Saturday, July 14, 2012

What is Good About Korea?

Recently, I have posted some negative blogs about Korea, complaining on an array of subjects such as family, morals, Korean men, the treatment of animals, etc.  It is therefore possible that I am leaving some of my readers with the impression that it is all bad and I would rather be back in my own country and as quickly as possible.  This is not the case and I hope I am generally quite balanced with my judgments about Korea because the truth is when weighing up a life in England with a life in Korea the scales are quite evenly balanced.

The truth is that it is much easier to write negatively, maybe this shows me up to be a half-empty kind of guy, but I am sure I am not.  I think there are simply more things to moan about whether you are moaning about England or moaning about Korea.  It is easier to see problems that need to be corrected rather than comment on when things go smoothly, that's all.  After all, when things are going smoothly it is difficult to notice it.  Also, I have noticed that people tend to prefer the negative articles that I write, so maybe the world is a half-empty sort of place.

What is nice about living in Korea is hard to put into words, it is subtle, multi-faceted, and sometimes quite personal.  Much of life is a whole lot less stressful than in England, there is so much convenience here and any problem or errand that needs doing is always taken care of quickly and efficiently.  It also seems as if you are only a very a short walk away from anything you might need; whether it be a gym, a convenience store, a supermarket, or a restaurant.  The food is probably the most convenient thing about Korea; cheap, tasty, and quickly served in an incredible number of restaurants.

There is also something subtly less cynical, more honest, and more innocent about everyday life.  Crime is lower, children are more respectful, there are less alcohol related anti-social behaviour problems, and people trust each other not to steal their property and not to abduct their children.  Because of this, bureacracy is lower causing much less stress and there is simply a nicer feeling generally as there is less suspicion floating around about everyone. 

Maybe part of the reason for a better social atmosphere is that Korea comes across as a classless society.  Apart from the poor old pensioners I see sometimes collected waste cardboard and lugging it around on the street, I genuinely cannot tell the difference between a person on the street with low income and living in the cheapest part of town with someone in the highest paid bracket living in luxury and changing their cars every year, whether it be by appearance or behaviour.  Everyone behaves in the same socially acceptable way and class, income, and the area someone is brought up in have very little effect on this.

Finally, blame culture (apart from traffic accidents) appears to be almost non-existent.  I witnessed a young boy slip on a recently mopped toilet room in a supermarket the other day, where a sign warning about the slippery surface was not erected, and his father just picked him up and walked on with no fuss.  I wondered what would have happened in my country had the same thing occurred in Asda, Sainsburys, or Tescos.  I think pure outrage would have been the answer with a possible threat of compensation and someone would have been in a lot of trouble about it.

In a personal respect I love the terrain of South Korea; very rugged and mountainous.  As an outdoor type of person, never being that far from a mountain and a good hike, bike, or run suits me fine.  My apartment building actually stands right next to a mountain with a hiking course that overlooks the city.  Once out of the building it is literally about 10 metres away.  I always miss the mountains of Korea when I return home. 

Not only is there outdoor adventure on the doorstep I also miss the fact that most of my days in Korea have something new and interesting in them; in a way a cultural adventure.  Sometimes these interesting things are annoying, frustrating, and sometimes even offensive but the cultural differences and challenges keep life interesting and have definitely provided a huge education for me.

Despite my negativity sometimes, coming to Korea for a multitude of reasons (as well as meeting my wife here) has been possibly the greatest decision of my life thus far.  It regularly takes me out of my comfort zone and intrigues me with cultural challenges while at the same time providing a great job, a stress free life, and a chance to meet new and interesting people from all over the English speaking world as well as the Koreans themselves.

So next time you are wondering why I am here if I seem to be whinging like an old man all the time, just know that actually I am in good spirits and very much enjoying the great and fortunate benefits merely being an English speaker gives me.  Coming to Korea is something I would recommend to anyone, it has been a fantastic experience.

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