In a good way, of course. Here's what I mean: no matter how much you prepare for a big move to another city, state, or country, you're bound to find aspects of life in the new place that completely surprise you. Maybe it's just a larger degree of something you already expected, or maybe it's something you didn't anticipate at all. Regardless, this is just the reality of going to a new place. Here are four aspects of life in Korea that surprised me...
This was an area of concern, obviously, because I was a single woman moving abroad to a country I had never visited. Would it be safe? Would I have to worry about walking alone at night? Would I need to worry about getting mugged or pick-pocketed? Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world, and in many of the other cities near the top of that list, these are very, very real issues.
Everything I read online prior to my move said that Korea was extremely safe, and while I found this encouraging, it wasn't until I arrived and experienced it for myself that I fully understood that this wasn't an exaggeration.
Obviously, this comes with the caveat that I am always aware of my surroundings and if an alleyway looks especially shady, I will not walk down there. But, honestly, I have never felt that prickle of alarm on the back of my neck, which is a sensation I was all too familiar with back home.
Maybe I have been fortunate in my experience, but the level of safety in Korea is something most people I've met universally agree on.
2. Wi-Fi Availability
You see all kinds of statistics and articles about how South Korea is one of the most internet and Wi-Fi connected countries in the world. Sounds impressive, right? Lots of countries have convenient Wi-Fi. Then you come to Korea and you realize that it is, very nearly, everywhere. It's on the subways. It's in every single cafe and many restaurants. Even Dokdo, aka the islands Korea and Japan are disputing over, has its own Wi-Fi network.
Korea is not messing around when it comes to being connected. And the best part of all this internet? A lot of it is free.
3. Public Transportation
As much as I miss driving my car, I really do love living in a world of accessible, convenient public transportation. Korea's got a good system set up, which definitely makes life here much better. Getting around in Korea is so, so easy. It may look intimidating at first glance, but you'll get the hang of it immediately. The Seoul Metro alone can get you to quite a few places. Then, you factor in the long distance trains like the KTX and ITX. In addition, there are constantly buses leaving from various terminals, heading to all corners of this little peninsula.
Maybe I'm so impressed with Korea's extensive public transportation network because I've only ever lived in places with pathetic public transport, but even so, it's efficient, affordable, and convenient.
4. Overall Hospitality
I'm using the above heading to encompass generosity, gestures of friendship, my overall feeling of being welcomed -- all of that. These are sentiments that I know many other countries also propagate (I definitely felt it when I was in Japan, for example), but I feel like the stress of moving to a new place was alleviated by the kindness I was shown from nearly everyone I met (and still meet!).
From getting helpful directions to being invited to join a group's picnic to friendly conversations with strangers on the subway, Korea's hospitality has been overwhelmingly positive.
How has Korea surprised you? Leave a comment to share you experience below!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Songdo branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!