Living in Korea was without doubt one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done in my life. Experiencing a vastly different culture, language and customs certainly made for an interesting year, even if it wasn’t all as perfect as I’d been led to believe before heading out there.
I’ll be honest, I was so relieved to be back in the ever-grey and rainy south of England. But there are definitely some things I miss about Korea. And only now can I appreciate how much better certain aspects of life were over there.
“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” That’s what they say, right?
Anyway, let’s get on with it. Here are 9 things I think Korea does better than the UK.
Perhaps this goes without saying. Korea is well known for its speedy internet connection, which is consistently ranked the fastest (on average) in the world.
While I was there, I almost forgot about the trauma of watching a video buffer for approximately 4 days, or the Internet cutting out altogether for seemingly no reason at all.
I don’t recall having any Internet-related issues during my year in Korea. I could stream any episode of any of the 20 series of Midsomer Murders in peace, with no interruptions (though not, unfortunately, without judgement from the likes of you, reader.)
2) Restaurant service
Only since I’ve been back in the U.K. have I realised how naff and inefficient our restaurant service is. I’m not criticising our waiters/waitresses, it’s the whole system that’s the problem.
I order my lasagne. Whoops! Forgot to ask for the side of cheesy garlic bread. *spends the next 15 minutes trying to politely get hold of the waitress in a stereotypically awkward, British fashion*
It’s an all too familiar occurrence.
And don’t even get me started on the nightmare of trying to get the bloody bill at the end.
In Korea, this lengthy, painful process is a thing of the past. This is largely thanks to what can only be described as the greatest invention of all time: the little table button attention-grabber thingy (that’s its official name). One little “ding!” and the server is there. Oh how I love you, little dinger.
In general, I noticed that Koreans eat out a lot more often than we do in the U.K., which is probably what led them to develop a more efficient eating/drinking/paying system. Good on ’em.
Never before, and I assume never again, have I taken taxis as often as I did in Korea. They’re cheap, they’re everywhere, and thanks to handy little apps like KakaoTaxi, they’re easy to request from basically anywhere in the country.
If I remember correctly, a 10 minute journey in my city of Jeonju would take no more than 5 minutes to arrange, and cost about ₩4000 (less than £3). And split between a couple of friends, it’s nothing!
In the UK, it would be at least twice that price. And a lot more if it was late a night. Even now, I only take taxis if it’s absolutely necessary (or if for some reason I’m feeling like a millionaire). Taxis in Korea really were a fantastic convenience.
4) Air conditioning
As the planet is slowly but surely heating to the temperature of the sun’s surface, it’s getting more and more unpleasant spending the summers in the UK. Even now, we are ill-prepared for the “shocking” heatwaves that come along every year, at exactly the same time.
Oh how I hate spending my summer nights sleeping directly in front of a fan as it labouriously pushes hot, sticky air onto my already hot and sticky body. How I long for the noisy yet ever-efficient air conditioning unit that worked tirelessly day and night in my Korean apartment.
Yes, the heat and the humidity of the Korean summer is significantly more unpleasant than that of the U.K., but at least you can find a cool haven in every shop, cafe and restaurant when it all gets too much.
5) Food delivery
The food delivery services in Korea are a lazy person’s dream. There are countless services which allow you to order food for delivery any time, anywhere. Even if you’re in a park or relaxing with some friends by the river. It’s almost ridiculous.
In Korea, my apartment was literally a 30 second walk from McDonalds (I felt so blessed when I first moved in). And yet, on those days when I couldn’t even bear to leave my bed, Mr McDonalds Delivery Man was more than happy to deliver my sausage and egg McMuffin directly to my door. For no extra cost! Gosh, I really was a slob.
Although I miss these incredible delivery services, it’s probably for the best that I don’t have that luxury anymore. If only for the sake of my arteries.
6) Bar snacks
Continuing with the foodie theme, anyone that knows me knows I like my nibbles. Crisps, dips, popcorn, nuts, pretzels – I simply can’t resist. So I was a very happy bunny in Korean bars.
Koreans like to eat when they drink, so whenever you order drinks in their bars and restaurants, some type of snack will come your way. With my beers, I’ve had all sorts of odd yet moreish little nibbles. And the best part is, the waiter usually comes around and tops them up all night! Yay!
Yes, when you get the bus in Korea, you do take your life in your hands. For some reason, the drivers always seem to think they’re competing in the Bus Grand Prix, and they get extra points for throwing their elderly passengers across the bus.
But let’s focus on the positives: they’re frequent, they’re cheap, and they can take you (almost) anywhere. And paying with the simple tap of your T-Money card makes it even easier. In the cities at least, the bus service is pretty great.
8) Convenience stores
I’ve discussed my appreciation of Korea’s countless convenience stores before. There’s nothing quite like always being less than a few minutes away from all the vital conveniences.
In Western cities, they say that you are never more than 5 metres away from a rat. In Korea, it seems you are never more than 5 metres away from a CU. And I’m certainly not complaining.
Since being back in the U.K., I’ve come to resent having to walk for up to 15 minutes if I’m in desperate need of milk/bread/a huge packet of Chilli Heatwave Doritos.
9) Cost of living
Now let’s get to something a bit more serious (a rare thing for me.) The cost of living in Korea is significantly less than that of most Western countries, especially when you’re an English teacher. If you live in Korea, eating out, rent, bills and public transport are far cheaper. And if you’re an EPIK teacher, the rent is usually free.
It’s certainly a great contrast to the UK, where rent usually eats up half a young person’s salary, and a meal out somewhere special costs approximately one arm and one leg.
When I was teaching in Jeonju, I ate out most days of the week, travelled extensively around Korea and beyond, and still managed to send home half my salary.
As an English teacher in Korea, the opportunity to make big money is fantastic. No experience? No problem! Here, have this big pile of money, lovely native English speaker. It’s no wonder so many of us are lured out there!