The first week

Own experience and other practical tips on surviving the first week in Korea

I don’t even know how to start this one. Think about everything you thought you knew about Korea, got it? Good. Now erase. I was completely out of my league. The first thing that stood out was Friendliness. OMG! Friendly people all around. I kid you not! Every person we passed in the street would nod, bow their head a little and say something sounding like anyanhuisiebou. Because I learned a bit a Korean before coming, I knew it was actually Annyeong Haseyo (which is a formal-ish Korean greeting). The extent of my Korean was Hello, Bye and Thank you – which brings me to my first tip;

  1. Learn the currency in Korean and how to ask ‘How much does this cost’
  2. Learn to say ‘I do not speak Korean’. When you greet in Korean, people just assume you can speak Korean and they will start off with a bang and you will just be lost!
  3. Do not be afraid of communicating with people. They appreciate the fact that you greet and say thank you, and they will try their best to understand your sign language as well.

Next up; What to buy.

  1. I found Daiso on my first day. And spent about R1000 there. Basically everything I thought I will need to make the housing into a home, I got there.
  2. Don’t buy anything before you see your apartment. It is possible that you actually like the stuff the previous teacher leave behind. (We got some pretty cool things – like a big ass flat screen TV).

Money conversion shock!

  1. Coffee is really expensive. Most of the coffee we had were also really good.
  2. Produce and meat – very expensive.
  3. Some things, like the Triangle Kimbap (which has now become my breakfast food) which you buy at Seven 11 stores for 1500Won (double pack) is really cheap. Like where in South Africa will you buy breakfast for R12?!
  4. You are going to eat a lot. Prepare for large amounts of food when you go to any restaurants. You might get a shock when you convert the price, but seriously worth it when you see the amount of food.

Surviving your school

  1. This is a tricky one. We were welcomed and almost carried into the school by a stream of friendly Korean faces, but saying it will be the same for you is pushing it a bit. The best I can do is to tell you to relax, get a small introduction ready in your head and just smile and wave!
  2. Meeting the staff – do a small bow, say hi and nice to meet you and move on. You will be there for a whole year, so there’s plenty of time for memorizing names and matching them to faces.
  3. If you start working straight away, make sure that you ask the school for the programs and whatever you will be using for that next days activity. It will help with the nerves and easing in if you can just give it a once over before starting the next day.

Good luck, and remember to make as many happy memories during your first week! This will set the tone for the whole year to come, so try your best. Some things will drive you crazy, but others will be weird and wonderful. Just roll with it…I just kept chanting ‘Just keep swimming’ – Thank you, Finding Dory!


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