Culture Shock

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Moving overseas means making all new friends. It’s scary when you unpack your suitcase and think about how alone you are. At first, it seems like you’ll never figure out all the things that are different.

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Some people go for a year, don’t make friends, and then go home. They have stories of going to see sights alone, and of trying to watch TV in another language.

I guess that’s okay if you are the sort of person who really enjoys that stuff, but I am not.

So, I joined everything!

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I joined the Seoul Hiking Group, the Suwon Knitters Society (above), and even started a D&D campaign (below).

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I love meeting new people because it helps you learn more about ways to see the world and ideas you never had.

It opens doors to having new experiences like going to a Korean wedding (I am in the back of the photo) and seeing how different culture celebrate milestones in their lives.

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My apartment was dubbed “Isengaurd” (yes, like in Lord of the Rings) because it was in a white tower. And Isengaurd was a place for people to come and hang out.

I even got cake for my birthday (below), although it was a sugar-free green tea cake with tomatoes in it because that is how adults eat cake in Korea (sweet cakes are only for kids.)

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I had a struggling artist living on my downstairs couch for awhile after he went through a bad breakup.

I hosted group meetings to plan events, and I even helped throw a few big parties with my friend who was a DJ.

Basically, I made my home a place where people could come when they wanted to get together, and I was rewarded by being part of a lot of unique and interesting experiences.

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In South Korea, we have electronic locks (above) instead of doors that use a key. They feel that it is more secure, and it means not carrying keys since everyone takes the very fast and amazing public transportation.

I think all of Suwon knew the code for my door (which was the numeric progression 2468.)

After all, South Korea is rated as the safest country in the world. There’s no fear of anyone stealing your things, and even shops leave merchandise out over night. (It was surreal at first to be in a place when elementary school kids rode the subway alone and people just trusted each other.)

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It was fun to have a constant stream of new and different people in my life.

And it’s good to have unexpected adventures (as long as you always make it to work excited to teach!)

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Teachers come to South Korea from English-speaking countries all over the world, so I met people from New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and different parts of the United States.

Of course, I also met a lot of amazing people who were from the Middle East (who ran shops) and from Africa (restaurant owners and things like that.) And we all muddled through in English and Korean trying to communicate.

My favorite part is how it’s popular to put English cuss words on everything from children’s clothes to buildings. Check out the name of this beauty salon:

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It was nice to see all new things, as well. New types of buildings, new ways of doing business, and new scenery.

It really got me interested in International Business because I realized that LG, Samseung, and other companies are Korean, and yet their products fill American homes.

My friend Elizabeth wrote technical manuals for Samseung printers that would be shipped to the US, and I was always amazed at how much of the things we use everyday back home are from South Korea.

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Even when it comes to silly things like the clothing and jewelry, you could really make a lot on a Korean Imports store. And it’s interesting to study the complications of that kind of cultural exchange.

Once, Chevy tried to sell the Nova in Mexico. This is hilarious because in Spanish, Nova literally translates to “No go.” So they tried to sell a car whose very name implied that it didn’t run.

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And in China, Pizza Hut tried to open a chain of stores without knowing that the Chinese don’t eat cheese. Rather than giving up, they actually launched an ad campaign to convince Asia that cheese was healthy. Imagine that!

I actually took some classes in International Business through Coursera (free online college) because I found it so interesting.

Anyway, the point is, there are so many new things that you think about and so many ideas that you get when you are in a new place, and it’s fun to have that experience.

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If you have ever thought about just taking off and doing  year overseas, my advice is to do it.

If nothing else, it was hilarious to watch another country do elections. In South Korea they have several political parties all represented by different cute animals.

And yes, the party representatives do dress up as the cute mascots and go lobby for votes.

Moments like that are the kind of moments that I really enjoyed; when you stand back and just realize how different other cultures are and how neat that is.

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If I had to say one thing about going overseas, it would be this: You only regret the chances that you don’t take.

Even if it’s just for a week some day, everyone should get out of the US and see something new.

I feel like establishing international contacts is a neat foundation to lay because it opens potential for all kinds of things in the future.

Plus, you end up with some really cool pictures.

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Around Jeju Island

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Jeju is an island that belongs to South Korea. I am going to write separate posts about Jeju Loveland and Jeju Mini Land, because they need their own posts.

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However, this is just about Jeju in general.

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First off, the island is famous for Jeju Black Pig, which is a kind of pig that they BBQ. It’s wonderful, and we ate at restaurants that served it every night while we were there.

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There are lots of beaches to enjoy, and the water is fairly warm and inviting. This is in contrast to the Korean mainland, which has colder beaches and colder water.

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We stopped at every temple we saw to have a look around.

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We also stopped at every cemetery we saw, because I enjoy the stone tablets in grassy pastures. It looks so peaceful.

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We went hiking in the forest on top of the mountain and had a good time there as well. All the trails are very well maintained so that you could mostly do it in sandals if that was all you happened to bring (which was the case.)

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There are lava tunnels that you can tour because Jeju is a volcanic island.

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You can see the old statues that used to cover the island (they look a lot like the Easter Island statues

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Like most islands, it’s just a wonderful place to relax and see the sights. I highly recommend it for a weekend trip.

Jeju Mini Land

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You should definitely stop by Jeju Mini Land if you visit the island. However, I have to recommend that you go early in the morning. We went in the afternoon, and the sun was murder.

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It’s fun to see little models of all the famous landmarks. I particularly enjoyed the Eiffel Tower, since I have been to the one in Paris and the one in Las Vegas.

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The one in Las Vegas is a third scale model of the one in Paris, and the one at Mini Land is barely as tall as me.

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There are all kinds of great landmarks, from The White House to Sydney Opera House. I won’t post all the pictures here, since I took about a million. But, here are some of them.

See how many you recognize!

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If you go, make sure to wear sunscreen.

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Also, we rented a car, but there were tour buses in the parking lot, so I am sure you could organize something with a tour coordinator.

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There are other Mini Land parks in other places.

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However, it’s not a long walk around the park. So if you are in Jeju you really should give it a look.

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It’s the second best thing there after Jeju Loveland.

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P.S. The peace sign in all the pictures is because it’s one of the “Korean Photo Poses.” They just do that. It’s called a “V for Victory” in Korea.

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Jeju Loveland (NSFW)

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Jeju Loveland is a sex-themed park in South Korea.

The photos that follow are arguably not safe for work, so keep that in mind before you scroll down.

Anyway, here is my visit to a sex-themed park in South Korea on the island of Jeju.

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I realize that western people might find that kind of thing shocking.

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In our culture, it’s not acceptable to display penises and naked people.

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However, it’s not uncomfortable in Asia.

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In fact, Loveland is a popular honeymoon destination.

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Before the Internet, it was a joke that couples would go to these kids of parks to learn about “how things are done.”

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Its an outdoor park, so make sure to bring sunscreen.

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Jeju can be really humid, so it’s best to go in the morning before the day heats up too much.

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Bring a group of people or just one other person, but don’t go alone because it’s all about taking pictures!

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In the pond in the center of the park, there is even a statue of a turtle couple… enjoying each other’s company. I thought that was a funny detail.

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Thankfully there is an ice cream shop in the back of the park. I highly recommend stopping in to get some to cool down. It’s a big park, and so there is a lot of walking.

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Definitely bring someone with a sense of humor though, because otherwise it could be awkward.

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