I have been thinking about writing a post like this for a while. Like every country, Korea has its plus points and minus points. I often talk about why I enjoy living here in my other posts, so today I am going to talk about a few things I am never going to get used to in Korea.
1. A Lack Of Heating Control
Now, this doesn’t apply to homes. And it doesn’t apply to most businesses. But it certainly applies to my school. As I type this, I am sat in my office with my hands going slightly numb, cold feet and shivering somewhat. That is because, although we have a heater in here, it is either off or turned on so low it wouldn’t even melt ice. And this isn’t just my school. My girlfriend often has to ask for the heat to be turned on in her office, even if it is -11 Celcius outside.
On the other hand, there is heating at home. I am quite lucky that my neighbours above and below me blast their heating almost all winter. This means my gas bill is low because I rarely have to use mine. At Marta’s, it is a different story. She can only have the heat on between 10pm and 8am. This results in her either having a cold apartment for much of the time, or sleeping in a sauna every night.
2. Ahjussi spitting everywhere
I am often alerted to the presence of ahjussi (older men) in Korea by the sound of loud hocking followed by spitting. This is s habit that, at home, is not acceptable or widely seen. I have tried getting used to it, and it certainly bothers me less than it used to, but nonetheless I still find it a pretty disgusting habit. You can often see large splatters of spit and phlegm on the streets and I am even woken up or kept awake by groups of ahjussi hanging outside my apartment and just smoking and spitting. If I have one pet peeve that I could change about Korea, it would probably be this. The sound followed by the splat of spit as it hits the ground still makes me nauseous after being here a year and a half.
3. The High Rate of Male Smokers
This is something that surprised me when I first moved here. Sure, you see smokers back home. But in Korea, around 41% of men smoke and, until recently, it was incredibly cheap to do so. The government are taking measures to reduce this incredibly high rate. For example, the price of cigarettes has almost doubled this year (2500 won to 4500 won minimum). This isn’t something that bothers me, like the previous post, I just found it shocking how widely spread smoking culture is here.
4. The Smell of Sewage
Often in Korea, you will walk down the street when a particularly pungent scent hits your in the face. That, my dear readers, is the scent of sewage. I am not sure what causes it, short of being around drains, but it is an unavoidable part of living here. Before I flew out, I was told by someone who had been here how badly it smelt but I brushed that off as them being slightly racist (as people seem to be in my home town). It gets particularly bad in the summer, when the stench mixes with partly rotting food bins and (oddly) the smell of manure. This is something that, over time, I have got used to but every now and then it will still catch me off guard.
Well that is it for now, dear readers. I hope this post educates you on a few things to expect when you first move here.