Random Things I’ve Learned After 2 Years in Korea

It’s like I got a Phd in random life skills or something. So here are some of the many things I have learned as a resident of Korea and traveler around east Asia.

~How to make banana bread in a rice cooker

~The perfect cold, dead, teacher stare to give rowdy children

~How to deter chatty strangers

~An eclectic, but by no means fluent, Korean vocabulary

~How to be the grill master at Korean barbecue

~The freedom of not tipping anyone ever (!!!!!!!!)

~Aegyo (aka the language of Korean flirting)

~That dating and courtship in Korea can be intense

~The power of gestures

~Details about dozens of countries and cultures from all the international people I’ve had the privilege to call my friends here in Seoul

~That moisturizer is the most important thing ever

~Humidity can ruin everything from your bread, to your toilet paper, to your first date

~How to live without a car

~How to navigate public transit in various countries and cities

~That sometimes I do need to iron my clothes

~How to haggle with the adjummas

~The sparkly wonder of Kpop (but we don’t talk about Psy, okay?)

~The importance of always having tissues and/or moist wipes in your bag

~How to navigate assertively in really big crowds

~Communal eating in a relatively clean, hygienic way

~How to be funny in more than one language (or at least give it a shot)

~How to luxuriously sleep on floors

~How to be naked in a room full of equally naked strangers

~What really good sushi is (this one is thanks to Japan tbh)

~How to make a positive impression on Korean moms

~The power of not caring that you stand out as different

~That occasionally stereotypes are true, but that’s okay, don’t let them limit you

~You can pack a lot of exploring in even when you’re working full time

~The Korean police can be nice and helpful, even for foreigners

~Living with a roommate can be pretty cool

~Kakao Talk is amazing and everyone should download it

~That hostels are really the best

~How to roughly calculate multiple currency exchanges, time zones, and Celsius to Fahrenheit in my head almost instantaneously

~Korean people aren’t necessarily more shallow, they are just way more blunt and open about the facts that appearance is extremely important

~How to simplify my words to help people with a basic understanding of English grasp meaning from what I need to teach them

~How to (usually) successfully order clothes online that look good and fit well in real life

~The importance of a good neighborhood cafe

~You can teach yourself almost anything from the internet

~How to keep relationships alive across thousands of miles and a handful of time zones

~How to pretty successfully tell who is Korean, who is Japanese, who is Chinese, and recognize various other Asian ethnicities and languages

~Kimchi really is magic

To be honest, it’s hard to boil down exactly what I’ve learned these two years. I’ve learned a lot about what I want from life, what my priorities are, and what I need to be happy. I’ve grown up a lot in Korea. I’ve learned what it’s like to be an outside, a minority. I’ve learned what it’s like to be completely responsible with no one to protect me from my mistakes (which is why a miscommunication resulted in my apartment having now gas for 6 weeks recently).

I’ve also learned that soon it will be time for me to go. Now that I know who I am and what I want, I know that Korea isn’t going to give me those things in the long run. In a few months, I will be saying goodbye to this strange place that often lives in the past, but with all the technology of the future.

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