Top 5: Reasons to Come to Korea

April 20, 2016

A common question that I get (mostly from Koreans) is "Why Korea?"

Why did I choose to come to Korea?

It's a bit of a difficult question to answer considering that I made the decision to come to Korea five years ago. My state of mind now is much different than it was; I've lived a bit longer, and I've seen a bit more.

I honestly couldn't tell you why.

My choice was to either: 1) go straight to teachers college after university, then spend a year in Korea or 2) go to Korea after university, accumulate a year of teaching experience, then go to teachers college. I allowed my decision to be based on whether or not I was accepted to teachers college. I was accepted, so I took to the former option and got certified to teach first before going to Korea "for a year".

Rather than say that I made the decision to move to Korea for my future by debating the risks and rewards, it is probably more accurate to say that 23-year-old me really didn't think about it all that much. I had acquired my degrees and now it was time to find a job. And I did. It just happened to be 10,594 kilometres from home.

Teaching in Korea has long been a popular choice for those seeking to work abroad. I don't have experience living or teaching in other countries, but from conversations I've had with others, Korea seems relatively more comfortable/safe (compared to the Middle East) and has less of a competitive job market (compared to countries like Japan) for those seeking to teach English abroad.

So, why did I come to Korea?
Why do I think you should, too? 

1. to eat & drink

Korean food is good, cheap, healthy, and aplenty. Ask me what Canadian food I eat and I can answer with "poutine, and... well, is maple syrup a food?". Ask what Korean foods there are and it's a different story. I wrote more about Korean food here.

If you like alcohol, Korea is a great place for that, too. 

2. to climb

Listen, I tried to avoid mountains since I got here but it was a winless battle. Hiking is no joke. In a country that is 70% mountainous, this makes a lot of sense. I've only hiked a local mountain or two, so I won't pretend to know more than I do. Here is a list of Korea's best hikes and here is a resource for hikers in Korea.

3. to learn (language/music/culture)

When I first came to Korea, I was only going to be here for a year. Learning the language was not high on my list of priorities and I knew next to nothing about kpop or other aspects of Korean culture. I was the worst kind of foreigner in Korea.

There are a lot of foreigners in Korea who take on that "this is only temporary" mentality (even if they've lived here for years), and don't look any deeper than the cushy job and weekend meet-ups with fellow foreigners. I initially went about my life this same way, but soon realized what I was missing out on.

Learning the Korean language and culture not only opens you up to the actual experience of living abroad, but it also makes your world an easier place to live in; It is a basis with which to connect with locals/students around you, not to mention the language skills which help you function on a day-to-day basis. 

4. to save money

In general, jobs for non-Koreans in Korea pay quite well and the cost of living is relatively low. Employers of foreigner workers will often pay for rent and sometimes even plane tickets. When shopping/eating, prices usually include taxes and there is no tipping. 

Satisfying lunch/dinner: 3,000-10,000 won ($3.50-$11.00 CAD)
Big Mac: 4,500 won (~$5 CAD)
Beer (500ml): 2,000 won (~$2 CAD)
Internet (unlimited data): 20,000 won/month (~$22 CAD)

5. to just go with it

After arriving in Korea with little knowledge of the language, I inevitably became more "come what may". I began drinking my coffee as black as black can be, and I ate around tentacles in the soup that I ordered by accident. Even after learning enough of the language to speak up, I haven't.

There's something about living abroad which I feel requires us to give up expectations of being "in-the-know" all the time or being able to live as comfortably as we once did. We're in a country that no longer plays by our rules and doesn't even operate in the same language.

Being in Korea has ultimately strengthened my level of patience and understanding for most things. I'm also generally less concerned with things like taking naps on buses or sharing utensils and germs with someone I just met.

Next: Reasons NOT to Come to Korea

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