I’ve almost been here six weeks now, and I’m happy to report that I’m adapting to life here more easily than I had imagined. Seoul definitely feels like home in a strange way, I can’t quite explain. While I’m doing the same kind of job as I did back home, I still feel that my everyday life has changed significantly. Here are a few examples:

  • I bow a lot more! Well, not that I really bowed that much back home (except for when hanging out with Koreans). Here in Seoul, I’m greeted by the security guard in my building every morning when I leave for work. He bows and says annyeonghaseyo (hello) to all who enter and exit the building. I also greet all my colleagues with a bow, and they do the same with me. Awkward at first, but now it couldn’t feel more natural.
  • I’ve started waving with both hands! I don’t know how I picked up this habit, but it seems a very Korean thing, and frankly it looks ridiculous. My husband pointed it out to me the other day. “You know you look super-Korean when you do that! Please stop!” Haha!
  • I do almost everything with both hands. All hand gestures, pointing, giving, receiving, anything really, is now done with both hands.
  • I climb stairs. A lot! To and from the subway, at work, to my apartment on the 12th floor. I easily climb 500 stairs in a day.
  • I’ve become completely accustomed to standing inappropriately close to other people on the subway during rush hour. You push me, I push back!
  • I’ve memorized a large part of the Seoul subway map.
  • I’ve learned how to order food delivery through the Yogiyo app. It’s amazing that I can have any kind of food delivered to my door within just 30 minutes. As a consequence, I almost never cook.
  • I now go to sleep significantly later than I did at home, but still get up at the same time. This has also resulted in an increased consumption of coffee.
  • I drink considerably more beer in Seoul than I used to do back home.
  • I find that just texting someone “ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ” (Korean letter symbolizing laughter) is a completely suitable form of communication.
  • I’ve come to enjoy drinking warm water with my meal.
  • I’ve realized that tea made out of corn or burned rice is a delicious drink.
  • I’ve become used to thinking that people’s age is a very important matter. I was telling my husband about two of my colleagues, and without realizing it, I told him that I was not aware who was the older one among the two. He laughingly pointed out that I would never have cared about who was 42 and who was 43 in Denmark. Well, here it matters. A lot!
  • I’ve accepted that I rarely pay for my own lunch in Korea. Unless we eat in the school cafeteria, the oldest professor always picks up the bill after a group lunch. I’m only required to bow and tell the paying professor that I enjoyed my meal. Easy!
  • I’ve realized how little I miss eating bread. Not that bread is unavailable here, you can actually buy it anywhere, but it’s not a part of the traditional Korean diet, so I rarely eat it.
  • I’ve abandoned my vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. Although the landscape is changing, eating meat is still a vital part of Korean food life. I feel healthy and balanced, so I don’t really mind this change. I don’t eat meat every day, but it’s still considerably more than I’m used to.
  • I’m getting used to constantly being critized for eating too little. Food is a big thing in Korea.
  • I never open a door or draw out a chair if there’s a Korean man in my immediate presence. Korean men are the galant type that will hold, doors, chairs, and even umbrellas for you.
  • I’ve taken on a real girly Seoul dialect, much to my colleagues and students’ amusement and to my husband’s annoyance. It involves a lot of stretching vowels! I don’t let it compromize my authority though.
  • I’m getting used to everybody sharing their opinion about my appearance. Not a week goes by without some old lady approaching me with a “예뻐요” (You’re pretty.) It’s of course flattering, but in the beginning I felt that it was quite overwhelming.
  • People call me “동안” (Korean word for babyface) whenever I tell them my age. Since age is so important, my Korean best friend just said yesterday that he was concerned that my students would not respect me if I’d dress too casually when teaching. In his opinion my outfit yesterday (long skirt and t-shirt) was way too casual, and he proposed that I wear a sharper look when I teach. Advice taken! Today I wore grey dress pants and a neatly ironed white shirt to work. A selfie of today’s outfit was then quickly rewarded with a “옷이 날개다!!” (Fine feathers make fine birds!)
  • I’ve grown accustomed to hearing Korean wherever I go. I’m not eavesdropping, but I cannot help listening and understanding what everyone around me is saying. Last time I was in Korea, I couldn’t pick up the meaning of other people’s conversation. I can now, which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that I’ve improved my listening skills significantly. Bad in the sense that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else when people are talking around me. When you don’t understand what people are saying around you, it’s easy to imagine that they are having the most interesting conversations. As it turns out, their conversations are usually just as dull as any other people’s conversations. “No, mom, I won’t be late”, “oh, yeah – my boyfriend loves to work out too”. “So where do you want to eat tonight?” Haha, just that kind of thing.
  • I’ve grown so accustomed to things operating 24 hours a day that I honestly find that coffee shops that close at 10pm close too early.
  • My taste in Korean music and Korean food is expanding day by day, and I love being introduced to new things. Needless to say, my Korean vocabulary is expanding exponentially as well.

Oh, I could go on and on! They say that growing new habits takes about three weeks. With almost six weeks spent in Seoul, all the changes in my daily lifestyle and general habits should therefore not seem too surprising.

14 Comments »

  1. ‘Korean men are the galant type’ really got me.My Korean teachers from university as well as some Korean exchange students are known for not doing any kind of gallantry,they won’t even open the door for you they’ll just walk through the door before you.So I definitely had a bad opinion about Korean men’s manners.Now I’m surprised to hear this and I’m definitely going to share it with my classmates;we’ve encountered this kind of behaviour so much that our view of Korean men changed entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I guess it can vary. I want to keep this blog positive, but I do have a completely different view on old Korean men. I could write about my bad ajusshi karma at lenght, but I’m afraid it’ll scare people away from coming to Korea. Luckily I’m mostly surrounded by younger guys, who treat me like a princess 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hardly ever had a Korean hold a door open for me, male or female. In the US both men and women usually hold the doors open for people behind them, and it would be rude to not hold the door open, but in Korea I just figured it was culturally different since hardly anyone ever held the door for me. Interesting that you had a different experience. Maybe it’s because I was mostly on a college campus and students are too lazy to hold doors open for other students?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “It’s easy to imagine that they are having the most interesting conversations”. I laughed so hard at this. I always think other people’s lives must be more interesting than my own. I am glad you are settling in well in Seoul, and finding positive experiences to cancel out the negatives. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s great to see you’re having so many positive experiences! After being here for a while I find it much too easy to get bogged down in the daily negatives… I got sick of my appearance always being commented on early on, but more so the being stared at like a zoo animal whenever I leave the house. Maybe that’s less common in the area you’re in! Overall though the good outweighs the bad or I wouldn’t still be here xD

    Another thing that makes me laugh, exasperatedly, is the whole “you’re not eating enough” coupled with the “you’re not thin enough” ㅠㅠ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yep! A country of contrasts and paradoxes for sure. ^^ I usually find that it’s a certain breed of older Korean men who stare at me in a slightly hostile very un-subtle kind of way. Getting better at just ignoring them, though 🙂

      Like

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