It has been almost a year and a half since I lived in South Korea, so this article is probably long overdue. But, the things I miss about the country haven’t changed.
My hope with this article is not just to reminisce about an experience I had, but also to give you a little more insight into the Korean culture, and how the locals live there.
The Koreans are great about sharing. If someone wanted to bring some food to eat at work, they would not just bring something for themselves. They would get enough for everybody in the office as well.
I also caught the sharing bug while I was there and would share the American goodies I received from home, or cook food and bring it to my coworkers for lunch. Thanks to the Koreans, this is a habit that stuck with me, and I can say that I am a better “giver” because of them.
I love the jjimjilbang. It’s kind of hard to explain what it is exactly, but it’s a sort of sauna-bath house-hostel. You can go there to relax in the various baths and saunas they have or you can hang out and watch TV while you munch on some food from the snack bar. If you need a place to stay for the night, you are also in luck. Just grab a mat and fall asleep in your favorite corner of the jjimjilbang.
It sounds kind of like a weird place, and it is to an extent. But, if you live in Korea for a while, it really grows on you.
I still dream about eating cheese jjimdak from time to time. It’s the more westernized version of jjimdak, and it was my favorite thing to eat while I was living in South Korea. If I go back, the first thing I’ll probably do is eat a big plate of it!
Immersing Myself into a Completely Different Culture
One of the reasons I went to Korea was to be surrounded by a culture that is very different than my own. When I moved to Korea, I had already lived in Mexico, Spain, and Finland. But, in comparison to South Korea these cultures seemed so similar to the U.S.
It was really interesting to experience the everyday differences of the customs and traditions of another country. I would recommend it to anyone. Go anywhere that takes you completely out of your comfort zone.
I love sports, and in Korea I found another one that I am passionate about: Badminton. The Koreans are crazy about it and they passed their Badminton fever to me.
Almost every day after school I would play Badminton with other teachers for 1, 2, or even 3 hours. Who knew that Badminton could be so… cool.
As I lived in Korea I heard a story about a man who lived to be over 200 years old, and one of the reasons why was because he drank Ginseng every day. Who knows if it is true, however, the Korean’s love Ginseng. They believe in its health benefits, and some even drink it every day.
So, if you want to be more local in Korea, head to the nearest pharmacy or supermarket and buy some Ginseng. That’s what I did two to three times a week while I lived there.
Cooking at the Table
It is quite common to cook at the table when you eat at Korean restaurants. I like it because it’s more than just the food. It feels like an experience, and the night out is just more fun when you cook your own food at the table.
The Norebang (Korean Karaoke)
Last but certainly not least, is the infamous Korean Nore Bang. Now, I should preface this by saying that I am a horrible singer. It is really embarrassing for me to sing in front of anyone (and probably painful for them as well). Yet, there’s something about the Nore Bang that makes you feel like you are the next Madonna.
It’s hard to explain why, because it’s just a room with a karaoke machine, a couple of couches, and a table. Yet, when you combine that with friends, singing, dancing, and a little alcohol, you can’t help but have a great time.