Now that I’ve been in Korea for two months I think it’s time to take a look back at some of the things that have happened and that I have noticed over the course of my exchange so far.
One of the first things I noticed was obviously the change in diet since arriving, no cheese, very little beef, lots of rice and kimchi. I love the adjustment to new foods but admittedly I don’t think I’ve ever missed a food as much as I miss real cheese; it’s gone so far as my parents spending $60+ to send me snacks, of which more than half the box was filled with Cheez-its. Kimchi, and all of the other pickled food, is delightful and I like seeing what each restaurant does a little differently. Food in general, with the exception of beef, cheese, and imported alcohol, is much cheaper in Korea as well, I’ve had full meals here for under 3500 won, about $3.25. It wasn’t convenience store food either, this was a full sit down meal, choosing from a menu and everything. Food choices can get bizarre, chicken feet, dog meat stew, blood sausage, etc. but these are only at traditional markets. Getting to try new and interesting foods has been a delight and I have been enjoying getting to explore the city at the same time.
Many of these meals are eaten with KUBA buddies, the one above was tuna bibimbap. Additionally, alcohol is much different from home, being legally allowed to drink in States I’ve had some experience in bars but they are completely different here. Whereas at home you may be standing around conversing with friends and drinking what I would say is pretty heavily, in Korea everyone is sitting around a table with food in the middle and you’re playing games while you drink soju and beer. Vodka, gin, rum, etc. do not exist here unless you want to pay an exorbitant amount, but why bother when soju is the national drink and it actually tastes quite alright.
Also random fact: I can now say I’ve eaten insects, silkworms are a popular street food here and they don’t taste half bad. I would eat them again and would also recommend them to others.
I’ve noticed that Koreans, while generally apprehensive towards foreigners because of the language barrier, are very respectful and greatly appreciate any attempt to speak in their language. In general they are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and they are quite funny too. Younger kids in particular always seem to be pretty funny, I’ve been told I have a foreigner’s face by quite a few children now which always produces a laugh.
One of the best ways I’ve made Korean friends, be them young or old, has actually been with a frisbee. Frisbees do not exist in Korea and as a result many Koreans have never seen or thrown one, young kids are amazed by the flying disc, and so are older university students. When at the park this past week a group of 5 elementary school kids tossed the frisbee with us for an hour and we spoke broken English and Korean until the sun was setting and we needed to part ways. I think it’s very cool that younger kids are so willing to attempt to talk to foreigners, I’d imagine at the same age I would have never done the same.
Korea has a culture where couples and doing things in groups is the norm. It seems many people are in relationships and can be regularly seen walking around together hand in hand. Eating, or doing anything really, in Korea is done in a group setting, you do not eat alone, you do not go to the park alone, you do not study alone. Everything is done in a social setting and it feels quite refreshing as you are never alone unless you really want to be.
Some of my KUBA friends
I genuinely love Korea; sure I miss some things from home like cheese and football but Korea more than makes up for it in other ways. I would like to stay here longer than my exchange, the next step is figuring out how I can achieve that.