Life in Korea

Where to begin??? Weird, wacky, and wonderful all come to mind!! To quote a passage from an article I read before I left for South Korea:

"South Korea is by turns intriguing, perplexing and infuriating. But if you can get past the grime of Seoul, the breakfasts of pickled cabbage, and the occasional poisonous snake, you'll discover why its people have fought for so long to maintain their hold on this tiny, undulating, peninsula perched in the Sea of Japan."

I had such a great time in Korea culturally, that my wife often remarks that I have a fixation on the country. The food, the travel, and the people were very fascinating. Koreans were kind, friendly, and eager to help you out in any way possible. I can't explain what it does for one's personal development as a human being to be thrust into a "new" life where you can't speak, read or write.

Travel Opportunities in Korea

Korea is a very small country that is blessed with an excellent system of in-country transportation. A very efficient and affordable network of trains, buses, and flights links the entire country. This makes it easy to get around. While in Korea I initially decided that I was not going to do a whole lot of travel, as I wanted to save my money. Then one weekend, I rented a movie called Before Sunrise that featured a young couple traveling around Europe on a train. I was so impressed by what they seemed to learn from their experiences and their lack of concern over money that I vowed to travel more. It turned out to be an excellent decision and I had a wonderful time traveling all over Korea. Taking the train was my preferred method.

You will find Korea is a cultural treasure house of places to see and explore. One of the advantages of teaching overseas is the opportunity to travel both in Korea and beyond. Korea is still a relatively unknown tourist destination despite its attempts to launch itself into the international spotlight. In 2002, Korea hosted the World Cup of Soccer and the country had a huge influx of tourists. A new world-class airport opened in March of 2002 in Inchon, new subway lines and roads are opening, and English signs are being posted to make it easier for travelers.

Seoul is a huge city with a population of 12 million. It offers most of the benefits and alas, the frustrations of any big urban metropolis. Yet, it does not feel like it is as big as it really is! Cultural events, concerts, symphonies, operas and art exhibits (local and international) visit the city. The palaces in the downtown core offer an insight into the lives of the nobility during the reigns of various dynasties in Korean history while their gardens offer a respite from the city's hustle and bustle.

For the outdoors-minded person, there are wonderful hiking trails in the many national parks throughout Seoul and the rest of Korea, or you can stroll through the site of the 1988 Olympic Games. Walking, rollerblading, and cycling trails along the Han River are very popular with Koreans. There is a variety of dining options from fast food restaurants, local Korean cuisine (yummy!) or five star restaurants at some of the international hotels. Although the traffic and pollution can be a frustration in bigger cities, you will quickly find ways to cope with this by using the cheap and plentiful public buses, subway system, and REALLY inexpensive taxis.

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