A few weeks back, I posted all my complaints about Korea and the things that I would definitely NOT miss about living there. Despite that post, living in Seoul was a great experience and actually quite comfortable and enjoyable. Therefore, there are many things I will actually miss about living there. Allow me to elaborate on my list of the top ten things I will miss:
10. Cheap doctor visits.
In Korea, I had health insurance. In the United States, I do not. Well, not easily anyway. Korea has national health insurance but even if you didn’t have healthcare, going to the doctor or getting any kind of medical treatment is SO CHEAP. For example, do you need to go to the doctor because you have tonsillitis but it’s your first week in Korea and you don’t have health insurance yet? No problem. The visit, the medicine, and a nice shot to decrease the obscene swelling in your throat is only about $25.00. Did you catch a cold from all of the second grade kids you teach leaning all over you and touching your face 24/7? Not a problem. The visit, the medicine, oh and some extra eye drops for the conjunctivitis you also contracted will just be $11.00 with your insurance! Do you need to have SURGERY to remove something from the back of your ear that was totally your fault because you got the ear pierced and it became infected? No problems here! The visit to the doctor at a major HOSPITAL, the surgery, the bandaging, and the medicine will just be about $50.00 because half of it is covered by your insurance and oh, the whole thing is going to take about 1hr. in total.
I’m still trying to decide why I thought it was a good idea to move back stateside.
9. Walking around in flip flops in a major city and not getting black feet.
Seoul is clean. Yes, it’s still a big city and in the summer, it can be a bit smelly in some parts. But walk down the street for ten minutes in New York City in the summer and your feet will be blacker than Salem the cat. Walk down the street in Seoul for approximately 8 hours and you probably won’t even have to wash your feet (although you still should because summers in Seoul are HOT and your feet were definitely sweating if you walked around the city for 8 hours).
8. The security.
Ever heard of CCTV? Well, it’s in Korea, and it’s watching you. But it’s also watching anyone who would even think of stealing anything. Unfortunately, I got into a bad habit of just leaving my stuff around because really no one in Korea would take it. I’m not so sure if it’s due completely to all the cameras around or if it’s just in their culture, but it was nice. Being back in New York, I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not in Seoul any longer, so walking by myself down random alleyways in the dark is no longer an option. Not that I did a lot of that in Seoul, but if I wanted to I could have because no one would have bothered me.
7. Dog and Cat Cafes.
This kind of speaks for itself. Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon with a bunch of other peoples’ dogs to play with while sipping coffee? Who wouldn’t want to spend two hours in a cat’s paradise where 30 cats live and have one just jump on up into your lap while you have your tea? I know there is a cat cafe opening somewhere in Manhattan (if it’s not there already) but the U.S. seriously needs to take note of the cafes in Korea and get on that. I’m already having withdrawals.
6. The Seoul Subway (and transportation in general).
When I decided to add this to my list, I hadn’t been back to experience the New York City subway system yet. I’m now back and I now appreciate more than ever what I had and what I now no longer have with the Seoul Metro: a punctual, predictable, clean, quiet, efficient mode of transportation around the city. How did I ever survive using the NYC system before? I ask myself this on a daily basis as I dream about that friendly Korean automated voice coming over the speaker and the Seoul Subway transfer song. See the below video for a summation of all that is perfect about the Seoul Subway.
5. Dak Galbi, Galbijjim, and Korean BBQ (but not really any other Korean food).
I’m not a big fan of Korean food, but you can’t go wrong with any of these. Dak Galbi is chicken with veggies and rice and occasionally cheese, though that’s not exactly traditional. It was my go-to lunch item.
Galbijjim is heaven in a stew. Meat, veggies, rice cake, and noodles mixed in broth and poured over some rice. As I stare out my window at the snowy slush on the ground, I could really use a good bowl of this.
And of course, Korean BBQ. It is true that you can easily get BBQ here, but it’s not as good and it’s not as cheap. I had a few favorites from my neighborhood, one family owned restaurant where we were basically celebrities, and another all-you-can-eat establishment that had a meat bar where you go and just take as many slabs of any kind of meat as you want, all for about 19 dollars. Oh Dinomeat, how I will miss you so!
4. The wifi.
It’s everywhere in Korea. And it’s fast. And you can use it on the subway no matter how far underground it goes. Oh, and it’s cheap. Technology in Korea is a serious business, and while I couldn’t quite be convinced to ditch my iPhone for a Galaxy, I would take back that constant access to Wifi in a heartbeat.
3. People walking around in clothing displaying incorrect English.
I now understand that when people in English speaking countries walk around with writing on their shirts that is in another language, they have no idea what it means, and most likely it is severely incorrect. Please examine the following pictures for an idea of what I’m getting at:
As an English speaker, I really will miss this bit of entertainment.
2. Traveling around Asia.
Although it wasn’t as cheap as I had initially imagined it to be, the ease of traveling around Asia once you live there is awesome and it was something that I tried to take advantage of as often as possible. Although I didn’t get a lot of vacation time, I used what time I had wisely and visited four other countries outside of Korea while I was there: China, Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam. I barely cracked the surface of what Asia has to offer and I still even want to go back to some of the countries I already visited to see more. It’s a long flight over from here, but so worth it and so fun to travel around in once there. Here’s to hoping I get to visit the other side of the world many more times in the future.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
1. My friends (and some students).
Of course, the number one thing I will miss from my time living in Korea is all the people that I met. I made expat friends, Korean friends, and even friends with some young Koreans who liked to learn English from me. Leaving Korea was probably harder for me than when I left the United States, and the main reason for that is because I don’t know when or if I will ever go back and I don’t know if I will ever see some of the people I met again. Of course, I try not to think that way, and thanks to social media, I can at least very easily stay in touch with them all. But in the meantime, I have all these pictures to enjoy to keep me company until I see my friends again.
Korea, for all your oddities and strange personality, it seems I will miss you after all.