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
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.
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).
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!