12 Rules for Expat Life in Korea Contd.

Today has seen the Korean blogosphere dancing in the delights of this recent article of sorts on CNNgo.

Shocking stuff altogether.

Fortunately a few bloggers have jumped to protect Korea because Korea is such a wonderful perfect place that has never done anything wrong and shouldn’t be criticised for the realities its society presents. Grrrr. What I couldn’t get over was the general belief that this post was taken so seriously and the defence of Korea was so patriotic. So in defence of decency I will try to add my own flavour and sense of balance to this debate.

But first take a moment to read what has already been said:

Roboseyo: CNNgo Trolls Bloggers; 12 ACTUALLY useful tips for Expat life.

Re: 12 rules for expat life in Korea | Chris in South Korea – Travel and life in Korea.

12 Rules for Expats in Korea | David S. Wills.

Of course, no one here is right or wrong. It’s just … well… so what? As David S. Wills makes the point, anyone who reads the CNNgo post will – hopefully – realise that this is a little bit of jolly finger-pointing…at least I think that’s the point he made (I only had a few minutes to read so I read quickly, as in quicker than ‘scan’ reading).

Anyway, the balancing act courtesy of me. Drum rolls please!!!!

1. Learn to Drink Like a Fish – Yes, do! You’ll have a great time. Forget about how much Koreans drink – I don’t think most of these other bloggers have ever seen how much English teachers in Korea drink! And, on that point, I am assuming that the people who move to Korea are adults and can make their own decision as to how much they drink. My personal preference is to drink as much as I can and learn from your mistakes (I always try to smile and say please and thank you). I am assuming you, the reader, have strong enough self esteem to make your own decisions. 

*Hot alco tip – Try not to regret too much.

2. Try not to be ‘celebrified’ – Fuck it! Celebrify yourself away because no one else is going to celebrate you, least of all Korean people who have their own problems and worries to concentrate on – namely who will celebrate them. Regardless of what way you look at it, Korea is a big competition to be the best and if you don’t compete you’ll just get swept into the gutter. Take it as a good lesson for life. If you sit around waiting for someone to recognise how great you are without actually making the effort yourself, expect to get left behind. Every blogger and writer should no this, and if they don’t – or don’t admit it – they should choose another way of filling their time.

3. Bring your own clothing – I look forward to going home once a year to go shopping for clothes. That’s the most effeminate thing I’ve ever said but it’s true.  The clothes here do not suit a western man, or allow me to be more specific, the man writing this post who is commonly refered to as ‘me’. I’ve tried it, believe me, but there’s only so much chafe I can handle in one summer so that crosses out the use of E-Mart underwear for me, and as for t-shirts, jeans, and shirts – they don’t fit me. The shape is different. If you see me walking down the street you will understand why – how many top-heavy Koreans have you seen?  When I get an extra large to fit my shoulders the belly expands like I have to sneak a few towels around with me. And as for that bloody ‘free size’ – the gulag of the clothing world!

4. Learn to Dance K-Pop – While I have my own opinions about pop groups formed from the courtesy of the bosoms of a rich daddy with an influential address book, that’s not what is important here. Essentially, it’s a rather traditional viewpoint – the women are really hot.


5. Put the Gay Away – Essentially,do or do not. But, despite what the competition was saying above about Korea being more tolerant towards sexuality, it is still a very conservative place. It’s so conservative that couples – of the man and woman variety – are frequently frowned upon with venemous scorn (well maybe not venemous scorn but a certain degree of anger) for what is termed in all its Konglish wonderfulness as PDA – Public Displays of Affection. Sexually explicit behaviour such as holding hands, giving someone a kiss (i.e. a peck on the lips of your lover as you say goodbye), walking down the road with your arm around each others waste… yes, I know – pornography! Now, you can imagine the response you recieve when you do this with your wife! Now, I’m not going to tell you what to do but you might want to take it into consideration if you are a bit loud-and-proud about your sexuality. Just a tip. I don’t think I’m being homophobic. When I first came to Korea I worked and lived with a gay guy. He was not embarrassed or discreet about his sexuality, but when it came down to it what people didn’t know made his life easier. He wasn’t alone. What people didn’t know was better for him and his own life. The crowds that head to the gay pride festival in Seoul this weekend do not bring homosexuality automatically out in the open and gays are still discriminated against on a regular basis. This is a fact.

Am I lecturing yet? Oh well, I was driven to it…

6. Buy Good Face Cream – If you want to worry about your skin do so in the mirror. Personally I find that soap and water works wonders. This is just a thought but maybe the wrinkles come from the fact that most people come here for a few years and don’t realise that after a few years you get older…or it could be the lack of facial products – you could try the men’s eyeliner available in Etude House…

Men's eyeliner ...


7. Embrace your Inner Diva – Rules of noraybbang (there is no correct spelling of anglicised Korean words by the way): you must have been drinking for at least four hours before entry to the room; you must know the words to songs that were only hits during your teenage years (your father’s or mother’s are also acceptable eras); you must purchase no alcohol in the premisis but in the Family Mart around the corner; you must not eat the dodgy snacky things that look tasty; you must queue a minimum of four songs in a row at one stage in the singing process; you must (this is unegotiable) demand another hour of singing. All other responsibilities and notions are of no consequence.

8. Don’t tip – Do you like tipping? I come from a country where tipping is a gratuity which means it is deserved not expected. If someone does something worth tipping, do I tip, usually not. Because I’m mean? No. Because I have high standards? No. Because I’m in Korea and I’m not expected to tip? No. Then why? why? why? I couldn’t be arsed.

9. Don’t have a Coffee Addiction – Too late. Maxim got me started. Starbucks next door to my last job made it worse. Now I buy it in two kilo bags. I’m sure I am not alone.

10. Take Pictures of your Food – Take pictures or everything! Why not? This place is mad, pure mad, not to mention wonderfully random and bizarre with absolutely no explanations necessary. Food is just the begining. How many times have you tried to explain what something is that you ate the night before? How are you supposed to remember what you ate at two o’clock in the morning when you are randomly invited to a table to enjoy something snaky and slimy that’s still wriggling on the plate and the only instructions for eating you can remember are chew hard, real hard. Without the obligotory picture and blog posting how would you ever remember what it was you ate? Taking pictures in Korea is lots of fun – it might not be aesthetically pleasing but it’s definitely anthropolgically fascinating, from the food to the garbarge – snap, snap, snap away!

11. Adjust your Diet – I don’t understand how this raised questions; you are in Asia where they eat different food. You will have to get used to the fact that here a few hundred years of continuous immigration has not influenced the palate of even the most diverse and worldly Korean, and has severely changed the outlook of this non-Korean. If you were to aks me what would the ideal breakfast in Korea, and I mean a quality breakfast, sign me up for some freshly cooked rice, fried salted mackerel, sidedishes and bowl of pipping hot dwenjang jiggae, because you won’t need to eat until dinner let alone lunch after a feed like that! I wait until I got back to Ireland for my sausages and rashers thanks very much. Sure, around Korea you can see ‘western’ style restaurants but usually the quality is poxy, and even in Itaewon the quality is mostly over-rated. But, believe it or not, if you go to any other country in the world you will find that – shock horror hold on to your knickers here – the local people all eat local food.

*hot foodie tip for Korea – If you don’t like rice, why not choose a country where it is not the staple.

12. Strike an Asian Pose – Yeah, fuck it! Why not? It’s your photo so why not make it as interesting as possible. It’s probably better than a western style pose…

I am going to break the mold and will go one better than everyone else by adding lucky number 13. Unfortunately, it is not something I came up with myself but comes courtesy of another blog which deemed this the single most important ‘rule’ for living and surving life in Korea:

13. One Rule For Expat Life In Korea.

7 thoughts on “12 Rules for Expat Life in Korea Contd.

  1. Thanks for the link.

    My point was more or less that the article was stupid, but not evil, and in fact right in many ways. I thought it was badly written and doomed to attract the wrong attention, but altogether I couldn’t pick that many flaws in the man’s logic.

    But yeah, like you said, it was also light-hearted and semi-satirical, I think.


    • I agree David – I thought your answer was the most reasonable as the others seemed like they were being hired by KNTO. Nobody was wrong, but nobody was right either … I think.


  2. That is a super-peachy-keen post. Thanks for really blathering on like that! Seriously, I don’t think I could have spent more effort wishing for something heavy to fall on me to erase that nonsense from my mind!


    • I would consider it Konglish – it’s a term in English commonly used among plenty of Koreans to describe something that English speakers need a definition of to understand/ Maybe it’s used elsewhere in the world, but Korea is the first and only place where it has been mentioned, and then I get funny looks for not understanding what it means. That’s why I called it Konglish (you can also interpret Konglish differently too)


  3. Pingback: Notebooks | If I had a minute to spare…

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