After 1 year in Korea…

I have lived in Korea for 1 year now, and can break my thoughts down in to 4 categories: What I love about living here. What is now normal after seeming so odd when I arrived. What still seems so weird after being here for a year. And last, what pisses me off.

What I love:
*My washing machine sings to me when the cycle finishes
*Can’t agree on a decision?…Rock Scissor Paper is the most common form of dispute resolution, in the classroom and on the street
*Taking off my shoes as soon as I get to work, replacing them with comfortable Adidas slippers until I leave
*Getting a smile and a nod from the people that work in the restaurants I visit when I see them on the street
*KB Bank. Dream come true after starting with Standard Chartered
*Korean food. Weekly, I enjoy bibimbap, kimbap, budae or sundubu jiggae, donkas, mandu and mandu guk, and beef galbi. Every so often I mix in dak galbi, samgyeopsal and bulgogi. There’s so much more, it would be hard to mention it all
*Side dishes, or banchan. Dried fish, sprouts, roots, shoots, stems, leaves, cabbage, radish, spicy, fermenty, vinegary, sesame oil, soy sauce, seaweed, tofu, garlic, onion, … it’s all good.
*The drawings of me that my students create
*Watching my students grow more confident as their English improves
*Korean ramyeon. So much better than ramen at home
*Baseball games. They are a trip
*The option of a cheap love motel
*My charming neighborhood. It’s in Seoul, but not overrun by the tall, cookie cutter residential towers that litter the majority of the city
*Living like a tourist in Seoul because there is always something new to discover
*Unlike the employment situation at home, there are plenty of jobs for college educated Americans here
*Having a small social circle
*Spending my weekends with my girl

What once was odd, but now seems normal:
*Seeing swastikas everywhere
*Bus drivers leaving it running, and walking off the bus at a red light to have a smoke
*Instant coffee
*Eating dried squid and fried chicken at a baseball game instead of hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks
*Police cars always have the red and blue lights blazing, not just when they are in pursuit of something important
*Putting my garbage directly on the street instead of in a bin or garbage can
*No protection from a crosswalk when crossing the street
*Planning vacations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand instead of Arizona, Nevada and California
*Planning local trips to Mokpo, Sokcho and Busan instead of Bend, Seattle and Mt. Hood
*Extremely tiny cans of soda. I once thought it was ridiculous, I now think it’s perfect
*Tanks full of dead sea life lining the streets in front of restaurants
*Never being able to find a trash can when you need it
*100% relying on public transportation while my Ford Explorer is waiting for me at an undisclosed location in the Portland metro area
*They are not angry at me, but the vendors are yelling, borderline screaming at me to sell their swag.
*Practically living on top of people in one of the most densely populated cities on the planet
*Corn is a normal topping on pizza
*Cooking food on a hot plate on my limited counter space
*Smelling the kimchi that everyone ate for breakfast while riding the subway
*Showering next to my toilet
*Hang drying laundry in my apartment instead of using a dryer
*Watching Blazer basketball on a lap top at my desk instead of on the DVR laying my couch
*Daily consumption fermented and pickled vegetables
*On the rare occasion I watch TV, it’s CNN or Discovery Channel
*Ladies dressed in tan uniforms, pushing motorized carts selling yogurt drinks out of tan colored coolers all over the neighborhood
*Managing a classroom of elementary school kids is the most challenging part of my job
*I don’t have voice mail
*Not stepping foot inside my apartment between Friday morning and Monday morning
*Being called Dustin instead of “D”
*Running to catch a green light

what still seems weird:
*Multiple dangly accessories hanging from “hand pones” aka cell phones
*People are always starring at me. Apparently they’ve never seen a tall, white dude, with blue eyes and facial hair before
*It’s OK to watch TV while you drive. Screens are found on the dash of just about every car, and they are watching them. At home, you can’t even talk on the phone or text message without getting a ticket
*Red lights are meaningless
*Men with purses
*Bundaegi. Stinky silk worm larvae
*Balloon arches, men on stilts and plushies signify an extraordinary sale. It doesn’t have the profound effect of making me want to spend my money
*People selling things all over the public sidewalks. Oranges, socks, strawberries, hats, socks, shoes, gloves, snacks, socks, flashlights, furniture, flowers…. socks
*Giant displays of flowers to announce a new business opening. It looks like a Western funeral
*I don’t have any idea what the address to my apartment is
*Having to point at pictures to aid in the food ordering process
*Do I walk on the left or the right?
*Stacks upon stacks of tall, skinny residential apartment buildings

What pisses me off:
*The general public has an innate tendency to always be in my way and an inability to walk in a straight line. I strongly believe it’s genetic. And it doesn’t help that everyone has their heads buried in their cell phones watching TV, rarely looking up to see where they are going
*Motorcycles and scooters on the sidewalks. I dream of knocking one of them over if they get any closer
*I can not find shoes to fit my feet and I’m only 11.5 at home. Good luck finding anything over 285. I top out at 295.
*Fellow shoppers stopping the flow of traffic to catch a glimpse of what’s in my bag or basket. Yes, foreigners eat too, and a lot of the same things that you do
*Puking and spitting fat loogies on the sidewalks and in public places, such as elevators
*Post nasal drip that will not go away. It’s always hanging around. That’s what you get living in a polluted city and working with germ factories, otherwise known as Korean children
*Getting to my destination quickly is appreciated, but do the bus drivers really have to drive so erratic?
*Feeling molested by the pushing and shoving in public places
*Couples shirts, and shoes, and whatever matching articles of clothing Korean couples wear in public
*Realizing that the Korean education system is set up for cheaters to succeed
*Only having slight Korean conversational skills
*Not being able to read the alphabet, even though I know it’s super easy to learn
*The pain in the ass that is purchasing event tickets online. Impossible without the assistance of a Korean
*Rarely eating Mexican food, and when I do, it’s not what I wish it would be
*Public bathrooms never seem to have soap or paper towels

It was a great year. I plan on doing everything I can to make that last category smaller next time.

Learn Korean with

~ by ripcitytoseoul on April 28, 2010.

10 Responses to “After 1 year in Korea…”

  1. Great post. A warning, though: I’ve been in Korea for 8+ years and most of the stuff that pisses you off still pisses me off, so some things just never change. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who believes a there’s a genetic problem with space and straight lines here (I notice a lot of people stopping at the end of escalators, causing a pile up).

    And like you, I’ll be at my computer for game 6 of the Blazers-Suns series, praying that the Blazers have another miracle in them.

  2. I think they have a game 6 in them, but pulling off the series is probably a long shot. Nice to see that with us…Rip City is alive in Korea.

  3. You and your girl should get matching sweatsuits. It’s time to assimilate even further.

    • Matching sweat suits would be the closest I could come to pulling off the couples gear. The shoes, t-shirts, sweat shirts, all that… it looks ridiculous. Sweat suits is kind of dope though. I hope she doesn’t read this.

  4. Your rock, paper, scissors thing is on ESPN. Apparently this is a much bigger thing than us Americans believe. Who knew?

    Leave it to the Canadiens to have a world championship. I wonder if they’re female pros in rock, paper, scissors are as hot as their curlers? This could be intriguing….

    • I’ll have to check that out. Here they say rock, scissor paper, and it’s ridiculous. I kid you not, I catch students playing it with themselves, one hand against the other.

  5. man reading this is making me miss korea even though I haven’t left yet D; I’m currently here on an high school exchange student program run by the US department and its almost been a year!!!!!one month left to go!
    & i like how you basically almost named everything there is about korea!!! But all the things that you get annoyed or think is weird seem so normal to me, yes, you can say i became a straight up fob lol. love your post!!!!

    • Thanks. Very cool that you came here in high school. My fist abroad experience was during my university years.

  6. That last category will only get larger the longer you are there D.:)

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