I’ve now been in Singapore for 7 months. Seven months. Wow! Excuse me while I take a moment to let that sink in.
Ok, I think I’m good. Let’s continue.
For those who are new to the blog, I previously taught English in Korea for two years (2014-2016). I think I’ve spent enough time in Singapore that I can now make a post comparing the two experiences. For this post, I will be listing what I miss about living in Korea. I’ll try to limit it to just focusing on the place, as I’ll be making a detailed comparison post about teaching specifically in both places.
1. Being a “Foreigner”
There are not a whole lot of foreigners in Korea. So, if you are a foreigner in Korea- you stick out like a sore thumb. This has its advantages and disadvantages, but for the sake of this post- let’s stick to advantages. Since it’s usually pretty easy to tell who is a foreigner in Korea (in most cases), it makes it much easier to bond and connect with other expats and teachers. It’s an immediate commonality and talking point.
Not to mention, Koreans (for the most part, this is me stereotyping- oops) love foreigners and will make you feel incredibly welcome in their country. I have countless stories of kind interactions that simply are less likely to happen in Singapore, because being a foreigner is not as “special”, you simply blend in with the multicultural, expat-filled country. (This, can also be a good thing, but let’s remember the title of this post and save that for another day).
2. The Expat and Teacher Community
In relation to the point above, this causes the foreigner community to be very tight knit, especially in smaller cities. The city I lived in had a foreigner bar and many events organised for Western holidays such as Thanksgiving, St Paddy’s Day, etc. Resulting in an immediate community upon your arrival in Korea. Comforting, to say the least.
With that being said, I can only speak from my experience. I’m sure those who taught in bigger cities such as Seoul and Busan would have had much different experiences.
3. The Climate
Ohhhhhh the weather in Singapore. It’s hot. It’s humid. All the time. A friend recently asked what season it is in Singapore. Seasons…..?! What are those?! There are virtually no seasons in Singapore, except rainy season and less rainy season.
Koreans pride themselves on having four distinct seasons, something I thought nothing of coming from Canada. Frankly, I thought it was a little silly. “Don’t they know we have four seasons too?!” But the truth is, not all places do. Not all places transform into totally different landscapes four times a year. It’s truly beautiful watching the magic of Mother Nature change the landscape from snowy, bare trees, to beautiful blooming cherry blossoms, to trees in their full green glory (and don’t even get me started on them autumn colours- MMPH.)
Each season brings something special and unique, and I miss these experiences.
4. The Landscape
This came as such a surprise to me when I first moved to Korea. I had no idea Korea offered such a beautiful and varied natural landscape. As it is 70% mountainous, you can expect a lot of mountains and rolling hills wherever you go. You can also experience beautiful blue beaches, bamboo forests, coastland wetlands, tropical, jungle-like forests down on Jeju Island, and so much more. I miss this variety in landscape and especially the hiking (Singapore is very flat).
4. The Food
Cheap, affordable, semi-healthy, and always an experience. Whether it was a quick $2.50 kimbap to-go, or a full evening spent at Korean BBQ- I miss it all. Korean food has a special way of being a bonding and communal experience- and not just because we all double dip our chopsticks into the same communal dish. There’s something unique about a group of people gathering around a grill and the customs that come along with it. For example, usually the youngest at the table will be in charge of grilling- one custom among many when it comes to eating. I learned a lot about Korean culture from Korean food. It taught me that food is not just food- it’s an experience and a tool to learn about a culture.
And how could you not love the unlimited side dishes?
5. The Drinking
Ok, maybe my liver doesn’t miss this. More specifically, though- the price of alcohol. In Korea, a bottle of soju costs roughly $2. In Singapore- $15. “But Laura, soju costs $15 in my city, too!” No, no. This isn’t just soju. This is all alcohol including Tiger beer- a Singaporean brand. Singapore has a hefty tax on alcohol- which I know now is called a “sin tax” (lol). This makes going out and drinking quite the expense, you’re welcome, liver. Or maybe your girl is just growing up?
6. The Size
Korea is small, but Singapore is way, way smaller. In Korea you could hop on the train and go to a new city for the weekend. You could do that every weekend for a year and still have SO much to see of the country.
In Singapore, an hour “train” ride (really, the subway) will get you to the other side of Singapore. Yes, there is Malaysia which is connected by bridge, however that also comes with the process of crossing the border and all that jazz. Simply put, I miss being able to just hop on a train and go somewhere new in the country I am living in.
Many of these can totally be a double edged sword, and work in favour of Singapore. For example, multiculturalism. I will save all those for another post- what Singapore does better than Korea (and surprisingly- there are many!)
Stay tuned for that and much more, on this new and improved blog.