I’ve been living in South Korea for nearly three months and I’d say I have a pretty good idea on the ins and out of living here now. You can research until you’re blue in the face, but you are only truly going to know a place when you go over and experience it for yourself.
Travel is subjective (if I made a dollar for every time I’ve said that on this blog!) and what one-person likes… another might not. With that being said, I do believe that blogs recounting personal experiences about a country can help you in deciding WHICH country you want to visit next! Please don’t come over here and then drop me a message saying, “Lamb, you ruined my life!”
I’ve visited Korea before but I can say that I’ve learnt a lot more since living here! Some experiences came as expected, but a lot has surprised me…
Things that surprised me living in South Korea
- Everyone is really beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I agree. However, I truly believe that we can appreciate the beauty that maybe isn’t out type. I’ve fallen in love several times over here. They’ve got a very elegant beauty about them that I can’t quite describe. I feel like a boiled potato standing next to them.
- Public transport is always on time. Sometimes even earlier than expected! If the bus says it’ll depart at 9:03 am – that’s when it departs. You gotta be on time and as someone who never tolerates tardiness – these are my people! They will literally ignore you if you rock up 30 seconds later. Savage.
- Stationary is cheap. This may be a lame surprise to some but anything to do with office supplies and I lose myself. I have a ridiculous amount of cute pens and notebooks cause they all cost around $1. I get lost in the cuteness… The cuteness has me now.
- Everything works. Totally related to First World places but it still shocks me that everything simply… works! You want to use an automated machine when ordering food – you can and they’re always working! I like to rough it, but sometimes, working systems just make me a happier person.
- Beauty and makeup is everything. You’ve probably seen the viral videos of the crazy transformations of Korean people and their unbelievable skill with a makeup brush. There are skincare and makeup stores as common as convenience stores. From a young age, they’re taught the importance of looking after your skin and their 10-step skincare routine is gaining popularity around the work – for good reason! I’ve stepped up my skincare regime in a BIG way and I can totally tell the difference – and you guys can too! I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my pictures. Which I always appreciate – so, thank you, beautiful people.
- No judgment in plastic surgery. I’m pro-choice on most issues and plastic surgery is no exception. I’ve seen friends turn their worlds around by having plastic surgery. In Korea, there is zero stigma attached to plastic surgery and some friends encourage each other to get it. I’ve been asked a few times if my nose is ‘mine’. I’ll take that as a compliment…
- The military. Both American and Korean. I never understood just how many people from the US military were stationed here. They’ve picked up quite a reputation as being absolute dogs when it comes to women, something I have yet to experience but am in no hurry for that day to come… Korean men also have to serve two-years in the military before they turn thirty. So, you often see them walking around in uniform and I currently have two of them sitting next to me in Starbucks.
- The drinking culture. The Irish are big drinkers. South Africans are known to be big drinkers. Step aside. Just, step aside. The Koreans DRINK. It’s absolute madness the amount of Soju these humans put away per day. They work hard… and party even harder. It’s a serious burn the candle at both ends type of country.
- Studying and working long hours. From kindergarten, they’re expected to study from morning to night. It’s that simple. My kindergarten kids will be with me from 9:30 am until 3 pm and then they will continue on to another specialized academy until 7 or 8 pm. Then it’s homework time. For about 3 hours. It doesn’t stop until they retire – it’s that simple. I told my elementary kids that my school in South Africa used to finish at 2 pm and they all died laughing. They found it hilarious that we can learn ‘for so little’. That’s probably why my 7-year-olds write at a 13-year-old level… And it’s their second language. I had to explain ‘ascend’ to them yesterday…
So, as I was writing this I changed the title to include ‘Part 1’ cause I can go on for hours! I’ll continue with this series to include the (maybe mundane) culture shocks from living in South Korea. I hope it will be helpful to potential future expats!