Two days ago I boarded a plane to Seoul, South Korea. It has been a bit of rough journey, and there have been a few unpleasant surprises along the way, but I am trying to move past that and embrace the journey. After talking my way out of a middle seat on a full plane (always be nice to the ticket agent!), the 12 hour flight wasn’t terrible.
When I arrived in Seoul, my bags were the last to slide off the conveyor belt. I think one of my least favorite feelings in the world is watching every other passenger walk away with their bags and not knowing if yours is lost. It was about 7pm when I landed, and the driver dropped us off at the new apartment around 9. This was the most unpleasant surprise of the day. I had been coordinating with our agency, SeoulESL, and they had sent me photos and a description of a brand new loft with modern appliances, a western shower, and plenty of space.
After entering the building, I quickly realized that ours was not the same apartment as in the pictures. Suffice it to say, my now current apartment is a far cry from the one in the photos- with peeling plaster, used junk left from the previous residents, and a (I guess) Korean style shower faucet that is hinged to something about sink-level. I couldn’t figure out how the hot water worked that night and went to bed after a freezing spray of water over my body. I woke up in a foul mood, took it out on my boyfriend, and was considering calling the whole thing off and catching the next flight home. It took a day, but I am in better spirits (still no word from the agency about why the apartment was switched, though.)
The following morning, we met another couple who was living in the same building and will be working with us. They showed us how the hot water worked (thank goodness) and took us to our local home appliance store. Got a coffee maker, so thank God for small favors. There are so many new things to learn in Seoul and it feels a bit overwhelming. For instance- you have to put coins in your grocery cart for it to unlock. (Figured this out after struggling for about five minutes.) I am also coming to the realization that I need to make learning Korean a definite priority, as the English signs in our neighborhood are few and far between. It’s been harder than I thought to find vegetarian food. My washing machine is all in Korean and it took me quite a bit to figure out how to start a load (The verdict is still out on whether I have ruined my clothes.) The subway system is a maze that I am not sure I will be mastering for a while.
After living in Thailand, I was under the misconception that my culture shock in Korea would be limited and I would assimilate quickly. I think I might be in for bit more than I expected. I start work Monday and will be updating with a video blog of my experiences soon! I am trying to remember to stay positive, and realize that some things are hard when you begin them. You just have to keep going.