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7 posts categorized "*Korean Culture"

The Five Major Things You Need to do When You Land in Korea

Step One: Fly to Korea

Step Two: Land in Korea

Step Three: Profit?

Okay, so ignore that last one but for real: you’ve landed in Korea, you’ve gotten to your apartment, you’ve met some of your co-workers (maybe even taken a tour of your school, and now you’re trying to mentally prepare yourself with navigating your way through this unknown and exciting world…now what? You here, you’ve made it, there can’t possibly be anything else to prepare, right? No, dear reader, that’s where you would be wrong. There is still more paperwork to be filled out and more things to prepare. Luckily, I’m here to give you a heads up!

  1. ARC (Alien Registration Card)  Id

Before you even eat your first piece of gimpap or snap your first “I’m in Korea!” photo you need to start setting into motion the paperwork for your Alien Registration Card. This is basically the Korean equivalent of a “green card” saying you are allowed to be working and living in the country. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “Isn’t that what my visa is for?” Unfortunately, dear reader, the visa only allows you to work and live in the country for up to 90 days and allows you time to work on getting your ARC. If your hagwon is like mine or you’re teaching at public school, then it is most likely that they have already started to set into motion this process; but not every school is the same and though the majority of the paperwork needs to be completed by the school it may be necessary for you to take the initiative. Don’t be hesitant to talk to your school about getting your ARC because it is also very beneficial for them: obviously if they hired you for a year or more then they probably would very much would like you stay longer than 90 days.

Your ARC is not only important in the fact that it is the only thing between you and deportation but it also necessary for you to have one in order for you to do important things such as, you know, get paid. Which brings me to my next point.

  1. Bank Account  Korean-banks

Depending on where you live and what banks you have near you, you may need to wait to get your. ARC before opening up a bank account (which why, in that case, it would be better to start the paperwork ASAP); but banks today are slowly allowing foreigners, or at least ones with specific types of visas, to open up a bank account without their ARC. My bank, KB Star (Kookmin), for example, allowed me to open up a checking account which came with a Mastercard credit card with only my passport and visa, and allowed my school to pay me through direct deposit.  And, boy, am I sure glad I opened it up so I could get paid because I would not have made it for another month!

Disclosure *Just be sure to ask your Korean co-worker or friend for help, and don’t be surprised if it takes longer than expected; getting a Korean bank account is much harder than in America.

  1. Wi-Fi and Korean Sim Card  Wifi

It’s a cliché to say, but in this day and age you cannot survive without Wi-Fi and data and being in a foreign country it’s even more so. I don’t think I could have survived with not being able to speak to my family and friends for more than a few days, which is why I took the initiative in getting someone to help me get a Wi-F- box for my apartment. It cost me around 40,000 won or around $35 for a Wi-Fi box plus an extra 20,000 won ($18) to get some equipment to set it up; and, yes, it’s true what they say Korean Wi-Fi is A-ma-zing. And it has been definitely worth it to get not just because I am able to keep up with all my favorite American shows, including Game of Thrones and Project Runway, but because in order to get used to some of the culture shock you’re going to need to be able to contact your family and friends for support, and I mean also Project Runway.

In addition to a Wi-Fi box you will need to get a Korean phone or sim card, depending on whether or not your phone is unlocked. (If your phone is not unlocked then you will need to get a Korean phone on top of a sim card plan). This has been a lot more difficult for me to get considering that I am still working on getting my ARC; unlike some banks getting a Korean phone plan does require an ARC number. And what’s more a Korean phone number is pretty essential to some things in everyday life. Whether it’s needing to call one of your co-workers for help, ordering a pizza, shopping online, or even being able to watch YouTube videos only suitable for 19 years or older, you need a Korean phone number.

There are a few alternatives to just waiting for your ARC in order to get a Korean phone number. Which is to buy a prepaid Sim Card that allows you to have a temporary mobile data plan and phone number. However, the downside to this is it tends to be a lot more expensive than a regular data plan and you may not have as much data available as you like. However, if you are not interested in getting a Korean phone number (because let’s face it everyone just uses Kakao Talk to communicate anyway) and are only interested in being able to use data while you’re out and about then a lot of people have mentioned to me that getting a Wi-Fi egg is the next best thing. A Wi-Fi egg is like portable Wi-Fi router and gives you a certain amount of date per day for 30 days, and once 30 days is up you can recharge it again for another 30 days for one flat rate. This gives a bit more data than the pre-paid Sim Card and is cheaper as well. Whichever you choose to get, I still think the most important thing to get is your Wi-Fi box so that you can use this next thing.

  1. Kakao Talk  Kakaofriends_talk

As I mentioned before, most Koreans nowadays uses an app called Kakao Talk to communicate. It uses Wi-Fi or data to make calls, send texts, and make video calls, and best part about it is it’s free AND you can already use your American phone number to make an account (it also has a bunch of cute characters as mascots who are Everywhere in Korea). I highly suggest this app because as soon as you get to Korea I guarantee your co-workers will be asking, “Hey what is your Kakao so we can meet up?” Of course, you can’t go anywhere without a T-money card.

  1. Public Transportation card  T-money-card

In Korea I constantly use my T-money card to get around. A T-money card is a rechargeable public transportation card that you can swipe to pay fare for buses, subways, and sometimes even taxis (depending on how much you have). Many convenient stores sell these cards for a small price and then you can go to any convenient store to recharge it. T-money is the most common card you can buy but there are other brands you can buy as well. I never leave home without it and it makes riding the bus less stressful than trying around to correct change for the bus fare.

Those are a few of the things I think you need to get as soon as you get to Korea, until next time dear reader!



Day in the Life

The other day I had the opportunity to take over the CIEE Snapchat and showcase a day in the life as a teacher in South Korea! 

To see more from people around the world, follow CIEE on Snapchat: cieesnaps

To see more from South Korea, follow me on Snapchat: emmelinedevine 

Emmelinedevine snapchat

Below is the video ^_^

Jindo Sea Parting Festival

This weekend I went to the Jindo Sea Parting Festival. Once a year the sea parts and you can cross a rainbow road (not at all like the one in Mario Kart!). I went through an organisation (ButlersKorea) that cost 50,000 won ($50USD), and they organised and covered everything for the day (bus and lunch). We got to see/experience a dog competition, K-Pop performance, Colour Run (okay there was no running, just dancing), lots of foreign foods, release lanterns, and we even met & got a photo with the Mayor of Jindo! This was all extra to the main event - crossing along the curved path to the island like Moses. 


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Seokchon Cherry Blossom Festival

IMG_7665Cherry blossoms can be seen all around Seoul. It's that time of the year where tiny pink pedals cover the ground, couples are matching in pink sweaters, and lights are intertwined in branches illuminating the cherry blossom trees. As I walked through the archway of cherry blossoms I couldn't help but feel how happy and appreciative I was to be there. How beautiful a day it was to be able to walk around a lake surrounded by cherry blossoms with two of my closest friends. To be able to have some great conversations in between all the pictures and walking. And realize that I have people in my life that I can have genuine conversations with about friends, family, work, and what we want in life. I think the most interesting thing I noticed is how couple centered the Korean culture is. Spring time in Korea is almost like mating season for whales in Hawaii. They're everywhere and if you're single and dating a Korean, you're bound to not be single for long. Some of my friends went on dates with Koreans only to be asked to be their significant other after a day of knowing each other. I'll dig further into this with my informal assessments and get back to you. In the meantime, please enjoy some of the pictures I snapped below. But be warned, the pictures don't do justice of how amazing it was to be there. Enjoy!




Seafood Pajeon - one of my favorite Korean dishes, perfect late night snack after a long night of hanging with friends in Hongdae, Seoul. 


Magical Rollercoaster of Life in Yanggu, Gangwon

Challenging your identity is one of the most difficult and rewarding things that a person can do. For example, since arriving in South Korea everything has felt different, the novelty has swept me up and thrown me thousands of feet (ahem, I mean meters) into the air and as I fall, i notice that i am surrounded by incredibly thick fog. I wish more than anything to make the fog transparent because I know that there is immense beauty behind it; if only I could see. Then I begin to understand some new basic idea and all of a sudden the satisfaction of a child learning a new word illuminates my soul.

This is the pendulum that I have been swinging on for the previous two weeks here in Korea. I am still amazed everyday at the life that I now live and I have to repeat to myself that I am a full time teacher in a foreign country. I am the main English teacher for two schools and I am living a brand spanking new life. 

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I am located in Gangwon province in a small village called Yanngu. Gangwon is the biggest province with the fewest amount of people so living here is like living in the most authentic part of South Korea. The province is 70% mountainous and I found a large network of trails nearby my apartment so that is pretty sweeet. 

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The first couple of weeks have consisted of me being confused about mostly everything from almost losing my luggage in the airport, to meeting my 9 coteachers, 2 principals, 2 vice principals, and many other administrative faculty, to meeting my 11 different classes, to learning public transit, and even trying to learn the most basic of basic Korean expressions so much has happened so expediently. But gee gosh the children could not be more any more adorable :D

Oh and did I mention that I have eaten silk worm larvae, sea squirt, and cow tongue soup!

Oh and I got to see some Sweet Pretty Pink Cherry blossoms today. Displaying IMG_20170406_095034.jpg

Moreover, I am beginning to really adapt and grow accustomed to my new lifestyle and I can even introduce myself to people without looking like a total fool! Haha. Most of my co-teachers have very limited English speaking capabilities which was difficult at first but now I just make sure to smile greet them and go about my business. A few of my teachers have had more in depth conversations with me such as, "Let's play soccer", "how was your weekend", and "this is how to say this in Korean". I really appreciate their efforts. Every Monday and Tuesday I get to play soccer at lunch which I'm pretty pysched about!

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So between the lonely nights of reading up on the language and culture and the days of making toothpaste and planting lettuce with my students. I can ruminate in moments of mammoth mountains and roaring rivers with cute birds and I can appreciate the steady flow of improvement in my teaching and linguistic skills. I am exactly on the ride that I signed up for and I couldn't be more grateful.


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Rock n Roll is Good for the Seoul ;)

Here in South Korea, k-pop pretty much dominates the music scene. It’s mainly what is playing in restaurants and stores (although I have heard some random Pitbull and/or Beyonce thrown in there as well—a Korean coworker told me if it is pop-y and English, it is automatically cool). Korean pop culture in general seems to revolve around being almost sickeningly sweet and cutesy—think of little stuffed pink bunny rabbits with giant eyes turned into song, and you’ve got k-pop. All the male k-pop stars wear make-up; it is not seen as effeminate, because Korean women want their men to be “pretty”. Appearances are very important for both genders, and this shows through the super-stylized, choreographed dance routines, and computerized, barely-human voices. K-pop is fun and dance-y; cute, yet strictly regimented—and this, to me, recalls the overall vibe of South Korea.

Before I arrived here, I liked listening to k-pop sometimes, along with other electronic-y/modern music (the Glass Animals, Oh Wonder, Lana Del Rey…) and this music genre really fits in quite well, I think, to the climate and overall feel of South Korea. Now that I am living here, though, I find my old music has lost some of its appeal—since arriving, I’ve been favoring Stevie Ray Vaughn and Led Zeppelin, Supertramp and Guns N' Roses…which is really about as far away from the vibe of South Korea as you can get. There is just something so deliciously discordant about wandering the streets of Seoul, listening to classic rock from the 60s. Looking back, I realize I’ve always chosen music that is in strict opposition to my immediate surroundings. Stuck in the Midwestern suburbs? Better put on some esoteric, wavy electronica, just to make it weird, am I right? So, am I an iconoclast? Am I simply desperate to be a unique, special snowflake? …I mean, very possibly, but I think it has much more to do with wanting to bring something to life. Listening to a disingenuous genre of music reminds me that the space and time I happen to be occupying is never all that there is, and it offers me a connection, however tenuous, to another space/time--access to a bygone era, if you will. And if I can inhabit 2 separate, discordant spaces at once, I feel larger. I can feel myself expanding to create room for other worlds, and I am greedy for them; I want them all at once. One place is never enough; I want to contain multitudes. For this purpose, travel is the most useful thing: every place I inhabit offers me not only itself, but its opposite as well.


Me and my beary special friend <3 <3 Rock on, Seoul! (I'm not cool...) 


Registered Alien

I think maybe my apartment is haunted. I have lived here for 3 weeks, but I have not seen another living soul in my building during that time. I hear their voices sometimes—speaking words I do not understand, stomping up steps, children babbling together in what seems to me like a confused cacophony of gibberish syllables. Sometimes I hear a baby wailing from somewhere down below. A man yells things I don’t know out his window on Saturday nights. They are only voices to me, and I have never seen their faces, but then again, that means they have never seen mine. Maybe it’s me who is haunting their lives, and not the other way around; that would explain the stares I get on the streets. I pass people and they do a double-take. If I meet their eyes and smile, they stare unabashedly back, mouths open, or else they look away hurriedly. The other day, I sh*t you not, a woman saw me, made eye contact, looked away quickly, nudged her friend and whispered something, then they both proceeded to look back at me giggling. It feels vaguely eerie to be such an anomaly; like I have 3 eyes or some weird skin condition, a feeling compounded by the fact that I do not speak the language here. I feel like a grotesquely overgrown baby, stumbling through their stores and streets, attempting to communicate through an odd mixture of last-minute google translate terms and sign language. People ask me questions at the check-out; I smile and say “de (yes)” and hope it makes sense. I know maybe 7 words of Korean total, and though I am trying to learn more, it all seems to fly out of my head once I am standing in front of an expectant sales girl who has just spoken for a good 30 seconds straight and is now awaiting my response. It gives me a newfound respect for people who cannot speak English in the U.S., and for minorities—it is isolating to constantly feel like the odd one out, and immensely frustrating to not be able to communicate, not least because I feel so much stupider than everyone else. I wish I could wear a shirt that says “I’m smarter in English, I swear!”  

Though it is frustrating and isolating, it is also fascinating to see what it is like on the other side. I have been the native speaker attempting to understand and communicate with a foreign customer, and though of course I know that they are not actually intellectually slow, in some vague, unformed, prehistoric area of the brain, it is there: the judgement, the frustration—and sometimes the conscious thought of “they are definitely not stupid in their native language” takes just a few, searing seconds too long to slip through the cracks and slide into the thinking portion of the brain, and by then, it is sometimes too late; the damage has been done, and I know from personal experience that this damage takes even more effort and self-reflection to mitigate and move past. It is here, in the space between feeling and thinking, that prejudice takes root and sometimes flourishes, and it is an ugly, insidious feeling. This I have known—but now I know it a bit more completely. I can feel it from the other side now. I know what it is to be mistaken for unintelligent, or to feel so inadequate, simply because of a difference in language. And I think that this new knowledge has incalculable value for anyone who wishes to see our world a bit more clearly, a bit more completely. Sometimes it is not enough to consciously know that a certain impulse is incorrect; we must also feel it in our bones. The understanding must become a part of us if we want to have a true and permanent compassion for other humans, and not just those who, because of pure circumstance, share our language and culture. I sincerely wish everyone in America could have this same understanding, that this situation in which foreigners appear slow or very fundamentally different is just one circumstance among many possible circumstances, and absolutely should not be taken for reality.

In summation: I will never take for granted the ability to speak with other grown up humans again; people here think it’s weird that I’m white. Here are some pics of Chuncheon, the city I’m in:  15349657_10211418617130360_1795628416191499967_n-2 15338808_10211418618210387_795950064634112183_n 15400448_10211418617530370_767341725055958089_n

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