Whenever I meet new people I'm always asked the question "Why Korea"? Most of the time I just give a simple answer like 'they pay well' or 'a friend recommended it'. For some reason I hate being asked that question, even though it's a legitimate question. Now that I think about it I'm realizing I didn't know a lot about Korea before I came here. I knew I wanted to travel more and I knew I loved Korean food so to move here really wasn't a hard decision. I had also run into an acquaintance from high school whom said she taught English in Korea and raved about how easy it was. That was another plus about going to Korea. I was very eager to finally be out on my own and was excited to leave the nest. Looking back on my time spent in this country made me realize why I loved it and ended up coming back.
In Canada I'm not used to the in your face patriotism. I never saw a lot of houses hanging the Canadian flag outside or people wearing clothing with Canadian paraphernalia.... that is until Drizzy made it cool. I know Americans are very patriotic as they want others to drop their own identities and just be known as an American. Korea is another place that is just as patriotic! Koreans have an undying love for their country and considering their history they should! When I am teaching and ask student what country they would like to visit I usually hear "Korea", even though they already live here. Any opportunity I give them to choose a country it is always Korea. When I think about it, if I were asked the same question I wouldn't choose Canada, I probably wouldn't choose Ghana (where my parents were born), I would choose a country that I thought looks beautiful and I have never been to. Does that make me unpatriotic?
When you ask your friends if a bad outfit looks good on you what do they usually say? In Korea, you don't have to worry about your friends trying not to hurt your feelings. If you ask a Korean person they will give you their honest opinion, they are not afraid to tell you like it is. If you are overweight, too thin, pretty, ugly, etc they will tell you. They aren't just honest with their opinions though. I once lost my cellphone in a nightclub after a night of partying on my birthday and a girl had taken it home, charged it and spoke to a friend of mine who had called and set up a time to meet me so she could return it. Things like this are very rare in North America. I've witnessed someone drop their wallet and another person picks it up and runs after them to return it.
It's very practical
One thing I never knew about Korea before I moved here was how amazing the public transit is here. First of all, it's so cheap that most people don't have cars. To get to Seoul from where I live it costs 2,500 won ($2.75 cad). Back home (Oakville, Ont) a trip to Toronto with the same amount of time would cost me around $8. The Seoul metro literally takes you anywhere within a two hour radius of the capital. There are different types of trains (KTX, ITX) that will take you anywhere in Korea. I've been able to save a lot of money. As a teacher, it's easy to get by with little money. When you teach in Korea your rent is paid by your school, some school even pay cellphone and internet. Most of the money I spent while living here is just doing fun stuff. Eating out can be as low as $4 a meal.
It's a country of Love
Being single in Korea can be extremely hard. Everyone either is in a relationship or wants to be in a relationship. It feels like this country was made for either couples or families. Even my young female students complain about not having a boyfriend. I get asked all the time if I'm married or dating and my students are genuinely sad for me, like being single is the worst thing in the world. However, I love love even though i'm single! There is Valentines day and white day dedicated to couples. Movie theatres have sweetbox's (two seater couch) designed to give couples a little more privacy during movies. Walking down the street you wont be able to count how many couples are in matching outfits! Amusement parks are filled with couples on dates. At restaurants they usually have set specials for two. You can even go have Korean BBQ alone! Basically, couples rule.
I've never felt as safe as I do living in Korea. Yes, Korea is a very misogynistic country and crimes against women happen often and usually go unpunished but it doesn't mean the country isn't safe. Guns are illegal in Korea, not even police officers carry them! Theft and robbery are very low. You will see lots of people waling around with expensive cameras and phones. Walking down a dark street is something I do often when I get back from Seoul at night. I would defineitly not do this back home, but here I don't feel threatened. That doesn't mean I am not fully aware of my surroundings but there are lots of other people walking around alone. I've walked home alone from work after 10 pm and waited by the bus stop alone at night too! Now North Korea is another story. I think people outside of Korea are more concerned than people actually living in the country.
I'm not just talking about the way they look! Korea is a very mountainous country. Korea has about 3000 unique islands. However, they are not all sanctioned. There are about 30 famous islands that look absolutely beautiful. I have only been to 4 but i'm hoping to check out some more! Another way to see the beauty of this country is by climbing a mountain. Hiking is done all year round and for good reason, the views you get up in the mountains are amazing. Also, if you get up high enough you'll actually be in the clouds.
Since coming to Korea, I have become obsessed with cafes. Not your regular Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I mean the cafes that have a theme like Hello Kitty, Kakao Friends, dog and cat cafes, etc. Even restaurants have some quirkyness to them! I once went to a restaurant that was decorated like a medieval castle! In the summer time you can ride a rail bike through the forest or go watch bull fighting. In the winter you can go to a heated outdoor waterpark or go skating inside an amusement park. There are so many festivals happening throughout the year, you can always find something to do.
I love Korean food. I kinda love all food. However, I never get sick of eating Korean food. It's come to the point to where I go grocery shopping and pick up some kimchi or jjigae to eat at home. If you are a meat lover, you can find all you can eat BBQ places everywhere. Or you can try dishes like Bimbimbap or Kimbap. I've only tried about 2 dishes that I did not like; one was fish cake and the other was chicken feet. Koreans love spice, and for me chicken feet was the spiciest food i've ever had. When you go out to a Korean restaurant food is usually communal, rather than individual. Eating out here feels more like a social bond as you are typically sharing germs.
What do you love about Korea?
HerxTravels in pictures
HerxTravels on Twitter