11Jul

Life and Shopping as a Plus Size Woman in South Korea

South Korea is known around the world for its skincare, makeup, and dermatological advancements. It’s also known for K-Pop and its idols, as well as its fashion. While all of these are things to enjoy and take advantage of while living there, it’s important to remember that beauty standards in Korea may be very different to what you’re used to at home. As a Canadian plus size woman, there were some things I found harder in Korea, while there were other things that I was worried about but didn’t even notice once I arrived.

What’s it Like Plus Size Shopping?

The biggest issue for me when shopping was finding clothes and shoes in my size. I love Korean fashion, and this was a huge disappointment for me! I had heard that this might be an issue, but was certain I could make it work. However, for the first few months, it was really hard to find anything that fit. I eventually found clothing in places that worked for me such as Zara, H&M and some thrift stores as well as the men’s section of certain stores, but it was definitely a frustrating process! As for shoes, I managed to find running shoes and sandals in the men’s section, but things such as boots and heels were much harder to find.

One thing I discovered was that the selection depended on where I was. I lived in Daegu, and found that even H&M was hit or miss for having my size there. However, when I visited friends in Seoul or Busan, I found that their selection was a bit more diverse! Seoul also has a couple of bigger-size stores including Romi Story, Mariang Plus, and Richmood Showroom. Hoya in Seoul makes beautiful plus-size hanbok (Korean traditional dress) inspired clothing as well. There is also Lady Plus, but they only have boutiques in Ilsan and Gyeonggi-do. Also, a lot of stores carry oversized clothing because that’s just the style in Korea, so you may be able to find something that fits in an average Korean store – just try it on and see. I found one of my favorite sweaters in a store in Gyeongju, and I didn’t think it would fit me until one of my friends encouraged me to try it on!

(A dress I scored at a thrift store in Daegu)

Can’t I Just Order Online?
There are a few plus-size Korean stores that only sell online, including 09Women and JStyle Evelett. I never used these websites personally because I’m more of a try-on girl, but I have friends who did. The only issue they had was figuring out how to return the items, but I’m sure a Korean speaking coworker could help if asked. If you’re down to do a bit more searching on Instagram, there are quite a few accounts that thrift and sell clothes, and most of them will deliver across Korea. Mikku xLarge, Modern&J, and DewA are just some examples, but if you have time to peruse, you can search #빅사이즈 on Instagram for more. A lot of these accounts will have links to their Naver stores which you need an account for, but signing up for one is simple. Another option is to browse on Coupang, but it’s a bit harder to sift through clothing on their website because of the sheer amount of stuff for sale.

A final option is to order from North American or European stores, but the shipping fee when ordering online from Canada or the United States can be atrocious. There are some companies like Ppali Ppali Express who can help you to ship things from the United States to Korea for a slightly cheaper delivery fee (by sending your items to their warehouse located in the USA, and having them send it to you in Korea), which I found worked best when shared with friends (which cut the delivery fee down significantly).

(Busan in one of the dresses I found at H&M, and sandals I ordered on Coupang)

So What Should I Bring With Me?
As you can tell, it’s not impossible to find plus-size clothing in Korea, but there are definitely more limited options. Because of this, I would recommend bringing jeans and other pants, undergarments, a bathing suit (if you plan on going to the beach and swimming) and shoes (if you’re above a size 6). Dresses, tops and skirts were easier for me to find since they’re often looser and less tight-fitting.

In summary, if you’re worried about finding clothes in Korea, just make sure to pack your favourite items and bring the basics that make you feel good. As for makeup, bags, socks and accessories: you don’t have to worry about bringing any of those. You can find those in nearly every other store in Korea!

(Some of my favourite jeans I’ve ever had that I ordered on Coupang, and my FILA Korea jacket that I got from the men’s section!)

24Jun

Guide to Apartment Hunting in South Korea

So, you’ve landed a gig teaching English in South Korea—congrats! Now, onto the next big hurdle: finding a place to call home. Trust me, I’ve been there. Navigating the housing market in a foreign country can feel like solving a puzzle, but fear not! With a bit of know-how and the right apps in your arsenal, you’ll be kicking back in your own Korean flat in no time.

Let me level with you—I’ve been through the ups and downs of the apartment hunt myself. It took me quite some time of searching and living in less-than-ideal accommodations before I stumbled upon a building that felt like home. After exploring numerous options and enduring a few less-than-pleasant living situations, I finally found a building that caught my eye.
Determined to make it mine, I visited their real estate office and had a chat with the agent. Despite no available flats at the time, I left my number, hoping for a stroke of luck. And guess what? A couple of months later, I received the call I’d been waiting for—a perfect flat was opening up, and to top it off, it was on the side of the building I preferred. You can actually find it on KOLARIS’s social media channels–check it out when you get a chance!

My Apartment, check out my apartment tour on Instagram here

Alright, first things first, let’s talk about what you’re up against. Before diving into the apartment hunt, it’s essential to understand the housing market in South Korea. In major cities like Seoul, Busan, and Daegu, you’ll find a variety of housing options ranging from studio apartments to larger flats. Prices can vary significantly depending on factors such as location, size, and amenities.

Now, let’s get down to business. Here are a few apps that’ll be your trusty sidekicks on this apartment hunting adventure:

  • Zigbang: Think of Zigbang as your personal real estate guru. It’s one of the most popular real estate apps in South Korea and it’s got everything you need to scout out the perfect apartment—location, price range, housing type, you name it. Plus, it provides detailed listings with photos, descriptions, and contact information for landlords or real estate agents.

Zigbang App

  • Dabang: Similar to Zigbang, Dabang is another useful app for finding apartments in South Korea. It’s got a slick interface, tons of listings, and handy filters to help you narrow down your search. Bonus points for providing info on nearby hotspots like supermarkets and eateries.

Dabang App

  • Airbnb: Yep, you read that right. While Airbnb might be known for short-term stays, it’s also a goldmine for ESL teachers on the hunt for a more permanent spot. Many hosts offer sweet deals for long-term stays, so don’t overlook it as a potential option. Trust me, I speak from experience. When I found myself in between apartments, Airbnb came to the rescue, offering a range of short-term rental options at affordable prices.

Airbnb App

Now that you’ve got your apps locked and loaded, here are a few insider tips to help you snag that dream apartment:

  • Crunch Those Numbers: Before you dive headfirst into the apartment hunt, figure out your budget. Factor in things like utilities and transportation costs so you don’t end up in over your head.
  • Location, Location, Location: You know what they say—location is key. I had my heart set on being close to the beach, as well as near a metro station for easy commuting. Thankfully, my apartment checked both boxes. When choosing your neighborhood, prioritize what matters most to you—whether it’s proximity to work, amenities, or favorite spots. The right location can make all the difference in making your new place feel like home.
  • Get Up Close and Personal: Once you’ve found a few contenders, don’t be shy about scheduling viewings. If you’re dealing with agents who don’t speak English, no worries! Just fire off a message using apps like “Papago” for smooth communication. During the viewings, keep an eye out for cleanliness, maintenance, and the neighborhood vibe. These little details will help you decide if it’s the right fit for you.
  • Work Your Charm: Last but not least, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Landlords are often open to haggling over rent, deposit, and lease terms, especially if you’re willing to commit to a long-term stay.

So there you have it, folks. Apartment hunting in South Korea might seem like a daunting task, but armed with the right tools and a can-do attitude, you’ll be living your best life abroad in no time. Whether you’re dreaming of a cozy studio or a spacious flat with a killer view, there’s something out there with your name on it. Happy hunting!

21Mar

Unlocking the Gateway to Adventure: Traveling Asia as an English Teacher in South Korea

Hey there! So, you’re gearing up for an exciting journey to South Korea to teach English – congratulations! Get ready to dive into a world of cultural wonders, delicious cuisine, and unforgettable experiences. But guess what? Your adventure doesn’t stop at the borders of South Korea. Nope, in fact, it’s just the beginning of a whole new chapter of exploration in Asia!

First things first, let’s talk about South Korea itself. From the bustling streets of Seoul to the serene landscapes of Jeju Island, there’s no shortage of sights to see and experiences to be had right here in Korea. Whether you’re hiking up picturesque mountains, sampling mouth watering street food, or immersing yourself in ancient temples, you’ll never run out of things to do.

But wait, it gets even better! Living in South Korea opens up a world of travel opportunities to neighboring countries in Asia, and trust me, you won’t want to miss out. Let’s take a look at some exciting destinations and what you can do there:

  1. Japan: Hop on a quick flight from Incheon Airport to Tokyo, and you’ll find yourself in a world of bustling streets, ancient temples, and futuristic wonders. Spend your weekend exploring iconic landmarks like the Senso-ji Temple, indulging in sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market, or strolling through the quirky neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya.
    Travel Time: Approximately 2 hours by flight from Incheon to Tokyo.
  2. Thailand: Escape to the Land of Smiles for a weekend of tropical bliss. From the vibrant markets and ornate temples of Bangkok to the pristine beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand offers a perfect mix of culture, adventure, and relaxation.
    Travel Time: Approximately 5 hours by flight from Incheon to Bangkok.
  3. Vietnam: Immerse yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of Vietnam. Explore the ancient streets of Hanoi, cruise through the stunning landscapes of Ha Long Bay, or indulge in mouthwatering street food in Ho Chi Minh City.
    Travel Time: Approximately 5 hours by flight from Incheon to Hanoi.
  4. Philippines: With its breathtaking beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture, the Philippines is a tropical paradise just waiting to be explored. Swim with whale sharks in Oslob, island-hop in Palawan, or explore the bustling streets of Manila.
    Travel Time: Approximately 4 hours by flight from Incheon to Manila.
  5. China: Embark on a journey through the ancient wonders and modern marvels of China. Visit the Great Wall in Beijing, marvel at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, or explore the futuristic skyline of Shanghai.
    Travel Time: Approximately 2.5 hours by flight from Incheon to Beijing.
  6. Taiwan: Discover the hidden gems of Taiwan, from the bustling night markets of Taipei to the stunning landscapes of Taroko Gorge and Sun Moon Lake. Don’t forget to indulge in some mouthwatering street food along the way!
    Travel Time: Approximately 2 hours by flight from Incheon to Taipei.

So there you have it, folks – a glimpse into the endless adventures that await you as an English teacher in South Korea. Whether you’re exploring the cultural delights of Korea or jetting off to neighboring countries like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, or Taiwan, your journey is bound to be filled with excitement, discovery, and unforgettable memories. So pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Safe travels, adventurers! ✈️🌏

21Mar

Cherry Blossom Chronicles: A Friendly Guide for South Korea’s Newest Teachers

Welcome to South Korea, future teachers! So, you’re gearing up to teach in South Korea – how exciting! Let me tell you about one of the absolute highlights you won’t want to miss: cherry blossom season.

Picture this: late March to early April, when the air is filled with a sweet, floral aroma and every corner of the city bursts into a riot of pink and white petals. Yep, you’ve stumbled upon one of the most magical times of the year!

woman, on a beautiful outfit sitting on stairs under cherry blossom trees

Now, here’s the scoop – you don’t need a treasure map to find these beauties. Nope, they’re sprinkled all over the cities, turning even the simplest streets into breathtaking scenes straight out of a fairy tale. But hey, if you’re looking for the cherry on top of the cherry blossom experience (pun totally intended), let me introduce you to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae.

Oh, Jinhae – it’s like stepping into a painting. Imagine strolling through avenues adorned with cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see. Yep, that’s what awaits you. And the best part? It’s not just about the visuals. Nope, they’ve got you covered on all fronts. Gift shops? Check. Street food stalls? Double check. You’ll find yourself amidst a vibrant tapestry of colors, flavors, and experiences.

Cherry Blossom Streets
cherry tree on busy street

Let me share a little anecdote from my own adventure. Back when I was living in Busan, I decided to spice things up and joined a tour group called Enjoy Korea (nope, not sponsored, just spreading the love!). And let me tell you, it was a day for the books. We kicked things off with some good ol’ strawberry picking, followed by a delightful session of decorating chocolate-covered strawberries.

After all that, we made our way to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae. Iit was everything I’d hoped for and more. The vibrant hues, the buzzing atmosphere – it was like being in a dream. And the best part? I got to share this incredible experience with friends.

friends under cherry tree

Now, I know what you’re thinking – do I really need a tour group to experience all this goodness? Well, the short answer is nope. You can totally DIY your way to cherry blossom experience. A quick bus ride here, a scenic stroll there – you’ll get there just fine. But hey, hear me out – joining a tour group isn’t just about convenience (though that’s a big plus). It’s also about the people you’ll meet along the way. Trust me, there’s something special about bonding over cherry blossom sightings and shared awe.

cherry blossom map

So, there you have it,  – a little sneak peek into the wonder that awaits you in South Korea. And hey, if you’re curious about when and where to catch those cherry blossoms in full bloom, I’ve whipped up a handy-dandy prediction map for you. Yep, consider it your personal guide to cherry blossom paradise.Safe travels and happy cherry blossom hunting, friends!

20Mar

How to survive your first month as an English teacher in South Korea

korean city

The first month of living in another country is the strangest combination of wonder, confusion, excitement, frustration, discovery, and learning experiences. You’re living in a whole new freaking country!!! Life is crazy!!! My first month was equal parts good and bad, but I feel like it was because no one really told me what to expect in my first month living in South Korea, especially during a global panini. So, I’m here to be your fairy godmother and tell you exactly what you need to do, no matter how trivial it may be. Buckle up, get out a notepad, and don’t freak out. It’s a lot, but YOUR capabilities are so much more. Take a deep breath, you can do this. 

So without further ado, here’s the ultimate guide for surviving your first month as an English teacher in South Korea

Schedule your appointment at the immigration office for your ARC

FIRST THINGS FIRST. The most important thing you need to do in your first month as an English teacher in South Korea – even before you arrive into the country -is to schedule your appointment at your local immigration office so that you can get your Alien Registration card immediately. THIS is the website you can use. I waited to schedule mine until I was here and in quarantine, and I’m not 100% positive if it was because of COVID or if it’s always like this, but they were, to my absolute and utter chagrin, booked out for two months. This is definitely less than ideal, as you need your alien registration number for just about everything: ordering groceries, getting a phone plan, opening a bank account, food delivery apps, the WORKS. I was over here struggling for quite a while, and this all could have been avoided my simply scheduling my appointment farther in advance. The manager of your school will get you all set up with all the documents you need to make the appointment run as smoothly as possible. Mine cost 34,000 won, which is about 30 USD. Make sure you don’t schedule it for the week you arrive, however, as you need to go to a local hospital for a health check.

Health check

Speaking of, the next thing you need to have on your radar is the health check for the Alien Registration Card. You’ll go to a local hospital (ask the director of your school which one is best! The one closest to me charged 160,000 won, while the one a little farther away was 80,000 won (67 dollars instead of like 130). They’ll check your eyesight, hearing, take a chest x-ray (wear a sports bra, otherwise you’ll have to change – also they made my friend take her nipple piercings out just so you know what to expect), have you pee in a cup, and take a blood sample. This has to be done at least 8 days before your appointment at the immigration office, so plan accordingly! They are also very particular about health check results that are a few weeks old, so try to schedule them as close together as you can without cutting it too close with receiving your results.  I just walked in to the hospital, and it took about an hour. You’ll have to bring 3 passport pictures as well as some sort of I.D. (I brought my passport), and you’ll have to go back on the specified day to pick up your results! Bring these results to your appointment at the immigration office.

korean bbq
korean temple grounds

Go to a GS 25, CU, or 7/11 with cash to get a metro card

Public transportation in Korea is really just the greatest. Busses, taxis, metros, you name it – South Korea has it. You can get a public transport card at any convenience store, and you can refill it at any time. One thing to note, however, is that you can only load it up with cash, which is a little bit inconvenient, but it is what it is! You can use this card on the metro as well as the bus system. To navigate, I recommend the Kakao Metro app, Kakao Maps, Naver Maps, and Google Maps. If I can’t find an address on the Korean apps, I head over to google maps, get an idea of where it’s located, and then simply drop a pin on Kakao Maps. Google maps doesn’t have public transportation info and sometimes it’s really hard to find things with the Korean apps, so I always use a combo no matter where I’m going. It’s a hassle, but you’ll get used to it.

Acclimate to your teaching schedule

Getting adjusted to your new schedule as an English teacher can be really tricky! I was given a physical schedule, but it was really confusing and the labels didn’t tell me anything about my schedule. I ended up completely making my own throughout the course of the next few weeks, and now I know exactly where I’m supposed to be and when. It’s a learning curve, and thats okay! You’ll get it in time. Lots of people say that they don’t even like their job until after month 3 – so if you don’t know how you’re going to survive being an English teacher in South Korea – just keep pushing through.

Go to Daiso first, and then Homeplus or Emart

As far as your apartment goes, I made the mistake of starting off by going to Emart. I didn’t have a whole lot of furniture, and was given nothing from the teacher who came before me, so I was starting completely from scratch. I had to buy dishes, pots and pans, bedding, decorations, EVERYTHING besides a bed and a small table, so I thought Emart was the way to go. Turns out, it’s way more expensive than somewhere like Daiso. Daiso is like the dollar store of South Korea, but way better. Whenever I go to Daiso, I’m just like a kid in a candy store. It has everything you could possibly need, including the cutest decor, better quality dish-ware, and practical things like laundry baskets – just way cuter. 

As far as online ordering, you can’t get a Coupang account (which is like the Amazon of Korea) until you get your ARC. Until then, you can order off of G-market. Korean addresses are a little tricky, so it took us a few tries to figure out. Just keep at it! One thing that you’ll probably want to order if you’re starting from scratch is a mattress topper. Something about Asian mattresses is just so wrong. They’re always hard as a rock and super low to the ground, so a mattress topper will ensure you get a good nights rest after those long days of dealing with crazy kids. 

I bought a coffee pot and a tea kettle off of G-market as well that I use every day, and made a trip to the local IKEA for some curtains, bedding, and decorations.

korean islands
korean temple roof

Buy a prepaid sim card to tide you over

So obviously you can’t get a permanent phone plan without your ARC, but you CAN get a prepaid sim card! I made the mistake of trying to use a 7 day E-sim card, where the company would send me a QR code for 7 days of data, but honestly it was SUCH a hassle and 100% not worth it. I also bought a sim card from a convenience store, but it ended up asking me for my foreign registration regardless. I was at my wit’s end, but then I ended up ordering THIS sim card that has 30 days of data on it, and it was a physical sim card that got mailed and delivered right to my apartment door. It was only 25 ish dollars and has been the greatest find of my entire life here tbh. Phone plans really are a hard time until you get your ARC, but save yourself the hassle and just get one of these right off the bat – or even better, buy a SIM card and have it shipped to your house before you even leave!

Bumble Bff, Facebook groups, everything you need to know about making friends

I was so paranoid about not being able to make friends when I got here. Honestly, the location of where I live is pretty disconnected from the rest of Busan, which I was initially really bummed about. Before I left the United States, I joined a few facebook groups and tried to introduce myself in them in an attempt to find like-minded, similarly-aged people that I could meet up with. I even messaged a few youtubers I knew who lived in the city and asked to hang out with them — they even said yes! 

As far as facebook groups go, I joined Every Expat in Korea, Women in Busan, Girls Gone International Busan, and Hiking in Korea. I’ve been able to meet up with a few people through those groups, as well as find the answer to just about any question I had, no matter how random it seemed. Some of the groups even held events pre-covid that helped expats meet other people who speak their languages and share their interests. 

Surprisingly, however, the biggest saving grace for me since coming to South Korea has been Bumble BFF. I know right?? Who woulda thought? not me, that’s for sure. I initially downloaded it with very low expectations, but it’s honestly let me meet my best friend here, and in turn meet all the rest of our friends, as we had much more confidence to go out and make new friends and experience new things together. Don’t knock it til you try it! My male co-worker gave the boys version a go and we are sorry to report that the mens Bumble BFF scene in Busan is not poppin’, but feel free to give it a go regardless! 

Don’t worry about making friends:)  They will come! It takes a little while, but they will come. Give it time! Foreigners are coming in and out of Korea perpetually, so maybe your new best friend just hasn’t made it in yet. Keep the faith!

friends hiking in korea wearing facemasks

Once you get your ARC

Once you get your ARC, there are so many things that you can now do. for example: Get a permanent Korean phone number, finally open a bank account, buy from Coupang, Etc.

Buy an actual phone plan

One of the main reasons you need to rush to get your ARC is because it’s actually really difficult to get a phone plan in Korea with a contract that’s less than two years, although you ~can~ find plans for 1 year. I got my bank account two months into being here, and I can’t find a monthly plan, but I also don’t want to pay for 12 months when I’ll only be for 10 more? It’s a dilemma I’m currently in, and will continue to update this section as I find information! 

The main phone carrier here it KT, and there are KT stores everywhere. Once again, if you go with your employer everything will go wayyyy smoother! It’s definitely an irrationally difficult thing to do, and I’m just considering sticking with my prepaid SIM card, even if it means I can’t register for any food delivery accounts or Coupang. I might just suck it up and save the money lmaoooo

Open a bank account

Even before you get a phone plan, you have to have a bank account to link your monthly payments to. Setting up a bank account in Korea is really tricky if you go by yourself, so make sure that your employer either goes with you or sends someone to help you. While there are some more foreigner-friendly banks, the in person branches typically don’t have many people who speak English. Make sure that while you are setting up your bank account, that you ask for internet banking to be an option for you; the only way you can get online banking is if you set it up along with the initial bank account set up. Additionally, make sure you clarify that you need to be able to send money home. If you don’t get a remittance account set up as soon as you set up your bank account, it becomes a little bit of a nightmare. 

I us KB, but I asked my employer for KEB – it definitely got lost in translation, they’re so similar! Oh well, so far it’s been okay. KEB is the typical foreigner bank because of the English hotline that they have, but sometimes you just need to take whatever your employer has so that they can easily get you your money.

Random useful tips to help you survive your first month teaching in South Korea

This isn’t anything revolutionary, but just a few tips that would’ve made me feel much more in the know than I was when I arrived! Maybe you already know this, maybe you’re clueless like me. Either way, heres 2 or 3 tips to help you out! 

If you can’t find any silverware or napkins at the table in your restaurant, make sure you look underneath the table for a drawer! A lot of restaurants keep everything in a small drawer attached to the underside of the table. 

Always give and receive with two hands! Especially when you’re buying something at a store and dealing with money, it’s a really culturally aware thing to do, and something that I thought wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is. You don’t want to offend anyone! 

There are special seats in the subway reserved for the elderly, handicapped, and pregnant, and even if every other seat is filled and all of those are open, you DO NOT sit in them. You just don’t. You will get yelled at. Its typically a group of three at the front of the train car – it has a sign above it with pictures so just keep an eye out! 

Everything else is pretty similar to the west in terms of modern-ness, but although it is a very developed country with a huge emphasis on English in the school system, the language barrier is one of the most intense I’ve ever experienced, so get you a talk to me in Korean textbook and start learning some phrases! (bonus points because all my students absolutely LOVE me telling them what I learned in my Korean lesson that morning – they absolutely die over it).

I know it sounds like theres a thousand things to do to survive your first month as an English teacher in South Korea, but trust me: Once you get all the annoying adult-y things sorted out and all set up, it’s smooth sailing from there! Life in Korea is pretty tricky in the first few months, but please don’t get discouraged. 

Chances are you’re doing this straight out of college too, and even adulting in a familiar setting without a language barrier is hard! Give yourself grace to make mistakes, not figure everything out the first time, and to just adjust to this new chapter in your life! 

Think of all the funny stories that even the failures will give you to tell your kids

You’ve got this <3

20Mar

10 things I love about South Korea

Of course, I can’t write an article about 10 things I hate about South Korea without balancing it out with a list of 10 things I love about South Korea! There are so many things that I adore about life in this country and that I will miss when I head back to the United States.

I’ve been in Korea for a grand total of 5 months and while some aspects have been challenging (as would any move abroad, I think), Korea is such an amazing place to live and I will always sing it’s praises and encourage anyone to move here if they’re on the fence or considering it. It has been such a life changing experience, and I’m not even halfway through!

Whether you’re coming to visit or coming to live for a period of time, I hope you love Korea just as much as I do.

1. The Cafes

I know I complained about how the cafes here don’t sell savory food in the list i wrote about things I hate about south Korea, but in reality – Korean Cafe Culture is absolutely insane and I LOVE it (I just have to remember to eat a real meal before I go to one). The cafes here are as if they were made with Instagram in mind. They’re always so aesthetically pleasing and the desserts are absolutely gorgeous. Even if coffee isn’t your thing, all the cafe’s I’ve been too have refreshing tea options as well. 

It’s a running joke that now, when I Facetime my friends, they ask me how many cafes I’m visiting that weekend instead of what my plans for the weekend are. There are so many to see and too little time! I like to justify it by calling it blog research LOL gotta find the best of the best for you all!

aesthetic looking korean cafe
korean baked goods

2. The Food

If you read my post about the time I spent wasting away in quarantine, you’ll know how apprehensive i was about Korean food. I hadn’t had a lot of experience with it prior to coming, but what I did eat in quarantine had me worried for my survival here in Korea, especially with me having to eat all the school lunches. 

In a fabulous turn of events, however, Korean food has turned into one of my favorite parts of living here. I LOVE Korean cuisine. From the infamous Korean BBQ (which really is as incredible as they all say), to Shabu Shabu (my personal favorite), to rice cakes and hotteok, Korean food just does. not. miss! I’m completely obsessed with it and am terrified for the day when I can’t find a barbecue place on every single street when I move back home.

korean bbq
korean food

3. The Honor System

Another thing about Korea that I had heard rumors about before coming but convinced myself that I would need to see it to believe would be the honor system thing they have going on here. Crime here is SO LOW; people just don’t really do bad things. They don’t take what isn’t theirs. 

One time I left my Lululemon water bottle at a bus stop for four hours, and I came back to find it sitting exactly where I left it. I can leave my laptop out in a cafe and run somewhere for food or snacks from the convenience store and come back without a single doubt that it will be right where i left it. Sometimes people leave their wallets outside the grocery store (idk why but i’ve seen them lol), their umbrellas outside the restaurant, and their shoes in the cubbies at the front of the establishments that require you to wear socks, and people just leave your stuff alone! 

Although there are always kind people wherever you go, I’ve gotten my fair share of property stolen back in the United States or in Europe, as have all of my friends! It’s just not the same anywhere else I’ve been to.

4. Movie Theaters

Okay this might be a little bit of a cheat because of course I can’t speak to all movie theaters across Korea, but the only ones I’ve ever been in have full on beds instead of chairs, or even reclining chairs, and it’s just so fabulous. 

I’m not even a movie person, but I will never say no to a movie here – the seats can be adjusted three different ways, everyone is so spread out, your butt doesn’t get sore from sitting 2.5 hours in the same spot (movies these days are so long amiright?) and I will never be able to go back.

5. Public Transportation

Okay so hear me out. I don’t know if I’ve just never lived in a big enough city, or I’ve always just been blessed enough to have a car available to me, but public transportation in South Korea is NEXT LEVEL. Between the subway, the city busses, the inter-city busses, the KTX high speed trains, and the insanely cheap domestic flights, but you can always get wherever you’re trying to go for CHEAP. A swipe on the subway costs about a dollar, as does a bus ride. 

Taxis are also something I will miss so much when I go home to America. I’ve heard stories of my friends paying 40 dollars for an uber to take them 10 minutes away- and I just revel in the fact that 40 dollars in a taxi could literally take me 3 hours away from my starting destination. 

While I miss driving back in America, I do not miss paying car insurance or the increasing prices of gas – I’ll stick with my dollar metro swipes that can take me all the way across town in about an hour. I really don’t know how I’m going to go back to the way it was before — Definitely ranks very high in the top 10 things I love about South Korea.

woman wearing mask and gracefully sitting in front of korean temple.

6. Safety

The majority of the response when I announced that I was moving to South Korea was: “Is that safe? How close will you be to North Korea? What if the two countries break out in nuclear warfare. Do they get tsunamis there? What are you going to do – Dye your hair?” 

But for real: I feel safer living here than I do back at home. I don’t know what it is about America that is so conducive to crazies but I live on an unlit street in a really old apartment building, and never once have I felt uneasy walking home in the dark. I’ve never had a strange encounter on the subway (Looking at you New York), and while people stare (I am the only natural blond in probably a 3 mile radius), everyone keeps to themselves. 

Like I said before, crime is very low, CCTV is everywhere, and I feel so safe living here.

7. Nature to City ratio

I’ve always loved nature, but I’ve always labeled myself as a city girl. The best thing about living in South Korea, and Busan in particular, is that it is the ~perfect~ ratio of city to Nature. 

I get all the perks of living in a city – the public transportation, accessible shopping, hip and trendy restaurants and cafes, the connection to all other major cities and activities, but I have countless beaches in front of me and towering mountains behind me. I could go hiking and surfing in the same day. It is IDEAL. 

Sometimes all you need is a little nature to rejuvenate you when the city becomes a little too suffocating – but on the flip side, you always need the liveliness of the city to balance out the calm and relaxation of nature. When I can get both in a day, I am a happy girl – and I can’t wait for summer to roll around to I can actually start living my best beachy life.

blonde woman with brades looking over geological formation
some mountains next to the sea

8. Convenience Stores

Although America has convenience stores on every block, one of the things I love about South Korea is how NEXT LEVEL their convenience stores are. You can buy handles of liquor, soju, a whole meal, fully cooked sweet potatoes, fried chicken, you can cook your ramen, make your iced coffee, and even eat there at the tables and chairs they usually provide. 

They have anything and everything you could ever want, and if you’re on a budget and visiting Korea, just know that you can always do one convenience store meal a day to keep the budget in check!

The guy at the convenience store I go to for coffee every day is basically my bff and gives me all the one-day-expired treats for free — and that may sound gross but who cares LOL.

9. The Fashion

I thought that I had decently good style before coming here, but it’s just like I talked about HERE, if you’re moving to Korea to teach English, to study abroad, or even just to visit for a while, don’t pack as much as you think you need. The shopping here is out of this world, and Koreans are so perpetually put together that even in your pre-planned outfits you’ll feel frazzled when you stand next to them. 

There is a plethora of areas to shop in any given city in South Korea, between boutiques, western stores, and the underground/subway shopping malls (it’s a strange concept but those 5 dollars sweaters don’t miss), you’re completely covered in the fashion department. 

One thing I love about Korean fashion is how baggy everything is. They’re not overly obsessed with showing skin or having a perfect fitted shape and it makes the fashion look so effortlessly cool and is so so comfortable. 

Also, I simply will not wake up in the morning and wear color; that’s pretty much the vibe here too and it makes shopping an absolute breeze. On the other hand – if you’re a fan of color, you might be out of luck!

Ft. me trying my very hardest to stay on par with the fashion – I promise it’s better than this but im trying my VERY HARDEST to save my money okay you can do better than me I know it.

blonde woman, wearing ICONIC clothes. Very fashionable.
woman wearing revealing, yet dignified outfit. She looks like a fashion model.

10. Health Care

And last but not least: I swore to myself that I wouldn’t make this a point on my list, as literally everyone who’s ever written a post like this does, but I recently had a run in with a horribly infected cartilage piercing that had to be surgically removed and it was so seamless and cheap that I have NO CHOICE but to add it into my list as well: the health care. 

I was initially terrified when I saw how swollen my ear was and how difficult to get out my piercing was proving to be, and I was SO SCARED to go to a doctor that didn’t really speak English. Also I had no idea how far back this was going to set me.

So you can imagine my surprise when the doctor completely cleaned out my ears, calmly removed my piercing, bandaged me up (an ear bandage?? who would’ve thought) and sent me on my way after taking no more than 25 dollars from me. 

AND THEN I went to the pharmacy to pick up the literal 48 pills this mans prescribed me, once again terrified at how much it would cost. After all, one time the pharmacy back home tried to get me to pay 800 dollars for a cream for rash, because insurance wouldn’t cover it. 

The pills cost $2.38 – and the pharmacist APOLOGIZED that they weren’t completely free. OMG. 

It’s amazing. I’ve definitely been fortunate to not realize what a struggle it can be for people in the United States, but I 100% understand now. It’s insane, and something I will have to RELUCTANTLY give up when I move back.

And that’s a wrap!

I know this mini-series started off on a little bit of a bad note – although complaining about all of the things I struggle with was all in good fun, it has definitely concluded on a good one. 

Although there are a lot of challenges that come with living here, or even visiting for the first time – and that come whenever you move or travel anywhere new and out of your comfort zone, I have found so many things to love about this place. I know I still have a solid 7 months left here but I already know I will miss all these things when I go.

20Mar

The Wonders of Living in Daegu

Why you should consider living somewhere other than Seoul

If you look up “must-visit” places in South Korea, there are a few cities, temples and beachside destinations that often come up. The bustling city of Seoul, the ancient Hanok village in Jeonju, and the beautiful beaches of both Busan and Jeju Island are some of the most popular destinations. While these locations are definitely worth visiting, anyone who is considering teaching in South Korea might want to look elsewhere when deciding on where they want to live.

Despite being the fourth biggest city in South Korea, Daegu is often left off of these must-visit lists. While it may not have the amount of shopping you can find in Seoul, the nostalgic, historic feeling of Gyeongju, or the stunning black rock beaches of Jeju, living in Daegu has a plethora of perks on its own. I lived in Daegu for two years in the gorgeous Suseong-Gu area, and I miss it all the time.

Daegu is known for being set in a low valley with lush green mountains all around it. It was wonderful to have such greenery close by all year long, and to be surrounded by that view no matter where I went. The summers were hotter than anything I’ve ever experienced (the locals often call it Daefrica due to the humidity in the summer months) because of its location, but the view made it worth it. The gorgeous Geumho river flows through the city, and was one of my favourite places to rent a Kakao Bike to ride alongside. There are small parks, trees, and flowers everywhere, which makes the city a perfect combination of metropolitan mixed with nature. It’s busy but not overwhelming, with a bustling nightlife downtown and a thriving music scene. 

(The Geumho River)

One of my favourite things about Daegu was the main train station. Dongdaegu Station is one of the most well-connected stations across the entire country. In just one hour, you can get to Busan on the KTX; in just over two hours, you can get to Seoul. There are buses that will take you to many nearby towns in just an hour or two, including Gyeongju, Geoje, and Tongyeong, as well as direct buses to popular sites such as Haeinsa Temple. If you’re okay with longer bus rides, you can also get buses to further destinations such as Andong, Yeosu, Gwangju and some bigger cities in Gapyeong and Gangwon-do. There are sometimes transfers in Seoul for these longer rides, but they are always quick and easy (and cheap). The Daegu Airport also flies to Seoul and Jeju directly!

(Okyeongji Lake)

While it is definitely a transportation hub, the city of Daegu itself has lots of cool places to visit. Among these are the Yangnyeongsi Oriental Medicine Culture Center, the cable car on Apsan Mountain, Suseong Lake, the Daegu Arboretum, Okyeongji Lake and of course, E-World. My personal favourite place in Daegu was Palgongsan, and the breathtaking Donghwasa Temple that’s nestled within its mountains. I took the hour–long bus trip into the mountains on multiple occasions, both alone and with friends, and loved it just as much each time. The downtown core, which revolves around Dongseong-ro, is full of both Korean, European, and North American brand clothing stores, as well as thrift stores, restaurants, bars and shops.
(Palgongsan Mountain, entrance to Donghwasa Temple)

(Daegu Arboretum)

(View from Apsan)

Another thing that I loved about Daegu was the number of cute cafes. While South Korea is known for its quirky and beautiful cafes, most people only know of and visit the ones in Seoul. There are so many more cafes outside of the capital! I frequented many of the cafes in my neighborhood and across the city, even making friends with some of the local owners who would sneak me free treats and drinks. I’ve lived in both France and Italy and visited many other countries, and have never seen so many beautiful cafes in one place! I didn’t drink coffee before I moved to Korea, and now I definitely do.

(Daegu Cafe)

(Christmas at Suseong Lake)

In conclusion, while more popular cities might seem more exciting and enticing, there is something to be said for picking a place to settle down in that’s a bit lesser known. I consider myself to be a big-city girl with a small-town heart, and Daegu very quickly felt like home to me. It has everything you need, including a state-of-the-art metro and bus system, art galleries, museums, local shops and cafes, high-end stores, and amazing food. While English may be less commonly spoken in Daegu than Seoul or Busan, I didn’t find that it hindered me at all. In fact, learning basic Korean, using Papago Translate, and just simply trying to communicate landed me with some wonderful Korean friends and wholesome interactions. So if you’re thinking about moving to Korea and aren’t sure where to look, consider taking a chance outside of the main cities, because you just might fall in love with a place like I did.

14Mar

The Ultimate Korea Bucket List

No – this isn’t Rome, it’s one of Korea’s many cafes that seem to have been MADE for instagram – there are so many for you to add to your Ultimate Korea Bucket List!

If you know anything about me, it’s that I have the worst case of FOMO you’ve probably ever encountered. Because of this, whenever I go to a new destination, I obsessively plan everything out so that there’s no chance that I miss the opportunity to do something, especially if it’s seasonal. So when I moved to South Korea to teach English for a year, I went full type A and made a list of everything I needed to do in the calendar year, fittingly naming the note in my phone: The Ultimate Korea Bucket List.

Whether you’re living in Korea for a year to teach English, or simply trying to decide the best time of year to visit, I’ve decided to publish this Ultimate Korea Bucket List for your convenience. It isn’t a travel itinerary, and is definitely geared to people who are either studying or teaching here for a year! After all, wouldn’t it be a shame to live somewhere for a full year, and not take full advantage of it? For convenience’s sake, I’ve started with September, as that’s when most English teachers arrive to Korea, but feel free to skip to whatever month you’re arriving (or visiting!) in. Let’s dive right in.

The Ultimate Korea Bucket List:

Whether you’re living in Korea for a year to teach English, or simply trying to decide the best time of year to visit, I’ve decided to publish this Ultimate Korea Bucket List for your convenience. It isn’t a travel itinerary, and is definitely geared to people who are either studying or teaching here for a year! After all, wouldn’t it be a shame to live somewhere for a full year, and not take full advantage of it? For convenience’s sake, I’ve started with September, as that’s when most English teachers arrive to Korea, but feel free to skip to whatever month you’re arriving (or visiting!) in. Let’s dive right in.

The Ultimate Korea Bucket List:

September

Exploring your new home!

Because you’re probably just settling in as an English teacher or a student, chances are you won’t be super adventurous, as you’ll be so preoccupied with surviving your first month in Korea. In light of this, I just suggest doing some of the main tourist attractions in the city that you’re living in. This also helps you familiarize yourself with public transportation and build confidence in doing things alone. Whether it be Seoul, Busan, Daejeon, or a smaller city in Korea, there are lots of things to do no matter where you are.

Personally, I chose a job in Busan so that I could live in a city and be by the ocean, and I’ve not regretted my decision once! My first month, I Hiked the Igidae Coastal Trail, visited Gamcheon Culture Village and explored the famous temple by the sea, Haedong Yonggungsa. I hauled my tripod with me, as I hadn’t made friends yet, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me!

Chuseok Holiday

*** Also something to note is that the Korean Thanksgiving holiday (called Chuseok) happens in September, and I had a 5 day weekend! This would be my third longest break as an English teacher, and even though I didn’t have friends, I made the trek up to Seoul and explored on my own! I took advantage of this time to wear a Hanbok on a traditional Korean holiday – and wearing a Hanbok is, in and of itself, an item that should be on your Korea Bucket List! Traveling alone was very freeing, empowering, and a travel opportunity that shouldn’t be missed if you have holidays off at your job or school. If you’re based in Seoul, Consider coming to Busan, as the weather would still be warm enough to relax on the beach!

Another great location to spend Chuseok during September is Jeju, as the flights are cheap and the weather is still definitely warm enough to lounge on the beach and play in the crystal clear water.

 

October

Ulsanbawi hike – Seoraksan National Park

If you’re into hiking, October in Korea is a dream. if you’re not into hiking, it’s still a dream and you’re just going to have to give hiking another try! The main hike that I was dead set on doing was the Ulsanbawi hike in Seoraksan national park. It is a beast of a hike, and although not long, was straight up stairs the entire time. The view at the end, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in Korea, and if you have the opportunity to take a weekend and spend in in Seoraksan National Park, it will be well worth your time.

Nami Island

Another thing I knocked out in the same weekend, was visiting Nami Island. Since, I’ve been two more times, and although I’m a bit “Nami’d” out, it is still a really special place to see, especially in the fall. The Ginko trees (all the little leaves that I have all over my blog are Ginko leaves!) turn Neon yellow, and although I went to early for the leaves to be covering the ground as well as the trees (timing is tricky!) it was still an incredible day trip.

I took a tour with the company Enjoy Korea (the best tour company in Korea ever), and we knocked out Nami and Ulsanbawi in the same weekend. They made it very accessible and they’re definitely something to check out if you want to take all these adventures but are intimidated by logistics.

Daedunsan Hike – Cloud Bridge

A hike that I was dying to do in October was Daedunsan Mountain. They have an incredible suspension ladder as well as a suspension bridge they’ve nicknamed “The cloud bridge”. The fall foliage that time of year is absolutely incredible, but by the time I had a free weekend to visit, the trees were already bare and It didn’t seem worth it. I’m still hoping to get this hike checked off the ultimate Korea Bucket list before I leave, but the weather is warming up and it’s not looking like it’s going to happen!

November

Naejangsan National Park

This is something that you’d want to accomplish either in October or early November, as the main draw for this is, once again, the fall foliage. Once again, figuring out the transport logistics would’ve been crazy, but I looked into it and there were tons of tours offering day trips from my city! Defnitely check out Viator for some affordable options if this is something you want to do. I didn’t end up making the trip, and I’m kicking myself for it, as I won’t be staying another year!

It’s definitely hard to fit in everything you want to do, and while I did my best there’s still boxes left unticked 🙁 Do a better job at planning than me!

Temple Stay 

Another perfect thing to do as the weather is cooling off but before it gets too freezing, is to attend a temple stay. Living with real Buddhist monks for 2 days and going through their daily routine is an incredible experience that you shouldn’t miss!

I have yet to do this, and summer is approaching, so I’m definitely going to be sweating profusely for my two days, as I’m not entirely certain of the state (or existence) of the air conditioning in Buddhist temples to be completely honest.

Still, it’s something I’m not willing to leave Korea without doing, so I will complete this tick this item off the Ultimate Korea Bucket List and report back shortly. Stay tuned.

December

Christmas Break

Chances are, you have at least a week off for your Christmas break. What you do with this is completely up to you! Because I was visiting while there was still a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon entry to Korea (meaning I couldn’t leave the country during my holidays:( , I didn’t venture too far! Again, I was based in Busan, and had only been to Seoul once, so I used this time to really explore Seoul deeper than I had been able to over Chuseok. Oh, and I had friends with me this time, which definitely made things better!

One thing that I didn’t get to do that you should NOT miss is to visit the DMZ! you can actually set foot inside North Korea, and I’ve heard great things about the tours – plus you get bragging rights LOL!

Use this time to either travel somewhere tropical, or if you want to stay in Korea, go somewhere new! There are plenty of cities left for you to explore, or even day trips to be taken from your home city. December is a choose your own adventure kinda month!

January and February

Lunar New Year

Obviously, South Korea has some pretty brutal winters. There’s not that much that you can comfortably do in January, besides trying out lots of new restaurants, going to all the aesthetic cafes that Korea has to offer, or going to different exhibits and galleries! There’s nothing pressing for you to do in January, to be quite honest, except towards the end! Typically, the Lunar New Year holiday falls towards the end of January or the beginning of February, and most schools give you a long, typically 4 day weekend. With this short little holiday theres a few things I suggest you doing:

Garden of the Morning Calm

This is probably the best place to see Christmas Lights in all of South Korea! The Garden of the Morning Calm is the biggest private Garden to put on a light show like this, and although the weather at night when the lights turn on is absolutely freezing, all you need to do is grab some spiked hot chocolate to keep you warm while you take in the beauty! It really feels like you’ve fallen into a magical fairy forest with all the lights everywhere. It’s something I’m really glad I didn’t miss!

Ski Resort

Korea is famous for being an extremely mountainous country, and between that and the brutal winters, it makes for some really excellent skiing and snowboarding! There are many to choose from, but I personally went to YongPyong Ski resort through a tour company, and it made getting there and renting gear super easy! I had never snowboarded before, but they gave me a small lesson and the bunny slopes made it really easy to learn!

YongPyong has a few olympic hills that you should definitely try out if you get the chance, and regardless of you’ve ever done anything like that before, I think it’s definitely worth a shot while you’re in the country.

March

Weekend Trip

While the weather is still pretty cold in March, you’ll probably get a fake little spring where you get a really warm weekend! When I was here in March, we took advantage of that by going to Daegu for the first time, and it was awesome! It’s definitely important to get out of your comfort zone and go experience something a little different from the usual routine, so I say take as many weekend trips as you can while living in Korea! Whether you visit Pohang, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, or even Seoul for a weekend, the odds of you coming back to Korea after your study abroad or your teaching contract are probably slim so it’s important that you don’t let opportunities like this slip by.

Jjimjilbang

Another thing that’s perfect for the tail end of winter is going to a Jjimjilbang. a Jjimjilbang is a traditional Korean bathhouse, where there are loads of different saunas, pools, hot tubs, and areas for you to relax. The real kicker of these bathhouses is that you generally have to strip naked for them! Although it sounds intimidating, it’s just the way things are done so no one really looks twice.

If you happen to be in or near Busan, there is a massive Jjimjilbang in Centum City called Spaland, where they have at least ten different sauna rooms made of different materials, ranging from mosaic tile to pink Himalayan salt blocks. They have cold plunge pools and hot tubs, and you can even pay a little extra to get scrubbed head to toe. This activity is perfect for winter, as it’s super relaxing, it warms you up, and it adds in a little self care during the months that are a little bit extra hard on all of us.

April

Jinhae cherry blossom festival

Without a doubt, the greatest thing to do in South Korea, and maybe top item on the Ultimate Korea Bucket List, is to see the cherry blossoms come to life. There are so many different places you can do this, and there are incredible places to view the cherry blossoms, especially in major cities like Seoul and Busan, but if you’re committed to the cause, the 100%, hands-down, best place to see these gorgeous flowers is by attending the famous Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.

I’ve never quite seen something like that in my life, and while it was very crowded, everyone was very respectful of everyone else’s photos and experiences, and there were so many iconic places to capture views of the cherry blossoms. If you can make it happen, as it is fairly out of the way, definitely do so; you won’t regret it.

May

Biseulsan Azalea festival in Daegu

Although I missed my chance to visit this festival, I’ve heard incredible things about it! Flowers in South Korea are absolutely no joke, and during the springtime, it seems as if every two weeks another gorgeous flower seems to overwhelm the entire country, and in May, azaleas blanket not only the countryside but also the cities. There are a few mountains just outside of Daegu that are completely covered in azalea shrubs, and for two weeks in the beginning of may, it turns the mountains completely purple.

Still kicking myself for missing this one, but it is truly an incredible sight to see if you get the chance!

Buddha’s birthday

Another absolute TREAT that happens in South Korea during the month of May is Buddha’s birthday. It is a national holiday and a nearly month long celebration, where cities hang up lanterns along major roads and Buddhist temples absolutely COVER the grounds with scaffolding that makes it seem as though you’re walking through tunnels that are made completely of colorful lanterns. Wherever you are in Korea, be sure to visit your local Buddhist temple to partake in the festivities, but if you happen to be in Seoul or Busan this month, some of the best temples to see are Beomosa, Samgwangsa, and Jogyesa.

June

Beoseong green tea fields

One of the greatest things I go to see in Korea, and definitely something that you should add to your ultimate Korea Bucket List, regardless of how far away it may be from you, is to see the Green Tea Plantation in Boseong. You can see these mountains covered in lush green tea bushes between the months of late May to August, although I recommend going in the first few weeks of June before the intense heat that is so characteristic of Korean summers rolls in. All the different shades of green were just absolutely LUSH, and as my favorite color is green, I was living my very best life.

Obviously, be sure to try not only the green tea itself, but also the green tea ice cream, and whatever you do, ~DON’T~ skip out on the green tea churros.

Temple Stay

Another thing you should be sure to tick off your list before leaving Korea is participating in a temple stay. You can do this at most Buddhist temples for a fairly inexpensive price, and I’ve heard it’s some of people’s absolute favorite things to do while in the country. Apparently it’s a really eye opening experience: getting to participate in rituals and Tai Chi and having tea with Buddhist Monks sounds like an unforgettable experience, and while I haven’t been able to experience it just yet, I’m hoping to squeeze it into the three months that I have left in South Korea – and if I do I will be sure to update you!

July and August

Beaches and Boats

If you aren’t already familiar with the climate in South Korea, the summers are SWELTERING. The humidity is very high, and some parts of the country get unusually hot. It’s difficult to do a lot of things outside, unless you’re at a beach – so that is just what you should do during the summer. It definitely helps if you’re living somewhere that you have access to a beach, but if not, be sure to make the most of your weekends by traveling to places that do! Take surf lessons, go paddle boarding, or my personal favorite – charter a boat! As long as you have a big group, chartering boats in a place like Busan is very simple, and it’s a fun, inexpensive way to elevate your summer experience.

This is also another great time to visit Jeju island! Crystal blue water, waterfalls, more green tea fields, and pristine beaches can be found all over the island of Jeju, and if you’re not traveling internationally for your summer vacation from work or school, Jeju is the perfect place to unwind and relax.

That concludes the Ultimate Korea Bucket List!

Of course, there are endless things to do in South Korea – especially if you’re really into hiking! I don’t have a lot of hikes on this list, because although I am very into hiking, I know a lot of people aren’t! And I haven’t found many friends that also enjoy hiking so that’s definitely put a damper on my exploration of the mountains here. Additionally, there are so many more smaller cities that have so many hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re trying to decide what month to visit South Korea, or trying to figure how to maximize your time as an English teacher or a student living here for a year, hopefully this comprehensive bucket list helps organize your schedule and gives you ideas for how to explore this lovely country.

12Mar

How To Make Friends As An Expatriate

Moving to a new country is a huge step to take – there are so many things that you have to do to set up your new life outside of your home country! From figuring out banking and phone plans, adapting your diet to the potentially more limited options at the grocery store, dealing with navigating a new public transportation or road system (maybe in an unknown language!), there’s a lot to think about. Although all of these things are important, the only thing that will truly make a new place feel like home is a sense of community. But how exactly do you go about finding friends as an expatriate? 

Unfortunately, finding friends in a foreign country isn’t as easy as making friends at home is – especially if you don’t speak the language! At home, you had school, work, the gym, a random person that you can communicate with on the street (the language barrier really makes it difficult!). But in this new country, you never know if you’re gonna have co-workers who have similar interests or are even in a similar age bracket as you! Maybe you’re the only foreigner at your job. Maybe you don’t have a job! There are so many barriers that make finding friends as an expatriate seem discouraging – but never fear! I’m here to tell you the secrets to building a thriving community of friends during your years as an expat. 

How to make friends as an expatriate: 

Bumble BFF 

No this is not sponsored – but hey Bumble plz hit me up?? And I know it sounds a little bit silly, but if I’m being honest, the majority of my friend group is all thanks to this silly little app. For a little bit of background, I came to South Korea to teach English for a year, and I’m living in Busan. I hopped right on Bumble BFF the first week I was here, and I met up with a lot of girls who were in similar situations! Before I even met up with the girl who has become my best friend here, she was able to help me start my washing machine (it was all written in the Korean alphabet!) I don’t care how introverted you are, everyone needs a friend to help them when you have problems. It doesn’t hurt if they’ve been living in the country for longer than you and can show you the ropes! I have met up with lots of girls from Bumble BFF, and while not all of us have become forever friends, I definitely struck gold with the ones that have stuck. 

  1. Meet your friend’s friends!

This sounds like a given, but it’s something that should still be mentioned! Victoria, the girl I met on Bumble BFF, invited me to a bar, and her co-worker, another girl around our age, invited everyone that she knew. Her male co-worker even sent invites to a few girls that he knew, and we organized a blind girls get-together! The girls that her male-coworker invited have quickly completed our little group of 4, and we never would have met them if it wasn’t for a little bit of faith and initiative! Never be afraid to reach out to people you know ~of~ but don’t necessarily know; you never know when it can pay off in a big way. Never be afraid to politely invite yourself to something you know is going on, even if it is a little uncomfortable or nerve-wracking! Friends are so important, especially as an expatriate, and you have to step out of your comfort zone to find them. Rarely are they dropped into your lap! 

  1. Facebook Groups 

Before coming to Korea, I joined multiple facebook groups of all different types: foodie groups, an all-women’s group, a general group for my city, a hiking group, etc. There is literally a facebook group for every interest, and they frequently organize events and meet-ups. This hasn’t really happened for me as meetups don’t happen as frequently during pandemic times, and South Korea had a 6 person limit on gatherings for a while, but I’ve had success with the hiking group here! Hopefully everything begins to die down soon and these meetups start to happen more frequently again, because facebook groups are an awesome way to meet people. 

  1. Talk to People 

I know this sounds so obvious but sometimes it can be intimidating to put yourself out there! Although I love the Korean friends that I do have, there’s just something so comfortable about meeting people who share your first language as well as the new chapter of life you’re experiencing – so whenever I see a foreigner on the streets here my first reaction is always to strike up conversation! Maybe they’ve established a life here and have no interest in meeting new people, but maybe they’re in the same boat as you! I know that the two girls who approached me during my first week here to tell me that they liked my outfit made me literally so happy when they went out of their way to do that. We exchanged instagrams and they were able to give me so many recommendations of places to check out in the area. One weekend, I saw a group of foreigners in a

bar and decided to go up and join in! We all became fast friends and exchanged instagrams. Fast forward a month or two, and one of them asked if my school was hiring! Surprisingly, it was, and now we are co-workers and bffs. Talking to people will never steer you wrong. Whats the worst that could happen? 5. Fitness Classes 

Another way that I’ve managed to make friends here in Korea is by going to Yoga class every week! Another expatriate that I know is a yoga teacher in Busan, and she frequently hosts English classes and advertises them to other English speakers living in Korea. She hosts fundraisers as well as your typical weekly classes, but every week brings in a new crowd and I’m starting to realize how small the expat community really is in our particular city. We all hang out for a little bit after class, just talking about weekend plans and our weeks at work, and we’ve all even planned a trip for this Sunday to visit the cherry blossom festival up in Jinhae. Check in any facebook groups to find English speaking fitness classes and check some out! You literally never know where you’re going to find your new best friend. 

  1. Expat Bars 

Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the local spots as well, but it does kill the vibe when you or your friend tries to go up to someone to say hi and you end up having to bust out Papago or Google Translate to understand each other! Life abroad can get lonely, and a lot the regulars at expat bars end up becoming as close as family. Living abroad as an expatriate can be really lonely, especially around holidays, and lots of bars will provide Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner so that you don’t have to spend it alone. I’ve found a few here in Busan, and between Thursday night trivia, darts competitions wing Wednesdays, UFC on Saturday mornings, and holiday dinners, I’ve made lots of friends and always feel like I have a place to call home. If you find someplace you like, I guarantee they have a facebook page and you can be in in the loop and have lots of opportunities to make friends. 

  1. Go on dates 

This is general advice, as I have a lovely long distance boyfriend, but this has worked for my friends. Often times, one date is all it takes to realize that you’d be better off as friends anyways. Or, if it goes well, meet ~their~ friends, and maybe your people will be there. This isn’t my favorite point, as going on actual dates is

much more scary than Bumble bff dates, and people can be scary and weird sometimes, so be sure to use your discretion and always stay safe, but it is a very effective way to meet people and find friends! 

  1. Be Patient! 

You may meet lots of people, but true friends are hard to come by. If you’re lucky, you’ll find them first thing, like me. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer, and that’s okay! Please never let the lack of people around you deter you from going out and exploring by yourself, by planning trips for you and you alone, from setting up a freaking tripod to take a cute little picture of yourself. There is nothing wrong with learning to enjoy your own company while you actively look for your people who will make this new place feel like a home. 

Good luck! I know you can do it. Put yourself out there, meet your people, find your community, and thrive in your new life as an expatriate in an exciting, new country!

05Mar

Your First Day as an English Teacher in South Korea: What to Expect

Hey there, future English teachers gearing up for your big move to South Korea! So, you’ve landed the job, packed your bags, and now you’re ready to take on your first day in the classroom. But what exactly can you expect? Let me walk you through it.

  1. Preparing for Day One:

Before diving into your first day, you’ll likely already be in touch with an English teacher from your school. If not, I highly recommend reaching out and asking for some contact information. You might even be living in the same building, so why not suggest grabbing a coffee or walking to work together? It’s a great way to get some insider tips and tricks from someone who’s been there, done that.

  1. Getting Acclimated:

Once you arrive at your school, you’ll be introduced to the staff and shown to your classroom. Don’t be surprised if you spend the first few days shadowing another teacher and making trips out with the staff for administrative tasks. You’ll be setting up your life in Korea, from getting your ARC card at immigration to setting up a Korean phone plan and bank account.

  1. Ready, Set, Teach:

After all the admin and shadowing, you’ll finally be ready for your first day as a teacher. You’ll put all that training to use, but trust me, nothing beats the real thing. That’s why I recommend asking a coworker for a daily checklist of tasks to keep you on track. From taking attendance to grading assignments, having a routine will be a lifesaver.

  1. Classroom Management 101:

One key to a successful classroom is establishing clear rules and expectations from day one. Print out a set of rules and hang them on the wall for easy reference. Make it a habit to have students recite the rules daily before starting the lesson. This will help you maintain order and address any misbehaviour quickly and effectively.

  1. The Name Game:

On your first day, make sure to introduce yourself multiple times and ask your students for their English names (and make sure you’re saying them correctly!). Trust me, you don’t want to be like me and accidentally call a student “Hyena” for an entire term before realizing her name is actually “Hannah.” Lesson learned!

  1. Establishing Relationships:

Finally, don’t stress too much on the first day. Focus on building a good relationship with your Korean coworkers—they can be invaluable resources and mentors. I was lucky to have a coworker who understood the challenges of being new to a country and was always there to lend a hand.

So, there you have it—your guide to surviving your first day as an English teacher in South Korea. Remember to breathe, take it one step at a time, and most importantly, enjoy the adventure! Cheers to new beginnings and unforgettable experiences. You’ve got this!

“Don’t stress too much on the first day. Focus on building a good relationship with your Korean coworkers—they can be invaluable resources and mentors” Victoria White