Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Survive in South Korea

Nikki and I were talking the other day and realized we just passed our 4 month mark here in South Korea!  In some ways, it seems like time has really flown by, but in other ways it seems the opposite.  It is hard to explain, but when we talk with other foreigners here they feel the same way. 

When we talk to friends and family on the phone or Skype, it seems like we've been gone forever and have forever until we can see them again.  But, when we are out having fun exploring beaches and other sights, it feels like our time is nearly up.

We talked with another foreigner here a few weeks ago about what it is like to live here.  He mentioned that he felt like he knew nothing even after living here for 6 months.  I'm of the opinion that you learn as much as you try to learn when you are here.  It is possible to live here and not speak Korean or even eat Korean food or even ride the local city bus, if that is what you want.  Life can be much like life back home if you are willing to pay the price for it.

I thought I'd take a little time to do some inventory of the things we can do and the things we can't do after living here for 4 months.  I hope that this list gives our friends and family a look into what we do here and I hope that it helps others considering living in South Korea to realize that we carry on very rich lives here despite being far from home.

What we can do:

Language- We can say the following words/phrases in Korean
please give me
please go to
thank you
bus driver
train/subway station
how much does it cost?
shopping bag
numbers 1-10
ten thousand won
thousand won
various menu items like chicken, fish, tofu, rice, pork, duck, stew
don't do that
hurry up
let's go
I'm finished
left, right, straight
this one/that one

I can also read most signs and menus, although I don't know what most of them say.  I can read cities and any words that end up being English, such as peh-peh-roni  pi-ja :)

We can ride the inter-city bus from one city to another, navigate and purchase bus tickets, navigate and use the subway in Daegu, Seoul, and Busan, hail taxi cabs, ride trains around the country.

We have Korean cell phones (with English menus) and charge them with minutes.  We take it to the store and put about 10,000w on per month.

We pay our utility bills.

We make wire transfers at the bank as well as manage our own accounts and debit cards.

We can buy clothes, shoes, food, candy, drinks, groceries, and house items that we need.

We can go to the doctor, dentist, and pharmacy.

Use a foreign language ATM.  (always choose the top left button, works every time).

What we can't do:
It would only be fair to have a list of things we have not yet managed to figure out.

Order food delivered to our house.  I think I know my address but ordering I just can't imagine.

We don't know very much about prices.  We can recognize some of the numbers but usually just hand over the bank card and not pay attention.  This can be fixed with a little practicing.

We don't know the routes of local buses.  We can ride one bus in Changwon that goes to a few places we know of but other than that, no clue.  It kind of takes living in the actual city to master the local bus and Jinyeong doesn't have many buses and we can walk everywhere anyway.

We haven't quite mastered buying movie tickets. Thankfully, there is always a uniformed teen nearby who is eager to help us use the machines.

We don't have the use of an oven or clothes dryer.

We can't find beers with hops as a main ingredient.

We can't have small talk conversations with local people that we see frequently.  It would be nice to chat with the landlord, bus driver, cab driver, or cashier sometimes.

We can't read local newspapers or magazines or websites.  Can't watch the local news to learn about anything that is going on.  We are completely unaware of any local happenings.

Well I think that almost covers it.  I'm sure I'll think of a few more for each category the second I close the computer, of course.

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