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5 things I’ve learned from 5 years in Korea

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It’s been five years since I first stepped off the plane in Incheon but in reality, I can recall the details of that day like it were yesterday. I remember the intensity of the heat, the terror of being driven on the “wrong” side, the clothes I was wearing, everything. When I look back now, I can see how my experience here has molded me into the person I am now, how Korea has challenged me to think differently and how the people I’ve met have influenced my thinking in a new way.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way;

1. People will always be people, no matter where they’re from. When you travel, you become aware of how different nationalities have stereotypes, the Irish like to drink, Americans are loud and annoying etc. Living in Korea, you meet people from many different countries around the world.  Stereotypes don’t hold with individuals. Not every Irish person likes to drink, not every American is loud. Every country has the  energetic, hard working, beautiful individuals as well as the annoying, rude jerks.

2. You can always find help. Moving to a new country, on your own is a daunting task. You consistently think in “What if’s”. What if I get sick? What if I get hurt? What if, what if, what if. I have a friend who just spent a month in Cambodia, alone for 3 weeks of that. During those 3 weeks, a family member died in her home country and she fainted after catching her finger in the hostel door. During these trying times, it was the kindness of strangers that got her through. It’s the same living here. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve injured myself or gotten lost or needed some form of help and despite the fact that at the beginning my Korean wasn’t great, I have always received help.

I should also point out that your friends are your family here. I’ve seen so many situations where a group of friends have rallied around to help someone who they possibly met only a few months earlier. A good, core group of friends can never be underestimated.

3. You can become the person you want to be, not the person society dictates you should be.  When you live in your home country, there is a certain pressure to live the life that the society dictates for you. Moving to a new country changes that. You start from scratch. New job, new apartment, new life, new friends and new you. Nobody knows you, nobody has expectations of you and it’s up to you to do a much or as little with that as you want.

4. Comparisons are not worth it. It’s swings and roundabouts.  I have a certain life in Korea. For me, it’s a great life. I travel a few times a year, I have been fortunate to meet great people and have great opportunities given to me. Then, I hear about some friend or other back home who just got married or had a baby or built a house and I can’t help but compare our lives. But, comparisons are useless because our lives our different. There’s no life better or worse than the next, they’re just different. I gave up my life in Ireland for my life in Korea and yes I’ve given up certain things but I’ve gained others so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

5. You find yourself capable of so much more than you thought possible. When you move abroad, you’re on your own.  At the beginning, so many things catch you. The first time I got an electricity bill in Korea, I had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t know how often it came, where to pay it, nothing.Something so simple that I wouldn’t give two seconds thought to in Ireland

It’s the same with language and making a life for yourself. Being forced into a situation makes you think differently and react differently to situations and you become a more mature, capable version of yourself. Five years ago, when I landed in Incheon, I would never have thought that I’d be capable of being the chair of the Irish Association in Korea, but I am. A positive consequence of  living and travelling in Asia is that it has forced me to use every skill I possess get by.

 

My first weekend in Korea……

 

1st weekend

 

Me these days………..

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Moving Apartment in Korea

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In the five years I’ve been in Korea, I’ve only moved twice. The first time was to a bigger apartment just down the street but this time I made the big move from Paju to Ilsan.

It all happened rather quickly. I knew for a while that my apartment contract was up and informed my co teacher of my intention to move to Ilsan. Neither of us saw the urgency of apartment hunting before summer holidays so we both arrived back on August 4th with no new apartment sorted. We were so slack that we didn’t even know when I was supposed to move out of the apartment I was in. After a phone call to my land lady, it turned out that I had just 10 days to get myself together and move out.

This is when my co teacher proved how much of a legend she was. Ilsan is a large enough city with several areas. Here is a map I got from Wikipedia; (http://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%ED%8C%8C%EC%9D%BC:Korea-Goyang-si-Ilsan-gu-map.png)

 

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My school is in Daewha so naturally I wanted to stay close but after a few more phone calls my co teacher deemed the apartments too old to stay in. By lunch time on Monday she had chosen an area she saw fit and had an appointment booked with the real estate agent. Excellent.

5.30pm and we’re looking at apartments. I should take the time to outline how this works. For me, the apartment is provided by the school. This means that I was on a budget in terms of key money and rent. Key money is the large sum you hand over at the start and you will get it back at the end of the contract if there’s no major damage to the apartment. In this case it was 5,000,000. Key money can be any amount though, from 3,000,000 to 20,000,000, depending on the size of apartment.

Then you have your monthly rent. In my case it was 500,000. Again, rent can be any amount depending on the size of the apartment, area you live in etc etc.

So we looked at a few apartments. My coteacher turned out to be super fussy. There was a funny smell, it wasn’t big enough, the building wasn’t secure enough, bad location and on and on until we arrived at a brand new building.

So new, that the apartments weren’t even finished yet. We looked at a one room but since there were no doors, I stumbled into a larger two room. This was my preferred space and after my co teacher negotiated the rent, I was good to move in.

My boss signed the contract on Tuesday and the following Thursday I moved out of my old apartment. Looking back, moving out was a stress free experience. I simply put my stuff in boxes, left them together and had the movers take care of them.

Moving out of an apartment in Korea is actually a big business.. You call up a moving company and tell them when you’re moving. They confirm that they are available and ask how much stuff you have, what floor you’re on and what floor you’re moving to. You get a price and pay a deposit. They turn up to your apartment on moving day, park the lift and truck outside, speak with you about what you’re taking or leaving and then you’re free for 30 minutes. Well that’s how long it took for them to move all my furniture and stuff out of the apartment. And they are thorough. They simply take out your window and move everything out. Here are some pictures to give you the idea……

 

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You can see the crates in the last picture. While they were doing that, my co teacher and I were having some refreshments…..

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The worst part of the day was sorting out the bills at my old house. We had to go to the real estate for that apartment, who had to call the gas company, electrical company and figure out how much was owed. Eventually, we got it done and off to Ilsan.

Same thing happened there but in reverse. They took everything from the truck and it was all put into my apartment. The man even suggested where he though everything should go. They were so good in fact, that they re made my bed and put my shampoo and conditioners in the correct area. After that, it was me and a tonne of boxes in an apartment building where I am the only resident.

The new place is working out well. It’s more compact that my old place but more of an apartment, if that makes any sense. Everything is new and there’s CCTV around the building, an electronic key pad on the door as well as a camera outside to see who rings the bell.  It has a beautiful shower and the days of having the shower over the sink are over! (It’s the small things in life, you know)

Right now I don’t have any pictures of the new place but as soon as I do, I’ll upload them here!

 

Ilsan Lake Park

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Ilsan is undoubtedly becoming a very popular place. Recent construction has seen the arrival of One Mount, MVL, Aqua Planet and lots of new apartments to deal with the increased population. It’s just a short drive from Seoul and it’s a really fun city with lots to offer.

One of my favourite things to do in Ilsan is a trip to Lake Park.  Lake Park covers a HUGE area, over 900,000 square metres and boasts the largest artificial lake in Asia.

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These days, I go to the park to run. The track around the perimeter covers approximately 4.9km and it’s so wonderful to see the assortment of walkers, cyclists, runners, skateboarders out and about exercising. The walking trail is longer at about 8.9km. There is also a basketball court and a game area.

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If you’re not that into exercising, fear not. There are a tonne of things to do in the park. It’s the ideal venue for a picnic and a get together with your friends. It has lots of open spaces for people to sit and enjoy. I’ve gone with my friends a few times and the atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon is perfect. It’s peaceful and relaxed and you can spend the afternoon people watching is you wish.

It’s a great place to bring your family. There are lots of things for children to see and so.

 

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You can easily get lost in the park. Even a gentle walk will bring you to pagodas, gardens, the cactus centre, the mini zoo, there is such a variety of things to do here, you can never get bored!

At the weekend, you are bound to find live entertainment in the park. There always seems to be a band or singers performing and entertaining the crowd.

A few tv dramas have been filmed here also, the best known probably been Star’s Lover.

 

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The musical fountain is also here. You can enjoy a performance several times during the day.

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Really close to the park is One Mount and Aqua Planet. One Mount has both a water park and a snow park as well as shopping so together, this could be the perfect get away from Seoul!

 

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Directions: Jeongbalsan Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 1 or 2.
Walk along Jungangro-1261 beon-gil Street or Jungangro-1275 beon-gil Street for 10min.

For those with a car, there is a car parking fee. It is 300 won for the first 30 minutes and an additional 100 won for every 10 minutes after that.

The glasses cleaning machine!

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I simply LOVE the glasses cleaning machine. We passed by one today so I took a quick video. Enjoy!

 

Left Coast burger~ a review

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When I heard we would be dining at a burger joint, I had my doubts. I mean a burger is a burger, right?

With an ideally convenient location and a great menu, Left Coast Burger in Itaewon can count me as a fan.

Location;
Itaewon Station (line 6) Exit 4. Turn left. Walk about 100 metres. The restaurant is on the 2nd floor.

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Ambiance: It looks like you need to be a cool kid to get a job here. Even the chefs looked uber cool. They all speak perfect English and it’s quite a relaxed feeling in the restaurant.

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This was when we arrived but by the time we were leaving, the place was packed.

If I could add one negative thing it would be the music. It was so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other.

Food: The menu has something for everyone. It’s not just regular burgers, you can get.mini combinations and lots of sides, salads, a veggie option, quite a variety.

The size of the portion is a little on the small side. Usually, I can’t finish an entire burger in a restaurant but I wiped the plate here. The burger was the perfect size for me but for those with a larger appetite, I fear they might be left wanting more.

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Price: Side dishes were 5 or 6,000won with the mains being 11,000won upwards. I thought the pricing was fair for the portions you got so definitely no complaints.

Staff: They know their stuff. They were super helpful in explaining the menu, made recommendations and were attentive. Almost too attentive. We were a group and the staff might as well have joined us for there was barely a second when they weren’t topping up the water or clearing the dishes. Personally, I would have preferred a little space but they were still great.

Bathrooms: The great door sign was enough;

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The bathroom was large, clean, had plenty of tissue and soap and I had no complaints.

Overall opinion: I will definitely eat here again. It’s a clean, well run restaurant. The food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed, it’s reasonably priced AND it’s in Itaewon.

7/10.

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3 ways to find an E.S.L. job in Korea

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If you had asked me how to get a teaching job here three years ago, I would have responded with a list of recruiters. Now, the method by which teachers are recruited has changed. Lots of schools want to cut out the middle man so here is my list of how to get a teaching job in Korea;

1. Update your status.

Everyone has Facebook, right? Some people use Twitter. These are honestly some of the most powerful tools to get you that job.

Think about it. There are so many people who are either currently living and working in Korea or used to work here and still have contacts.  If you have 500 friends on Facebook and just one of them shares your status about wanting a job in Korea, how many people have you reached? Ask even friends of a friend to get in touch and keep an ear out for possible job openings.

My good friend Janet (http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com) has recruited 3 people for her school alone. She simply used the power of social media to get the word out.

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2. Search the web;

Some school try to hire directly so they advertise on websites like Craigslist and Dave’s E.S.L. cafe. . Recruiters also post here. There are also group on Facebook like  “jobs in Korea” that get a variety of postings from schools and recruiters you can look into.

 

3. Use a recruiter;

A quick survey on my Facebook page showed that people highly recommend;

1) Korvia Recruiting  - For public school positions.

2) Korean Horizons- For public school positions.

3) For South Africans, Teach Korea.

4) Star Teachers 

 

With using a recruiter, make sure they are actually IN KOREA. The exception seems to be Teach Korea. They are based in South Africa. According to a friend this is because there are very specific problems with getting all the documentation in S.A. and this recruiter is excellent at walking you through what needs to be done.

From experience, choose a good recruiter and then trust them.

* All the above were recommended by friends. If you have one that you’d like to share, please comment below!

 

 

Getting eye lash extensions.

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I never realised how hard-core being a woman was until yesterday. The only thing I could think about was that if your job is a model or beauty pageant contestant or whatever, it is a full-time hard-core job.

It wasn’t my intention when I woke up yesterday to get eye lash extensions. Honestly, I’m just not that into beauty stuff to deliberately go out and get it done. But, I had lunch with a friend and she was keen to try it so I just thought, why not? Live dangerously, get it done. If nothing else, it’ll make a great blog!

While you can get this done in lots of places in Seoul, you should make an appointment. That was mistake number one for us. Thankfully, we had a Korean with us who called everywhere until she found a place with the time to do it.

Here are my thoughts as well as a little video so you can see them and hear my thoughts!

Location: Flor Nail in Hongdae. http://blog.naver.com/some_me7/40211100986 (in Korean but you can see the pictures and directions)

 

Cost: I got the Silk ones so they were 50,000won. You can also get a lighter type for 80,000won

Good points:

A relaxing 1 1/2 hours which is how long it takes.

It’s pretty cheap considering it takes that long.

My eyes look great now!

 

Not so good points;

It’s kind of freaky to have your eyes taped for that length of time

The glue irritates your eyes so they are red for a while afterwards.

 

Recommendations:

Bring music to listen to.

Make a reservation

 

I’m working on my youtube channel so I’ve posted my thoughts here;

 

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