So your spouse has orders to South Korea, and you are going to make it a family tour. Now that your tickets are booked, transportation has a packing date and you broke the news to the family members that you are headed overseas, what is your next step?
Of course you start scouring the internet looking for South Korea information for military families. I made the small minded mistake that thinking living out of the United States, in any country, would be relatively the same, minus the language barrier of course. Living in South Korea isn’t our first rodeo on overseas living, so I knew what to expect right? I lived overseas for four years in Germany. I am a pro! Yeah … I was wrong on so many levels.
Let me tell you that South Korea is totally different than anything I could have even fathomed it being. Germany doesn’t hold a torch to it.
And this is some of the information I wish I could have read when PCSing to Korea and settling in:
Bring your couches but leave your king sized bedroom set. Korean couches literally sit three inches off the floor -- and forget getting decent priced ones at the BX/PX. Very few stores have furniture and it is a six month wait if you order them to the store from the states. You can leave your king size bedroom set stateside, but bring your mattresses. The loaner mattresses here are horrible (so I have been told). We gambled and brought ours and, thankfully, it fits in our post housing bedroom.
Don’t join the “(apartment building) Facebook page." Really it is just a bunch of women with too much time on their hands complaining and “venting” about all the stuff that goes on in the building. You will live in shared housing, be ready for your toddler to get woken-up because a kid is loud in the hallway, and no one cares if your hubby was on duty and needs quiet time. No one can fix the fact that you live on the first floor right next to the smoking area and can’t have your windows open because of the smell.
On the positive side I will say that page is a good place to get a cup of sugar on short notice, or free stuff when people are leaving.
You will need to get a cell phone in Korea and you will experience phone calls from random Koreans at all hours of the day. In fact, even though you tell them you speak English and hang up, they will call back repeatedly talking in Korean every time. It's as if they expect you magically learned Korean within the three seconds it took them to hit redial. As the weeks have gone on these calls have become less frequent but none the less, very annoying.
Mopeds. Oh, the hours I could talk about these noisy little things. Mopeds are everywhere in Korea and they do not obey any traffic law at any time. They are usually stacked with egg crates and you will see them on the sidewalks and going through shopping areas filled with people. They are so annoying that I have started catching myself with the urge to just shove the rider off as he comes by. My kids have unfortunately learned how to hug the wall as soon as they hear that unmistakable engine rev.
Speaking of Mopeds – McDonalds in Korea delivers to you (off base only) and via Moped driver.
If you are looking for a house away from where hubby works, think about commute time. Hubby works 13km (about 8.5 miles) away from the base we live on and it can take him over an hour to get home. Totally ridiculous, especially on the weekends. Great news is it takes him about 15 minutes to get to work because in Korea no one obeys the traffic lights unless there are a lot of people on the road, and at 5 a.m. Koreans are still sleeping.
Make sure you are ready to sight see. There are some amazing sights in Korea -- from the historical sights to the neon lights that the Koreans put everywhere. In fact, I think they would wear the neon lights if feasible.
If you have children, you can take them so many places and they are a welcomed sight in Korea. But if your children are blonde hair and blue eyed be prepared to be a circus attraction. Our children get petted, yes petted, like they are puppies, by the old Korean ladies. They get mauled by the teenage girls, and the men love to try and talk to them. The men are what really creep me out.
It takes some getting used to, but my kids really enjoy the attention. I, on the other hand, love the free stuff. They are always giving them candy to try, letting them see things other tourists wouldn’t, and they are wonderful bartering tools … have your kids try to buy it for less and they will usually get it cheaper than you.
South Korea has been an absolute blessing for our family and we are enjoying new things every chance we get. Of course there are tons of things that are not like America and we are far away from family, but as with any duty station you make the best out of it. I can’t wait to learn more about such a different culture, and hopefully survive the roadways!
Brittany met and married her soldier in 2003 while they were both stationed in Germany. Since then Brittany has gotten out of the military and received her degree while raising their three children. They have lived in Germany, Oklahoma, Washington and most recently South Korea. Brittany has been blogging as His~Military~Wife since 2009. You can read her adventures at www.hismilitarywife.com