Britanny in Daejeon: "South Korea is a very homogenous country"

Expat interviews
  • Britanny in Daejeon
Published on 2014-04-03 at 00:00 by team
Britanny, ESL teacher, has lived in South Korea for a year and a half. She chose to come back after her studies for her love for the country's people, food and language. Living in South Korea, for her, is a fantastic adventure...

Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Brittany. I come from a small town in Minnesota, USA. I'm currently an ESL teacher in South Korea. Before I came here I was a student in University studying Linguistics.

What has brought you to South Korea?

I wanted to teach English abroad ever since I can remember. During university, I was an exchange student in Seoul for a semester, so I wanted to come back to Korea for work. South Korea has a really interesting culture. I love the food, the people and the language.

How long have you been in the country?

I'm currently living in Daejeon, South Korea. It's about 2 hours South of Seoul by train. I've been living here for about a year and a half now. All of my family lives in the U.S. I keep in contact with them through email and Skype.

What were the procedures to follow to move there?

My employer helped me to obtain a 12 month renewable work visa. It wasn't too difficult. If you are thinking about moving to Korea, I recommend that you secure a job through a reputable company first so that they can help you with your paperwork and obtaining a visa. I am currently working at a public elementary school as an English teacher. I am the only non-Korean at my school.
I applied to the EPIK program, which is a program sponsored by the Korean government. They place native English speakers in public schools all around South Korea. After I got accepted into the program, they placed my in a public school in Daejeon.

How did you find available accommodation?

My school provided my apartment, so I didn't have to do anything. But I have heard housing can be a little tricky to arrange by yourself in Korea because there is usually a very large deposit you have to pay.

What is your opinion on the Korean lifestyle?

I like living in Korea. Life is really fast paced here, everyone is trying to keep up with the new trends and fashion. That part can get a little exhausting, but it's pretty interesting overall. Koreans like to go out and have a good time. Drinking is a popular Korean pass time. It's not uncommon to have dinner and drinks after work with your co-workers and your boss.

What surprised you the most on your arrival?

Everyone stares at me here! I think it's mainly because I'm Caucasian. At first it really bothered me, but now I don't really notice it too much. I don't think it's necessarily like this in Seoul, but here in my smaller city there aren't a lot of foreigners. Most people are just curious. Korea is a very homogeneous country, so other races tend to stand out in a crowd.

Has it been difficult to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I feel like I have adapted fairly well. Korean people are generally kind and easy to talk to. I studied the Korean language in university, so I'm pretty comfortable having a basic conversation in Korean. A lot of Korean culture is based on hierarchy. That took a little getting used to. There are a lot of rules and formalities when interacting with people who are older or higher status than you.

Is it easy for an expat to live there?

South Korea is a pretty affordable country to live in, compared to Western countries. Healthcare is very cheap. Food, housing and transportation are all very affordable. An expat can live comfortably here on Korean wages. If you are careful with your money, you should still be able to save a little money for traveling as well.

What are the differences between life in your home country and South Korea?

Oh boy, there are so many differences. The food is very different. Here in Korea they eat a lot of rice, fermented vegetables and the food is usually spicy.
In Korea, everything is so convenient. Lots of restaurants, convenience stores and bars are open all night. In the U.S. I drove my car a lot, but here the public transportation is so efficient so I just use the bus or subway.

Tell us about any surprising or amazing experience you have had there:

One of the coolest experiences I've had here is doing a temple stay. Last autumn I spent a weekend at a Buddhist temple in the mountains. I was able to learn so much about Buddhism and Korean culture. I even woke up at 4 am. for morning chanting and meditation. I got to chat with monks over tea one afternoon. It was fantastic!

Any advice you would like to give to future expatriates?

The best way is to learn from experience. Try everything! Don't try to resist change, go with the flow and have an open mind.

What are your future projects?

Right now I'm trying to keep up with updating my blog regularly. I would really like to start a video blog about my travels and life abroad sometime in the near future.

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