So my school asked me to do a quick write up on how my experience has been so far in Korea for a book they were putting together. What’s below is a slightly modified version of what I gave them…
I have been in Korea for a little over a month, and I can’t help but notice the differences and similarities between my life here and in America. So many things, from the way I do laundry, to how school lunch takes place strikes me as unusual. Strangely enough, though, there are other things that are so alike that it makes me feel right at home.
For the past month, I’ve really enjoyed the adventure of this new place and culture! There are so many new things for me to try to eat, see, and understand. Some things that have really stood out for me have been how different my teaching job in Korea is verse back in America. First and foremost, the welcome shown me by students is so kind it’s almost unsettling. Koreans in general have been very kind and eager to help. When walking through the school halls in America, one or two students would say hello (EVERY single korean student says hello when I walk past) and never did I hear “Oh, teacher so handsome!” or “teacher marry me!” shouted down the hallway. Also, I’m getting used to all the exercise I get at school: in my school teachers are the ones that move from class to class, which means I have 5-6 different classrooms in a given day with all of them on different floors (and frequently in different wings of the school). If nothing else, I’ll stay fit while here!
Some of the other differences I’ve noticed so far are: the rarity of trashcans in public places, no toilet paper dispensers in bathroom stalls (not all over, but it happens frequently enough), restaurants specific to 1 type of meat, paying for shopping carts (just a deposit that you get back), differences between “inside” and “outside” shoes, heated floors, cellphone stores on every street corner, street food stands, frequent use of microphones by salespeople (they YELL at you to buy their products), no ovens, no clothes dryers (BIG change), and bathrooms in which the shower is the whole room (not ours). My favorite difference so far, though, has been the amazing couples’ outfits (men and women will wear the same thing…down to the shoes they have on).
There has been plenty here that’s kept us comfortable. Before coming here, I would never have expected to be able to communicate so easily; almost ever Korean I have interacted with spoke or understood enough English that I have been misunderstood only a few times (one of those times happened to be an accidental 45 min taxi ride into Seoul…). Also, while the food here is very different, it is surprising to see so many American food brands in the grocery and convenience stores. Furthermore, it’s nice to know that other foods such as pizza and a variety of American fast food chains are here (even though I didn’t normally eat fast food while still in America). The bus and train system here is actually much better, making it easy to get from place to place without too much confusion. Some other things that have made me feel more at ease have been: extremely fast internet, electronic door locks (I really like not having to carry keys), fancy western toilets with BUTTONS (I have yet to actually enjoy using one of these — Andrea has one of these at her school, I’m jealous), and free side dishes with every meal!