Having been in Korea for two years, it was inevitable that I would come to love many things about living here. As the time draws near for The Lovely Gen and I to leave the Hermit Kingdom, I've started to get nostalgic and I've thought of some things I'll miss when I leave. Isn't that always the case? You always forget about the things that annoy or disgust you about a place when you're about to leave it. I cannot wait to get home to Cape Town, and there are a lot of things I won't miss about Korea, but I'm surprised to find that I'll miss more than I won't.
2) One of the things I love most about living here, and something that could keep me here for another year all by itself, is the internet. It's the fastest in the world by a long way, and there are few places you can't get it. It's on phones, in airports, in shops, on the subway and in every single household. It costs practically nothing for unlimited broadband, and I will miss it insanely when I'm in South Africa. My dad, who uses the internet for his work, was telling me that it's not so bad in SA, the measurement is 10mb/s or whatever. I checked, and here it's 100mb/s upload speed. If you had to hypothetically download an hour-long tv show episode, it takes an entire day in SA. Here it takes 10 minutes max. Hypothetically.
4) Cheap utilities. I've never paid more than 10 000 won for electricity in a month. That's not even R70. Usually it's closer to 5000. And we use lights, appliances and computers all day long. It's going to be a big adjustment turning all the lights off at home. And gas is so cheap, and we don't pay for water. It costs practically nothing to live here.
5) Living really close to all my friends, and being able to walk down the road to the pub. I love that I can call a mate and within five minutes we're sitting with a beer in hand. No drunk driving, and no trekking across the city just to have a cup of tea.
6) Being able to WALK places without fear of being mugged. At night. The feeling of safety is something I will really miss, not having to worry about my handbag or my life. To be fair, you can't walk around alone at night in pretty much any other country, so it's not an indictment of South Africa. Here we leave our handbags on a chair in the bars and go and do our thing, without anyone watching over them. It's just not a worry, and it's very liberating. We might be blase about safety, but so far nothing has proven us wrong. In fact, if you leave your phone on a train or in a taxi, someone will usually make an effort to get it back to you. Koreans don't generally keep things that do not belong to them.
|Taxi driver reading and driving|
8) Bowling alleys on every corner. I've gone bowling more often in Korea than in all 28 years of my life before living here, and it's one of my favourite things to do. I live in an area with four bowling alleys within walking distance, and it's super cheap. We played three games recently and it only cost us 6000 won each. R36 for 2 hours. Money for jam. In Cape town, if you go to Stadium-on-Main, you pay that much for a single game.
9) Service! I've never been given so much free stuff as I have here. I went grocery shopping the other day and got a free 2 litre bottle of orange juice. If you buy washing powder you might get a free pack of noodles. We went for dinner last week and got a free dessert. A lot of places, like doctors' offices and sports venues have free coffee machines. We went to a music concert and we all got free fleece blankets in case it got chilly. And we didn't have to give them back! I once got given a pack of kitchen paper because I posted some packages at the post office. If you buy cosmetics at Skin Food/Innisfree/Face Shop, you will walk away with a bag full of free samples/cotton wipes/hand cream. If you show loyalty to a shop/restaurant, you will be rewarded!
10) Having my bank balance in the millions. And being able to save half my salary. This isn't the real world as far as work and money is concerned, and I will miss being so carefree about money and monthly costs. It will be a bit of a shock to see a pay check in thousands rather than millions, it makes me so happy every month! When we first got our salaries, everyone made the obligatory 'I'm a millionaire!' joke. I fear I will never be a millionaire again, alas. Unless I win the lottery. I don't think I will have this much spendable money ever again, unless TLG has a vast fortune hidden away somewhere.
12) Jimjilbangs and 'love motels'. I've never stayed in a jimjilbang (a kind of dormitory for travellers/drunks/old men, usually at spas, costs less than 10,000w) but I do frequent love motels when travelling. For those not in the know, a Love Motel is a place where people can meet up for a good time, if you know what I mean. Given that most people live at home until they're married, they need somewhere to canoodle, be it for an hour or a night. We tend to stay at the nicer places (60 000 for the room, still not expensive), because skimping on cost will result in bedspreads that glow purple under a black light. Gross! Also, love motels are often the only time I can have a bath, as Korean apartments rarely have them!
13) Very cheap health care. As mentioned in a previous post, I've undergone surgery in Korea, stayed in hospital and seen many a doctor. A visit for a check up, provided you have insurance (all foreign teachers do) will cost you around 5000w/R35. Seeing a gynaecologist, including ultrasound and a full exam, is only 30 000w. Where would you pay that anywhere else? And these are fancy doctors' offices, not crappy clinics. I went to a neurologist after my surgery and a consultation cost me 4000w/R25. My entire surgery, hospital and medication included, cost me literally a tenth of what it would have cost at home. Madness.
Remind me why I'm leaving again?