Currently I live in Mokpo Korea. Mokpo is a city in South Jeolla Province, South Korea, located at the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula, close to Yudal mountain. Thus, I am close to the ocean and very south of Korea. It is 247,442 people that live here. This is in comparison to the 500,000 people that live in Atlanta and the 25,600,000 people that live in Seoul, Korea's capital. I jumped right in to an opportunity to travel and have someone else pay for it, but I left behind all of my luxuries and ideals of comfort.
1. Everything is in Korean. The town I am in is considered a smaller town, province, or countryside. Hence the 300,000 people who live here. Thus, there is not much English or any other language spoken here. There is not much English on road signs or in stores. The television stations are limited to Korean mostly, but there are a few English movie/music stations. Had I been in a larger, more diverse town there would be more English spoken and displayed. Nonetheless, once you get the hang of it and find your favorite spots it will be easier to navigate. Plus people are very willing to help. Google translate is horrible, but the locals use Naver. I do a lot of pointing and showing pictures.
2. Portion sizes are for TWO or MORE people. There is no such thing as table for one in majoroty of the restuarants. Also "take-out" is not very common. Korean style dinning is usually family style. Small plates, big portions, and all shared. Though it is nice to see the people travel in packs, as an expant, I just want my alone time and a to-go meal. When I go to a new place I always have "take-away?" I have found some great spots for "fast food" and take out here in Mokpo that offer a change from the typical Korean style food.
(I will share that in a later post)
3. MY PHONE DID NOT WORK HERE. I mean duh. Grated there is endless wifi, cafes, and even charging stations in most places. However, when there is not WIFI I wanted to claw my eyes out. Word of advice, before arriving get either a wirless router and return it after the lease is up or buy a sim card at the airport. This will help you for the first weeks in Korea before you get an ARC. Depending on where you go this might mean a trip to Seoul or a bigger city. I ended up doing neither. Nevertheless, once I got my alien registration card and a bank account I got a phone plan and I love it. If you are used to paying a phone bill, why not? Rather than trying to re-load a sim card (pre-paid card) or scavenge for Wifi, I rather have an automatic phone plan. That is what works for me. I have some coworkers that do not have either and comfortably use Wifi. That is, once they got the hang of getting around.
4. You need cash MONEYYYYY!!! By the time I got off my flight I was so delusional and dry faced I was ready to be in my bed. I forgot to exchange my currency. Once I got to Mokpo it was not as simple as walking into a bank or convience store and saying hey exchange this. 1. I do not speak Korea. 2. There are not any places around Mokpo that commonly exchange money because it is a smaller town. Thankfully, the bank does it. So my manager exchanged it for me when she had some free time. Plus, the banks are closed when I am off and no open on the weekends. Along with that, there is a currency difference so I had more money converting the USD to Won. Cash is needed to reload bus cards and pay for cabs. It is so easy to get the hang of the Won so do not be dismayed. 15,000 is about $15. 700,000 is about $700.00.
5. Bills, Bills, and Bills. As I have preached over and over again my main reason for coming abroad was to pay off my credit card debt this year. Without having any expenses I would be able to focus ALL my income on my bills. Easy peazy right? Silly me, I thought I could use my Korean account and easily pay my bills. LOL. NO!!! I have to transfer money to my Bank of America from my Korean account and then do as I please. Sure, sounds easy, but setting this up is not simply an online 1,2,3 process. The exchange rate is different of course, and as I mentioned before, the bank closes when I am off AND NOBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH. lol Sigh. 1. When you get your ARC make sure to set up online banking, download the English or global KEB bank app. 3. Make sure to write down and remember all your passwords. It is not an easy"iforgot" process. 4. Make sure after the online banking is done you keep up with any paperwork, documents, and all of your foreigner necessities (passport, visa, ARC, ID etc). Most of it is a one time set-up. Just be patient and do everything right the first time.
6. Not another food post. Now back home in Atlanta I live for my Rusans, Pho, and Dimsum, but EVERYDAY. Naw son. Now I do have a kitchen, but it is a big difference in "common foods here." I was able to find a few of the spices I need, but things like basic vegetables, nuts, healthy snacks, protein shakes, hummus, deli meat, a basic salad, beans, and ground meats are not easy to come by. Yes I am in another county, but I figured vegatables were universal. Thankfully I enjoy cabbagae and kimchi because that is a delacasy. Going to a local spot and orderign a salad is a NO, No. Thankfully, I have a kitchen so I can step back into my style of eating and have a plate of vegatables or two. Vegetables, spices, and beans are "expensive." Basically, the price for regular brand here is the price I would pay back home for organic.
7. Human beings do not have the right away. When you see a car coming you better move at all costs. Like T.I said, " You might see me in the streets remember, you don't know me." Never be too into your music or conversation that you do not move. Pedestrian, cross walk, right-away? Sis this aint America. Humble thyself and move. Quickly. Everything is very fast paced here. Cars speed and run the lights and people do not casually walk around enjoying the scenery.
8. I am dry!!! Yello dust, dry humid atmosphere and temporal weather. Sounds like Georgia lol. My eyes are dry all the time. My head is dry and itching, my eyebrows have dandruff, and my face is flaking. My body, not so much because it is covered. But the parts that are constantly exposed to the elements are dry. I have started to use coconut oil daily to help with the effects of a new enviroment. I place it on a spoolie and comb it through my brows. I moisturize my face with more products lol. Does that help, probably not, but I plan to invest in a dry skin face moisturizer. This is one thing out of the 10 little known facts I least expected becasue Korean have such good skin. However, the products are for Korean skin. Funny story I left my brush at home and had to wait a month to receive a brush from my mom. Their hair is STRAIGHT so a brush? Where sis..
9. Children are drainign. Mentally and physically. I thought I had patience because I taught special needs kids. I thought, shoot this will be a breeze. However, my students do not understand what I am saying so everything is times ten squared. It is a great deal of energy I pour out on a daily basis and boy I did not know that was inside me to give. Nonethless, I am thankful to be here and I know from the "I love you teacher" that my students appercaite me even though we literally do not understand one another most of the time. I have to do a lot of demonstrating and acting out my expectations because simply saying it will go in one ear and out the other.
10. It is a very heavy Christian/ Catholic community here. I mean wow. I can literally be lost and all I have to do is follow a random displayed cross on one of the many churches and bam I am back home. I have even seen the Christian with the poster and megaphone saying Jesus, damnation, sin. I saw Jehovah witness standing with their pamphlets and THEY WERE KOREAN I was mindblown. Honestly, I thought that was just a thing Americans do. How small minded was I lol. Though I do not yell at people to follow Jesus, nor do I pass out pamphlets, I was just amazed to see all of that even in Korea. Honestly, I thought there would be temples, statues, and vows of silence everywhere. I have since then learned to be more culturally aware.
BONUS 11. The outlets are different from those in the USA. This is a bonus because I knew this and brought am adapter. However, I brought my adapter thinking I could plug my American extension cord into the adapter and it would be fine. Well after a mini fire and short wiring the circuits I realize no ma'am. Just invest in 1-2 adapters and a Korean extension cord. The worst thing is trying to use my laptop in public and realizing dang I can not plug this into the wall without my adapter. Keep your electronics charged at all times.