Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why *NOT* to live in Seoul: Six reasons why I love living in Korea's most boring province

Inspired by a question asked by my recruiter recently, I would like to share a few reasons why I love living in not-Seoul.
As a resident of Cheongju, capital of chungcheongbuk-do (chungbuk, for short), likely Korea's most boring province, I can think of more than a few reasons not to live in Seoul. Here are a few:

1.Have a ready-made network of awesome people, always happy to befriend a newbie.
Although I did not see another foreigner for just over a week after I arrived, from the first night I stepped into a bar I've made amazing friends, and I make more weekly, even four months later. That is (obviously) not to say that there aren't some amazing people for you to befriend in Seoul, I'm sure there are, but they're a lot harder to find.
In addition, the relatively small size of Cheongju's foreigner community means that i would feel comfortable approaching any foreigner I see on the street, and we likely have friends in common.
2.Learn Korean (or don't)
Every time I've gone to Seoul, I am taken aback by the number of people who speak English.
Oggling a subway map one day, a random dude directed my friend and I in perfect English to the correct platform.
Buying beer from a corner store, I asked in Korean if they had any paper cups (generally at the counter and sold in singles for this purpose). The cashier ( an older guy) was visibly shocked by my words and could not stop praising my Korean. He even engaged me in a short conversation about where I live, etc. while this was nice, I remarked as soon as I left that i never would have learned Korean in Seoul. Or at least not as fast. There are no opportunities to practice, even the store clerk speaks English!
That being said, I do know people who have survived here for a year or two without any Korean, so if that's what you're afraid of and why you want to live in Seoul, you don't need to worry (and odds are that even if you're not in Seoul, you'll still be in a bigger city than Cheongju, where you can survive on English if that's what you want).
I'll probably write another post soon on my opinions about that, but that doesn't belong here.
3. Save BUCKETS of money.
Seriously. Without trying AT ALL, I have ~$2,000 in the bank in four months. This is after buying a new MacBook, plane tickets to Cambodia, and $400 worth of dental work.
4. Be centrally located.
I can be at Inchon airport in 2 hours ( it can take that long from some parts of Seoul), in Busan in 3 hours, in Boryeong for MudFest in 2 hours, in Daegu in under 2 hours, in Yeosu for the World Expo in 3 hours (with transfer in Daejeon). For those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of this country, all of those places are really far from each other. But not from me.
5. Be able to breathe.
I've heard a good bit from friends, forums, etc., that the pollution can get pretty nasty in and around Seoul. I've never been in the city for more than one night so I can't say I've noticed, but the air here is (hot and humid, but) not at all like what I've heard of Seoul.
6. Experience Korea.
This one kind of combines all of the previous reasons into one.
I know that Seoul has all the conveniences of Western life, but of you want those, then stay home. You are moving probably at least a third of the way around the globe, things will be different. You do not NEED Taco Bell (but believe me I do go every time I'm in Seoul), your favorite brand of candy bar, a shwarma stand to go to when you're drunk. I know they're nice to have, but that's not Korea.
I bet one of the most appealing things about getting a job in Korea is the ability to see the world and save money at the same time, right? I sure think so. But if you ask me, that's not seeing the rest of the world, that's seeing the parts of the world that are just like ours.

No comments:

Post a Comment