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Foreigners talk about how they were attracted by Korean culture


Foreigners talk about how they were attracted by Korean culture

Cailin Elliott, Seoul, teacher, @toasterbots

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I am from Sydney, Australia. I am working as a part time English Teacher in Seoul.

I have been in Korea for just over five years. I originally came to Korea because I wanted to spend some time abroad living in Asia. When I was researching countries, I found a few blogs from people who were currently living here. I spent a lot of time reading an following their blogs and in the end; they inspired me to go to Korea myself.

About first impression

I was impressed by the convenience of everything. In Australia, things close early but in Korea, everything was opened very late. The delivery service is quick and efficient. There is always new cafes and restaurants to visit. Korea is such an amazing and ever growing country.

About difficulties

Honestly, I did not face any real difficulties. I originally came to Korea through a government-teaching program. They organized everything for me from setting up my bank accounts and phone to providing an apartment. I think without them I would have had a much harder time.

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About differences

The mixture of modern with the old. There are neighborhoods in Korea that are much older and the buildings are rundown or hanok styled. Then right next door you will have brand new high-rise modern buildings. It is an interesting mix.

I think Australian culture and Korean culture are quite different. It is nice to have the chance to explore a culture that is so different from my own.

About people

Korean people have been very welcoming and kind towards me and I truly appreciate that. I feel that life in Seoul can be busy and fast paced but people are always willing to step in if you need help.

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What I like there

The delivery service is amazing in Korea. Food delivery is very cheap and there is so many options. As for everyday goods such as clothes, makeup and general items, you can usually get the items the next morning or a day later. The delivery service moves quickly here.

Interesting story

I have had a lot of fun and interesting things occur to me over the few years that I have lived here. I think the most interesting thing that happened to me was winning a contest to be a model for a plastic surgery company. I got to get a whole new face for free.

Martyna Orzechowska, Seoul, artist, entrepreneur, @martina_orzi

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I was born in Poland. In 2014, I moved to Norway. Currently, I have been living in South Korea since 2019. I am a legal advisor by profession, but during my stay in Korea, I do not work as a lawyer. I take care of my two wonderful sons and I develop my artistic passion. I also sang professionally in the choir with my friend Monika Urlik. We performed at many TV programs as well as at the most popular music event in Poland, the Opole Music Festival, just take a look. I do not like to limit myself that is why I do not. Thanks to that, instead of one profession, I have several.

I am also a painter. My art is a colorful interpretation of human stories - feelings, emotions, experiences, memories - in an intuitive, sensory perspective. My favorite medium are acrylic paints, modeling pastes and large-size canvas, jeans jackets, shorts, bags. I am currently developing the Korean-Polish artistic concept

We have lived in Korea for almost one and a half year. The reason for coming was my husband's contract. He is a maritime engineer. This was the main reason for our arrival to Korea. We were looking forward to this trip, because we always wanted to live in an Asian country for a while. We love traveling around Asia. We love to get to know new cultures, ordinary people and places. Therefore, as soon as such a unique opportunity came up, we decided to take it.

About first impression

My first impression of Korea was very good. I was surprised by the omnipotent green. Before arriving, I expected to see mainly skyscrapers and concrete, but I found skyscrapers and beautiful greenery. Both in Seoul, the capital of Korea, and on the Geoje Island, where we used to live, were surrounded by picturesque, green mountains. Incredible inspiration, which was reflected in my paintings. I was also surprised how few people can speak English.

About difficulties

The language barrier was the greatest difficulty for me immediately after my arrival in Korea. Those who know English often do not feel comfortable having conversations in English. Probably because the English with Korean accent sometimes was very difficult to understand for foreigners.

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About differences

A huge surprise for me was the lack of English markings. No signs in English in the streets, in shops, no translations on food products. I have not seen it in any other Asian countries. I like to walk around and read local signs, inscriptions, and advertisements - in Korea all the inscriptions are only in Korean. Surprising was also the advancement in the technology of the equipment in Korean homes. Using three touch pads, we controlled the most important devices in our house, including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and cameras.

We were surprised with car’s brands and models, completely unknown in Europe.

Finally, the Samsung Company, which we know in Europe as a telephone manufacturer, was a huge surprise. In Korea, it is the major producer of huge ships, cars, kitchen appliances and electronics.

About similarities

The Polish and Korean culture have a lot in common. Mainly because of the difficult history of wars. Another similarity is the respect given to the elderly and the superiors at work. Polite addressing themselves as Ms. and Mr. are the main common elements of Korean and Polish culture. Both Polish and Korean cuisine uses fermented products. Korean Kimchi is the absolute most popular and important traditional Korean dish consisting of fermented or pickled vegetables. In Poland, we eat mainly fermented sauerkraut.

About people

Korean people are very friendly. I have few Korean friends and I truly love them. Great sense of humor, very positive personalities, very helpful. Koreans fully respect the common rules. Even 6 months after COVID outbreak, 95% of the society wear masks. People believe that this is the way of taking care of each other and I truly support this approach.

On the other side, young generation does not like to respect the rules.

Koreans does not like to expose their bodies on the sunlight. When they are going to the beach, they use to cover their whole bodies with black UV protected suits.

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What I like there

I totally felt in love with Korean paintings. Made with octopuses' ink on the special rice paper. White, black and red are the traditional Korean colors. Always signed with the red stamp. A dojang is a personal traditional stone or wood stamp used to sign your name in Hangul. Most Koreans own a personal dojang for use in signing official documents. I have also got my personal Korean stamp, which I use to sign my artworks and prints! They are all available on my website.

I love Korean cosmetics, Korean fashion. I love the style and colors of the Korean traditional dress – Hanbok. Until today, the hanbok is used mainly on official occasions.

I totally felt in love with Korean cuisine. I love and make myself the traditional Korean seaweed soup, vinegars, rice, Korean pancakes. The Korean barbecue is on top of my list. I will miss crispy seaweed that our whole family used to eat as a snack.

Interesting story

We can get used truth to everything. We have developed to perfection, the way of communication using the application on the phone. We even had a very interesting and unforgettable experience related to the language barrier. Our youngest son Filip was born in Korea. We were lucky to find an amazing doctor, who spoke perfect English. However, the staff of the hospital where Filip was born did not speak English at all. At the end, we gave birth, with a translator in the phone in our hand. At first, I was worried if we will actually be able to understand each other and how it is going to be. Fortunately, the medical care in Korea is of a very high standard, so it was a really beautiful experience. As a souvenir, our son got second Korean name Lee.

Vinny Ang, Seoul, IT specialist, @lilzyumiko

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I am a fourth generation Chinese descendent, from Malaysia. I am currently working as IT specialist in a SWISS MNC in their Seoul, South Korea office.

The first time I landed my feet in South Korea was in year 2011, in which I came for a six months exchange program x internship in Chonnam National University, Gwangju. Back then, I wanted to apply for a Japanese university exchange program but unfortunately there was not any good ones and CNU was offering free tuition fees, free dorm fees, free meals during our stay in South Korea. After finishing my studies in my home country, I landed a system analyst job in a German MNC but I was not satisfied with the job. I just thought that I am still young and wanted to explore more while living an independent life oversea. So, I came back for my MBA degree in 2013 in the same university and secured a job in Seoul before my graduation takes place in 2015.

Currently, it has been seven years since I moved to Korea in 2013. When people ask me why Korea? I think it is more like a fate. I did not really plan to come or how. Everything just seems so natural, naturally leading me here without me trying too hard, as if I am destined to be here.

About first impression

When I first came to Korea in year 2011, I did not know anything about the language or culture. I have watched some of the Korean dramas but I was not very enthusiastic on K-pop so I was not familiar with most of the Korean stuffs. For me, it was just another foreign city and I just felt great to be able to live independently. Overall, I would say everything was good for the first impression because everyone was very kind and my life here was quite comfortable.

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About difficulties

When I moved to Korea in 2013, I guess the most difficult thing is to live alone in a foreign country. I need help from my Korean friends for many things such as searching for the house and some other things which I must use Korean language. I was not fluent in Korean that time as I did not take any formal Korean language, just some free classes from the University which is only enough for me to survive in Korea. Also, when I was sick, I always avoid going to hospital, because I was not sure how to speak out my sickness, and I am quite timid to go to places I was not familiar.

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About differences

I could not remember much about the infrastructure, but I remember there was not any big differences for building wise. The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur also have many tall buildings so it was not that different. However, I would say the transportation in Seoul was much more advanced compared to Kuala Lumpur. I can even check the time of the bus, subway arrival via the Naver applications, which is convenient for a foreigner. I am not sure if Kuala Lumpur has advanced since then, but at least when I first came to Korea, Korea is definitely much more advanced on the transportation.

About similarities

As a fellow Asian country, I guess there will always be some similarities in the culture of Korea and Malaysia. Our staple food is rice and we have different dialects for the same national languages. People are usually family-oriented and do not really practice individualistic that much compared to western countries. Also, as a Chinese descendent, we seem to have many similar Confucianism teaching, which makes me feel that it was not that different from Korean culture.

About people

I think most Koreans are hardworking and I always admire their tenacity on getting something done. They also seem to care about their appearance that you need to attach a passport size photos on your resume for job application. I also find it interesting that it is almost compulsory for photo studio to Photoshop your photo, even if it is for identification card or passport. I actually think that it is difficult to generalize any races or nationality because after all everyone is different and of course their way of living is different as well. I have had share of good and bad experiences with Koreans, but I guess the good ones are the majority.

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What I like there

There are many reasons but I guess the first thing is definitely the Currency power. Korean currency is stronger so it is easier to save money here instead of Malaysia. Secondly, safety. I am not sure why I am always paranoid when I am back in Malaysia even back in my own home. Eventhough it is not 100% safe in Korea, but at least the crime rate is so much lower compared to Malaysia, and I will not be afraid to go out even at night. I guess Korea gives me a feeling of independency as an individual and I feel peaceful when I am here.

Interesting story

I am not sure if it is interesting to others, but whenever I told everyone that my husband is actually my first boyfriend, no one believes it. I first met my husband back in 2011 when I came to Korea. He is from Gwangju, but he actually was studying in Busan. I get to know him because of one of the Korean classmate asked his high school friend, which is my husband, to join our study group, which consisted of two Philippines, one Korean and myself. We were not close back then because I was not very fluent in Korean and he was not fluent in English as well, but we stay connected in Facebook. When I came back to Korea in 2013, coincidentally he just finished his military service, and the Korean friend asked to meet up together. We got closer that time and know each other more decided to start our relationship. It has been six years, and we just did our ROM last year December. Whenever I tell our love stories to our acquaintances, they could not believe that my first boyfriend is a foreigner and I ended up marrying my first love. I guess no other interesting story, which happened to me in Korea, could top this.

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