I guess the most prevalent bad thing about living in South Korea is the time change. Depending on daylight savings time, I was either 13 or 14 hours ahead of my friends and family back in Ontario. That kind of sucked. But with email and social media it was still pretty easy to stay connected.
Another reason for the time change to suck, is trying to get back into the correct time after moving! It is so much easier to go from Canadian time to Korean time. I’m not sure why but going from Korean time to Canadian time is always so hard. Thankfully I am dealing with the jet lag really well right now. I can stay awake until around 9-10 (getting later every day I’m home, it’s already 10pm and I haven’t collapsed into a pile of exhaustion) and sleep almost the whole night. Last night I made it until 6:30! Before a certain Mr. Love Of My Life decided I needed to be awake.
Sometimes you’re not treated with the greatest respect since you’re not Korean. I’ve lost track of how many times I would be walking down the sidewalk, and either have to step off the side walk or actually stop walking to let a group of people pass. Not like how you do it here, where you move over, and they move over but there just isn’t enough room. It was a full on “well they are not even going to TRY to let me pass” situation. Sometimes, walking into a building I would actually have the person in front of me pull the door closed behind them – as a Canadian who is trained from a very young age to hold the door open for those coming after you, this was a big shock.
Lack of boundaries at work is a problem for most foreign teachers I think, especially in hogwans. Most of the time you will have the support and respect of the other adults that you work with, but gaining the respect of the children is much harder than in a Canadian school environment. The students know you can’t speak Korean so it’s another level of testing for you to pass before you gain their trust and respect. Students will test every boundary you have, and even a few you didn’t know you had.
Not knowing the language is a big thing as well. During my first contract, my Korean friends would absolutely refuse to teach me Korean, saying that I didn’t need to know it. It’s true, I could (and did) survive without it, but it would have been nice to learn a little more than I did. This time around, my coworkers were much more open to teaching me little things here and there, and I actually bought a book and cd set to learn. I managed to learn about 75% of the alphabet so look at me go!
The price of food was a little bit of a bummer. Some things were just so much more expensive than in the west, like paying $23 for a few pounds of ground beef. That was a major major bummer. But beef isn’t very popular in Korea (because it’s so expensive), and the beef that I did buy was actually Australian beef not Korean, being imported meant that it was more expensive. Also, Korean’s are all about fresh food cooking. There isn’t a lot of pre-packaged things that you can buy. A small frozen pizza was almost more than double going to a pizza shop and buying one.
Then of course there are basically no ovens. You can buy counter top ovens, or toaster ovens for a price, but most places don’t have ovens. Or dryers for your clothes. Some very very lucky people will have a washing machine that will have a dry setting, oh how I envied those people! Or enclosed showers. It’s the small things people haha. Being able to step INTO a bathtub to have a shower, and then to finish your shower and not have the entire floor covered in water? Western World priorities!
And then there is the weather. Oh man the weather! Winters are mild, hardly any snow to speak of. I think all the snow accumulation last winter would have been a grand total of 3 cms. THREE for the WHOLE WINTER. So disappointing. But I guess if you don’t like snow, that would be a bonus? Summers are hot and humid. For a snow bunny like me, that was a total down fall. But again, some people are crazy and actually like hot and humid summers.
So there we go, just the general run of the mill “bad” things about living over seas!