Since I have been teaching in Korea for about a year now, I think it is appropriate for me to reflect on some of the cultural things that I now take for granted. Here are my top 3 things that I take for granted when living and teaching in Korea.
1. 24 hour restaurants and coffee shops
Big cities in Korea never seem to close. The other night I was sitting in a coffee shop around 2:30 am when I noticed that I was the last one there. I nervously looked around and asked one of the workers if they were closing soon. Needless to say this was a dumb question. She merely giggled and pointed to the 24 hour sign by the door and shortly after about 20 people came in for their midnight fix.
As you can probably tell, I am very much a night person and a huge fan of the midnight snack. The other night I started to feel hungry around 3 in the morning so what did I do? Simply walk about 2 doors down to my local Gimbap shop. Gimbap restaurants are almost always 24 hours and serve fast and (mostly) healthy Korean food. Some of my favorite meals are kimchi jjigae and donkatsu.
Your Typcial Gimbap Shop (picture taken about 3:30 am)
2. Jinjilbangs/ saunas
One of my favorite things about living in Korea is the spa. After a long day of teaching, nothing relaxes me more than sitting in a hot tub or sitting in one of the smoldering caves. At first they can be a little intimidating, but after my first few visits I was hooked. Also, Jinjilbangs can serve as a great alternative to paying for a hotel for the night. As long as you are OK with sleeping on the ground, they can serve as a great, cheap alternative to paying for a hotel.
3. Cheap travel and public transportation
Despite the gas price being at 2,000 won per liter (about $1.75 U.S.) public transportation in Korea is a great way to get around and explore a new city. In Gwangju, it only costs 1,200 won per bus or subway ride and they run on a very frequent schedule. In the beginning it can be a little difficult to figure out, but most of the busses list the stops in English and the drivers are can be very helpful as well.
If you want to travel across the country, then my favorite mode of transportation is the bus. Think of the busses here as greyhound busses on steroids. They have very large leather seats that can recline pretty far back. Also, speaking as someone who is on the taller side (I am about 6’ 2”), they provide excellent leg room.
The Bus Map of Gwangju
Here are some of the luxuries of living in Korea that I have started to take for granted, what are some of yours?
Nash Brodsky grew up in Denver, Colorado and is currently teaching for CDI in Gwangju, Korea. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with degrees in Psychology and Music, he decided to embark on first year living abroad by taking on the challenges of teaching in a foreign country. With the excitement of teaching children and the adventures of living in another country, Nash is enjoying every minute of what Korea has to offer. Follow Nash during his first year abroad!