As a Belgian girl, when I thought about being an exchange student, I thought about experiencing a new culture, meeting new friends from all around the world, learning a new language, travelling and partying. But as awesome as my stay here might be, there are tons of things I cannot get used to.
Of course I don’t mean to criticize the Korean way of life, but I just want to point out things that might seem normal to Koreans but are all new (and weird) to the modest Belgian student that I am.
First of all you need to know that Belgium is the land of beer and even if I’m not a beer lover, I miss my ale when I go out in Hongdae. Obviously, I like flavoured soju but it’s not the same because it’s excessively sweet, and while you can drink three bottles of beers without being drunk, you can’t drink three bottles of soju and walk straight. Of course Korea has its own beer but it just tastes like water to me.
The second Korean habit I cannot get used to is the way students act in classes. In the courses I took back home, giving your meaning and coming up with your own interpretation of movies, articles or artworks was really important. However, most of the students here seem to have the same opinion and few would seriously suggest that they don’t agree with the teacher. That is something really new to me since in Belgium, most of my classes look more like debate classes and arguing to defend your point of view is what is asked.
Another really unusual thing to me is how ordinary plastic surgery is in Seoul. I had heard about it in Belgium but I didn’t realize how common it was and how open people were about it; all the posters in the subway and the shop windows in Gangnam. In Belgium and mostly everywhere in Europe, surgery is a taboo and most of the time people have a negative opinion toward it.
Finally, I have to admit that Koreans surprised me in the way they party. You guys are party animals! In Brussels, when I go out it’s all about chilling with your friends, dancing and drinking. At the end you get drunk, you take the cab and go home. Here, things take a whole new dimension: everyone is all dressed up, alcohol flows freely and it seems like nobody stops drinking until one passes out. That’s really new to me to see guys lying on the street, unable to stand up or girls throwing up between cars, shaking on their high heels.
There are many other things I argue to deal with in Korea (the hills, the music, the slow way people walk, typhoons, taking off your shoes inside and etc.) but these are the ones that surprised me the most.