5 Things Korea has taught me..

My time in Korea is quickly coming to an end and I couldn't be more nervous to leave my new fairly comfortable life I have here, sad to leave some of the best friends I could have asked for, overwhelmed by the amount of things I still have to do before leaving and ridiculously excited to start some adventures through South East Asia!

Its weird to look back and think of all the things I have accomplished and learnt while I've been here. It all seems so normal and then I remember that 15 months ago I hadn't ever lived in another place never mind in another country, I relied on mom and dad for a lot and hadn't had a 'real' job pretty much ever. You've taught me a lot Korea!

1. I learnt to live on my own!
This is one of the biggest achievements for me so far. Having been a day student at university and then going into an internship that barely paid enough for petrol to get to and from work I never really had the chance to live away from home. It may have turned me into a real wuss because I often didn't even like to be left home alone for one night. I am however pleased to say that is not the case anymore. It was a little strange at first not having anyone to come home to after work and doing everything on my own but seriously having your own place is the best thing ever. I may even miss it when I'm sharing hostel rooms with a bunch of people and moving back with the fam when I get home.

2. I've learnt to live in another country!
This may actually be bigger than living on my own. I've learnt to live in a place that was completely foreign and new to me. Besides some random information I found online a few weeks before I arrived, I honestly knew nothing about Korea. I don't think I had ever even met a Korean person. Id never had Korean food or even heard the language. It's a little embarrassing to say now but the only thing I knew about Korea was Psy and Gangnam Style :/ That was also the only K-POP song I had ever heard (I now know at least 10.. well the tunes at least, the words are still a mystery) I can navigate the subway and buses in and out of Seoul; I know whats expensive and not; I finally learnt which side of the road to look at when crossing; and I learnt that cheese and fresh fruit and vegetables are not always a thing but rice, sweet potatoes, kimchi and dried anything are ALWAYS a thing!

3. I've learnt to embrace a whole new culture that was once completely foreign.
I've learnt to speak and read basic Korean or Hangul, enough for newer people to even rely on me to order the beers and navigate taxi drivers after the beers! I can even joke around with my students using Korean words (I mean the fact that salsa=a delicious Mexican condiments and seolsa=diarrhea, Hilarious!). I've learnt that ajumas (scary old Korean ladies in purple jackets) have no problem shoving their elbows into you if you're in the way. Shoes must come off when you walk into a house. People spit loogies everywhere! They're really unavoidable hence the former no shoes in house rule. And, I would not have been saying this 15 months ago, but kimchi is delicious! (Apologies for the loogie talk followed by delicious kimchi talk. Unintentional)

4. I learnt to be a teacher! well sort of...
I remember after finishing university I was sent a letter asking me to do one or two extra years of a fast course teaching program and I would receive a teaching diploma on top of my degree. I scoffed at it and threw it away pretty much right after reading it. Me, a teacher? Are you out of your mind?!! After teaching esl for a year, not without ups and downs, I can gladly say that I don't think this is the last time I'll be teaching again. Even in Korea where the last thing the kids want to do is come to extra English school after regular school so hate me from the start for even trying to teach them anything, it has turned out to be really rewarding! Little things like kids remembering silly sayings you use to spell certain words (Betty Eats Cakes And Uses Six Eggs, ring a bell?) or a top student winning a writing contest after you helped them with extra writing lessons. It all makes it worthwhile in the end :)

5. I learnt how to not hate winter so much.
I am South African, snow is not in our vocabulary. I literally cried as I stepped off the plane into the cold on my first day in Korea. I really didn't time leaving home very well as I arrived right at the start of winter in South Korea and happen to be going back to South Africa right in the middle of winter. I did hate life in my first couple of weeks. Winter and snow made no sense to me. Why would anyone want to leave their house to do anything let alone go exploring in Korea. I eventually went on a snowboard trip and was hooked! I have since been on a couple more snowboarding trips and realised I'm not totally terrible at it either. We also went ice skating a couple of weeks ago and the Canadians even taught me to skate backwards. Winter isn't so bad as long as you've got good activities and loads of soju to warm the bones :)

Its really hard to put into words exactly what I will take away from Korea but it will definitely be filled with more happy memories than sad ones!


  1. So I was wondering, do you have any packing advise for Saffas moving over to Korea? I've heard that you should pack everything from a one year supply of deodorant to fitted sheets for your bed and decent sized towels.

    What would you have taken with/left at home, with your current experience? Do we need to take things like spices (apparently its quite a rarity to find more than salt??) Excuse my straightforwardness but should we take a years supply of contraceptive? (or at least a couple of months worth until we are a bit more settled in?)

    I'd really appreciate a post or two on that sort of thing. That and a post or two on how finances in a different country work, do we just get a back account there?? What about cell phones, could you take yours over??

    1. Hey :) Thanks for reading. Will definitely write a post about that sometime soon. In the meantime I could send you an email with a bunch of info if you like?