Heellooooooo family, friends, and random cyberspace wanderers!
Well, we’ve been residing in Korea for over 3 weeks now, though it feels much, much longer than that! It took us the past 2 weeks to settle in to our flat, because we started work 4 days after arriving, and just due to the sheer unfamiliarity of it all!
The weather was freezing when we arrived, so cold that we had to go out and buy an extra duvet. It’s gradually been getting warmer, though; there’s a little creek running alongside our apartment lined with cherry blossom trees, which started to bud a few days ago.
Our apartment building!
Side street in ‘Mugeo-dong’, the University area where we live.
The city we’re living in, Ulsan, is MASSIVE. Prior to coming, we’d read that it was just a relatively small, industrial shipping town, pretty much unknown to tourists. But it is stupidly huge. We tried walking from our apartment in the University area to the city center, and it took us an hour and 40 minutes just to reach the outskirts of the center. So needless to say, we’ve only seen a fraction of Ulsan thus far. Thankfully, public buses are plentiful and seem to be constantly running, and it’s a flat rate fee of $1.00 to travel wherever you want within Ulsan.
We haven’t experienced any severe culture shock since arriving here, but there are definitely some significant differences. For example, all my baking hobbies have flown out the window, because there’s only one tiny gas ring in our kitchen. So we’ve been boiling and refrigerating rice, and then making stir fries. Food prices are really different over here as well: bell peppers are crazy expensive, about $2 each, but all kinds of exotic mushrooms are dirt cheap. Meat is CRAZY expensive, like $10 for a tiny packet of beef strips. Consequently, our diet has become mainly mushroom and tofu-based. Though we have been able to find reduced-price meat if we go late-night grocery shopping.
Most of all, we’ve learned that there is a severe amount of misinformation on the internet, regarding what you should and shouldn’t bring when moving to Korea.
EVERY forum and website I looked at said to bring bath towels, because Koreans dry themselves with tiny hand towels – this seems to be true, but it’s crazy easy to find proper big towels at places like Costco and Home Plus (Asia’s Tesco), for about £5, which is actually way cheaper than you’d get ‘em in the UK!
We also read that we’d have to bring enough clothes and shoes to do us for the year, because Korean sizes are so tiny Westerners are incapable of fitting into them unless they’ve been professionally altered. All I can figure is that the people writing on these forums and websites must be HUGE, because Koreans are by no means small people, they’re actually pretty stout and stocky. My students tell me I’m horrifically skinny and that I need to ‘do more fatter.’ Eoin had no trouble finding new trainers upon arriving; he’s actually lucky he waited to buy new shoes here, because his size is always on the reduced racks.
Anyhoo, we’ll take more photos this weekend and then I shall post another update!