How learning Korean saved my life

A few years ago I felt as though my life was stuck in a rut, that nothing was exciting to me any more. I had had this feeling for a long time.

I was in a pattern of repetiveness. you could say that I was feeling bored with life and it didn’t give me any excitement. It didn’t matter what I did, things were the same. My life was the equivalent of broken record.

Things got steadily worse but they began to improve when I moved away from living in the centre of London to the suburbs.

By this point things were getting better again. I had started studying law and my life felt like it had a sense of purpose again.

Korean flag

More interestingly, I was realising that where I was living was home to a large Korean population and that it would be a good idea to think about learning a few phrases to use in some of the Korean-run bars and restaurants.

new malden
New Malden , where I moved in 2013. You don’t get a sense of the Korean community from this photo.

I can trace my interest in Korean culture to 2005, which was the year when I started to watch Korean films such as Bad Guy, Spring Summer, Autumn Winter and Spring and the like.

Where it all began.
3Iron was another Korean film I watched and loved.

I could feel a whole new world opening up to me. Although I felt this interest keenly, it didn’t go any where at the time. It lay dormant. I knew very little about Korea. I knew about the war and the DMZ of course. I was aware of the stereotypes that Korean people eat dogs. One unfavourable phrase in the James Bond book Goldfinger said that they were ‘the most violent people on earth.’ Perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to fall in love completely with Korea.

In 2006 my father went to Korea to work. Not being able to go out with him, I sent hime with a list of DVDs which I hoped that he would be able to buy while he was out there.  I was still only interested in the films until two years ago when it became clear that I liked Korean food and music too. In fact, I like nearly everything about Korea.

In some ways I prefer Korean things and ways of doing things to English ways. I never felt particularly proud about being English and I have never strongly identified myself as such. At school we were led to believe that England was great. However, it’s hard to like your country when you can see so much that is wrong with it. But I have had to face up to the realisation that the things I dislike about my country (the weather, the deterioration of culture and civilised values, the people).

Korean flag

The best thing about learning this language has been the fact that it’s given me opportunities that I simply wouldn’t have had otherwise. I can have conversations with Korean native speakers that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I only spoke English.

Learning someone’s language is an excellent way to get to know someone and I’d like to think that learning Korean has made me lots of new friends and acquaintances.

I’ve always wanted to learn a second language but the ones they taught us at school were no good –   you don’t need to learn European languages because most Europeans already speak English.

I think that Korean girls are the best in the world. Not only are they very funny and intelligent, but they are really cute too, in a way that English girls aren’t. This is another great reason for learning Korean.

So; my conclusion would be that everyone needs a passion, a strong interest in something separate from their own culture. It’s easy to be interested in things you can see around you, but at the same time it’s very easy to become bored by the everyday things. 

We all need something new in our lives to keep us interested and curious. Learning another country’s culture is a great way of doing this.  My ‘thing’ is learning Korean. What’s yours?



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