As many of you know, my time here in Korea is quickly coming to an end. I am actually pretty sad now and not too excited to go back to America. (I mean duh. Do you watch the news?) I can already likely see myself going back abroad whether it be back to Korea or another country. Any who, before I leave I wanted to make the top 10 things I appreciate/like/love about living here. So without further adieu…
- Easy work life: WOW! I knew that coming abroad would be a pretty big change as far as work life was concerned, but I didn’t think it would be as easy as it was. Don’t get me wrong, I had some days where the kids were on another level of rowdy but as far as actual work life, things were a breeze. As a foreign English teacher you either co teach with another teacher (normally a Korean teacher) which means you all may split the class time 50/50 so essentially only teaching 20 minutes or less at a time. Or, you may be like me and teach the entire 40 minute period, but even that is light work. The most I actually teach in a day is maybe 4.5 hours. The other time is spent at my desk, surfing the internet, chatting with friends, or blogging. Now there aren’t too many places in the states where you will get such a relaxed schedule. In addition to this, our dress code is relaxed AF. Some days I choose to dress up in business casual but you literally can come to work in jeans and tees. (let’s not forget we also wear slides/slippers while indoors) I can honestly say I haven’t been stressed from work or overwhelmed.
- HEALTH insurance for the win: If you are in the States you already know the gamble with health insurance. Most people my age no longer work in standard companies. We are either entrepreneurs, working in start-ups, or contractors. Often times, being in positions like these don’t allow you to automatically be afforded a healthcare plan. I had to buy into a plan which I actually lucked up on. I hated paying that monthly premium but I was secure in knowing that if I needed it, it was there. As a teacher overseas you are provided health insurance. As far as how the premium is paid, I am not 100% sure but I doubt it was $250+ a month that I was paying back home. To top that, you can literally walk into any clinic, doctor’s office, eye doctor or whatever and be seen instantly. I think the longest I have ever had to wait was maybe 10 minutes because I came when the staff was just coming back from lunch. Now I will say, depending on the type of office you may get a super quick scan from the doctor, given a diagnosis (or prognosis whatever the word is), given your prescription, and sent on your merry way which sometimes makes you feel like you weren’t throroughly examined. But I have only experienced this at the ear, nose, and throat doc and he was usually correct in what I had at the time so it was ok. Now, my favorite part is the cost. In the States, depending on your plan, you pay a copay before being seen. After you are seen, you may then be billed for additional services not covered in that type of visit. In Korea, you pay AFTER you are seen and everything is paid for at once so no subsequent bills are coming in the mail. When I went to the ENT my cost was about $4 plus a $3-$4 prescription. When I went to have x-rays of my wrist after injuring it I paid $30 which included speaking with the doctor, x-rays, a 10 minute heat therapy session , 15 minute cupping session , a 10-minute sports massage, plus them wrapping it and giving me a brace. When I had my wisdom teeth pulled (they only take two at a time) my cost was $40 plus a $5 prescription. Finally when I went to the eye doctor I paid $100 for an eye exam, 7-months of contacts including a set of colored ones, and new glasses which were cut and made in 15 minutes. I could go on and on but I think you see what I’m trying to say here.
- Did someone say SERVICE?: *In my best Oprah voice* “You get a free thing, you get a free thing, everyone gets a free thing!” That’s right, in many businesses getting something free is always part of your purchase. When you go to certain restaurants you often get free side dishes with your meal. When you go to any cosmetic store or skincare store, you always get free samples too! My favorite cosmetic store often has a promotion where you pick a number 1-5 and get an actual bag of free stuff based on the number you choose.
- Guns are illegal and crime is low: When I first told people that I was moving abroad, there main concern was my safety. I can say that I have never felt more safe than while being abroad. The main reason why is guns are illegal, dangerous crimes are not common, and Koreans are very HONEST people. I’m not saying Koreans are saints but I never had to worry about anyone robbing me, breaking into my apartment, pulling a gun on me, getting hit by stray bullets, etc. All of these things are actually giving me some anxiety about moving back home. I see and hear stories everyday and I’m just floored that things have gotten so bad back home. The most you will hear here in Korea is about men being pervs or some type of sexual assault, but it’s still not very common. You can literally leave your belongings, step away to go to the bathroom or somewhere, and can trust that your stuff will still be where you left it. I know a girl who recently left her bookbag with a new MAC laptop in it somewhere, and she was tracked down via a card in her bag and her belongings were returned. WOW! I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in America but it’s not as common. I did have the one run-in with the lady at the gym, but that blew over and I never had any issue after.
- Transportation is super efficient: Having a car here is not a necessity because you can get anywhere by bus, train, or taxi. The transportation system is very efficient, very cheap, and runs pretty smooth. There is an app for everything to make things even easier. To get to Seoul from where I live, I pay about $5.50 to take an express bus which takes around 1 hour to go straight to Seoul. If you need to go anywhere far you can take speed trains that are also pretty cost efficient and low on travel time. Regardless of where you need to go, you can get there without breaking the bank and without too many issues.
- Cheap international travel: Of course this is probably my favorite because…well I like me a good vacay and for the low! In this year alone, I will have gone to 8 new countries (not counting Korea). The flights vary in price but have been significantly lower than traveling from the States. I have seen the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and I will finish with the Maldives next week! I mean who is gonna pass up cheap flights to destinations you probably would never see otherwise? Not me.
- There is actually a diverse expat (foreigner) community: While moving to certain areas of the country will have you feeling as though you are all alone, there is actually a large number of foreigners scattered around. Yes, most of them are in Seoul or Busan, but the point is they are here. The program I am in has around 60 foreign teachers in our city alone so you can always find someone to have normal convos with. More and more foreigners are also opening busineses here so that is helping as well. Not to mention there are several large American military bases in the country and you can find almost anything American around them. So if you’re willing to do a little traveling you can always find a little piece of home. (Even if it’s not the U.S.)
- Aye y’all got free wifi? Yes we do!: So wifi (or weefee as I call it) is EVERYWHERE in Korea. I know it seems wifi is almost any where in the world now, but surprisingly it’s not. Furthermore, Korea is said to have the fastest connection in the world. (I think they are being extra on that but it’s still great nonetheless) Wifi is so accessible that my friend has survived being here almost 2 years without phone service. Yea…let that sink in!
- There is always something to see or do: I have been here basically a year and there is still so much I won’t get to see and do. There is always a new and interesting cafe popping up and I live for a cute cafe. Also, Korea is the home of festivals. I have never seen or heard of so many random festivals in my life. I literally saw a sign for a wax corn festival. ( I have soooo many questions about this) You can also city hop. You can get from one end of Korea to the other in 4 hours by train. So the possibilities are endless. Hopefully I’ll be back and I’ll be able to see and do more.
- Food delivery is super clutch: I know in the states we are used to having certain food delivered but Korea takes the cake. My eyes were opened when I learned about McDelivery (McDonald’s delivery service). You literally can have anything on the menu (within a certain price) brought right to your door. Almost all local restaurants deliver and the majority of fast food chains do as well. They even deliver rain, sleet, or snow. Now delivery guys drive like maniacs and will run your over on their scooter in a heartbeat…but at least the food is getting delivered right? I mean we gotta eat!
As you can see, Korea is actually a really great place to live. I will miss it dearly although I’m not convinced we are really parting ways forever. If you ever get the chance you should definitely visit my temporary home some day.
As always, thanks for reading and happy traveling.