We have ONE MONTH until we will be back in the States and it is all getting very real and bittersweet. We have, without a doubt, had 10 years of experiences just from our one year in South Korea. We traveled to seven different countries with more to go. And we have learned SO much that I decided to make a list. By no means can I cover everything, but in honor of the countdown, here are 15 things Luke and I have learned while living here for a year.
1. How to make new recipes!
Since we haven’t had easy access to many food items that we did back home, we had to adapt. Peanut butter was rare and expensive, so we cut back A LOT and almost entirely, or we made it from scratch. I learned some Korean recipes like pajeon (파전, green onion pancake) and my favorite, hotteoks (호떡, Korean sweet pancakes with cinnamon and goodness). Salsa, hummus, banana bread and lots of other baked goodies without butter are just the tip of the iceberg.
2. Some basic Korean vocabulary
I’ve learned enough little phrases and words in Korean to get my point across. Grammar is a long way away and I can’t even construct a sentence, but I know how to order food in a restaurant like a pro and my charades game is on point!
“맥주 두병 주세요” – “Mekju du-byeong juseyo” – “2 bottles of beer, please”
I’d call that a win for year one.
3. Go explore somewhere new. Even if it seems a little nuts.
Everyone hears it all the time but you should travel. I had been to a handful of states, but not much outside of the midwest for 25 years. I hadn’t been away from friends and family for longer than a couple of months, and even then I was only an hour or two away. Logically, it seemed absolutely NUTS to move half way across the world, with my boyfriend of 1 year, and live in an entirely different country that has an entirely different culture. It was hard. Trust me. My blog shows the highlights and very few of the difficulties, but I don’t regret it for a single second. I have grown so much as a person and realized how much more there is to see and learn. Now that we’ve seen a lot of Asia, I’ve caught the travel bug and can’t wait to see more.
4. Beer here is ‘meh’. Wine is a privilege. Flavored Soju was our jam.
Usually there are just a couple of your basic cheap water beers to choose from unless you seek out a brewery or pub in the big cities. Luckily, we have a solid selection at almost every convenience store with beers like Guiness, Kozel, Stella and a few others. But being the beer fans that we are, this was a little hard for us. We went to some beer festivals and there were times we’ve been able to taste a real beer, but I could count it on one hand. Bottom line, Asia is NOT big on beer.
Living in an extremely rurla area, we made it a routine to get 2-4 bottles of wine anytime we were in a big city and going to the big stores so it has definitely been more of a privilege for us than it used to be. It’s a little more special, especially anything over 10,000 won but Wine Wednesdays were by far my favorite nights of the week.
Soju is obviously Korea’s most popular alcoholic drink and while it’s fine to shoot or mix with beer, flavored Soju has been our preference. And with each bottle being about 20% ABV and under 2,000 won, we made do just fine.
Patience when it comes to getting from A to B. Patience when it comes to listening. Patience when it comes to knowing what the next part of our “plan” will be. Patience when it comes to missing a bus or plane (not that that ever happened…) and knowing that it really isn’t the end of the world.
I’ve learned just how patient Luke actually is and how much patience he has with me in particular.
I’m still learning to be patient…but it seems like it’s taking forever. 😉
6. Asia is BEAUTIFUL!
Seriously. It’s just beautiful and incredible in so many ways.
7. It’s important to appreciate the little things.
Walking into a grocery store and having only one or two options of most products has been our reality. Back in the U.S., any typical grocery has at least 10 different types of spaghetti sauce, or 20 kinds of bread. Here, that has been quite the opposite. I guess we’ll take this cheaper full loaf of white bread over the half loaf of very expensive wheat bread.
Although maybe not so little, the freedom of having a car and going anywhere at anytime for any reason is unfathomable to me right now. What? You mean I can just hop in this thing, drive myself, stop whenever I want and get there right away? I always knew it was a great thing. But I have SUCH an appreciation for it now.
8. How to plan a vacation.
I’ve literally NEVER had to plan a vacation before. It was either family vacations which didn’t entail much other than hanging with family or going to the beach or a museum or something of the sort. And other trips I’ve taken before were all very chill and very easy to sort through. Buy your plane ticket, hangout with such and such. Everything was still the same country so same food, same language, same cultural activities. What do we do if we go to Thailand? Where do we go once we land? Do we have to buy a train pass at the airport? All new questions I’ve never had to ask myself.
9. Korean bathrooms.
Do: Always have toilet paper/wet wipes and hand sanitizer with you.
Don’t: Forget to always grab toilet paper from OUTSIDE of the stall from the community roll.
Do: Cross your fingers that you get a regular toilet. But know that if you don’t, squatter potties really aren’t all that bad.
Don’t: Get in the way of any ajummas that may elbow past you to get to the toilet. Just let them do their thing and wait another minute.
10. A bit of geography.
I can successfully find South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore on a map.
11. How much the hierarchy system is valued here no matter the situation.
They take ‘respect your elders’ to the extreme. The oldest male is always right. And even if he’s not, he is, don’t argue. Obviously, this is very different from the States where you can respectfully disagree with your boss, or confront someone who is older than you if you feel they aren’t being fair or just. It is definitely different when we want to ask our boss for something. A much different approach is taken than if we were in the U.S. That being said, our boss is very helpful and he makes it his responsibility to make our lives easier and less stressful.
12. Public transportation is environmentally friendly, and often convenient. But it can definitely be a real b****.
As I mentioned in number 7, the luxury of having a car is a LUXURY. Appreciate it. It’s great to just jump on a bus and get off in a city 4 hours away. You can sleep, you don’t have to deal with traffic because it’s not your responsibility. You can swipe your card and get on the subway to get to the other part of town. Parking doesn’t even cross your mind. But you miss that last bus back home and it’s a whole new ball game trying to find the most convenient route home.
13. The basics on how to use a DSLR camera and edit photos in Lightroom.
Living in the country, literally on a farm, there isn’t much to do without jumping on that bus. So editing photos and reflecting on the beauty of all the various hikes and excursions has been a great way to spend my time. It’s a creative outlet and I get to document all my experiences at the same time! I’ve always wanted to start photography and I’m so glad I finally did.
Along the same lines, blogging has gotten me to slow down and remember everything we’ve done during our time here. From teaching myself how not to give up even if it seems like my blog was never going to come back, to my writing style, it’s been a fun hobby to keep up with. Of course, it’s been amazing knowing I have a few dedicated followers who look forward to reading my posts for sure, but I am so excited to have this to look back on for the rest of my life. I plan on getting it printed into a book and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works out like I want it to!
15. Korean people and their culture.
Koreans are the NICEST people on the planet. The entire country is such a safe place and I feel comfortable walking anywhere by myself – day or night. Ajummas are constantly invading your space but they always mean well. No, she’s not stealing your money, she just wants to help your dollar bill get into the ticket machine. No, the apple isn’t poisoned. He just doesn’t want you to pass out on your hike. So yeah, Koreans are super nice.
I could keep going because we have honestly learned so much through our time here. But it only makes sense to stop after 15 of them that really explained the lifestyle we’ve adapted to and the experiences we’ve had.
Leaving the country in 22 days!