Getting your slice of home in Korea

Many people come here to teach English.  Most don’t think beyond ‘this will be like a big holiday’ and are suddenly slapped with a grand dose of home-sickness.  They miss their Timmies or their family, or maybe just their surrounding environment.  The unfamiliarity comes rushing in when they realize that 2hrs after landing and getting driven to your new place, you are usually unceremoniously dumped and left to fend for yourself.  Although a good co-worker will at least help you get through your first night but they are usually busy with their own lives and do only as much as needed to make sure you get to your new place.

The vast majority of people go on holidays with friends, family but when you come to South Korea to teach, extremely few are here with anyone but the 4 walls they live in for one year.  So the holiday tends to end within 4hrs of arrival.  Then to add to this, what do you do about food?  Great co-workers will help you buy food.  They won’t buy it for you, you should have been told to bring some money with you to sustain you till you get your first paycheck and/or settlement allowance.  Just about everyone thinks that all they will need is food but the reality is that you have no idea what you are missing till you get here.  Sure the ad said ‘fully furnished apartment’ but oddly, this means just a bed, maybe a chair/couch and possibly a TV.  There is a distinct lack of mentioning of utensils, blankets, towers, toiletries, cups and those, while not terribly expensive, do add up and can chew heavily into your food budget.  Suddenly your 4 weeks budget is dropped to 2 weeks.  Then you find out you have to pay for your medical test because in order to get your Alien Registration Card you need this done.  But wait, before you can get your settlement allowance you need a bank account.  Oh wait, before you can get a bank account you need an ARC (Although this has recently changed and you can open a bank account with a passport now).  But wait, in order to open that bank account, you need to go to the bank during 9-5….same hours that you are working and you hope to God that a co-worker is nice enough to help you through this process…wait, did I mention that you work during these hours?  If you are reeeeealy lucky, the school will let off early because the day after you landed you are immediately working and of course your body had adjusted to the 13hr time difference right?

Well, that is a rather bleak view on your arrival here, but it is a common one.  You have to do your due diligence when you make such a decision to go to a completely foreign environment and realize that “you’re not in Kansas any more”.  Once all the initial crap is over, you can truly start enjoying your time here.  For the most part, you will be in the target age of 20-29 and will be hanging with other foreigners, at bars, drinking every weekend, partying in Hongdae with the crowd.  I find this to be truly sad because most of these people miss out on the experience that is surrounding them.  They seem to be continuing their ‘college days’ and have no one around them to be accountable to except their job.  Hell, even the girls (and guys) are good-looking, so why not hook up every weekend right?  Sadly these are the same people who end up quitting their job because it is not what they want/signed up for/believed they were getting.  They thought it would be fun and easy and get to see the world yet they spend more time-wasting (wasted?) on things that don’t help with their positive experience here.

Well, at least there are Foreigner Markets here so that you can get some thing familiar.

From Daily Image of Korea

These are a kind of ‘black market’ sellers.  Obviously not really illegal but more of where they get it from, typically US Military personnel, who are not supposed to be selling like this but it happens.  Don’t be surprised at the outrageous prices you’ll pay here.  I also question the dates on any food items here.  If you are close enough to a big city, there is always CostCo in Seoul and Daejeon.

Should you be one of the ones that truly take a look around,  spend the time to learn at least SOME Korean, you’ll find it truly rewarding and be surprised at how much the Koreans appreciate you trying to work with them on their terms.  I have found more positive and friendly gestures here than I ever have in Canada.  It can be somewhat of an odd feeling because us Canadians think we’re the ‘nice people of the world’ but get to know a few Asians and you’ll soon realize that there is a world of difference here to enjoy.

Author: DragonDon

Having a love of travel has lead me to move to South Korea in 2010. Moving to an Eastern culture from a Western culture is a wild experience and there is never a dull day!

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