Well, I certainly am not anyone to claim what are the right reasons to love Korea, but I can tell you it is not because of kimchi.
I am home for vacation – makes me wonder if I am now a winter Texan. Reverse culture shock was underestimated. First there were the simple observations – Americans are so wide, public wi-fi isn’t free, the lack of vegetables. Then there is the locational grounding, a result of non-existent public transportation, except for the occasional bus that drives by every hour, not every 7 minutes.
I felt like a tourist in my own city, which made me appreciate my own culture more. Things like the pulga or flea market, which is basically the Mexican version of Nandaemun. Or What-a-burger, which is one of the best things to come out of Texas. But beyond the initial bliss, I came to realize something. I don’t think I could live home anymore.
Living in the states just feels like a void – absolute nothingness, a very comfortable and relaxing nothingness. I’ve done nothing productive since coming here, except catch up on all the sleeping I’ve left out of my Seoul lifestyle.
I don’t exactly miss Seoul, but I feel like I am stuck in some sort of limbo without it. My friends joke that I am Korean because I am use chopsticks, those very simple declarations lead me wonder about why I feel I could never come back to the states. Well, then again I have only been gone a year and a half – who knows what may come down the road.
At least here in the states, people don’t tell me why I should love Korea. As cliché as it may sound, it’s the dynamic lifestyle that turns me on, but the unprogressive societal stances like equal rights for LGBT and women, despite me being either, that are tough to swallow. It seems difficult to explain to someone who’s probably never left their city, why I like being an expat.
And no, this is not a post for the prepubescent horny 16 year old who idolizes Korean men. And certainly not one for the government who is so adamant about promoting bibimbap that they have been promoting the same commercial for 5 years at Times Square. This is a post that looks beyond that 1% of Korea’s over 2,000 years of history – which most people will never even bother to learn about.
In Seoul, I feel progression in my life – at least in comparison with others who feel living in Korea is more like a vacation before getting back to their “real” careers. I never understood why people do not see teaching as a real job. It may be because most of them aren’t in the education field, or simply because of the glass ceiling Korea has set for expats. My ceiling is pretty high though, thanks to my MA, but I do intend on obtaining a PhD in the future.
It’s that progression which I feel is lacking back here at home. The only progression I see are people getting married and having kids immediately after graduation, and in many cases before graduation.
Seoul just has so much to offer in terms of opportunities, and it could be in profession changing opportunities too. One thing that always interested me was journalism actually, written or en-video. It doesn’t take a genius to see that breaking into that profession here is entirely possible, and one that is not bound by their college degree. Sadly, my writings are shotty scramblings on toilet paper compared to those articulate pieces one reads in print. Likewise, my editorial skills are shit without Microsoft spell/grammar check being incorporated into the WordPress engine.
Despite being a country 1/6th the size of my state, every square cm holds more than that of my home itself. Perhaps it is that proximity which allows for so much to take place within an hour. I could never leave that. I love being able to be anywhere within the hour, of meeting people, and always having something to do.
And sorry government, but there’s only so much Gyeongbokgung and Insadong anyone can take. You really have to hand it in to our fellow bloggers, as they portray the more realistic aspects of living in Korea. If I had to rely on Korean tourism information, I would only be eating the same 3 foods and visiting the same touristy places. Makes me wonder why…why does everyone, including expat magazines and websites, keep promoting the same shit over and over. How can the continuity of recycling the same articles maintain such a business?
That being said, I will be here in Texas until the beginning of March. Plus, I’ve got a whole list of places I would like to visit, even some that I have been to before since I know there will always be something I missed.