Wow, it’s almost time to pack up and go home!
Living in Korea
Last year, I decided it was time to do something new. I was feeling in a rut, grinding away my days. Something had to change. So, I quit my government job and moved to Korea to teach English.
Living in Korea has been a great experience. One of the best experiences of my life. It’s been interesting and eye-opening to be not only a racial minority but a language minority too. As difficult as fitting into a very unique culture can be, stepping into the role of teacher was far more difficult. After two days of observing the teacher I replaced and doing a couple of practice lessons, I thought, “What the hell did I get myself into?”
Things have worked out well so far. It took some time but I think I have fair grasp of teaching. Of all the jobs I’ve done this is the most difficult. It’s a continuous learning process.
Experiencing the culture has been a lot of fun. From learning manners to rudimentary conversation. It’s challenging but very rewarding. I’ve learned a few Korean phrases and basic things like how to count, ordering food, and basic greetings. Most of it I learned from my students who come in to chat with me before or after class.
The mountains of Korea have been a fun playground on the weekends. Hiking in Korea is quite a different experience compared to America. You can read more about hiking in Korea on my site Adventure Strong.
Like all things though, there are good points and bad points. These are 7 of the things I won’t miss.
Also Read: 7 Things I Will Miss About Living in Korea
NOTE: Please don’t take this criticism as me hating on Korea. All countries have plenty of things to like and dislike, my own country is certainly no exception.
7 Things I Won’t Miss
- Garbage – Trash. Rubbish. Refuse. It’s handled very strangely here in Korea. In some places, like Seoul, you have to put your garbage in specific trash bags that you have to buy. If it’s not bagged right it’s not picked up. Due to this there are NO public trash cans. Why? Supposedly, to deter the cheapskates from dumping their trash in public bins and avoiding the trash bag fee. But the actual problem that I dislike is how trash is piled in random places on street corners or sidewalks. Litter is everywhere. Kids just drop trash wherever they are. It’s gross, stinky, and just looks sloppy. When I told my students that doing that is really bad in America and police will give you a ticket they were amazed. The look on their faces was hilarious.
- Sick People – People go to work sick, kids go to school sick, and no one covers their mouth when they cough or sneeze. I rarely get sick but I’ve been ill four times so far since I’ve been here. My boss at work wrote me a note in Hangul (Korean) to take down to the pharmacy and they gave me some pills. It was cheap, like 5,000 won (about $4.50) for a few days worth. Then I just kept working. I have two sick days for the entire year. I haven’t used them just in case something serious happens.
- Stray Animals – Stray animals are a serious problem here. I’ve seen pregnant dogs, cats with young litters, and many others running around. It’s really sad. Unfortunately, I can’t have pets here or I’d take in a cat at least.
- Bad Students – I have some truly adorable students but there are a handful of students that are just infuriating. They don’t listen. They make loud noises. They distract other students. They draw on the wall. One broke a desk, another broke the door to my classroom. They constantly speak Korean even though the school’s policy is English only. When I first started, a few were bold enough to outright mock me. There’s no recourse or penalty for their bad behavior either. They don’t listen to me so I can’t really punish them, they don’t listen to the Korean teachers, even the school owner can’t get them under control. She’s too scared to tell the parents how bad the kids are because apparently parents here don’t respond well to that kind of feedback. I’ve never been so powerless in a job before, it’s been weird to adjust to.
- Expensive Fruit & Lack of Vegetables – Fruit is incredibly expensive here and fairly limited too. A single kiwi fruit is about 1,000 won (almost $1), a bag of 6 apples is 8,000 won (about $7.50), a bag of 6-8 oranges run about 9,000 won (about $8.40). The markets in my neighborhood carry a very limited variety of vegetables. The staples are radish, onions, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, and carrots. Sometimes you can find celery, green onions, and corn. I’ve yet to find
broccoli(Found it today!), cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc.
- Summer – I don’t know how things are down in Busan or Jeju, but up here in Suwon summer is not very enjoyable. It’s hot and really humid. It’s frequently cloudy and summer is rainy season. So, you’ll have to keep an eye on mold in your apartment. Also, be sure to pickup an umbrella because unlike back home where only tourists use umbrellas, you won’t dry out because it’s so humid.
- Too Little AirCon, Too Much Heater – Even though it’s hot as hell, very few places use air conditioning. Instead they use fans to blow the hot air around. Alternatively, in the winter places are overheated even when it’s not that cold. All winter, I just wore my normal clothes, pants and t-shirt, in class. This freaked people out because all the students and my Korean co-workers all wore their jackets inside. Sometimes they’d wear hats too. Winter hats, not baseball caps. I got a lot of questions, “Teacher, are you cold?” or “Teacher, you don’t have a coat?” It was funny.
Here’s a useful article on Soulistic about why living in Seoul is awesome.
BONUS: Crazy Taxi Drivers – I’ve almost been hit by taxi drivers twice. One teacher I know, was in a car wreck that was the fault of his taxi driver. The car flipped, he broke some bones and the driver died.
DOUBLE BONUS: Sidewalks – Unlike back home, sidewalks are not pedestrian only. Scooters, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and taxis will all drive up onto the sidewalk. Then there are the people completely engrossed in their smartphones. Watch out!
Don’t forget to read the good stuff about living in Korea.
Have you lived in or visited Korea? What did you like/dislike?