When you move to a totally new country one of the first things you notice are the many differences between your culture and the culture of your new home. Bota, Assel, Ulbossyn, Mika, and Aika, students from Kazakhstan attending Kangnam University, shared some of their first impressions of Korea.
Free Wi-Fi almost everywhere
“When you come to Korea, it seems the whole country is connected to one Wi-Fi station,” say Bota and Assel.
In Korea it is pretty hard to find a public place without Wi-Fi access, even on public transportation. It is not always free, however, as users typically have to subscribe to a carrier. But students and company employees generally enjoy free high-speed Wi-Fi access 24 hours a day.
It is well known that Asians look younger than they really are. Koreans, however, seem to break all records among Asians. Maybe it’s due to genetics, maybe modern cosmetics, but Koreans look ageless. “When you look at a Korean,” says Ulbossyn, “you can never guess exactly how old he or she is, and the possibilities range from 15 to 50 years old!” Moreover, fashions, with the exception of school uniforms, are not specific to any one generation, making it more difficult to determine one’s age. The only way to find out is to ask directly, which is common here.
A thriving food culture
People who travel to Korea love the availability of food that is both inexpensive and delicious. Korea’s fast food system is highly developed and easy to find, ranging in choices that include Korean, Chinese, American, and Mexican. The cheapest foods can be found in Korean canteens like Kimbap Chunkuk (김밥천국) or cafeterias like the ones in Shalom Hall, offering prices between 2,000 won and 5,000 won cheaper than a comparable meal in Kazakhstan. And a lot of food can be delivered at all hours of the day. “You can afford to eat within any budget at a canteen or a restaurant,” says Mika, “even at 3:00 a.m.! It is very convenient!”
Korean television also gives good advice on great places to eat. Koreans are eager to talk about their favorite meals. Many Korean holidays are associated with special foods like songpyeon on Chuseok. “Korea’s food is the most famous part of its culture, I think,” says Aika. “Good food is everywhere!”
These are only a few of the things international students notice about Korea at first. Of course, they are eager to discover more as time goes on.