Reality check - five things to know before coming to Korea
Author's note: 'Life in Korea' posts are dedicated for the newer expats among us. If you have a more experienced perspective to offer, comments are open.
Quite a few of you wonderful readers hail from the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and dozens of other countries. I also know quite a few of you read to research a future trip to Korea, or to consider job prospects. While there's lots of things to learn ahead of time (learning hangeul, for one example), there's plenty of things to expect upon entering Korean soil.
1. Expect to get stared at - this creeps a lot of foreigners out. Haven't they seen another foreigner before?, you might think. If you're in a major city, they almost certainly have, yet your 'exoticness' is about as enticing as straining to see the accident on the expressway.
2. Looks matter - as does the way you dress. It's not unusual to see people dressed up at all hours of the day. Wearing a suit won't be required if you're working with kids, but you'll notice that few Koreans look unkempt in an unintentional way. You might feel some pressure to spruce up, and there are plenty of places to buy the latest fashions if you choose.
3. Pushing, shoving, queue-cutting, etc. are normal – especially by older people. In fact, people getting off the subway sometimes have to push their way out, even as others are pushing on! It may feel inefficient, but hey, that’s the culture. Older people get away with bending some of society’s rules, such as cutting in front of others or aiming at a seat. It’s nothing personal (usually) so try to grin and bear it.
4. Expect to have more money in your pocket. 김밥 (gim-bap, or rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed): 1,000 – 2,000 won. 라면 (ra-myeon, or instant noodles): less than 2,000 won. Starting fare for a trip on the Seoul 지하철 (ji-ha-cheol, or subway): 900 won. Admission to 경복궁 (Gyeongbok Palace – Korea’s most famous Joseon Dynasty palace): 3,000 won. Even a nice dinner of 삼겹살 (sam-gyeop-sal) won’t cost more than 6,000 – 8,000 won per serving. There are plenty of ways to spend your money in Korea, but there’s little need.
5. There’ll be less space, but more clever uses of it. Koreans have been living in a country the size of Indiana for a long time. Some apartment complexes may feel downright claustrophobic, though others are nice and large - 여의도 공원 (Yeo-ui-do gong-won), or Yeouido Park, comes to mind.
Even after 2 1/2 years here, I have to say that I’m loving it. Everything has its ups and downs, of course, but so far the good heavily outweighs the bad!
This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.