10 lessons we’ve learned after 9 months in Korea

9 Months of living in Korea have passed. Shocker, I still can’t say with any confidence that I know anything significant about how to do this. We may not be gurus but, I will say this: living in Korea is ever entertaining and living abroad is nothing like how it is on instagram. Here are some of the unusual things we’ve gotten used to.

  1. If a Korean person approaches you with anything resembling a clipboard, they probably aren’t just informing you of free Korean lessons—this is most likely a front for getting you to their “community events” aka a thinly-disguised cult invite. Sorry not sorry about that one.
  2. You should learn Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) when you get here ASAP. The Konglish situation is your friend –and a great source of laughs. For example, 핸드폰(pronounced hand-duh-pone) is really just cell-phone. The Koreans are super proud of their alphabet and even have a national holiday devoted to it. Awesome.
  3. You should learn survival Korean- it vastly improved my quality of life here in countless ways. Most notably, I can confidently order more lettuce at Korean barbeque- which everybody knows is crucial because the portion is never proper to the ratio of meat that’s supposed to accompany it, sheesh. (더 상추주세요if anyone’s interested).
  4. Give up drinking anything other than Soju or beer. Anything else is going to end up costing you an arm and a leg and when a bottle of Soju is ~$1, why would you want to spend more money? Also relevant, the drinking culture surrounding soju and work seems a bit like a fraternity/sorority hazing. Despite this, I’ve never felt safer than I have while living in Seoul : Seoul, How Safe Thou Art
  5. If someone asks you to take a picture with them (because you’re western), you should say yes. but only on the condition that you can also take a picture with your phone, too. THESE are just spectacular down the line. Throwback to the time we were drinking beers walking around the zoo and this group of kids asked for a photo. “Just a second, let me put my can down”.

    spot the beer cans
  6. Cooking in your “apartment” is limited and sometimes proves to be a real adventure. I mean, last night I roasted an entire raw chicken still blessed enough to possess some of its internal organs and its neck in my toaster oven. No big deal, bless it. It’s so much more fun to eat out in Korean restaurants and is actually a better value for your money most of the time.
  7. The mega-metropolis that is Seoul has a lot of these high-rise wasteland subway stops that seem straight out of a post-apocalyptic teen novel. For example, never get stuck in Digital Media City. That’s the name of the subway stop. It tells you everything you need to know. In general, if you check your subway app and it shows a transfer that may cause you to miss the last connecting train home, you WILL be in a cab and you’ll be sorry about it. Always check subway transfer times.
  8. Your kebab guys will become your friends here. Treat them well. Yeah, it’s 4am and it’s clearly cab-o-clock for fill in the blank reasons. But it would basically be a crime to the local economy if I didn’t contribute. Extended absences will be NOTED by your kebab guys. “Hey, you forget about us? Long time no see”. No, kebab guys, never.
  9. Don’t take the job too seriously, if we’re all being real honest, Hagwons are glorified, expensive day-care centers anyway. So laugh with the kids as much as you can and don’t spend your life yelling- they’re kids and it is principally against their nature to sit down.
  10. Your friends will become your family here. Love as many people as you can. You won’t regret it.

3 thoughts on “10 lessons we’ve learned after 9 months in Korea

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