As I peered outside of the window from my classroom I could see snow flakes gingerly accumulating on the ground. The warmth of the cup of green tea I firmly clenched in my hands was a reminder that my time as an expat in South Korea was soon coming to an end.
I’ve always felt ecstatic when I’ve completed previous teaching contracts in Korea because backpacking adventures awaited me and I knew deep down that I’d return again in the future; however, this time is discernibly different.
From Teaching In Korea To Backpacking Around The World
Although exuberance over my plans to backpack indefinitely with Audrey is still my dominant emotion, I know deep down this will be my last time ever teaching in Korea and it’s spurred on a state of reflection and gratitude devoid from previous experiences of completing a contract.
Given that I’ve spent more time here than I have in Canada in my mature adult years, it’s become my adopted home away from home.
I eat rice more than I eat bread. I’m as adept at using chopsticks as I am a knife and fork; in fact, I now prefer the former.
Korea has shaped, moulded and plied me in a way that has turned me into a more confident and self-assured person than the shy, wide eyed college graduate who had no idea what he was getting himself into 7 years ago when he signed a one year contract to teach ESL in Korea for the first time.
Eating Habits In South Korea
I can remember my first ever Korean meal like it was yesterday. My director took me out for dinner and served me a dish called Kimchi jigae (Kimchi stew) that overloaded my taste buds with an extreme dose of hot, spicy and sour flavours that at the time were truly obtrusive and foreign. I silently thought, “If this is what most dishes taste like I’m going to be in for a long year.”
Fast forward until present and I now crave kimchi. I frequently eat rice three times a day. I’ve at times sent dishes back with a waiter to add more ‘spice’ to what is considered a spicy dish even by Korean standards. The local cuisine is now one of the things I truly love about Korea more than anything else.
Social Customs In South Korea
Many moons ago, I waltzed into the office of my Korean principle to greet him for the first time. Nervously, I clenched my hands in a fist which protruded deep into the pockets of my pants. Forgetting to bow I handed him a small present with just one hand. Not realizing it at the time, I engaged in a cascade of social faux pas that would have been exceptionally rude had they been committed by a Korean.
Now I find myself accepting and receiving items with both hands and bowing more than shaking hands. I often have awkward moments when I visit back home and realize I’m behaving more like a Korean than a Canadian 😛
Work Ethic In South Korea
Before coming to Korea I thought long working hours were nine to five. I was completely flabbergasted, at first, when I noticed Korean students and workers working or studying well into the evening or wee hours past midnight.
This year, I’ve joined the ranks of the most ambition locals, as I’ve seldom had a week where I’ve put in less than 100 hours of work when I combine my teaching gig with the hours I put in pursuing various online travel related projects.
When confronted with a time sensitive project, setting my alarm for 5 am after going to bed at 1 am has not been an uncommon occurrence. I’ve pushed myself to my limits because I’ve seen others around me doing the same.
Final Thoughts From South Korea
I’ve had my shares of ups and downs in Korea; however, overall, my time here has shaped me into a more confident, prudent, diligent and well rounded person. As excited as I am to soon be hitting the road I know I’ll miss a lot of things about here. Korea has been good to me and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart and an important role in the course of my life.
What Foreigners Like The Most About South Korea
South Korea is a land of many wonders, with an irresistible mix of ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology that captures the hearts of travelers from all over the world. From its fascinating cultural events, historic temples, and traditional markets, to its innovative tech hubs, the country offers a plethora of experiences that appeal to diverse interests.
One of the country’s most significant draws is its culinary scene, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Korean cuisine is renowned for its bold flavors, healthy ingredients, and visually striking presentation, providing a feast for the senses that many travelers find irresistible. Whether it’s sampling succulent barbecued meats, savoring spicy kimchi, or indulging in a bowl of hearty bibimbap, the country’s culinary offerings are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Another attraction that draws visitors to South Korea is its natural beauty. The country boasts a diverse landscape, from the majestic peaks of its mountain ranges to the tranquil beaches of its coastline. The country’s national parks offer an escape into nature, with countless opportunities for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
But it’s not just the natural scenery that makes South Korea special; it’s also the warmth and hospitality of its people. South Koreans are known for their kindness and welcoming spirit, making visitors feel at home wherever they go. Their friendly demeanor is reflected in the country’s vibrant shopping culture, which offers an array of trendy and unique items, making it a shopper’s paradise.
All in all, South Korea is a must-visit destination that offers an unforgettable blend of culture, cuisine, nature, and people. Its distinctive allure has something to offer for everyone and is sure to create lifelong memories.