I have been here for nine months now and I thought that I would feel more at home here by now. Actually it’s more like the opposite of that situation. It seems that the longer I stay here the stranger it seems. And the things that I don’t like become more unappealing. Not that I don’t like it here. I would never have come all this way if I didn’t like it here. But if you stick around in Busan longer you can find more things to dislike.
Land of the old and ignorant
The old people that ride the subway every time of the day, barging through everyone, are something I can never understand. Aren’t these the same old people who spend their weekends trekking up mountains, who at 65+ are entitled to free transport, when everyone else has to pay for the privilege of having to stand up for most of the journey.
I can understand the old people for not being able to speak English, but for the young people to be barely conversant with even basic spoken English is something I find hard to get my head around, when you consider how important English is for almost every job.
The land of shopping malls and overpriced coffee
The consumerism is something else. There are more shopping centres than museums and theatres combined. Almost Nothing is free. Every item of clothing has to be brand new-looking. It’s not possible for Korean people to wear anything that might be even a little faded or ripped (although somehow clothes that have been artfully distressed escape this injunction). The concept of wabi-sabi, something along the lines of beauty in imperfection, does not apply here.
If its coffee, it has to be drunk in the most expensive cafe. You want to buy a cake and you end up spending double the cost of a lunch. Fruit is so expensive that I’m going with out fruit. Everything comes bundled in plastic polystyrene and good luck finding a rubbish bin.
All kimchi’d out
The food is good, but it’s hard to get excited about trying the same varieties of kimchi jiggae, samgyeopsal, and fried chicken. A chef in Korea must have the most boring job in the world, because there is no room for innovation or change in traditional Korean restaurants.
The Korean system of relationships, with its taxonomy of dating conventions, is baffling to any outsider. The concept of couples wearing matching outfits would be fine if it was Halloween, but on any other occasion it is simply daft.
I’m seeing adverts warning men about taking photos of women’s underwear. I Guess they’re aimed at Korean men, supposed protectors of women’s dignity against foreign playboys. I guess it would be nice to take a photo of some of these women though, and besides what is the problem of a harmless picture?
I’m also in the difficult position of being one of the only non-Korean teachers at work. And even though most of the teachers can speak more than enough English to have a conversation, they would rather spend their time speaking Korean. I’m sick of being ignored when it comes to sharing snacks, eating lunch, conversations, all because I’m not Korean.
My life is non-stop boredom and hard work, and relationships that fail to blossom. And that’s why it can be so hard living here. There are so many occasions where it could be possible for things to be better, but it doesn’t change.Somehow, I doubt I will be working here next year.