like InterNations community). Not isolating yourself from others can greatly improve your perspective of your new home and it helps to have local (and expats alike) friends to connect with.
Learn the Language –
This doesn’t mean you have to be fluent in the span of one month. But, yes, learn the language of your new home. It’ll make life much easier especially if you’re going to live in a country where English isn’t widely spoken. Know the basic at the very least. It will help you get around, and boost relationships at your new workplace.
Be Open; Embrace Independence –
If you’ve always been dependent on someone (it could be your parents, spouse, etc.), you might have a hard time abroad. It is important to learn how to do things yourself. You also need to be comfortable being alone, be open to surprises and not always compare your host country to your home. Sure, the grass might be greener at home but if you keep thinking about it, it’ll make your transition a very hard one.
“No Vacancies” –
Don’t underestimate how many guests you will have in your first year abroad. Sometimes, these requests might even come from people you haven’t heard from in years. I’m not saying say no to everyone; but don’t let yourself get overbooked. You need time to get to know your new city, your new life. Constantly having guests to entertain is certainly not conducive.
And honestly. It will not be a bed of roses — there will be times when your new expat life displeases you, when you desperately want to go home to your comfort zone. But then, there will be days when you realise how lucky you are to have the opportunities many can only dream of having.
So, live it up.
Bon Voyage! Gueti Reis! 잘다녀오십시오!
All the very best of luck with your new adventure.