Gift-giving in Korea

Gift-giving in Korea is a strong tradition in Korean culture. If you ever invite Korean friends to your home, you’ll notice that they will always bring you some fruit, dessert, a drink, or sometimes all of the above! Of course, gift giving on special days (holidays, birthdays) is a must. But what about giving a gift to your director/principal and Korean coworkers when you arrive?

We recommend something small from your home country. A souvenir, something symbolic of your home town, local region, or just your country in general (maple syrup from Canada, for example). Here are some gift ideas you can consider for your boss, head teacher, and Korean coworkers:

The Boss (director/principal):

  • A bottle of wine or other fancy drink: something that can be used as decoration. The more expensive it looks, the better (it doesn’t have to actually be expensive)!
  • A tin of fresh coffee: ground or unground will work. It’s surprisingly hard to find good stuff in Korea!

Your Head Teacher:

  • A big jar of multivitamins: vitamins in Korea are not nearly as strong, and Koreans are very health conscious.
  • A jar of delicious, fresh honey: as always, the more expensive something looks, the better.

Your co-teacher(s):

  • Because you are probably not sure how many co-teachers you will have, the best option is to get something that can be shared by multiple people. Some candy, a box of chocolates, a selection of nice tea to put in the teachers lounge, etc.

Of course your friends and family members will be eager to receive little trinkets from you when you come back home a year later. Here are some ideas:

 

Chinese_seal_and_paste

Personalized Stamp

A Personalized Stamp

  • You can get their name engraved on it…. in Korean! Or, you could be sneaky and write something totally different. They’ll never know!

A Magnet

  • Cliché, we know, but you can find some pretty hilarious ones!

An “Engrish” T-shirt

  • Engrish refers to grammatically incorrect variations of English, often found in East Asian countries. An Engrish t-shirt would be the ultimate gift and you won’t have trouble finding them. Anyone who has spent time in East Asia will know that the shirts you find here are shirts you cannot find anywhere else.
Animal hats!

Animal hats!

Animal Hats

  • Keep an eye out for the ones that have long “paws” that hang down to your waist. Hilarious!

Metal Chopsticks

  • Korea is the only country in Asia that eats with stainless steel chopsticks. Korean chopsticks are also flat, like the handle of a western fork or spoon, rather than round or square like other Asian countries.

Cosmetics

  • Interesting fact for you: the most popular item tourists want to purchase in Korea is beauty products. Some of the popular brands include Skinfood, Etude House, The Faceshop, Missha, Innisfree and Nature Republic.

Phone Covers

  • Cell phone cases are a dime a dozen in Korea, and they come in the strangest shapes and sizes. You’ll struggle to find such a variety elsewhere! You’ll find them everywhere- vendors on street corners, markets in the subway station, or for a larger variety, you can visit the popular shopping districts in Dongdaemun, Myeongdong and Itaewon.

Soju

  • Interesting fact #2: Soju is the top selling alcohol brand in the world! Who wouldn’t love to have that checked off their list.  Maybe stock up on some yourself, as the price of Soju at home will be at least triple the cost of what you can get it for in Korea.
Korean socks!

Korean socks!

Socks

  • Whether you’re looking for PSY’s face, flags from different countries, or just plain ol’ cartoon characters, there’s something for everyone!

 

 

For those who have been in Korea for awhile —  what would you add to the list?

 

Differences between expats and travelers

You spot them both in the street. It’s Saturday.

The expat is walking with confidence; you wouldn’t realize that he* is actually lost. He is walking with a smile on his face and along the way, he has picked up some little cultural quirks. He’s not even aware of the fact that he’s doing it. He asks for help, using mostly body language and waits at the bus stop, for the next bus to arrive.  He’ll find his way.

 

A girl* is walking past. She is trying to make sense of her map. I’m almost certain that it’s the wrong way around, but hey, I’m just observing.  Her schedule is tight: She’s got places to go and people to see. Everything has been planned to the minute, and she’s getting frustrated. She signals for a taxi to stop, because he’ll be able to get her to the address, written on the back of one of her many tourist flyers…She’s called, a traveler.

There are a lot of differences between expats and travelers.

 

1. Going with it vs Planning

He has a broad idea of things to do, but he will take lemons and make lemonade. He’s got a lot of time (even though a lot of expats don’t use it as well as they should), and instead of having a list from TripAdvisor, he keeps his ears open and listens to recommendations from the people around him.

A traveler has a limited amount of time. Every second counts, and therefore, it’s easier to do research beforehand and follow the plan

2. More Adventurous (Risk takers) vs Comfort zone

The expat likes to take risks. After all, he left his home country, everything he knew, for the unknown. He gave up the privilege to spend Christmas at home as well as the luxury of understanding people. He took a step, and had no idea where it would lead to. It takes courage not to run back home at the first setback.

3. Friendly, more adaptable to culture vs their own way of doing things     

The expat is a lot more flexible and adaptable than the traveler. The expat is aware of the fact that he is the visitor in another country, and he has to adapt to their way of doing things.

The traveler is used to her routine, so she sees no reason why she needs to change for other people. She’s frustrated pretty quickly, because she expects things to go according to the way it is in her home country. She’s not too fond of changes.

 

4. Less snobs, your group of friends is as dynamic as ever

As the year goes by, the expat makes friends. Lots of them. One as dynamic as the other. The main thing they have in common, is the fact that they:

  1. Moved abroad
  2. Get homesick
  3. Like to explore

It doesn’t matter as much where people are from or what they are doing here. It’s more about the fact that you are her now, and that’s all that matters

 

Travelers can come across as being a bit more pretentious. They choose who to hang out with, with a bit more care…….

 

5. Expats know they don’t know, Travelers “know”

The expat is the one who will tell you all about the city that you are about to visit. He’ll refer to the fact that there’s just way too much to do, and that you’ll never have enough time to see it all.

The traveler will tell you how she got everything done in a few days… she was actually bored by the end of her trip. They’ll tell you “everything you need to know”

You don’t know what you don’t know, Ms. Traveler…

 

6. Think about life vs not to

The expat is the one who is moving to a different country, a new life. He has time to ponder about life, to think about the things that matter and the things that don’t…

 

It’s very different that being on vacation. You see the world around it, you see the beauty in it, and on impulse, you might decide that you want to move there too… Know that traveling through a country and living in it, would be 2 different experiences. Know that you’ll have a job, do dishes and pay bills, just as you did back home. This time, you might just find it a bit more difficult to communicate to those around you.

 

This is a generalization to the extreme of the differences between expats and travelers. You might  know some travelers who are more adventurous than some of your expat friends. True. Expats just tend to be, according to the stereotype.

* The fact that the guy is an expat, and the girl is the traveler, has nothing to do with genders, but it is merely to make it easier to distinguish between the two people.

What NOT to Say to an Expat

I’ve been gone for a while, and I know you don’t fully understand the ways that I’ve changed. So, to every expat-friend-and-family-member-ever:

Here’s what not to say to an expat.

Before moving abroad

Will-Work-For-Travel1. You’re going to Korea? No way! My cousin’s friend’s uncle’s niece is also teaching there. What a small world.

Yes, everyone knows someone who is in Korea, or who has been here,or who will move here. It’s just the way it is.

2. I’ll come visit you

Right. And unicorns exist. Say it when you mean it. We’ll be really disappointed if you don’t.

3. You’ll become so rich.

I’m flying to another country, and I’m working 5 days a week. Just as you are. I still have to eat and sleep and pay the bills.

 4. You’re so lucky!

What’s stopping you from joining me?!

During your stay

1. When are you coming home?

One day. Maybe. For now, I consider this home. When are you moving here?

2. When will you get a real job?

I go to work every morning, I work an 8-9 hour day, I leave when it’s done, and I get paid for it. What would you consider as a real job?

SONY DSC

Mmmm… Comfort Foods.

3. You must really miss (insert food)?

And you just had to remind me.

4. Do you know (insert name) from (insert country) ? He is also there.

Yes, we are a group of 10 foreigners in the whole country, and there are big flashing arrows over our apartments so we can conveniently find each other.

5. Your life must be one big adventure.

I have a job. I have bills to pay. I miss out on Christmas at home. I would have liked proper Mexican food. Yes, I chose this, but it is what I make of it.

After moving back home

Awkward_title

… silence….

1. You’ve changed… (awkward stare)

Is that a bad thing? It happened over time. My world got bigger, and I’ve been challenged in ways I never would have at home.

2. How was the trip?

Such a hard question. It wasn’t really a “trip”… you won’t really get it…

3. So, did you eat insects and stuff?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Which explains my trimmed physique. Naturally.

4. How would you say (insert foreign word) in (insert language)

Yes. I’m fluent. So glad you brought that up.

 

So please, friends and family. Be patient with us. Support us. Give us time to rediscover how to do life in the West. And above all, remember to start preparing for when you return home from living abroad.

Any extras you can think of? Let us know below!

Korea-Expat-Video-Channels

6 Awesome Korea Expat Video Channels

Last year, Alexa Hart from Atlas Sliced released a great YouTube video highlighting six awesome Korea expat video channels. Together they give a great insight into the many amazing (and at times, very strange) aspects of life in Korea! Check out her video and once you are done, be sure to visit the video channels that we ever-so-kindly broke out for you below!

[Update] The original video posted by Alexa Hart from Atlas Sliced is no longer available – but you can still check out the channels linked below!]

Here are the 6 Korea Expat Video Channels that Alexa mentions:

Backpacking Travel TV

  • Samuel and Audrey are the faces behind Backpacking Travel TV, a food, cultural & travel channel. Their videos will take you around Korea (and the world!) through culture, food and humor. Topics include visiting markets and temples, eating street food, traveling by train, and their daily quirky adventures.

Eat Your Kimchi

  • You can’t live in Korea without watching the uber famous Eatyourkimchi duo, Simon & Martina. They make high-end videos about K-pop, Korean Food, Traveling in Korea, Korean Indie Music, and much more.

ExpatKerri

  • Kerri posts great weekly videos about travel, expat life, and all things Korea!

Semipermanent

  • Part travel show, part cultural documentary, this series shares the stories of interesting expats while showing the city through their eyes. One to watch!

QiRanger

  • Long-time expert expat, Steve Miller (QiRanger) releases popular travel videos and video blogs about travel and Korea. Great, engaging videos on a number of awesome topics including new Korean beers and Korean pizza vending machines.

Michael Aronson

  • Awesome parodies and songs from this former New Yorker and now honorary Seoul citizen. He writes songs, make music videos, and talks about Korea! Don’t miss these!

If you have any favourite expat video channels about life in Korea or China, send us an email: [email protected].

 

Arriving in Korea: 5 things you should know!

You’ve waited weeks for this moment, perhaps even months. You have landed at Incheon Airport, and you’ve been told how to get out of the airport (take a bus into Seoul, look for someone holding your name when you come out of baggage claim, etc). But you probably have no idea what comes next, right?

Here’s how to make your first weeks after arriving in Korea a little less stressful:

1. Internet

Once you arrive, you should be able to find the free WiFi at Incheon Airport. While you’re waiting for baggage, standing in immigration lines, or waiting for your bus to arrive, you can use your laptop or phone to connect to the internet.

If your school is putting you up in a hotel for the first few days, you’ll probably have internet access. If you’re going straight to your apartment, it all depends on whether the teacher before you has cancelled or kept their old internet contract.

Solution: Find a coffee shop in the area – they are plentiful, and most have free WiFi. You could also look for PC-Bongs – computer rooms.

2. Your Apartment

Do you have any expectations about what your apartment might or should be like? Some advice – don’t have any. It will probably be dirty. You’ll likely spend your first 2 days deep cleaning every single surface. You’ll probably have to throw out a bunch of random stuff that was left by the teacher before you.

Trust us – it happens to everyone. Just buckle down, clean it all up, and then start to settle in. And hopefully the experience will motivate you to leave the apartment in a better condition when you head home!

Apartments in Korea come in different shapes and sizes, and just remember to keep an open mind. After all, this will be your home for at least the next year!

3. Language

You’ll learn how to use hand signals you never knew existed… you’ll probably make up a few, too!
No: Cross your arms  in the form of an ‘X’
Yes: Show the Okay sign
Be cute: Show the peace sign, next to your face

Learn some basic Korean – a little bit goes a long way! Then, learn how to Read Korean – if you have someone helping you, it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours!  You won’t have any idea what 99% of the signs actually mean, but hey, you’ll be able to read them!

4. Grocery Shopping

There might be a Home Plus, Lotte Mart or E-mart close to you. If not, you’ll be able to get the basics from corner stores like CU, IGA, 7-Eleven or GS25. You should also have a bakery, like Paris Baguette, in the area.

You’ll slowly get to know which products you can find (and which are impossible to track down) in Korea. Until then, make friends with people who have been in Korea longer than you!

5. Dealing with colleagues

We’ve created this section, to get you prepared for the working culture of Korea, and to give you an insight in what might be expected of you. This will change your attitude in the workplace and definitely score you some brownie points in the office!

 

Eager to know more? We’ve spent a lot of time developing Adventure Teaching’s Guide to South Korea. It’s packed full of information that will help you know how to navigate your first few days in Korea!

 

So, what did we miss? Do you have any stories to share about your arrival to Korea?

Let us know: email [email protected] or leave a comment on our Facebook page!

 

 

Useful Websites in Korea

Are you new to Korea? Have you been here for a few years? Either way, we’ve found these useful websites in Korea to be super helpful in planning nights out, weekends away, or exotic trips out of the country.  We hope this list will assist you as you create memories overseas!

Social

English Magazines in Korea – up to date events, photography and entertainment.

Movie showtimes in cities throughout the country, all in English!

Find friends in your area – a super helpful interactive map of Facebook groups in South Korea.

Adventure Korea and WINK –  want to travel Korea AND meet people? Check these sites out!

Korean Gig Guide – Concerts & Shows in Korea – great calendar listing many of the great shows in Korea.

Transportation

Bus / Train Schedules all over Korea – so that you can choose the easiest / fastest / cheapest way to get places.

Cheap flights – want to go explore Asia? This list is an amazing resource!

Seoul Subway – an interactive Seoul subway map.

Driver’s license – Get your driver’s license in Korea

Food

Kimbab Heaven – an online menu, full of cheap Korean comfort food. It’s a little outdated, but the basics are there.

McDonalds Online – watch out for the McDonald’s delivery scooters zooming around the streets of SoKo – McD’s does delivery in Korea!

Teaching Resources

Learn to Read Korean in 30 minutes.

Lesson Plans – if you don’t know about Waygook yet, well, you should!

Shopping

Gmarket – quick finds when you need something in-country.

Expat mart – the one stop online grocery store for shopping fresh fruits, vegetables, frozen food and daily use essentials

iCompany – the place to get hold of furniture

Hummus in Korea – fresh, homemade hummus is just a click away

iHerb – they sell nutritional supplements and other healthy products

High Street Market –  offers a relaxed western style shopping experience with hard-to-find foods such as imported meats, artisanal breads, gourmet cheeses and imported beer and wine, all under one roof.

 

Can you think of any useful sites we need to add?

Let us know: [email protected] or comment below.

 

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Accommodation in Korea

Accommodation in Korea

A free apartment?! Say what?? You’re coming to Korea soon and you want to know where you are going to stay for the next year, right? Wouldn’t you want to know more about your accommodation in Korea? Sadly, you won’t get an address before you arrive. You also won’t see pictures or get a list of what will be waiting for you – unless you’re in touch with a current teacher whom you’re replacing.  You won’t know what’s in the neighborhood – is there a gym? A shopping mart?  Any cool bars?

Luckily, most apartments provided to foreigners arriving in Korea follow the same format. You’ll have a washing machine, a kitchen, a stove, and a fridge/freezer. There are rarely ovens or dryers in Korea. You’ll have a bed, and will probably have the luxury of a heated floor. Almost all apartments provided to foreign teachers are studios.

Things that may be left behind by the teacher you’re replacing:

  • A couch… and maybe a TV
  • A desk
  • A fan
  • A clothing rack to dry your clothes
  • Basic utensils
  • A microwave

Tip for the adventurous, thrifty types: You can often find free furniture around your apartment building. We call it “dumpster diving” – Koreans are constantly getting rid of super nice furniture/home items. You’ll find these items near the garbage/recycling area of an apartment building. Everything is free for the taking! Or you can always hit up Craigslist.

You will have to get use to the following:

  • You apartment will be a mess when you arrive. Get mentally prepared to spend your first 48 hours enduring a deep clean (seriously, you’ll have to bleach everything…)
  • Taking off your shoes inside
  • Using a code to get into your apartment, not a key
  • Your shower is your bathroom… literally… right over the toilet.
  • No bath tub
  • No yard – but some buildings have sweet roof-top patios!

Some examples…

Apartment 1:

  • 9th floor – a lovely view of hundreds of other apartment buildings
  • A combined living room, bedroom, and kitchen area – typical studio style apartment
Bedroom

Bedroom

Living room

Living room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Entry

Entry

Bathroom

Bathroom

Apartment 2:

  • 14th floor
  • combined living room / bedroom / kitchen – typical studio
Bathroom

Bathroom

Bed and Desk

Bed and Desk

Living and Kitchen

Living and Kitchen

Living area

Living area

Apartment 3:

  • 12th floor
  • combined living room / bedroom / kitchen – typical studio style
Bathroom

Bathroom

Kitchen

Kitchen

Living area

Living area

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

From removing the Kimchi mold from your Korean refrigerator to scrubbing the tiles in your bathroom during your first day in Korea, from throwing out some of the belongings of the previous tenant to discovering that your closet is actually a refrigerator – all of these small things are what makes living so far from home an adventure every day! Remain flexible, greet each day with an open mind, and trust us – you’ll have an unforgettable journey! Hope your accommodation in Korea exceeds your expectation!

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Learn to read Korean in 15 Minutes

Learn to read Korean in 15 minutes

Did you know that you could learn to read Korean in less than an hour?!

This picture has been created by Ryan Estrada – It’s famous for being a good way to learn to read Korean, in just 15 minutes… (Took some of us closer to an hour), but imagine spending 1 hour – and being able to save so much more time in the future, by being able to read!

The written alphabet is made up of symbols that represent phonetic sounds, unlike the Chinese alphabet that uses pictures to represent thoughts or whole words. The entire Korean language is make up of only 19 vowel and consonant sounds. Though many foreigners can learn to read Korean with ease, it is difficult for English speakers to grow in fluency due to the complex grammar of the language. When you are done here, head over to the Korean Language page, and test your pronunciation…

Now get that pen and paper ready… Let’s Learn to read Korean!!!

How to Read Korea

 

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English Magazines in Korea

Various Free local English magazines in Korea.

These English magazines in Korea, provide information on the following topics:

– Things to do, Korea’s Treasures (Places to go), Events, Comprehensive Guides, Interviews and so much more!!

 

Groove Korea 

More expats turn to Groove Korea than any other publication in the country for our news analysis and extensive community, music, sports, travel and food coverage.
Groove Korea is the country’s most-read English publication, including the three daily newspapers. 

This is their online issue for November 2013:

 

Seoul Magazine

Seoul Selection is a Seoul-based book and magazine publisher. They publish SEOUL, a monthly English language magazine that provides a wealth of information for foreigners traveling and living in Seoul.

With in-depth reporting on culture and living, foreigners’ perspectives on living in Korea, an overview of Seoul events and cultural news, SEOUL magazine is an indispensable resource for those who want an insider’s viewpoint of Seoul life.

An online edition of November 2013:

 

Busan Haps

They claim:

“It’s for you. The reader. The Writer. The Photographer. And the people typing weird things in Google.”

Busan Haps Magazine is a bi-monthly print magazine featuring stories of people from all walks of life in Busan, covering news and trends in lifestyle, society and more.

If this is for you, you can find the issue of Fall 2013 here:

 

10 Magazine is more than just a magazine. In its many forms, it’s the #1 resource in Korea for expats and tourists who are desperate for information on where to go and what to do in this country.

Find their Facebook page here:

 

PIK

PIK is an online photography magazine featuring contemporary photography from established and emerging photographers living in Korea.

PIK publishes in-depth exhibitions, tips, reviews, and interviews and care- fully curated imagery, with the goal of helping to showcase lesser known but significant photographers, and bring their originality, creativity and style to a wider audience.

Find below the link to their second issue, November 2013:

 

 

Can you advise on any other English magazines in Korea worth reading?

Let us know!

[email protected]