Having neglected to post an update in the past 3 weeks (wow, its been that long already), I have decided that I have learned a lot in the previous weeks and that it is time to share some of what I have learned! First, moving to another country is hard, partially due to a new environment and partially (maybe) due to language. Second, culture is something that takes time to learn and you will make mistakes again and again until you get it right. That’s just life though.
I liked Korean culture, food, language and the like before coming to Korea but I don’t think you can be prepared or really understand the aforementioned until you live there. My first two weeks consisted of being amused by the pace of life, confused at certain impracticalities, and utterly embarrassed when I accidentally cussed in front of a parent (thankful her child was not present and she thought it was hilarious).
When I first arrived in Daejeon, South Korea, my school took me for a health exam as all teachers have to complete one and it only set me back roughly $100. It included 2 different types of drug tests, an EKG, a chest x-ray, labs, dental inspection and a mental health evaluation (which was a joke, btw) and it was all done in under 2 hours. Talk about efficient! Health care is so much more affordable than people expect and I am so thankful for that.
However, there are things I have some to take for granted back in the US. Such as access to food of any type… I really am craving guacamole at the moment and decent salsa. Thanks mom for sending some my way! Also, I miss online banking. For a foreigner in Korea, banking, especially online banking, is an ugly dinosaur who has yet to catch up to modern times. Think that I’m being too harsh? Even my Korean co-teacher said that she only uses it for taxes at the end of the year since its too complicated to mess with all the time and she doesn’t understand it. There are several different enrollment processes and its all in Korean.
Another thing I am appreciating about the US is that I can understand almost everyone and be understood and that may seem like a funny thing to mention but I don’t speak Korean and I struggle. I did come here being able to read words (meaning is a different story) and speak survival sentences but that is my limit as of right now. Sometimes it takes an embarrassing moment and a kind-hearted person to understand your good intentions and correct you. For example, yesterday a mom came to drop of her child’s indoor shoes and I went to get them from her. She doesn’t speak English and I thought to myself “Oh, I know the word for shoes in Korean. I’ll just say ‘shoes’ and she’ll understand enough.”
Korean lesson time: the word for shoes is 신발 (shin-bal) and the F word is very close, just change Shin to Shi…
And that is what I said to a parent as I pointed to the shoes. Her eyes got very big and she realized that I had meant to say something else and corrected me very kindly before bending over to laugh hysterically. Only then did I realize that I had just cussed at her instead of saying ‘shoes’. Yay for language learning and messing up hah. I am really excited to see where this language journey will take me and how much I will improve by the end of the year!
The school that I am at now has a great workplace environment and they really take into consideration all that non-Korean teachers have to go through and for that I will be eternally grateful!
Until next time!