Clearing up some of the bad advice and information I was told before we moved to Korea

If you would like to hear me talking about our experience living in Korea, please listen to my podcast interview over at The Sociable Homeschooler!

It started when Jay left for Korea to serve a year without us, and it only got worse when people found out that the kids and I were planning on joining him.

Everyone we talked to had an opinion about South Korea. People gave us advice, told us stories, and generally questioned why we would ever want to go there.

In the military community especially, it seemed that Korea had a bad reputation compared to Germany. Being stationed in Germany was wonderful – your dreams coming true. Going to Korea for a year was like horrific torture.

Believe me, I did a lot of research of my own before we made the decision to join Jay here in Korea. And the experience Jay was having at Osan was nothing like what I was hearing from the people around me in Kansas.

Now that we have been over here for several months, I wanted to clear up some of the more grievous myths that are floating around about being stationed here in S. Korea. There will probably be more that spring up during our stay, but these are the main ones I have found to be untrue:

There are only two things to do in Korea – drink and have sex

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I have heard this so many times! Even from some of the soldiers stationed here right now.

Korea is just like anywhere else. If all you are looking for is a party, then you are going to find it and not much else. Yes, you can do those things here. Yes, those kinds of establishments are prevalent around the military bases.

All I can say is if you can’t see past what is immediately outside the front gate of a post and explore the area a little, then you won’t find the wonderful culture and amazing country that is South Korea.

For those who are thinking of coming to Korea just know that there is so much to do here. Way more than just bar hopping.

  • Hiking trails, bike rentals, mountain retreat trips
  • Art centers, musicals, museums, historical sites
  • Sports, StarCraft, gaming culture, gyms
  • K-pop, concerts, shopping
  • cafes, bookstores, crafts, markets

Even if you are stationed way out in Daegu, you have larger cities nearby and public transportation to almost anywhere in Korea via the post travel office.

Seriously, this myth drives me nuts. Your only limits here are your maturity level and your ability to explore the culture!

Korea is a backwards, third world country

gangnam01

If Korea is backwards then I don’t want to go forwards!

Can you say – fastest internet and cell phone networks in the world?

Sure, there are some old traditions that have stuck around. Yes, they are very conservative about some things (which is not necessarily a bad thing). There are rural areas that are very different than Seoul – but aren’t there rural areas of America that are very different from New York?

Here in Korea we have:

  • A large, comfortable apartment (3 bedrooms, 2 full baths)
  • fast, clean public transportation
  • 4G cell phone plans that cost 1/3 the amount they would in America
  • electronic locks on our building
  • re-loadable transit cards that you just swipe to pay for everything from a taxi ride to a coke at the convenience store
  • thousands of restaurants within a few blocks of our apartment (including such global cuisine as Bulgarian, Indian, Russian, Thai, and Greek)

Korea is not a place you want to bring your kids

Again – another myth that drives me nuts! Korea is an amazing experience for kids!

We have found Korea to be super family-friendly. Everywhere we go has discounts and accommodations for children, nursing rooms for mothers, and friendly people who help you out.

Not to mention the fact that we feel completely safe here.

They eat weird foods there – like dog

I haven’t seen one butcher shop, restaurant, or establishment that served dog since I’ve been here.

For the record – Jay asked his Katusas about the dog thing and there is a special breed that is raised to eat. Mostly only very rural, traditional villages have them anymore.

Yes – Koreans eat some weird things. They like seafood like squid and octopus. They have a weird fascination with putting corn in everything.

But you know what?

For the most part, we have found Korean food to be very compatible with our tastes.

Smoked duck with banchan and kimchi jjigae

It may look weird – but it’s just smoked duck, radishes, greens, and kimchi soup

You can find burgers and pizza here, but they usually cost way more than in the States. For inexpensive food, eat local and traditional.

Koreans like to eat a lot of pork, beef, and chicken. They love eggs and cheese, although they use processed cheese a lot (like Kraft slices).

You can avoid eating the spicy kimchi pretty quickly, but I highly recommend you at least try it. We have found kimchi jjigae to be one of our favorite dishes (a spicy soup made with kimchi, tofu, pork, and veggies).

Donkasu with rice and radish kimchi

The meat is donkasu – very similar to German schnitzel (fried pork cutlet)

Whatever your tastes, you can find food here that is palatable. And though you will see the occasional octopus dish, it will almost impossible to find dog on the menu.

 Here is the bottom line – Korea is an amazing, friendly country that is perfect for families. If you want to experience another culture then come on over!

What things have you heard about South Korea? Let me know so I can answer your tales and questions!

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27 Responses to Myths About Being Stationed in South Korea

  1. Dawn says:

    So glad you shared this. We were never stationed in Korea, but I heard all of the rumors you are destroying with this entry. So glad you posted it.
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. Super glad you decided to post this! From the sound of it, some myths definitely needed to be busted. South Korea sounds like a fascinating place, and your experience doesn’t surprise me at all (having watched a few Korean TV dramas before). But it’s amazing how far ignorant stories are accepted if you don’t know anyone to say otherwise.

    Great post!

  3. Thank you for sharing, that’s really fascinating! It’s inspired me to maybe someday write about myths about where I am from, Russia. Most Americans I think have no clue about Russia, just like most Russians have no clue about what living in America is really like :)
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz recently posted…Nestle Thinks Water Is Not a Human RightMy Profile

  4. Karen says:

    I came across this post on Pinterest, and it made me smile! We were transferred from Zimbabwe to South Korea for my husband to work on animation, and it was like walking back down memory lane reading about your experiences in South Korea. I was always rather envious of the American bases as it seemed so easy (to move to a foreign country yet be surrounded by people who spoke your language!). When we were posted) over 8 years ago now, it took us ages to find anyone who spoke English! I miss bulgogi and dakgalbi most! I hope you continue to settle in well!

    • Aadel says:

      I agree that it is easier to be stationed here with the military. But everything is in English now as far as road signs, public transportation, stores, etc. At least here in Seoul we feel very comfortable.

      We have tried to live as much “in Korea” as possible – so we got an apartment out here in Seoul. I didn’t want to be living next to a bunch of Americans!

      Thanks for your kind sentiments!

  5. Jen says:

    We have two daughters from S. Korea and had the opportunity to travel to Seoul and we loved it!! Seoul was an awesome experience. We felt safe, it was easy to navigate the city, and we have traveled to Moscow, Russia and Seoul is such much easier, and the FOOD! I could eat Korean food every day of the week ;) I’m glad you are enjoying your stay.
    Jen recently posted…Tips for Homeschool Planning for Multiple AgesMy Profile

  6. Ck says:

    My cousin was just transferred to Korea. I’m wondering if there is anything specific you missed that you couldn’t get? Snack foods, health and beauty aids, etc?

    • Most items can be found at the commissary and PX if you are military. They stock 99% of what is on the posts in the States. I would say we miss things from our favorite stores like clothes, local foods, etc.

  7. Jeff says:

    Excellent article! I owe so much to Korea and the love of Korean people. I went to Korea lost American trying to find my life and had a Korean man who I met on the street welcome me into his family like a son. A total stranger to his family, but after just a month when I got pneumonia, he and his wife took me into their home and nursed me back to health for 2 weeks buying all my medication, taking me to the hospital, making meals for me, and putting warm cloths on my head in the middle of the night when I had a fever. I was a total stranger off the street. I ended up coming to faith in Christ because of the testimony and love of this family. I see how Americans regard most foreigners in this country and it embarrasses me.

  8. amberlei g says:

    husband is being station there this feb for one year if my son and I don’t go and two if we go we have the commander sponsorship or whatever its called. my husband really wants us to go and I want to go as well im just nervous about the new experience and your article has given me allot of reassuring thoughts although I still am a bit nervous should I just jump on the wagon and see were I go.. because I really don’t want to stay in Kansas while hes away

    • The decision is yours to make, but I would say that the experience alone will be one you remember and talk about for years to come. When else will you get a chance to go overseas on the military’s dime and see parts of the world you may never get to see again? It was scary to me too at first – leaving home, flying over the ocean, and getting settled in a foreign country. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. And we love – LOVE – it here.

      If you do come, make the most of it by getting out a little. There are plenty of places on post that can help you plan trips and figure everything out once you get here.

  9. Zully H. says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! My cousin is going there and being able to trad a military perspective really is great. I will be sharing this with her and some of our family who have questions… Especially the dog one! Haha

  10. Laquita says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing this information it was very helpful. My husband has been having doubts to send us. We have 4 little girls the oldest is 10 and youngest is 10 months old. He was concerned about life in a third world country and the smells and cleanest may not be fit for us to come. Do they have nice apartments?

  11. Tiffany says:

    Sorry but I have to disagree with some of this.

    I was stationed in Camp Casey Korea in 2010 and I have to be hones IT SUCKED! I wanted to puke everyday because of the smells that would come froom the slaughter houses up in the Northern area and especially back on Camp Humphries. As for cleaness uuuggghhh! me and and some of my Army buddies have a saying, “If you can use a public restroom in Korea you can use one anywhere in the world!” lol! I will say it did seem pretty safe though as far as kids are concerned. Those kidss would be walking around everywhere by theirselves and no one bothered them. That was pretty cool. Lets see the food was horrible. Half naked women walk the streets 24 hrs a day in the little villes right outside the gates. Now you say you were in Osan well theres the diffrence. I had the opportunity to escort a young lady to the jail down there once…..OMG! I thought someone woke me up and I was back in the states. As far as traveling and seeing the country well just remember if the soldier is stationed in Camp Casey and the spouse is in Seoul you only see each other on the weekends IF he doesn’t have duty. And I mean most families require 2 working and unfortunantly jobs are hard to come by there for spouses unless you work for AFFES of DECA (commissary) which means you will be on a rotating shift so yeah good luck exploring the country. Look I’m not knocking your attemp I’m just telling you my expierence as a soldier and as a spouse and when and if we com up on that rotation again I know we will just let him do that 1 year and come on back.
    Tiffany recently posted…Charlotte’s Web Unit Study & LapbookMy Profile

  12. Linda Lee says:

    Having lived in Seoul for two and three weeks at a time over a six year period I understand a little about South Korea. We traveled the country and enjoyed many of the best days of our lives. I can not speak about the military base neighborhoods but I would think you could find dirty restrooms, whores and bad food in any country.
    I don’t think that as a whole you could find as safe or clean a country as South Korea. The Korean museums, palaces, and historical places are treasures that I would led not want to have missed. If a person goes to South Korea with their family and fails to enjoy all it has to offer then they just did not try!

  13. Katie says:

    HI! Thank you for this post! My husband is getting stationed there this August, and everyone thinks I am crazy for being so excited to move there!

  14. Dolly says:

    We lived way down in Daegu for 3 1/2 years. It was the best experience of our lives, so far. I am a huge advocate for the Korea experience. It’s nice to see others who agree. Enjoy your stay!!!
    Dolly

  15. Keith says:

    I’m so glad I came across this page! I’m headed to Korea soon and my family is coming with me. I’m very excited that my wife is really looking forward to it. I had TONS of people just trying to give me negative vibes…but they are probably the same type of people who argue to a brick wall.

    • A huge factor going into the experience in your own attitude! I mean – you are getting the experience of a lifetime! Not only visiting, but living in another country (and an exotic Asian one at that) on the military’s dime!?

  16. Candice says:

    I am glad to have found this page because it offered some encouragement to me. My husband is headed to Kunsan soon and I am planning on moving to Korea for the year. It is so refreshing to read about you in Korea and hear a positive perspective from the military side. I can’t believe how negative people get when I say I want to go to Korea. Only people online, like you, have anything positive to say. I am told that it’s not a good idea to move there and it would just be better for me to stay home and let him do his year there. Not one person that I have talked to is supportive, including wives and service members who have done remotes to korea. Even my husband is hesitant for me to go and only accepts my decision because I really want to do it. But my view on the whole thing is why be apart if we don’t have to?? Also, whatever I choose to do to cope for the year he is away is my business and if i choose to move to korea, then so be it! It is so refreshing to read your post and know that if I want to go to Korea, then I can. I feel empowered after reading your post and thank you for sharing your experience.

    • So glad I can be a positive force! When you get to Korea please go to Jeonju (down by Kunsan) to the annual bibimbap festival! I wanted to go but we travelled in the other direction for our vacation! :)

      Seriously though – even in the most remote parts of Korea you can grab a train or a taxi for less than $10 and go explore Korea. Listen to some Korean podcasts (http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/) and get a survival phrasebook. Don’t rely on Google translate because it’s horrible. And have fun!

  17. Tim says:

    It all boils down to this: Let’s face it many would not dare to live in Philly or 10 miles from some town of 100, even if it is in the US. It’s to each their own. I loved living in Korea, and so did my family. We were together and that’s what meant the most. But, having said that, it can be rough. The base, the monies, the commander, the language barrier (it’s not like Kansas City, KS or even the PI). Housing, no matter how clean, or nice is NOT the same as in the US. Yet, again, I would not have traded it or the world. We had a great time, many great memories, and many a warm person. There is a lot to do there. Site seeing, orphanages, and much. College courses, volunteer work, martial arts, hobby classes, and sooooo much more.

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