I first arrived here in Seoul three years ago. It was three years ago today, to be exact. I came over to live with my husband, who came in here on the first week of March of the same year. I left my work as an International Roaming Coordinator with Smart Communications, Inc. I also left law school and became as domesticated as I can be:-). I had been impressed with Seoul and its people. There were things I liked… but there were things I didn’t like. On my third year, it’s good to look at the good things which make life here as an expat family a worthwhile experience.
GARBAGE DISPOSAL. Everything is meticulously segregated. I was in awe when I first came over with South Koreans’ discipline when it comes to waste segregation. A Czech woman, another expat wife, remarked that they also have waste segregation in her country but it’s nothing like here in Seoul. Discipline!
BRING YOUR OWN GROCERY BAG. If you don’t, you pay for the plastic bag. Not bad, at all. If one is serious about recycling, start with grocery bags. I remember doing my grocery in big supermarkets in the Philippines. There are several sizes of plastic bags. Laundry soaps are put in a separate plastic bag. Processed meats on another plastic bag. Then you put all these in one big plastic bag. Baggers also do not fill up the plastic bags. Soft breads are in one plastic, canned goods in another and so on… Imagine how many plastic bags you can accumulate! I also remember SM making an effort to go GREEN. They have this green plastic bag which I readily purchased thinking that I wouldn’t have to get numerous plastic bags of varying sizes. Wrong! The bagger insisted that the items will be put in a plastic bag and only then can I put it in the green bag designed to help the environment. LOL.
TRANSPORTATION. My son loves to ride the bus. He fidgets in the subway while sitting in his stroller only because he can’t move around. But, transportation here is safe and clean! I have only taken my son on a taxi ride in Manila once or twice. I don’t go around on a public transportation with him in Manila. Seoul is different. Hubby doesn’t yet see the necessity of having our own car. So far, we don’t mind. Well, I do mind during grocery-shopping but that’s another story. We can survive without a car… so far (hubby?). Little Dynamo’s idea of transportation for his Dad when here in Seoul: Daddy rides the bus and the airplane (in reference to hubby’s frequent business trips); in Manila: Daddy drives a big car (Mitsubishi Pajero).
VALUE FOR EDUCATION. Well, depending on which side you take, this could either be positive or negative. On the moderate side, I do appreciate Koreans’ obsession for education for their kids. They strive for global competitiveness… and their determination, and how, is not unknown. Regardless of all the bashing Koreans receive when it comes to English education, I have no doubt in my mind that students who are in the elementary level these days would grow up to be better English speakers than their Asian teachers (yes, better than Filipinos). They have the resources and they have mothers obsessed with making their children competitve (nothing wrong with that). The bashing that Koreans receive today refer to those in their twentys who take and retake these English proficiency tests until they get satisfied with their scores. But, I firmly believe, the younger Koreans will have a different story to tell. This early, elementary English learners have good diction.
NATIONALISM. Again, this could be positive or negative. But taking the moderate side again, Koreans’ sense of nationalism is what makes their determination to succeed in anything they put their sight on a collective effort. Take a look during baseball season… criticize Korea’s baseball players in Korea. Ughh! Worse, admire Japan’s baseball players over Korea’s players. Unthinkable! Say something unpleasant about anything Korean…
FREE DELIVERY. Whenever I do my grocery in the neighborhood supermarket, I don’t worry about the heavy load. Delivery is free and prompt. Sometimes, I prefer to do my grocery shopping just around the neighborhood for this reason. However, big supermarkets have more freebies:-)
CUSTOMER SERVICE. I once wrote about my pleasant customer service experience in a post office here in Mapo. I could find nothing to complain about the service in the Immigration Center in Mokdong, either. It’s a happy and satisfactory experience.
INTERNET SERVICE. Well, what can I say? I am online almost 24 hours a day. Internet service is fast. We are with Powercom because hubby works for LG:-). Korea happens to top the household internet users among the OECD countries.
FACILITIES FOR CHILDREN. This is a very child-friendly society. Playgrounds are everywhere. My son loves the outdoors. He feels so free! I love watching him run and laugh and jump. Parks are numerous… and free. Now, why would I want to bring my son to a mall?
CONCERN/ATTENTION FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS. This is one society which has a genuine affection for babies and toddlers. Go out with your baby and you’ll know why. The attention makes you appreciate the people around as well. It could be intrusive sometimes, especially when the baby is sleeping, but generally one gets the feeling that the attention is almost always well-meaning.
FACILITIES FOR NURSING MOMS. I am a breastfeeding advocate. I just so love the malls with nursing stations. The facility is clean, too. With another baby coming up, a trip to the mall wouldn’t be such a bother.
FASHION. I love dressing up. But I could only look with envy at the stylish Korean ladies. My friend (another mommy) and I would laugh at ourselves. We are the ajummas in a place where ladies would daily strut their nicely-assembled wardrobe. We live in a multiplex where some units are offices. The buildings in the area also house offices. Spring is a glorious season to dress up so the ajumma in me will just wacth again with envy… and then my belly will grow big and bigger and bigger…
FRIENDS. If Cristin (my Korean friend’s English name) is to represent how Koreans are as friends, I would want them to be bestfriends for life. She always has a willingness to help and make my life easier. I have to say I get to enjoy my life here because she has made so many things comfortable. So there! Not bad for our three years of existence here in Seoul:-)