Korea and I have a special kind of relationship. While I’m borderline obsessed with the place, I often find myself getting frustrated with the mass consumerism, xenophobia and superficiality that seem to dominate Korean society.
Considering the fact that I’m a human being, I find it quite easy to complain about the setbacks I face every day in Korea rather than embracing the positive aspects of this lovely country. Though there are quite a few things that irk me, there are plenty of wonderful things about it, too. So for anyone who’s interested in moving to Korea, already lives here or wants to learn about this remarkable country, read on!
1. Its Sense of Community
I cannot praise the integrity of this culture enough. All too often, Korean people impress me with the kindness in their hearts and overall compassion for others.
Last October, James sprained his ankle as we descended down Seoraksan. Almost immediately, a group of older Koreans gathered together to offer him a numbing spray, an ankle wrap and a cold compress. One guy was so kind as to lend James his hiking poles for the day, and with minimal English was able to convey that he wanted us to leave his poles at the information desk once our hike was completed.
Another thing I love is the concept of gift-giving. A few weeks ago I came home from work and noticed that everyone in my building had boxes of tissues hanging on their door knobs. Each of the boxes had a note attached, written by our landlord apologizing for impending construction taking place next door. Although it’s just three boxes of tissues, the fact that my landlord even gave us anything is a great reflection of the kindness and thoughtfulness that I admire so much about Korean culture.
2. The Landscape
It’s no secret to those who know me well that I love Korea’s topography. I love exploring the countryside and reconnecting with nature in the process. The hiking trails are plentiful and the rolling hills offer a great backdrop for a train or car ride escape out of the city. Although it can be a major let down when the smog takes over, the mountains are an excellent break from the concrete jungles of the larger cities.
3. The Food
I hate to say it, but as a whole, Korea isn’t exactly praised or known for offering much of a variety in any aspect. It’s frowned upon here to step out of the box and challenge the norm. Much of the country is uniform; most of the buildings look the same, many of Korea’s citizens dress the same and a lot of businesses and restaurants are carbon copies of one another. With that said, beyond the increasingly trendy Korean BBQ, most people don’t think of mouth-watering fare when Korea is a topic of conversation.
However, when a meal is done right in Korea, it’s absolutely delicious. While most Korean dishes may only contain just about one type of flavor provided by a red pepper paste known as gochujang, Korea’s food is simple, cheap and filling. The simplicity and love that go into the meals is what makes Korea so special.
Moving here has been life changing, eye opening and has turned my life into a total adventure. Take the plunge!