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Nov 02

11 Things I Love About Korea


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Oh, Korea. Land of stinky kimchi, robotic K-pop, pushy old ladies, and obnoxious selfies. It’s a place unlike any other, and at times I find myself spiraling down a rabbit hole of negativity about it all.  But while I don’t see eye to eye with many facets of Korean culture, there are still a number of things that I love and appreciate about this place that I have called home for the last two years. Things that, if I’m honest with myself, are going to make me miss this place someday.

 

The Restaurant Button: Rather than a wait staff constantly checking up on you, most restaurants provide a button your table. If you need something, simply press the magical little button and someone will scurry over to bring you what you need right away. It’s so nice to avoid that awkward loud throat-clearing and creepy attempts at eye contact to get your waiter’s attention.

 

Delivery Food: What’s even better than the restaurant button? Sitting in your bed and ordering your dinner delivered straight to your door. And your options aren’t just limited to pizza or Chinese… nearly every restaurant in Korea is equipped with a man on a scooter to deliver your food for a very small fee. And get this–they bring it to you in real dishware, and when you’re finished you leave the plates outside your door for them to return and pick up later! It doesn’t get much lazier more convenient than that.

Yes, even McDonald's delivers. Every hungover person's saving grace.

Yes, even McDonald’s delivers. Every hungover person’s saving grace.

 

Healthcare Access: While quality of health care is a different debate, there is no denying the phenomenal accessibility and affordability of basic health care in Korea. To see a doctor you can simply walk in any office and usually be seen within 10 minutes or less. The fee for the visit is the equivalent of a few dollars. If you need lab tests done they are taken care of on the spot, with results (if possible) given immediately. If you need a prescription, you can usually go next door to the pharmacy and receive your prescription right away, and usually for under $10. Coming from the American health care system, it almost seems absurd how easy and cheap it all is. You mean I don’t have to sell my kidney and jump through hoops of fire to get some antibiotics?!

 

Free Stuff/Samples: It seems like everywhere I go, people are handing me free stuff or “service”, as they’ll call it. The main sources of free goodies are the skin care shops. I’ll buy one small tube of cream and receive enough samples of moisturizer to last me a month. I have a box that is so filled with these samples that in case of a zombie apocalypse, I’ve got your skin care covered.

Source: http://eleseaesthete.com/

Safety: In terms of crime rate, Korea is one of the safest places in the world. The thought of a bag snatcher never even crosses my mind and I can walk down the street with my purse hanging open and loosely off my shoulder. I have frequently stumbled home at night at 4am through dark alleys and never even had to glance over my shoulder for shady characters. Even though I live in the “ghetto”, the worst thing that’s ever happened in my neighborhood is a fist fight over a parking space.

 

Honesty: I once had a waiter chase me down the street because I had left 500 won coin (about 50 cents) on the table. If you drop or lose money, valuables, or anything, people will go out of their way to return it to you. For whatever reason, people in Korea are just ridiculously honest.

 

Jimjilbangs: Public bath houses. Okay, at first it seems a little weird to get naked and sit in a hot tub with a bunch of strangers, but once you get over the initial awkwardness, it’s liberating and sooo relaxing. If you’re lucky, an old lady will show you how to scrub your crotch, too.

 

Public drinking: Well, in a country whose national pastime seems to be drinking, it only makes sense that they make it as accessible as possible. A popular thing to do in the summer is go to your local mart and buy some beers and sit in plastic chairs on the sidewalk and drink. While most Koreans don’t walk around carrying alcohol, it is completely legal to walk down the street, sit on the bus, or ride the subway with a beer in hand.

You do have to bring your own cups to the mart, though...

You do have to bring your own cups to the mart, though…

 

Cheap taxis: Korea has spoiled me. I don’t know if the taxis here are subsidized by the government or how they stay in business, but the 25 minute drive from downtown to my house costs about $10. Often times, it’s cheaper for a group of people to split cab fare than to pay for the bus.

 

Markets: Outdoor markets are found all over Asia, and Korea has some pretty awesome ones. I live right next to a sizable market and I rarely have to go to the grocery store as I can buy most of my shopping list in my market. I’ve got my vegetable man, my mart, my cake man, my Vietnamese shop lady, and my fruit guy. They all smile when they see me and know exactly what I’m going to purchase, and sometimes throw in a freebie or a discount. It’s charming.


BBQ:
There’s not much to be said about this other than, YUM. So good, so cheap, so comforting. My belly is full of BBQ as I write this.

Source: Infinitelegroom.com

Source: Infinitelegroom.com

What are your favorite things about Korea? Or would you like these things where you live?

  • Nice title to start your 30 days blogging challenge with! There’s a restaurant in London with one of those buttons to call the waiter, I love it (you don’t get interrupted when you’re just half-way through a fantastic story).

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thanks! Yeah, the buttons are so ingenious! I hate being interrupted–and I’m sure it actually makes the wait staff’s lives easier, too!

  • Katie McGrain

    I have only been here 6 weeks, so I haven’t had a chance to dislike anything. Everything is so new and exciting and I love it all! Particularly everything involving food!

  • Alisa

    I was supposed to move to Korea to teach in August, but it fell through at the last minute. Your posts on Korea make me really hope I can still make the move in the future. It sounds like so much fun!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Oh no, why did it fall through? The EPIK program is basically being completely cut this year so you’d have to get a job through a hagwon but you should definitely try to make the move if you can! 🙂

      • I had some issues with my recruiter. I didn’t even receive my contract until about 2 weeks before I was supposed to start. Amongst other issues. Seriously!? EPIK is getting cut? I was planning on applying to them for next fall. What happened? I thought it was going great. Ugh 8( I dont want to do a hagwon.

        • KaleenasKaleidoscope

          Yikes, unfortunately issues like that are all too common. The EPIK program is on the decline. Most positions in the big cities have been cut, and I don’t know how much longer the other mid sized cities will have jobs either. You could always apply and just see if you get placed, but chances are much slimmer than they used to be. If you do lots of research it IS possible to find a decent hagwon though, I have several friends with great jobs!

          • The idea of trying to find a decent hagwon intimidates me a bit, since there are so many horror stories out there. I also, mainly, wanted the better vacation days that went with being in EPIK. Sigh. I mean I’ll probably still apply to EPIK next year, but I guess I’ll look into the hagwons as well :/ I’m glad you gave me the heads up