Living in a Small Town in Korea
When most people ask me about my experience abroad, they usually ask why I’m living in a small town in Korea–with a less than desirable bus schedule–instead of in Seoul. If they only knew how nicely I live here, I don’t think they would be asking me that question.
When I go to work, I go to the same convenient store nearly every day to buy my favorite banana milk (yes, it tastes just as good as it sounds) and the owner is a parent of one of my students. She knows me. So do the people in the supermarket and the café and all the other places I frequent in my town I am a familiar face.
I feel like I’m a part of their community and not just the foreigner who’s passing through. It’s small enough that I don’t get stared at anymore because they know I’m here; I’m less of a sore thumb and more of a resident now.
If I lived in a city as big as Seoul I know my experience would be drastically different, neither good nor bad but different.
Life here is slower and the small talk that I was told I would never experience in Korea, especially among strangers, is something I enjoy daily. I’ve had lengthy conversations with ahjummas and ahjussis (older women and men) and taxi drivers who are curious about why I live so far away from the city when they drive me home.
These interactions make me feel less like an outsider and more like I’m a part of others’ lives and not just observing from an uneasy distance. I’m grateful to not be living in an overwhelming city where I could easily be overlooked.
But, here I have eyes to watch over me and support me–Koreans and other foreigners alike. This is not to say that someone living in a city like Seoul cannot have this same experience.
From where I’m standing, I’m grateful everyday that when I haven’t been to the supermarket in a few days, the cashier always says, “Long time no see. Are you busy these days?”