Categorized | Expat Life

5 Things That Surprised About South Korea

I have been in South Korea for over 8 months now – boy has it flown by too.  I really didn’t know what to expect when I got here.  I did a lot of reading on different sites and forums about what life was like here, but a few things surprised me. Moving across the world to a new place always holds some surprises.  No matter how many people you talk to, or how many books you read, there are a few things that will always catch you off guard.  Luckily in my case these things are of a positive nature, but that might not be the case with everyone.

I’d be interested in knowing what things surprised you when you moved somewhere overseas.  Leave a comment below and let me know your stories.  Here are mine.

5 Things That Surprised Me About South Korea

1. The people here are really really nice. I wasn’t sure how receptive they would be to another foreigner coming into their country and trying to get by with little or no ability to speak the language.  But they have been overwhelmingly nice.  Sure there is the occasional rude person, but overall the people here are very friendly.  They really appreciate any effort to speak their language, and they will in turn try and say some English.

2. The food here is amazing. Prior to landing in Korea, I had never eaten any Korean food.  I had read up a little on how a lot of it was spicy, but I really had no idea. Kimchi, the traditional Korean side dish, is one of the most amazing foods I have ever eaten.  I have had very few dishes here that I didn’t like.  From soups (even some spine soup) to BBQ to mandu to random snacks from the street, the food herein Korea is outstanding.

3. The students work very hard. I had always read and heard about how hard Asian students studied, but I had never seen it first hand.  These kids go to school all day (some go 6 days a week), and then they go to academy after academy.  Many of them don’t get home till 11pm.  And when they are at home they are studying or doing homework.  However, even with how much work they put in, they still know how to be kids and that’s the great thing about them.  They are a lot of fun to teach.

4. Logic and common sense aren’t very common. Granted this is the case in a lot of places, but it seems more prevalent here.  There seems to be a Korean version of logic, but I have not figured it out yet.  I understand things are done differently here, and a lot of the times I just don’t try to understand.  One of the first things I was told by my boss was there are some things you won’t understand, don’t try.  This was hard at first coming from a place where we are taught to try and understand why things are happening.  Once I embraced this advice my time here got much easier.  I don’t try to understand many of the things, so the lack of logic, and maybe we should just call it western logic, doesn’t bother me anymore.  However, the one thing that does bother me is….

5. The immaturity of some of the other foreign teachers. I was shocked at how immature some can be.  After all, they moved thousands of miles away from home to a foreign country so I would have thought they would be more mature.  I chalk this up mostly to age.  There are a lot of very young, some on their first job, teachers here who just haven’t experienced the working environment much if any.  I must say that not all of the young teachers are this way, and those that do display these characteristics don’t always show it.  But it can be very frustrating at times.  The only time it really matters, because let’s be honest what you do in your time and in your classes is none of my business, is when it effects my job.  Thankfully this isn’t the case most of the time, so it is easy to just shrug it off and not worry about it.  I am a little amazed at how immature some of them can be at work though.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on things that surprised you when you moved overseas or just somewhere far from home.  Just post your comment below.


About Eric Bynum
I taught ESL for three years in South Korea and now I am looking to set out on a new journey after just finishing my teaching certification in the US. I hope to continue teaching and traveling and you can follow his journeys here.

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