Inspired by a comment from a dear visitor and by my sister, who recently visited us. When I first came to Korea, I had a lot of expectations. Those stemmed from watching Korean dramas and movies. Some of those were right and a lot were definitely not. I only knew a few Filipinos here, a professional who lives in Wonju (a city in Gangwon province) and whom I’d known online (through Pinoyexchange) and another one who I met in the Philippines and is married to a Korean. They both live hours away from Seoul. I had a really difficult time adjusting, but I tried really hard and now I could say that I’m used to the “korean way of life”. I’m not gonna say that I’ve adapted fully. If you’re a foreigner here, no matter how hard you try, you’re still a foreigner.
I’d like to share my experience and offer some tips, as well, to other Filipinos who plan to come here.
Before you leave.
The first thing a Pinoy should know is that Korea has four distinct seasons (and Koreans will always remind you of that – as if theirs is the only country that has “four distinct seasons”). So if you’re coming here during the winter season, head on to Divisoria and get yourself a really nice winter coat. Winter here is long, dry and cold (for a Pinay like me, not much for a Canadian) and winter coats – expensive!
Seoul is one of the most expensive cities in the world! Eventhough it’s considered a “developed” country, some necessities may not be available here. When I first came here, I had a hard time buying deodorants. They’re available now but the selection is limited. Anyway, you might only need them during the hot summer days. Also, it’s better to buy some OTC meds back home like Bioderm (for skin infection), Terramycin, Diatabs (just in case), Canesten and others. They’re available in Korea but the medicines don’t have English instructions.
If possible, it’s better to learn “Hangeul,” the Korean alphabet. Public properties have English signs but most shops don’t. Also, learning the basic Korean greetings (“in-sa”) will impress most Koreans you meet. A learning Korean language book is about 15,000 won ($15). I’ve seen a Korean language book at National Bookstore for 300 pesos the last time I went there.
Eat all your favorite Pinoy foods! They’re available at Hyewha’s Sunday market but there’s nothing like the cooking you grew up with. What I really miss is “calderetang baka”. Beef is so expensive here that we only have it occasionally. Sad for me since I really like beef. Rice here is expensive. I’ve tried one of those “turo-turo” at Hyewha. An order of “calderetang baka” is about 3,000 won and if you add rice, your whole meal totals to 6,000 won.
Bring your favorite Tagalog DVDs. As far as I know, TFC’s service to Filipinos worldwide has not reached the airwaves of South Korea. There’s no Pinoy TV here too. If you’re into Tagalog movies and TV shows, your option is to subscribe to ABS-CBN’s Now (I don’t! Too expensive for the quality of their service. I’d rather watch Youtube.)