I think this is long overdue, since I’ve been here for three months. My first impressions of South Korea and my experience in this country so far.
I can’t entirely fill these pages with anecdotes and day-to-day life because it’d be too long, but what I can do is give my first impressions of South Korea. So here goes.
Korea is both mundane and exciting. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before, but at the same time, it’s just like everywhere else in the Western world. Technology abounds. Korean-English dictionaries come preset on handphones (Konglish, thank you). City buses have TVs. Internet is free in a lot of public places, including some bars and most post offices.
Few speak fluent English, but everyone speaks enough that learning the language isn’t necessary in most places.
People litter. Everywhere. In the mountains, on the beaches. Trash drifts in gardens. Junkyards every other block in the cities. I think Canada’s got the right idea here. If fines prevent people from throwing their shit on the ground, maybe they’re a good idea. Not only from an environmental point-of-view, but economically speaking. Korea would benefit from a good clean-up. Who wants tourists to call their country ugly? Disgusting?
Korea wants to attract more tourism, but instead of promoting what it has, like incredible hiking opportunities, it thinks shopping is the answer. And if possible, I think Korea might just be even more of a consumer society than North America. I haven’t found many stores like Value Village, where you can drop off used clothing or furniture or whatever. It’s all trashed. New means affluent.
I guess there aren’t any poor people. You never see them… Some say they, along with the mentally ill, are hidden away, recluses rejected by and from society.
At the supermarket, everything comes in packaging, even bananas. Markets are better in this respect. But only buy produce there. Meat and fish are sometimes, but rarely, kept on ice. They’re exposed to the elements, often on street corners, smoked by car exhaust. Yum.
I know — I’m still suffering from culture shock. Those are my first impressions of South Korea so far, but I’m sure things will change as time goes by.