In an effort to keep my depression from spiraling downward any further, I’ve decided to write a list of 10 things I actually enjoy about being an expat in Korea. Here goes…
1. Keypad entry. With the exception of my office doors, I don’t have to worry about losing keys. Punching in one code gets me into my building and another into my apartment. This means I’m free to leave the house with my cellphone case (it has slots for my transit card, bank card, and ID) and nothing more on many occasions. Nice!
2. Easy, instant bank transfers. There are many ridiculous things about banking in Korea, but I think the saving grace is the ease at which I can transfer money to domestic accounts and to my account back home. It’s very common here for people to share their bank name and account number so that others can pay or reimburse them for something.
3. Affordable public transportation. Even though I generally despise breathing in other people’s recycled air in small spaces, I do appreciate the fact that it’s not costing me a grip to do this. Yes, I’m looking at you, New York City. The bus costs me somewhere around 90 cents and the metro costs about $1 one way. I can also hop on a clean and efficient bus or train to a town 2-4 hours away for less than $25 roundtrip.
4. Homeplus. If you love Tarjay, you’ll really love this place. From your favorite cosmetic stores to electronics, to homegoods, to groceries, they have just about everything under one roof. I usually go here first to look for something. And! Because they’re a British company (TESCO), 90% of the signs are in English. That really comes in handy when you’re trying to decipher labels.
5. My coworkers. Even though they do things that make me look at them crazy often, I believe they genuinely care about me as a person and value me as a colleague. Trust me, they’re far from perfect – we have our issues – but after comparing notes with other teachers… I have it pretty good.
6. My students. Let’s be clear, they are not angels. They definitely tapdance on my last nerve sometimes, but they’re cute and loving and really do try their best (for the most part). They also make me laugh on a regular basis and remind me not to take life so seriously all of the time.
7. My shoilet. I debated whether or not to add this one on here because of my love/hate relationship with it, but I figured why not? For those of you who aren’t in the know, a shoilet is what I call my bathroom. It’s a typical Korean wet bathroom. I have a shower head above my sink and when I bathe the entire room – including the toilet – gets wet. Cleaning this bathroom is super simple since it only involves me spraying the surfaces, scrubbing them to my satisfaction, then using my handheld showerhead to rinse all the dirt down the drain in the floor.
8. The internet. Yes, I’m aware that the internet is available in most places throughout the world, but this internet here is special. Let me explain. It’s affordable and fast. I have the slowest internet speed my provider supplies and I pay around $30 USD a month. Before you scoff, realize that this “slow” speed is still over 5 times faster than the fastest speed offered in the USA. It’s also much cheaper than whatever I’d pay back home for the US version of “fast” internet service. I can download an entire Bluray version of a motion picture in 10 minutes or less. The internet is also how I keep in touch with my family and friends back home, so I’m extra grateful for that.
9. Jimjilbangs. I don’t go to the bath houses as often as I probably should, but I do enjoy visiting them. For less than $5 or $6 I can soak my cares away and relax for hours on end.
10. Korean BBQ. God bless whoever thought of this wonderful type of cooking. I think it’s probably my favorite type of restaurant to go to in Korea. There’s nothing better than eating your fill of marinated and perfectly grilled meat wrapped in sesame leaves. Actually, there is something better. You can get your fill of meat and yummy sides for a very affordable price. I’ve never paid more than $20 USD for Korean BBQ. This includes the all-you-can-eat place I once went to with a big group. The quality and variety of meat at that place was awesome and I’ve been itching to visit it again.