5 Reasons I Don’t Like Living in Korea

5 Reasons I Don’t Like Living in Korea

I don’t like living in Korea. There, I said it. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve never really been able to feel comfortable here. I moved here without much expectation other than knowing that I would be able to save up a decent amount of money to put toward my dream of traveling – a goal I’ve been able to accomplish.

Some aspects of Korea will always hold a special place in my heart as this is somewhere I’ve called home for two years. In all honesty, living in Korea has changed my life for the better – it’s a place that has enabled me to grow and learn about myself more than I thought possible. This isn’t to say that I do not appreciate some aspects of Korean culture; this country is just somewhere that I couldn’t possibly imagine living long-term. If you’re reading this and getting mentally defensive, understand that this isn’t meant to be a dig at the country or its culture, but rather an account of my experience in Korea.

I don't like living in Korea


Disclaimer: By no means do I hold America on any higher of a platform than Korea. There are things America does better than Korea and there are things Korea does better than America. I have met some wonderful people here. I value honesty in all facets of my life, which is why I’m writing this opinion piece.

Okay, so I’ve admitted I don’t like living in Korea. Why is that?

There are several cultural norms that I’ve had difficulty connecting with. Am I closed minded? I don’t think so, but that’s for you to decide. There are just some things that have grated on me over time and have tainted my opinions of Korea. In no particular order, here are some of the primary reasons I don’t like living in Korea:

1. Korea’s vain culture

This aspect has to be the number one thing that digs at me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the occasional selfie, but Koreans take it to the next level. It’s not uncommon to sit in a coffee shop next to a table of adult women staring into their front-facing cameras, moving the device around to various angles for long periods of time. The goofiest part is the fact that they aren’t always taking photographs – they’re sometimes just staring at themselves in silence for minutes on end. My mom put it best when she came to visit and said, “I don’t know who they’re staring at more: me or themselves.”

Everything you do in this country depends on how you look. If you meet your new students’ mothers, they’ll tell you how big your eyes are and how small your face is. If you’re like me and don’t like to wear makeup that often, your boss and Korean colleagues will constantly remind you that you’re looking sick or tired. This isn’t Korea’s fault, it’s just the way of life here. Most people in this society are under a lot of pressure and vanity conquers all.

I don't like living in Korea

This is the same person.

Covered in mirrors, just walking through the cities makes it easy for people of all backgrounds to not feel good enough. Seoul, Korea is internationally known as the plastic surgery capital of the world – and not in a good way. It is estimated that one in five Korean women have had some sort of plastic surgical procedure, which grosses me out and breaks my heart at the same time. A certain image is desired so strongly that it’s almost as though people here are trying to delete their Korean identities when they fail to recognize their natural beauty. While people are certainly image obsessed in America, it’s a bit more of a taboo subject compared to Korea. It doesn’t help that I’m in the heart of it all: My apartment is in Apgujeong, the country’s plastic surgery hub. No thanks.

2. Korea’s stress culture

Korea’s known for its…intensity. Starting at a young age, many children are forced into this hurried culture and there’s no turning back. A lot of kids are made to study at what I refer to as pressure-cooker academies, more commonly known as hagwons. They’re raised to study multiple hours a day at cram schools of all kinds: art, English, math, science – you name it.

It wasn’t until 2013 that Korea’s Constitutional Court mandated that hagwons within Seoul and Busan must close at 10 p.m. Prior to the ordinances, private academies stayed open until as early as 3 a.m. There are ways of getting around these laws, however. Have building, will study, if you will. After studying for nearly their entire day, high school students often find themselves in private, rented out study rooms which are allowed to be occupied all night. While the kindergarten I work for is certainly not a cram school, knowing that I’m in some way perpetuating this sort of culture for the sake of a larger paycheck is – to me – morally corrupt.

If you’re interested in watching the typical day in the life of a Korean teenager, check out this 20 minute documentary by Judy Suh, aptly titled ExamiNation.


Once they grow up and out of the hagwon life, adults are expected to work long, grueling hours, often unable to escape the stress that’s been placed upon them their entire lives. It all seems fruitless though, as Korea has the worst productivity rates in the world.

3. Korea’s lack of individuality

Korea is certainly what’s known as a collectivist culture. What this means is that Korean nationalists generally put families and what’s best for the community before their own needs – amazing, right? Sort of. In order to achieve this type of mentality, people often sacrifice their critical thinking stills or personal desires. Rather than questioning something, people here often mindlessly swim with the other fish because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I recently asked my co-teacher why Korean people wear top of the line hiking gear or dress similarly on a day to day basis and she gave me a simple explanation:

“People like to wear the fancy clothes so other people don’t think they are from the countryside.”

After hearing this, I couldn’t help but be brought back to my elementary school days. I grew up attending Catholic school, which meant I had to wear a uniform. One of the popular kids in 8th grade purchased khaki pants at American Eagle, which trickled down the line. Before I knew it, my mom was taking me to the mall to purchase the pants so I could look “cool.” I eventually grew out of that ideology once I entered middle school when I began to find my own identity – something I’m forever grateful to my country for encouraging.

This isn’t to say young Koreans aren’t branching out and speaking for themselves, but it certainly isn’t the norm. This mentality applies to all facets of life. I can’t imagine it’s super easy for creatives to thrive here and it’s one of the primary reasons I don’t like living in Korea.

4. Korea can be highly discriminatory

Koreans tend to believe their race and nation is superior to others. With that said, a lot of people here take what they call their “tanil minjok” (단일 민족), or “pure-blooded racial community,” very seriously. Despite the fact that the country has seen a large amount of immigration since the Korean War, some people here still find difficulty with “foreigners.”

I don't like living in Korea

A Korean news program.

I get it. It happens in my own country, too. Some people mindlessly despise those from Mexico or cast a generalization upon every human being from the Middle Eastern region of the world. Why? Because racism exists literally everywhere. The only difference is that American children weren’t taught as recently as 15 years ago that they are the “master race.” Yes, that’s a thing in Korea and it’s very real. A woman in a jimjilbang once openly talked about how my friends and I were “ruining the purity of the water” whilst we were sitting in a sauna – something I wouldn’t have known had I not been with a fluent Korean speaker. Whatever, lady.

I don't like living in Korea

A Korean television show.

A common issue for non-Koreans is being denied cab service. I can’t begin to count how many times a cab driver has slowed down, saw my face, and continued to drive away. This is such an issue that the Korean government mandated a “three-strikes” law for Korean cab drivers who deny service to foreigners. The law came into effect on January 29 and will be a game changer for those living here.

If you’ve ever attended public events here, I’m sure you’ve noticed that many have closed off sections for non-Koreans and Koreans. This isn’t unique to events; it has been attempted in public spaces as well.

In May 2015, the Korean government announced that it had plans to segregate Busan’s famous Haeundae Beach into several sections: a “China Zone,” a “Kid Zone” and a section of beach 50 meters away from the “Korean Zone” labeled the “Foreigner Zone.” When the government experienced a lot of public backlash (imagine that), it refuted claims, alleging the original terms to have been “misunderstood.” Right.

I don't like living in Korea


If you’re keen to watch, below is a Korean woman’s opinion on why some people don’t approve of foreigners.


5. Korea cultivates childish behavior

Imagine you’re out for the evening with your significant other or friends. You’re walking down the street and you see a purse flying through the sky and watch as it lands on the ground. You look up to see an adult woman standing, fists clenched with a pout on her face while stomping her feet. You watch a man walk solemnly walk over to the woman. The woman stomps her feet a few more times, curtly turns around and walks away. You continue to watch as the poor guy – TOTALLY DEFEATED – picks up the purse and hurries toward her.

This isn’t a scene from a K-Drama. This is a real life situation that took place on the streets of Itaewon.

From a very young age, Koreans expect to be coddled. Dating here is often based on extremely superficial factors (reference the first bullet point of this post) and the relationships seem a bit reminiscent of my middle school days. With that said, it’s very acceptable and culturally welcomed for adults to throw temper tantrums in public spaces as well as in private.

The term for it is called “aegyo,” which was largely popularized by Kpop. Often described as something a woman “uses to get what she wants,” these whiney mini-tantrums are bizarre and when I encounter them in public I feel like I never left my kindergarten classroom. Like a child begging for a piece of candy, Korean women who play this game rely solely on those in power – a man or their parents – until they can be awarded the item they’re crying over. If they’re denied, the tantrum will most likely escalate and continue until the adult in the relationship gives in. Weirded out by this? Me too.

On the contrary, older women in Korea are absolutely incredible and resilient. They are hard working and climb mountains well into their elderly years. They’re tough, they’ve experienced immense changes and they’re fearless. I view this “aegyo” communication as a direct slap in the face to all the Korean women who worked so hard in the past and continue to do so to this day.

While there are a few more reasons that I never felt comfortable in the country, these are the primary examples. I guess it doesn’t help that I caught a man filming and/or taking photos of me while I was sleeping – a situation all too common in Korea. While I’ve highlighted some of the horrors of living in Korea above, it wasn’t always that bad. If you’re interested in a more positive posts, I’ve written about a few topics such as 3 reasons I like living in Korea, the quirks I’ve developed living in Korea as well as the kindness of Koreans. Thanks for reading!

I don't like living in Korea

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Have you ever lived in a country where you never felt at home?



  1. January 29, 2016 / 11:36 am

    I am moving to Seoul next month and I’m already so nervous. I’m dreading people pointing out that I’m overweight all the time! 🙁

    • January 29, 2016 / 12:19 pm

      You’re lovely. They won’t stare at you for being overweight, but more because you have blond hair which they are very intrigued by as it’s not very common. There are great aspects of Korea, but I’ve just mentally overstayed my welcome for two years too long. The culture certainly isn’t for me that’s for sure!

      • January 29, 2016 / 4:15 pm

        Where are you based? If you’re in Seoul, we should go for a coffee or something!

        • January 29, 2016 / 4:36 pm

          I’m in Gangnam! When do you get here? I’ll be leaving March 2.

          • January 30, 2016 / 5:54 pm

            I’ll be in Mok-dong! I think I’m going to be arriving before the 25th so if you’re around, let me know 🙂

    • Kevin Chon
      July 18, 2017 / 11:44 pm

      To put it bluntly, Korea is heaven if you’re beautiful and can speak some Korean. If you’re beautiful, speak Korean, and white you will be treated like a celebrity. If you’re not you’ll have quite a different experience.. But either way, I think you need tough skin to be able to survive all the stares.

      • Max Jordan
        August 10, 2017 / 12:44 pm

        As a manhattan guy i can take any hit you throw at me. I have been to korean and even though i look korean, i don’t speak it at all. My americano accent throws them off. korea is not bad . You got to adapt and go with the flow!!

    • Mark Holmes
      September 2, 2017 / 3:48 am

      “Americans not welcome” ” No Foreigner allowed” fuck these ungrateful fish head sucking bastards! My father was killed fighting for your freedom! We have 70.000 USA troops away from home , ready to die and kill for Korea. Trump must let the country FALL to Kim young Ill.

      • Jonathan
        September 29, 2017 / 10:22 pm

        Mark Holmes….you’re a ignorant moron…but what do you expect from a trump supporter

      • God
        September 30, 2017 / 2:07 am

        Just so you know. Many US soldiers are know for raping the women in Korea amd that’s why they don’t like the soldiers.

  2. January 29, 2016 / 12:44 pm

    I found this post very interesting, thank-you. I think the vanity would wind me up too. I hate the whole selfie thing here too! Acting like a baby and stress culture probably wouldn’t do it for me either, though I’m sure there are plenty of exception to that. I’m a bit too lazy I think!

    • January 29, 2016 / 12:54 pm

      Thanks! At first none of these things got to me. I found them endearing and sweet. Then I started seeing the way women behave toward men and it gave me the heebie jeebies. I can’t fathom acting like a baby to my boyfriend or stomping my feet and crying in public to get something. That’s just me, though! I’m looking forward to leaving in a month!

      • Dikla
        July 30, 2017 / 10:52 am

        Do you think those things are different outside of seoul? Or is it the same ?

        • July 30, 2017 / 3:19 pm

          I think a few things such as vanity are certainly different. I always liked escaping to the countryside on the weekends.

  3. January 29, 2016 / 1:02 pm

    These observations are spot on. I lived in S. Korea for a year and half. It was one of the best experiences of my life but wow was I ready to move on. The culture is so different from our own culture so it is difficult to live there long term, at least I couldn’t do it! I did find that I really liked older Koreans a lot and I made a few really good younger friends from work that I am still in contact with today. It takes a while to make Korean friends there, but when you do, they are loyal friends for life. I do miss Korea and want to visit again someday, but I could not live there again.

    One thing I’d add to the list of dislikes is the drinking culture in Korea. I could not believe how ridiculously drunk people would get! Some of the men would get violent. They would try and pick fights in bars with male foreigners and I saw several men aggressive with their girlfriends.. I once saw a man kick a Korean woman in a bar in her chest. -Many study martial arts at least as children. Then I saw another guy drunk on the street punch his girlfriend in the face. I saw so many people carrying their drunk passed out girlfriends on their backs from bar to bar. I grew tired of having to step over passed out business men on the sidewalks as well as human vomit. Ewwwwww! Now I am not a prude at all, but I have never in my life been to a country where this behavior was acceptable and so regular. 🙂 It was a little shocking.

    But the good outweighed the bad and overall my experiences in Korea were positive. I learned a lot about myself and their country and people. I made really great friends. I wouldn’t change anything. But I also wouldn’t live there again. 🙂

    • January 29, 2016 / 3:50 pm

      Wow I feel for you and your friend! I hate domestic violence and that fact that police are so unwilling to do anything about it. It does not surprise me at all that the police told the couple about the foreigner that reported them. Privacy does not exist in many places. Ugh. I like you, think living in Korea made me a stronger person. For that alone I would not change a thing, and also because of some of the amazing people I met and wonderful friends I made. Would I ever live there again? No way! But I would visit and avoid the bar scene now that I’m older and it doesn’t appeal to me as much as it once did. 🙂

      FYI I know the 7-11 you are talking about. I think I went to a dance club across the street and the drinks were so pricey we walked to the 7-11 to get a few cheap beers before going back in to dance more. That was a fun night. Sorry yours was awful!

      It’s so refreshing to see bloggers posting the good as well as the bad about places they visit. It is opinion after all but I like to see all sides of a story, not just the rainbows and unicorns! Thanks for sharing this story!

  4. January 29, 2016 / 4:44 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It was really insightful to hear these (American-non-exceptionalist) points of view about life in Korea. I initially wanted to teach in Korea, then figured I’d rather improve my Chinese than learn a new language from scratch, so I’m gearing up to go to Taiwan. But I’ve been trying to keep an open mind lately about Korea, since you can make twice as much money there.

    Anyway, while pondering these thoughts, it was really helpful to read this entry. Thanks!

    • January 29, 2016 / 4:58 pm

      Glad to help! Certainly keep an open mind. Many people love it here, many people hate it here. It’s a very niche culture and it’s just a place that I never meshed well with. I think it’s a great country regardless and encourage anyone to take the leap. It’s a great place to save money if that’s your goal and there would certainly be people here to practice your Chinese with. As I said, I’ve had positive experiences here so it’s not always all bad! I just don’t like it. Let me know if you have any questions!

  5. January 29, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this! These are some of the reasons I decided to move to Taiwan over South Korea… After a lot of research, it seemed to mesh a lot more with my values. Though South Korean culture is fascinating and I’d love to explore it more while visiting, I do think it would be draining to live in a place that doesn’t coincide with your personal beliefs. Congratulations on toughing two years and making the most of it!

    • January 29, 2016 / 10:41 pm

      I think you’ve made the right decision if you’ve done your research. I’ve often found that people who left Korea after 1-2 years and went to Taiwan were instantly happier. I haven’t been to Taiwan yet but I am looking forward to the day I go! Yes it’s certainly been draining and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to leave somewhere in my entire life. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

      • February 3, 2016 / 6:14 am

        I just visited Taiwan for a four day stint and was immediately so much more in love with it than I ever have been with Korea.

        • February 3, 2016 / 7:45 am

          Funny as I’ve actually met a number of people here who’ve traveled to Taiwan and were immediately obsessed with it. In the same vein, I’ve met people who moved there from Korea to work and had similar experiences there.

  6. January 29, 2016 / 11:46 pm

    A very well researched post. I enjoyed reading it. Like you, I never felt at home in Japan. Japanese women do something similar to the aegyo but they use high pitched nasal voices when flirting and that absolutely drives me insane. It makes my skin crawl. I also hated that they weren’t very affectionate, something that I find Koreans are.

    Also, the woman with the plastic surgery looks a lot better in the second photo because it looks like she had a pretty bad underbite and plastic surgery helped her. I have an acquaintance back home who did something similar because it was affecting her daily life. While I do agree that a lot of people are vain here, sometimes plastic surgery isn’t such a bad thing, especially if they’re doing it for themselves to feel and look better. To please others is a different story.

    And let me tell you, if anyone thinks they’re racially superior, it’s the Japanese (in the past) who went about conquering shit and thought they should be the head of all Asian nations. (Yes, this was actually published in a journal and translated.)

    Personally, I’m a little troll. I once witnessed a girl bawling her eyes out because of something a guy did. Like full on wailing, and I found it entertaining. I stared until he shut her up which was hilarious to me.

    Also, I’m not a fan of the 빨리 빨리 culture. I think it’s the worst and causes them a lot of stress. I also think it’s part of the reason for the low birth rate.

    I’m curious how you became fluent in Korean. Any tips?

    • January 30, 2016 / 12:03 am

      Thanks! Koreans are known for not being very affectionate as well, though. I think the similarities between Japan and Korea are quite large in that regard. I think it’s changing for younger Koreans, but they’re usually in high school or very young in college.

      As far as that woman in the photo, if she was doing it just to feel better about the underbite, unfortunately I don’t think she would have gotten face contouring, a smaller forehead, a smaller nose and bigger eyes. I think people don’t realize that fixing themselves on the outside doesn’t act as a bandaid for the turmoil they feel inside. It’s a cultural norm and I find it appalling and depressing that parents pay for their children to receive new faces. Again, this isn’t something that is necessarily Koreans’ fault. Their parents are very critical of them from a young age and this culture perpetuates this “perfectionism in all aspects” mentality. Most people are interested in what’s on the outside rather than on the inside, and this affects every aspect of the wheel of life here.

      Koreans have the “han” which is mainly directed at the Japanese. Regardless, they’re determined to be the best of the best which they usually fall short of. This is where the “pure blood” comes in, as it’s something they’re proud of (understandably so) after the Japanese invasions. It’s a sense of their pride, so I can’t compare to Japan as I’m not Japanese or Korean (thus not having the han that all Koreans claim they have.) I’m not sure if Japan has segregated sections for foreigners or continues to do black face for comedic purposes, but I would be interested in knowing that.

      Yes, Korean women are often crying on sidewalks and in public until the boyfriend coddles them. It’s strange and I also unabashedly stare because I’m an adult and I don’t think that sort of behavior by anyone over the age of 4 – err, Korean age 6 – should be merited.

      I’m not fluent, my friend is as I stated I wouldn’t have had any clue had I not been with her =) I agree as far as the low birth rate, but I also think that has a lot to do with the fact that people here get married later in life as they’re expected to provide so much before marriage and a lot of people get married as a last resort type thing rather than for love. Hope you enjoy the time in Korea. I think you’ll find over time (you’ve been here a relatively short time) just how similar Japanese and Korean cultures are!

  7. January 30, 2016 / 6:46 pm

    Thank you for putting things which are amazingly different. I am an Asian and I truly respect your views on this. People, mostly from Eastern Asia have the mentality which you have perfectly pictured it out. Even, my parents and my school wanted me to learn every 16 hours a day. Though they never realized that I like coding in computers rather they wanted me to complete things which I didn’t like. I am truly happy to realize that it is more like a DNA defect in Asian people. Thank you for your post. I hope you have a better time.

    • Ann
      February 11, 2016 / 1:18 am

      Daniel, I hope you will find (or have found) a way to pursue your own interests and talents. Gaining new perspectives from learning how other cultures and people approach life is so expanding, and valuable. All the best to you!

  8. January 31, 2016 / 9:30 am

    This post was extremely well written and supported with external information. I’ve gotten used to all 5 of these reasons of why you don’t like living in Korea, but they still do bum me out from time to time. I find myself being able to cope with these things better by recognizing I’m only here temporarily, I don’t think I could ever live here long term even though there are alot of things I find myself loving about Korea. What’s funny is that I find public toilets, street puke, and street trash to be the three things I find most unacceptable about living here.

    I get really sad when I hear my students talk about how they can’t wait to get plastic surgery because their mom tells them they’re ugly or how stupid they are because they got two answers wrong on their vocabulary test …it’s really heartbreaking.It makes me feel grateful for the childhood I had.

    I find humor seeing grown ass adults using the “egyo” technique – if that’s what they like, to each their own… It makes me realize how dry my dating life would have been had I lived here as a single. haha

    Anyways, thanks for the honest post.

    • January 31, 2016 / 11:58 am

      Thanks! It’s funny how different things bother others that some find revolting. Humans are interesting. I don’t really mind the public toilets here aside from the weirdo dildo-esque soap because it’s so dirty. The vomit is gross but I don’t see that as much. The spitting bothers me but that’s cultural and something they don’t find rude, so I’ve just sort of accepted it.

      I was once borderline obsessed with Korea and none of these five things bothered me at all. I had a similar mindset as you, which I think is great. However, over time the superficiality and stress has been chipping away at my soul and I just need to move on. I’ve mentally overstayed my welcome as I was ready to go 1.5 years ago but stayed for the sake of love – a decision I’ll never regret.

      The aegyo is certainly pathetically funny but I still don’t find it enjoyable listening to an adult woman beg for things in the same way my kindergarten students do when they really want something! As I said, it’s my opinion so while some people agree with me, it’s understandable that others may not!

      • February 1, 2016 / 2:41 am

        Haha, those soap bars- I can’t use them! I think you live in a bit nicer area of Seoul than we do, the puke piles are everywhere. Gotta watch your step! I completely agree with how you feel though, After our first year teaching I was so ready to leave and never come back – I really needed a break from all of these things. Then after taking 8 months away, we decided we could do it one more year.(but that’s it!) I feel like since we came back we have a different perspective. We had the much needed break that we needed to recalibrate. The one week vacations are not enough here, especially in a place where the culture is completely different than your own.

  9. January 31, 2016 / 12:34 pm

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head here. I’m also coming up to the 2 year mark and this is exactly how I feel. There are so many things I love about this country and so much that I’ve learned while I’ve been here but I know that me and Korea have never exactly fit. I think I’m open minded about the culture and am always respectful but there are things that I will never accept, like the aegyo culture, the close mindedness and shallowness. I know there are definitely things about my culture that Koreans find strange and can’t accept too, neither culture is right or wrong but sometimes a place is just a wrong fit for you! Hope your next adventure is amazing Laura 🙂 x

  10. February 3, 2016 / 6:19 am

    I LOVE this post! I’ve read so much about how great Korea is and how much expats love it here and I was starting to think there was something wrong with me (and my husband) for hating it. I agree with everything on this list and would add my personal frustration of produce in Seoul costing the same amount it does in New York but mostly being of terrible quality with very little variety AND treatment of dogs in Korea. We rescued two huskies here, which I know means we brought more stares and dirty looks upon ourselves, but how could we not with all the shelters here so underfunded, under-regulated and overflowing?

    • February 3, 2016 / 7:44 am

      There’s certainly nothing wrong with you guys. It’s hard living here. It’s easy to make money but…no. Yes the cost of fruit here is out of control, but I don’t think that’s as terrible as some of the other things that bother me as I knew that ahead of time. The treatment of animals is horrific but that’s just Asia in general not necessarily unique to Korea. It doesn’t mean it makes it any easier to see some dogs chained up here the way they are. It’s pretty terrible but I hope that’s something that is changing among younger Koreans. At any rate, thanks so much for reaching out. I’m glad I made you two feel a bit more at ease – you aren’t alone! How much longer do you have left here? I hope it’s not too long!

  11. February 9, 2016 / 7:17 am

    I could not imagine dealing with the discrimination as a foreigner, the segregation thing is crazy. People will make comments here about foreigners but thankfully it is not too often. And the childlike behavior of the girls, that would drive me insane. Super interesting to read this!

  12. February 9, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    Oh wow, amazing reading this. I have never visited Korea but now I can totally get an idea of their culture and society. The movie about the egyo is hilarious, I never imagined something like that has a word for it and is actually common to ‘use’ as a tool and they admit it as well. Wow, culture differences:)! Thanks for this amazing post Laura!

  13. February 9, 2016 / 2:59 pm

    I had known about Korea’s peculiar obsession with plastic surgery, but I hadn’t realized how glaringly different Korean culture can be. To be honest, I had a huge KPOP and kdrama phase and that really glorified the country in my eyes. I eventually grew out of it, but I still had many friends who were so tuned into that world that I couldn’t have a decent conversation with them unless it was about the latest SHINee single or whatever. I realized how the entertainment industry perpetuates a certain ideal image for girls and guys. It’s not exclusive to Korea–for example, Hollywood perpetuates its own image of the ideal American man and woman–but the homogeneity of Korea, the lack of individualism, and the dominance of Korean pop culture all cultivate in the unhealthy obsession with being ideal.

    The “aegyo” thing would drive me up a wall! I like how you put it–“as a direct slap in the face to all the Korean women who worked so hard in the past and continue to do so to this day.” Would you say it’s thoughtful manipulation from the woman’s part, or do they honestly think that’s an appropriate way to get what you want? Either way, jeepers creepers!

  14. February 9, 2016 / 5:46 pm

    What an interesting post. I would still like to visit Korea but it isn’t somewhere that appeals to me for living. I’m ‘living’ in Nicaragua for 6 weeks, a temporary stop to work and save some money but I know I could not live here full time. The heat, the cat calling, did I mention the heat?! Going to save that short film for later. Thanks for sharing, I hope you get some respite!

  15. February 10, 2016 / 1:49 am

    NIce post! I’ve certainly experienced this when I went on a vacation in Korea with my friends. A guy, probably in college pushed me in the subway. He did not even say sorry to me. He acted pretty normal when passing long fellow Koreans though.. Haven’t seen the no-foreigners allowed restaurants. Thank goodness because that would make my positive thoughts about Korea crumble,.

  16. February 17, 2016 / 3:17 am

    Wow, there’s an incredible response to this post from people who feel the same way.

    I’m also one of them. I’ve been here for almost 2 years and just don’t like living here. I’m done and I’m glad to be moving.

    The obsession with looks thing bothered me so much when I first came here but it wasn’t until I went on vacation last month and started wondering where all the mirrors were and checking my own compact to see if my make-up/hair were okay that I realised how ingrained the looks thing has become. It’s horrible. I came here on top of the world and full of confidence. My self-esteem was at an all-time high. Now, 2 years later? It’s taken a battering. I’m so self-conscious and have some major body image issues. Will definitely be needing to work on that when I leave.

    I’m always glad that I got to work in a vocation school where there’s no pressure on my students to go to university. None of them will and that’s why they come here. They just have to learn the practical skills they’re taught and the school will help them get a job when they graduate. There’s no pressure on them to pass the English exams so they can relax in my class. I don’t know how I would have coped working at a hagwon or an academic high school.

    I also put a dead stop on the childish behaviour in my class. During my first semester, so many teenage girls (age 16-17) would whine and throw full on tantrums. I told them straight that in my class you acted like young ladies or get out. I didn’t sign on to teach babies in a high school.

    These cultural differences are a pain in the bum but, yeah, there are still things I do enjoy here. I’m not sure if I’ll miss living here though.

    • February 17, 2016 / 4:42 am

      Thanks for your comment! I definitely used to think that I was an odd one out for not liking living in Korea. It’s not like I dislike the country itself, but I just cannot imagine ever having to be here for longer than I have. After awhile, I realized I was not abnormal and I’m no longer afraid to admit that I really hate living here. I leave in a little under two weeks and really look forward to moving forward. I’ve gained a strong sense of self here but it came from being so absolutely stressed all the time. For example, this morning I had to push past at least five people on my way out of the train without apologizing simply because they just don’t move out of the way. It’s like moving a rock. I thought to myself, “no wonder people here are so stressed out all the time!”

      It’s really taken a toll on my sanity. My school does not push children at all, but my first job was a doozie. The children were expected to write five paragraph essays each week by age 9. It was really unfortunate. I will look back on my time here fondly, but like you, I certainly will not miss living here for the most part.

      • February 18, 2016 / 11:43 pm

        Girl, I can’t even begin to explain how much I resonate with you. You leave in just under 2 weeks; I leave in just under 5 weeks. If you have time, we should have a coffee/lunch meetup.

        • February 19, 2016 / 1:16 am

          Are you in Seoul? I would love to meet up!

  17. February 21, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    I lived in Korea 10 years ago and, while I personally really loved it and have been vack to visit a few times since, there were certainly aspects that I didn’t like. I think discrimination was actually worse then as well. But I imagine the beauty/vain aspects are even worse now than when I was there. I swear Korea was actually the first time I started seeing girls take selfies of themselves. I live in California now and it’s rampant here and everywhere else now, I guess- but yeah, all that plastic surgery in Korea is crazy. It really is hard to live in a culture so different to your own. Like you say, there are things in your own country you don’t like but, somehow, when you live in another country the undesirable aspects seem to stand out more. I’m British and, while I love California, there are things in the US that make me so annoyed! It almost seems worse here- I’ve lived overseas a few times but it was always temporary. I’ve moved to the US permanently and I think knowing I’m here forever makes all the annoying things worse haha! I hope the things you don’t like about Korea don’t sour it for you though. I’m sure you had a lot of great times too. One thing I have found useful is to think of the things I wouldn’t have/be experiencing if I wasnt living in the US (or one of the other countries I’ve lived in). For example- I might get annoyed at how I have to drive everywhere here when in the UK I can walk or take public transport (this is definitely not the worst thing but it does annoy me). But then I remind myself that if I was back in the UK it would be cold and rainy anyway and I wouldn’t live next to a beautiful beach. Hope that helps and good luck with your next adventure.

    • February 21, 2016 / 8:15 pm

      Thanks! I think an important thing to remember is not to generalize the US. For instance, driving everywhere in a city is very unique to California (er, Los Angeles) rather than the entirety of the MASSIVE country. I lived in Chicago for 7 years and walked everywhere and took public transportation. I used my car for out of town purposes. Same goes with New York City. My experience here is certainly not spoiled, but yeah it’s just not a culture for me. I went out with friends the other night and the table of women next to us didn’t speak to one another all night but rather just took photos of themselves. It was really sad that it’s the norm here and it’s almost to be expected! I’m grateful for the memories I’ve made here – good and bad – but it’s time to go. Thanks for your comment!

  18. March 22, 2016 / 8:15 am

    I thought about teaching in Korea, then found out there is serious age discrimination there and I was wayyy too old to even be considered for a teaching job. I ended up in Taiwan and it’s great! Glad you figured out Korea wasn’t a good fit for you and are moving on!

  19. sabi
    July 30, 2016 / 4:18 am

    Gosh i completely agree with you. I DO NOT LIKE this country for the reason you stated as well as you are supposed to be conscious of everyones elses opinion . Ur parents in law dictate the way you get married etc. Im 27 and i get treated like a kid. Hate it. Not to mention somehow old ajummas think they can somehow touch my body wtf. I have a hard time deciding whether to stay or go simply cuz I meant a very western thinking Korean guy. But this country is making me into such a pessimistic person…

    If u still in Seoul id love to meet up.
    sabicoat25 is my kakaoid

    • July 30, 2016 / 4:40 am

      Hey, Sabina! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Korea really does suck, eh? I wrote this from a very dark place, one of which I’ve totally escaped since leaving that country. I can’t imagine ever feeling like I did before I left. I am so sorry you’re going through this and please know it will get better. I’ve dropped you a line on your email in case you don’t read this. Keep you head up.

  20. Althea
    August 8, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    Thank you for your post. This is very informative and different from the You-Tube videos I have watched 😊

  21. Patricija
    October 1, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    Hey Laura! I am a student from Lithuania studying in the UK. Thank you so much for sharing your prospect and your view of Korea and korean people. I was always facinated by korean culture and their way of living for quite a bit of time. Therefore, I always wanted to visit South Korea and see how much my expectations meet the reality. I am planning to move there after I finish University or at least go there for a holiday and see how things are there. Your post did make me concerned on how will I deal with all the flaws you pointed out, because they seem pretty severe 😀 But I find their culture and heritage so interesting, and aboslutely love their language and I wish to be fluent in it, as I love learning new languages. Even after reading your post and how hard can it be there, I still have hope to find something so beautiful in there that will make me stay. Do you think its worth to try?

    • October 4, 2016 / 4:23 am

      YES! It’s definitely worth it to try!

  22. Jusitn Song
    October 19, 2016 / 2:14 am

    Thank you for your detail pointing out on Korean life and I have to admit that it’s true.
    I was born in Korea and immigrated to Canada when I was 30. I may have the same reasons and they brought me to out of country. However, after living in US(NJ, OR) now I am back to Korea for working in company.
    Here is the tip. If you want to be away from the reasons, find the right people who live out of Seoul and well educated in oversea country, but do not get along with stupid and no-manner Koreans. It’s hard to find because they are not exposed to public, but it’s worth. They have their own community, respectful, well mannered and open to foreigners.

    I am sorry for your unpleasant experience living in Korea, but many good people normally hide…
    At New York city, many people could claim several unacceptable reasons like aboves.
    I was born in Seoul and stayed for 30 years, but I don’t like to live in Seoul either. And these days, the stupid government drives stressed Koreans crazy too. Away..

    • October 20, 2016 / 7:00 pm

      Hey, Justin! Thanks for reading and commenting. I definitely agree that these types of issues could be had in any major city across the globe. I sometimes wonder how different my experience would be if I’d lived somewhere smaller in Korea. In my neighborhood in Seoul (Sinsa/Apgujeong) there wasn’t any grocery store, but there were hundreds of plastic surgery centers. It was a bit overwhelming. Within six months of living in Korea, my boyfriend and I caught a man watching us sleep and filming/taking pictures from my bedroom window. It took my school/employer EIGHT MONTHS to fix the window and not one of them ever asked if I was okay. After that, it was hard for me to ever feel comfortable in Korea. I no longer live there and am much happier and feel more like myself again. It was not the best experience, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who love it there.

      Thanks so much for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your future!

  23. Evelyn
    October 19, 2016 / 9:43 am

    Hello Laura! I enjoyed reading your post; you tell it like it is but in such a respectful and honest manner 🙂 I’ve never lived in Korea and have only travelled there thrice. I’ve experienced the 5 things that you’ve listed and have always wondered how do people from outside the culture actually manage to live there in the long run. Those things would really get to me and affect me overtime.

    I’ve also always found it strange that out of the three times i’ve been there on holiday, on two of those trips i felt this immense sense of gloom for no apparent reason. I just felt very down and kind of “hopeless” just walking around, visiting the various places. I still can’t figure out why I felt that way there (and the minute i was at Incheon airport on the way out of Korea my mood lifted) but there’s something about the atmosphere i feel; just the surrounding vibes, people and environment.

    The vanity culture really got to me and it’s the only place on earth where i felt the constant need to check if my makeup was ok and to re-apply it (on the train no less!). It just came so naturally to me and felt so normal cause everyone was doing it. Also – the open blatant comments on one’s appearance – most of them were positive but I just found it so in-your-face and kinda shallow after awhile.. It’s like ppl compliment you either to get you to buy something or for some other sort of motivation that I couldn’t quite tell.

    I also really dislike the drinking/smoking culture here too (seems like there are a bunch of men smoking on every street corner) and this is a random point but i feel like Koreans love to eat ALOT which results in a lot of food wastage all the time. The communal eating thing also bothers me (though I’m half-Chinese and communal eating is very common in the Chinese culture too) as I always only travel to Korea with another friend/my mum and we would be unable to try out the food in various restaurants cause the portions were just too huge. Also, I started to get really bored of the food after awhile. I love fresh things – fresh vegetables and fruits in particular but found it very lacking in the cuisine. I felt so constrained by the food that i didn’t really look forward to meals there lol.

    And omg the stress of riding the subways and the shoving/pushing, throngs of people everywhere you go, walking miles somewhere only to realise it’s been shut down, the lack of dustbins, the unsanitary situations in most public bathrooms. I’ve been in places where I was absolutely horrified at the absence of soap or like you get those communal bar soap thingies which is sooo gross.

    Also, is it just me but i find romantic relationships here to be really….fast-paced and quite shallow with alot of co-dependency and neediness? Like, I find that couples behave in a very childish manner – couple t-shirts, aegyo-ing with each other etc. And like things seem to progress so fast in romantic relationships here that sometimes I wonder what are they going for? It’s like there’s no stage of dating and getting to know whether you are a good fit for one another and then deciding to get together. It’s just like boom – meet a member of the opposite sex, get together and start acting like a couple who’s been together for 5 years. I dont know if i make sense but i find it extremely bizzare. I always wonder how much do couples really know about each other and what is it that made them want to get together. Do they share the same values and goals and all those deeper things or is it simply getting together cause both parties are single and available? Hmm.

    • October 20, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Korea made me feel extremely depressed, which is where my mind was when I initially wrote this. As far as the smoking culture, I don’t mind that as much because I find many places in Asia (and my own country in some cities) are quite similar. I’d say Koreans are more respectful regarding smoking habits than other places I’ve traveled in Asia, actually. With eating, I think it’s a nice way for them to gather together and enjoy conversation and have fun, so I never paid any attention to whether or not they were finishing their meals.

      I certainly don’t miss having to ride the subway there; so much pushing made me feel really uneasy. As far as the dating culture goes, yes I definitely noticed that. It’s so foreign in comparison to my own culture where we like to get to know one another first before committing. I think it all depends on the individuals, but I did notice things moved very quickly there (even in my own experiences, which turned me off a bit.)

      Overall, my negative feelings toward Korea have shifted into oblivion as I no longer live there and won’t be returning any time soon – if ever. Some people love it, some people hate it. I happened to dislike the environment quite a bit but did meet many foreigners and locals who were great. It does get hard every day to live somewhere where people say, “what’s wrong?” or “are you sick?” every day upon walking into work. It really takes a toll on one’s psyche. Thanks for reading and I hope you don’t let the vanity bring you down, lovely!

  24. Taehee Kim
    October 23, 2016 / 3:02 am

    I want tell you something about number 4.
    I am korean.
    I can’t speak English well but I hope you read.

    About taxi
    Some taxi drivers alot~~~~~of time ignore to Korean also too so oneday i was waiting 4hours for taxi.

    And section divided foreigners and Korean reason why korean section workers can not speak English.

    And last one why some event area korea and foreigner. Actually foreigner areas facilities better korean areas facilities. Because you know they like good looking forappearance and they want get for more money.
    Korean doesn’t help exchange that’s reason why.

    Other things I agree specially 1 and 5 🙂
    Thanks for reading

  25. Solan Hellmann
    October 26, 2016 / 8:24 am

    Dear Laure,

    I find me in your writing. Ich felt the same way like you.
    Don’ t make you sick because of all you think.
    Just live and enjoy and thank what you have.
    Believe me, your korea living time is one of the best expierience in your life which you bild up and need.

    Your Solan

  26. Sara
    October 27, 2016 / 8:37 pm

    Hi Laura
    I am a korean having lived in the states many years. When I lived only in korea, I think I acted same way as you described above and probably would have been defensive even offended by thinking you are generalizing the culture. But now I guess I am assimilated to american culture (be roman in rome. LOL), I can totally understand and agree with you. But the plastic surgeries, looking at the mirror all the time, taking stupid selfies everywhere and aekyo are ridiculous to me and i do get annoyed time to time, But they are passable.
    The things I really have problem with are lack of individuality, no personal space, shoving and bumping, people touching my body part (someone mentioned about it) and the stupid comments such as “you look ill” when you dont wear make up. These things really drive me up the wall. Ah another big thing, the temper tantrum…it is not only happening between couples, Korean people tend to throw tantrums whenever things dont go their way regardless age and gender. You can see people scream, cry, throw things, kick things when they get mad and complain about somethings or when they are drunk. These kinds of behavior are widely accepted and there are not much consequences even when cops are called. And if you dont have guts or whatever to act like them, it is best to walk away unless they break you bone. There are still a lot of stuff I enjoy in korea, but sometimes I just want to scream and that is what i am doing now. So please bear with me. LOL

  27. David Graves
    October 29, 2016 / 3:39 am

    I came upon this post because I’ll be moving to Seoul, soon.
    From your perspective, Korea sounds almost exactly like China- except that in China, people tend to be far less “romantic”- women will gather in groups to take pictures of their faces for 30 minutes and of their expensive food that they never touch, but relationships are purely about money for women in China, whereas in Korea there seems to be an aspect of naive, “prince charming” type shit. Also, it seems that Koreans generally follow the law, rather than completely disregarding it as they do in China. And there there’s the whole thing where China blocks nearly all western websites. And there’s the whole thing where you can’t trust anyone in China because nobody trusts anybody in China. But otherwise, the people in both countries seem to behave in very much the same way.

    So… thanks for your honest review of the place. Korea should be much easier for me to deal with than China.

  28. Evan
    November 5, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    very interesting… I’m totally agree with you even though I was born in Korea

  29. JC
    November 5, 2016 / 7:58 pm


    I have to admit that most of the points you made are completely right. I am a Korean, born and raised there, but now I have been living in the US for about 10 years. How many times I felt the way you felt whenever I visit Korea. Like, Koreans care too much about how you look.

    My parents and friends always greet me with 왜 이렇게 말랐냐 (you look so thin) 왜 이렇게 피곤해 보이냐 (you look so tired). I always tell them not to comment on others’ look, but they just don’t change. It is just Korean culture and I doubt it will ever chance in this generation.

    I also agree with your other points regarding “cultivating childish behaviors.” That is at least partly due to the Confucius culture (men should accept whatever women do since men are responsible for their women at home). It became even worse with movie “My Sassy Girl” (엽기적인 여자) in which an extremely spoiled (but good-looking) girl treats her boy friend unfairly in the name of love. Korean women must have been influenced by the movie. I also had girl friends like that.

    There is one more point I would like to add: KOREA IS AN INSECURE SOCIETY, which I think is the main underlying driver of most other things you pointed out. Koreans get angry when they feel they are treated disrespectfully. In Korean, 쟤가 나 무시하네 and they start fighting.

    Of course, there are many things I miss about Korea– the food, nightlife, and my family and friends. But the culture there is just too much. Korea is now an advanced economy—it took only 50 years to catch up with developed ones. However, it will take generations for the mindset of people to change..

  30. Chris
    December 5, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    I found this blog after trying to process similar thoughts on my first ever visit to Korea this weekend, and it’s helped me understand why I really disliked being in Korea. In fact, I think for the first time ever, and after travelling to many places in the Far East, I experienced deep culture shock.

    I am an ALT on the West Coast of Japan, so naturally I thought a short trip to Korea would make sense when I had time off. Seriously after two days I was ready to return, I was previously interested in Korean culture and history, but the experience was just so off-putting, that I cannot see myself ever wanting to go back. People are so cold, they constantly bump into you in the street and never even acknowledge your existence, even in convenience stores.

    I also noticed the selfie thing in Korea, it is at least 10 times worse there than in Japan, where it is already really common. I just found it so bizarre that girls would just look at themselves, as if entranced like Narcissus, I haven’t noticed that so much in Japan usually selfies are short or especially a bit of fun with friends using weird and wonderful Line filters. In Incheon Airport a group of Japanese girls and a group of Korean girls were sitting next to each other. The Korean girls stared at themselves on their phones taking selfies, meanwhile the Japanese girls commented on how cute their donuts looked (they were pink rabbit faces). It just seemed to me that the Koreans were so joyless, while the Japanese girls were enjoying each others company and the small novelties of life.

    It reminds me of Mary Wollstonecraft’s words on the lives of upper class women in the late 18th Century: “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adore its prison.”

  31. Locke
    February 14, 2017 / 8:55 am

    This article is very genuine and much appreciated!

    Your cultural observations take us (or me at least) beyond the scope of a traveler’s lens – yes, I’d love to hear recommendations for entertainment, food and touristy hot-spots (is touristy a word?)…but we all have different interests, and I probably wouldn’t like what you like.

    You told us what to expect when we’re in a coffee shop, diner or just on the steet watching a temper-tantrum with flying purses- you illustrated the attitudes we need to prepare for with some of the locals.

    Well I’m rambling, but I came here to say thanks! I have spent a long while building up to a concrete plan and if those plans pan out I’ll be walking in prepared (plus I took Korean martial arts here in the States – but that is something I will vehemently deny if anyone were to bring it up). Thanks again!

    I’ll try to hold off on any plastic surgery during my first week…

    • February 14, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      I hope you have a good time! Living somewhere is very different from traveling somewhere for a shorter period of time, so I’m sure you’ll have a positive experience!

  32. February 21, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    I totally agree with this article. I’ve been in South Korea for about 8 months now and this place drives me nuts. Korea takes all the worst parts of America-capitalistic drive, vanity, racism, etc. and takes it to a whole other level of crazy. Well written, and very accurate. Go U.S.A!

    • Y
      April 7, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Yeah almost all of americans who have lived here have said the exactly the same thing, which is wholeheartedly true. The country is actually a huge (capitalistic) trash of the 21C civilization, I sometimes think.

  33. JisooYeeun
    March 17, 2017 / 9:08 pm

    Interesting post.but to be honest, I didn’t like so much. I think it’s a bit nonsense no like to live in korea because of this things. I’m a Hard kpop fan so my interest in the country is growing up

  34. Su Yang
    March 19, 2017 / 9:13 am

    I never thought of this from foreigners who live in South Korea, I felt very embarrassed while i was reading this because I am korean and never expected this racism or something like that from foreigners who live in South Korea. I think you have mentioned only bad stuffs but there are so many good stuffs in South Korea that you didn’t even mentioned. People who are reading this and have hatred toward South Korea, please don’t. I am not trying to defend people who doesn’t like South Korea but I would like to get to the point that there’s no perfect country where they have racism or stresses. Even in United States or United Kingdoms, they also cares about look and how the face looks like and there are so many other countries where there are some group of people or nationality are not able to go in the restaurant or clubs. But i am really sorry for you that you experienced this type of problems in South Korea and I feel very embarrassed but I hope that you are still loving your life or experience in South Korea.

    • March 27, 2017 / 6:38 pm

      Thanks for reading! As I am American, I can most certainly tell you that after living in South Korea for two years, most of these issues are isolated to the country. Yes, people care about looks in America, but every single surface is not made up of mirrors. We definitely don’t have signs for plastic surgery everywhere, nor is it common. I no longer live in Korea – I left one year ago!

  35. Seana
    March 28, 2017 / 4:12 am

    I start living in seoul since november 2016, usually stayed home because no friends yet well i only want to make foreign friends because i dont like koreans . Well i do agree of your post. Staying home or go outside alone for me is better rather than begging koreans just to make a friend. Eugh

    Actually i had bad experienced in myeong dong. I went around looking on the street food, i saw seafood its a big scallop grill with cheese so i came closer and wait for my order but unfortunately the woman(seller) came out on the cart and suddenly push those foreigner around the cart without saying an excuse. So rude i cannot understand and i was like (crazy face). It is same on the street mall even employees did that.

  36. pat
    March 29, 2017 / 12:51 am

    oh wow, i totally agree. i’m ethnically korean but grew up in new zealand.
    i’ve been living in korea for the past 7 years and i still feel like i don’t fit in.
    i’m too “weird” and “slow-witted” people say.

    i also developed severe bulimia under the pressure of looking a certain way.
    it’s so unhealthy and hurtful living in korea. i can’t wait to leave this place.

  37. Y
    April 7, 2017 / 6:26 pm

    I can’t agree with you more on this. Though I myself is a korean, after having spent my earlier years mostly in ‘western’ culture, all these things just creep me on and I really can’t bear these as a young adult. Most of the points that you’ve made might have come from the ‘smallness’ of this country – keep that in mind that the country is still ‘divided’- without much heterogeneity in race, religion, culture. The country’s past history and current political situation (being squeezed between China and the U.S.) all contribute to the annoying features of Koreans I guess. They are just too obsessed with their own, not being able to see others and outer world.

    But you know what? Though I can still talk quite a good english, I can’t be paid as much as you guys are paid just because I’m not ‘native’- here mostly means I don’t look like caucasian. And I somehow feel like I’m forced to live in this small country! Aww I think I overestimated my birthplace too much after I’ve been accustomed to other cultures (British, American, etc) so long.

    I think you should speak up on all these so that people can be somehow ‘enlightened(thoughI’m not a good fan of this word)’. I’m already being annoyed by these people’s disrespect for the others, louting outside at midnight, lack of ‘individual right’.

    Sum up: I envy you guys as you guys have your own home to go back at least.

  38. Sienna
    May 9, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    I totally agree with your post
    I hate korean culture even if I am a korean.
    Now i’m in vancouver. And realized that you felt in korea.
    Trying to excape from my country.

  39. Henry Lee
    May 11, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    I think you are making a common mistake most foreigners make….

    1) Making an Apples to Oranges comparison. You have to compare Seoul VS Manhattan….city vs city. not Seoul VS. a quiet suburb. Asian cities are much more compact since they have to import oil so even places far away from downtown will have a city center lifestyle. I wonder if people who used to live in Manhattan feel the same way. Most people who don’t like living in NYC don’t like Asian megacities. You see vanity arises from the fact that there are so many people there when you are out and about. People in Idaho don’t care how they look because you are in your car, but people in New York riding the subway and walking around care alot more of their appearances because there is a greater chance of running into someone whom you want to impress. Just fact of life of living in a large walkable city. More money spent on clothes and looks and less on cars.

    2) Being shocked without understanding historical context. US military is stationed right in Seoul and have caused trouble amongst locals as arrogant entitled thugs. You should ask the shop owner why they ban foreigners. What if their customer or employee was physically hurt by military thugs, who are exempt from prosecution? Korea is no longer colonized by Japan, but there is a sense that USA took over Japan’s role with military base right in the capital for last 50+ years. Imagine how Washington DC residents would feel is Saudi Arabia had a military base there?

    3) Regarding Individuality….Governments tightly control imports in order to boost export, GDP, and general standard of living at a cost of consumer choice. Koreans couldn’t even purchase non-Korean made car until recently. So when you see Koreans driving Hyundais and Kias, it is not because they don’t want to express themselves, they grew up without any choice. Only the superrich could pay 300% tax to drive foreign imports. and this is just automobiles. Think about how much individuality can be realized if you could only purchase MADE-IN-USA products. What you are really saying is that Koreans need more consumer choice via free trade and not really individuality.

    4) Judging Korea’s upfront racism while ignoring sophisticated institutional racism covered up by political correctness in western countries. There are still places in San Francisco where women can’t enter a build through the front door. How about some country clubs limiting membership to women and minorities? they don’t have a sign printed, but white folks figured out how to be smarter about being racists. I would worry more about institutional racism than some dive bar not allowing you in because they had to clean up the mess foreigners before you had made.

    4) Also, many white are used to “white privilege” in their home country being the majority and can’t accept the reality of being a minority anywhere else….but comes off as saying they don’t like it. What you don’t like is being a minority and the loss of privileges that goes along with it. Individuality

    • May 11, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      1. I’ve lived in both New York City and Chicago. Living in Chicago were some of the best 7 years of my life. The great thing about big cities elsewhere in the world is the walls of the subways and advertisements on the streets aren’t mainly plastic surgery ads.

      2. That’s an interesting assumption and point to make, but it’s merely covering the surface. What about the Korean club that banned “all people from Africa” during the ebola outbreak? Or the fact that Koreans refused to take responsibility for the MERS virus. A Korean person brought it into the country, but the foreigners got banned from public spaces. Nope.

      3. I somehow managed to purchase colorful and patterned clothing during my 2.5 years living there. I wasn’t talking about the cars or brands – which was my point 😉 I grew out of that phase as a young child.

      4. Institutional racism practiced within the country would be Korean business owners blatantly stating they are looking for an English-speaking teacher, but not a “black one.” That’s happened countless times. Banning people outright from restaurants/bars/clubs/jobs/events is ridiculous no matter how you slice it.

      5. I don’t mind being a minority. If I minded, I wouldn’t be living abroad for the past 3.5 years.

      Thank you for reading!

      • Mr.. Ching Chong Kimchiman
        July 14, 2017 / 5:12 pm

        This is a dumbest post I’ve seen in the longest time…
        Different is not wrong.
        Who gives you the right to judge others?
        Do you want the whole country to bend over backward for you?
        Why do you even venture outside your own room? For crying out loud. lofl.

        • July 15, 2017 / 5:20 am

          Thank you for your insight, Mr. Ching Chong Kimchiman!

          • Peter Lee
            July 24, 2017 / 8:56 pm

            Laura, the fact that you posted this blog about how you dislike Korea and its people is quite disappointing. Based on your writing, you seem educated and educated people are generally more understanding. You are wasting time writing this articulate blog to find people online to agree with you and to feel better and I understand, but this is no different to a grown-up acting up in public places seeking attention. You must feel better now so do the right thing. Take care.

          • July 25, 2017 / 3:38 am

            Thanks so much for taking the time to read! It’s very different from an adult woman throwing a temper tantrum; there are links that substantiate my statements. I wrote this when living there as I wanted other people to know they weren’t alone in their sentiments. The positive response has been overwhelming as I often get emails from people who come across this post thanking me/asking advice. It’s helped some people feel a bit better, evidenced in this thread as well as in the emails. If I upset a few along the way then so be it. Again, thanks for reading 🙂

          • Captain American
            July 26, 2017 / 12:23 am

            When people agree with you, you tell them something like “it is actually not that bad…” to make people think you are a fair person. But then when someone disagrees with you, you either ignore or show your true color ranting about South Korea. Well done!

            By the way, I don’t take many selfies myself but I don’t know why that should bother you. And Americans talking about South Koreans being racist is just too funny.

          • July 26, 2017 / 4:21 am

            Thank you for reading!

          • LMAO
            August 30, 2017 / 8:42 pm

            I love your responses, BTW! Reminds me of the ‘that’s nice’ quote from Mrs Brown’s Boys.

            You know you’ve hit a nerve when some people are getting personal. Keep up the good work!

  40. Roddey
    July 16, 2017 / 10:47 am

    So as a fellow world traveler, I wanted to give my input, not that it matters but coming from a different perspective. I live in Beijing. I’ve lived in Tokyo, Seoul, and other cities around Asia. All of these things that are listed are common throughout all of Asia. Some are better at hiding it, or beating around the bush, but it’s all there.

    I guess that’s ok with me though. I expected it before I moved. I was even told to leave a bar in Seoul before being seated due to being a foreigner. They weren’t ugly about it, in fact the lady that told me had sorrow in her eyes and could tell she didn’t want to be asking me to leave. It’s just a policy some places. The employees must enforce it, there’s nothing they can do at their level.

    The rest of these, I try to just remember it’s none of my business. I used to get so angry at cultural differences that would inconvenience me, but I also realized that it’s not something I can change. You see something, you get a little ticked off, you move on. As soon as I stopped caring about these, things got a lot easier.

    I suppose it’s part of the traveling experience!

    • July 16, 2017 / 3:57 pm

      I don’t live in Korea any longer – this is an old post! I agree with your sentiment and ideals. I feel the same way now. Took awhile, though 🙂

  41. kelcie
    July 18, 2017 / 2:24 am

    I loved the doc, made me smile and cry at the same time. I just graduated high school so I’m glad to be out for the summer, but compared to Korean schools, my high school life might be luxury.
    Stay woke y’all

  42. John
    July 24, 2017 / 3:54 am

    You wrote a masterpiece because you were so honest and I totally agree with you. Let me tell you that you made my day. I wish you good luck at whatever you do wherever you are. I wish there were more people like you writing about true experiences in Korea..

  43. August 8, 2017 / 6:02 am

    When it comes to Korean education, I agree with you. Children here spend gruelling hours studying instead of enjoying their life. The work ethics in South Korea is indeed horrible. Some companies do not allow vacation, and if one were to take a vacation, they deduct the amount of money you earn. These factors play greatly on birthrate in South Korea. South Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world. But the current president Moon Jae in is planning to change that working hours to be shorter.

    What I disagree with you on is Korean women throwing temper tantrums in public. I think it is based on one’s temperment rather than a nation as whole. I see plenty of South Korean women who are mature enough to not show emotions in public. Perhaps you’ve seen immature ones here and generalise the population as whole.

    Indeed South Korea is collectivist country, if you don’t like that, you won’t like Scandinavia either because Scandinavia lack individuality too.

    What’s more? we human beings tend to like attractive people over unattractive ones ( I don’t like to be politically correct). Altering one’s face to please themselves doesn’t seem so bad to me, since it’s individual’s choice. There are a lot of people in South Korea and people are competing for jobs and they all seem to have average skills to fulfil a job, who’s going to be likely to be picked? The ones who takes care of themselves to stay fit, and alter their faces to please others if you’re a sales person.

    I’m not a big fan of Korea either but I think you shouldn’t base your points on what you think. Rather, take a look at the whole picture, and consider why people are doing these acts and take some polls to see how many Korean women act immature by showing grandiose emotions in public. I prefer to see objective view of points than subjectivity.

    • August 8, 2017 / 6:28 am

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to post! As far as me basing the points on what I thing, I did provide a disclaimer at the beginning of the post that reads: “This isn’t to say that I do not appreciate some aspects of Korean culture; this country is just somewhere that I couldn’t possibly imagine living long-term. If you’re reading this and getting mentally defensive, understand that this isn’t meant to be a dig at the country or its culture, but rather an account of my experience in Korea.”

      This blog is a mixture of my experiences as well as content such as partnerships, sponsorships, and expat tips. This specific post happens to be a post detailing my own personal experiences! The fact that women have to completely alter their faces to the point where they’re shaving their jawbones and creating an unnatural extra eyelid simply to land a job is beyond my comprehension. 🙂

      As far as the people providing “aegyo” entertainment on public transportation and such, I wouldn’t say it’s *everyone,* and at no point did I say it was everyone. There’s no doubt that many women there act in that manner; it’s widely accepted and almost expected within a relationship. I personally found that encountering a grown adult bullying her boyfriend into purchasing her a new teddy bear to be annoying.

      At any rate, this post continues to be one of the most popular on this blog, but I no longer live there – I haven’t for almost two years. Again, thank you so much for your input!

  44. choi
    August 11, 2017 / 7:19 am

    I agree with your opinion bacause i’m korean and then i well know that’ reason. korean society is very strict maybe about woman. most korean female do makeup,when they don’t want we do in korea. And then we need to act cute. It’s so terrible thing and always keep smile. To live as female in korea. Women must beautiful,soft and don’t tell opinion womanself. maybe unhappiness thing. I agree with your opinion.

  45. Adrian
    August 14, 2017 / 4:55 am

    Hi. I am Korean living in Korea for nearly my whole life and you’ve pointed out quite well.
    The thing is Korea is even worse for non-caucasian. If you’re caucasian, I would definitely say that your life is much easier than others. And things are generally better for Americans.
    I started attending international school when I was 9th grade, and I did see my teachers going through absurd events in Korea as well. Like some crazy people taking photos… (seriously they need to be punched on the face)
    I an sorry that you had to go through that, and I would have appreciated your post even more if it talked more about gender inequality. Seriously TERRIBLE COUNTRY for women to live in.
    Anyway sorry to read that you had hard time in Korea. I dream of escaping Korea as well.
    But I used to think Korea was better for foreigners to live in. Especially for English speakers.
    I pretend to be a foreigner outside every now and then and sometimes IT IS BETTER than being Korean.
    Overall… yeah.. terrible country to live in.

  46. ELLE
    August 17, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    I’m pretty confused about Korea.

    Seoul is a very comfortable city, but :
    – The main thing that bothers me here is how vain people are. That exists in all countries but it’s taken to another level here. So many groups are seen as “less than”, it’s sickening.
    – The second thing : koreans cut you off if you express any discomfort about their country, mind you I do NOT criticize it unless my opinion is sollicited. But when asked, I tell the truth with respect, no more texts or phone calls. I lost long time friends when I spoke for the 1st time (in over 3 years, sometimes, which was my mistake). I say how I feel within a month or two now, to get cut off earlier if I can’t have an honest conversation.
    – Third thing : singleness is seen as a disease. If you’re single past 28, something is wrong with you. If you’re not married by 30, you’re a failure. But I think this is asian, not just korean.

    I also had to deal with crooked landlords and it changed the way I perceive people here. I used to think they had a hard time hiding their true colors but sometimes this is just “faking innocence/spontaneity”.

    Before coming to Korea I was very interested in the culture. The 1st year, I was in love. After 2 years, I’m not sure I belong here anymore. I’m not white either, which is a bit more challenging. While I enjoy the comfort of Seoul, the food, hanging out with a friend at 3am just because, I have lost sight of who I was. I struggle to leave the house without makeup. Body image is not as good. I’m single now and feel pressured to be with someone. I’m not a “high heel” girl although feminine, so I don’t wear that in a party either, girls give me dirty looks. My confidence is crumbling. I think I’ll most likely leave next year.

    • August 18, 2017 / 4:03 am

      I felt very uncomfortable there as well – particularly when asked my opinion about living there. I definitely understand all of the problems you’re dealing with. If you’re not happy, it’s probably best to leave and get back out into the world. I appreciate the fact that I left so much – I don’t miss it one bit… except for the food!

  47. Tony
    August 22, 2017 / 10:03 am

    I get it. Deep down you are intolerant of those who are different than you. I live in Southern California. It takes special set of skills and a deep sense of calmness to deal with so many people from so many different cultures. I don’t think you’ll last a month here. Every culture has its own unique idiosyncrasies which if you let them could ruin your day, everyday. But if you have patience and openmindeness, those idiosyncrasies are what will make you fall in love with LA. By the way, some of the reasons you gave seem very trite. Why does it bother you so much when you see ads for plastic surgery? No one is asking you to get one. Ignore them. I see ads for drug addiction treatment everywhere in l..A. I am not bothered by them although it saddens me. I know drug users are everywhere. I don’t do drugs so I ignore them. As far as korean girls trying to act cute (another trite reason), is it more disgusting than many girls in LA acting like Kardashians and jersey shore bunch? There are many manipulative gold diggers everywhere in the US with no limits in how far they will go to get what they want. I see them everyday. You have the right to your opinion but I think the reasons you gave to turn away from the host country makes me wonder if you have deeper issues. Just my opinion. Good luck to you.

  48. Bill
    August 25, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    Hey Laura,

    Great post and very good point on vanity. My wife is from Korea and she always positions the rearview mirror so she can look at herself while she drives…..I don’t get it!!!

  49. Veranda
    August 30, 2017 / 12:17 am

    Sounds very much like my experience living in Guangzhou, China- the vanity, childishness, legless drinking, the.stares, i’m not white and the treatment thereof, the shadiness except I had one more thing to deal with, the stench! The city constantly smells like open sewers and they have the audacity to hold their noses whenever me or another black person is around them. Also they blatantly will.advertise for whites only in job adverts. They spit at your feet in restaurants and cough in your face on public transport, all without batting an eyelid.
    I learnt so much about my self, my perceptions of humanity (horrible treatment of animals too btw).
    I lasted one year. Will never go back.

  50. FromSeoul
    September 17, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    Because lots of asian culture is still stagged in 19C. I can find the common things of segregation, materilism, discrimination in lots of Asian countries. People do not know how to live together. I am not flunkey to western culture. I am just calling Korean culture is savage. Well I would love to say for the people who experienced uncomportable in Korea, “yes! we are ugly yet but soon we are going to get throw away the negative things and hope to show you guys our beauty.” instead “we are not!!” ” then do not come!!” “you are the only people who experienced that!! we are awesome!!” . I hope Korean be matured seriously. I apologise all of you guys bad experience in Korea and I hope you guys to tell the truth the darkside of Korean culture more.

  51. Sel
    October 4, 2017 / 7:02 am

    I’m of Korean heritage but essentially foreigner at heart and mind.
    I’m actually quite surprised at your blog because you almost 100% mirror my own opinions and thoughts.
    I remember visiting relatives and watching TV shows with blackface comedy and being utterly appalled. I recall being sneered at for wearing flip flops and no make up as is common practice back home.
    My face was too big and my eyes too slanted.
    I was told my demeanor is too loud and Im too “clever” – euphemism for bitchy or opinionated I believe.
    I was considered stiff and not feminine because I spoke naturally because the thought of sounding and acting cute past age 2 is gross . While I was Korean, I was metaphorically poked and prodded like a freak but I wasn’t here nor there.
    I was portrayed as unfaithful to my heritage when I began open discussions on my opinions on anything bad about Korea. My mum and even a colleague would actually have defensive tantrums when I brought up issues as if it was taboo. A rational discussion never ensued.
    Thanks for your post, I had a good read, a nod of acknowledment and the odd chuckle.

  52. Steve
    October 23, 2017 / 1:57 am

    Hello. My daughter wants to go to South Korea as an exchange student through the National Security Initiative for Youth program. She is currently 15. I am wondering what you think of this idea based on your experiences there. As far as I know, her interest seems to be based on her interest in Kpop.

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