This week marked my one month of arriving in Seoul. It feels like a lot longer though only because I seem to have settled in quite well. I have my own apartment which is a typical Korean style studio/bachelor where everything is very compressed. It’s a huge change from North America where everything is so big and grand. I don’t mind it much though because cleaning is much easier and it’s very cozy.
I still have moments where I forget I’m in a foreign country because Seoul is immensely international. 1% of the population are foreigners so living in Seoul is not as difficult as most Asian cities. I have yet to venture into the country side though where it’s much more traditional and there is usually only one foreigners for miles.
Seoul is a huge city which I’m still learning about. You can always find a new restaurant or bar every day because of the alley streets that make up the dongs (neighbourhoods). I love that everyday can be an adventure simply because of this, so many options to choose from!
And not just when it comes to food, but also with activities. South Korea is a small country so
going from Seoul to any other city or town is normally under 4 hours by bus or train and relatively cheap.
I’m overwhelmed by the choices I have for my weekends.
The great part of traveling which I always emphasis about are the small things. Koreans are known for their kindness which I have already mentioned before. I was extremely concerned about how Koreans would react to me due to their stigma on colored skin. I was fortunately surprised after arriving here about how interested they actually are though to learn about differences. They are not as keen to embrace it, but only because this is a mono-cultural society that still has much respect for their traditional ways. It’s also natural to fear the unknown, so I am finding that a lot of the negativity concerning this culture is really just misunderstanding. You encounter prejudice in all walks of life, but the way you deal with it is what makes the difference.
Overall I think Koreans really do appreciate foreigners who show interest in their language and culture, just like people from any other culture that take pride in who they are.
It’s amazing how many of them try to communicate with me through actions and minimal words simply because they want to make me feel comfortable. These are also people that don’t have to make that initiative, like the lady at the kimbab store who wanted to tell me I had a pretty face and the man in the elevator who was curious about where I was from and what grade I teach.
The language barrier has never affected me this much before, so this is also a new experience that has made me really want to learn Korean so that I can communicate.
Koreans also love to go out of their way not to just make you comfortable, but also to help you. My Korean classroom assistant is the most sweetest person who is always willing to help me. She even took me shopping for blinds just because I asked her where I could find them. But instead of just telling me, she insisted she take me and took me out for dinner.
As I was waiting for the bus today in the rain without an umbrella, an older Korean lady came and stood beside me with her umbrella and shared it with me. I was shocked and taken by her kindness. It’s a simple act that I have never experienced before which only makes my love and respect grow for Koreans and their culture.