This is Korea...When we first started looking at teaching English in South Korea, we didn't know what to expect. We knew that Korea was a developed country but we had never really heard much about it except for stories about the Korean War. The mystery was compounded by things we read in our "guidebook." We had no idea what kind of things we could or could not find here. I (Lee) at least decided to come with caution but also being ready for some adventure. Our experience here thus far has definitely proven interesting.
Korea is actually not all that different from the U.S.; well at least from my perspective. So far, the only real difficulty has been the language barrier and even that seems to fade with time. I walk down the street and I forget that I can't read the signs or even that I have no idea what people are saying to me.
I keep expecting to see things that are really exotic but I never seem to find anything that pops out at me. I guess Korea, like most countries, has different cultures for different "audiences." There is the local culture that, frankly, we just can't access. Then there is the tourist culture that we have seen somewhat but we have tried to avoid because we don't like being "tourists." I also feel like there is this entire subculture for the "oegugin" or foreigners. We know were a lot of neat places are but we still don't have "the know" on Korea.
At least for me, my experience here can be summed up in two ways. First of all, I think that many of the things that foreigners initially find intriguing has kind of lost its luster so to speak. The longer I spend in Korea the less I'm charmed by things that, in the beginning, seemed very exciting. Secondly, there seems to be a lot of things that Korea has to offer but I just can't access. Either I don't know where it is or I can't get there. Not knowing Korean, at least in my mind, is a handicap to finding the really awesome things in Korea. Having to work also puts a damper on things. Don't let me fool you, we have an awesome work environment and schedule but we do have to work.
In summary, we are caught somewhere between tourist and local, somewhere between McDonald's and Lou and Perry's (that's for my boy Zach). This place is not a bad place to be but it is at times frustrating.