#1 You own more than 2 umbrellas.
One for the rain and one for the sun. Smaller one that you can easily put in your handbag, and bigger one for windy rainy day that can make you stay dry during the typhoon season (or at least you try to stay dry by using this umbrella.) Oh, don’t forget, colorful one that match with your clothes and basic or transparent one which you bought on the nearest convenient store when you forget to bring your umbrella.
#2 You can wear a mini skirt even when it is negative 5 degrees outside.
At first, I thought it was crazy thing to do. I wore few layer of clothes and still feel cold. How can the Korean girls can wear those mini skirt in these freezing situation? But after a while, I found myself wearing one too. It’s all about fashion.😛
#3 You’ve mastered the art of eating a cake with chopsticks.
In Korea, you will use chopstick to eat everything. Noodles, rice, fried chicken, or cakes. Birthday cakes. Yes, Korean eat cakes with chopstick.
#4 You bow to everyone you see as a greeting.
It’s the most difficult Korean habit to break. I found myself bowing to others when I go back in my home country. In Korea, bowing equals greetings, and how can you live a day without doing so?
#5 You are a Seoul Metro master
Seoul has one of the best subway systems in the world. It is massive. There are stops on almost every block in the entirety of Seoul, and the system is so sprawling that it even extends into not just the surrounding province of Gyeonggi-do, but even into Chuncheonbuk-do and Gangwon-do. It’s fantastic, fast, and cheap. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but after a while, not only do you know which lines match with which colors, but you’re competent at which of the 8+ exits is closest to your intended destination.
If you’re really pro, you’ll have figured out which individual subway car stops exactly in front of the staircase that leads to your transfer subway line, if you need to transfer (these are marked). By now, you’re so native that you can navigate three different subway lines and two sets of transfers without even needing to pause or looking up from whatever game you’re playing on your smartphone.
#6 You group text your friends about grammar, because you can’t tell if a sentence is wrong or just awkward sounding
You know it’s bad when you’ve been out of an English-speaking environment so long that your internal mother-tongue radar needs a recharge. Or in my case, it’s Indonesian. Sometimes I cannot say full long sentence in Indonesian, without using some Korean expressions.
#7 When reading 한글 becomes more convenient than reading English
You know you’ve gone native when reading Hangul becomes more convenient than reading English. A great example of this is in the subway. While all subway station signs are bilingual or trilingual, the name of the station, that is written in Hangul, is obviously written in the largest print. When you’re seated on the subway and don’t want to get up for risk of losing your seat, it becomes a lot easier to read the Hangul on the subway map sign. And oh, when you read restaurant menu.
#8 Everyone you knew is gone
When people first come to Korea, they usually meet a core group of people either from their work or town that they become fast friends with. You share all your first experiences with these people, sharing all the ups and downs of living abroad in a completely different culture. Through these experiences, you become very close to these people quite quickly, and part of your Korean life becomes personified in them.
Then they leave..
Whether its to a different city in Korea, to work abroad in another country, or whether its back to the home country of origin for good, everyone you once knew and were close to will leave. There comes a point where you begin attending a significantly larger number of farewells than you do welcomes. With each person who leaves, part of your history in Korea goes with them. You will not be able to share those first experiences of getting overwhelmed by teaching, going to night club in Hongdae, or eating strange Korean food such as sundae (boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines that are stuffed with various ingredients), gopchang (grilled intestines of cattle or pork), pondaegi (silk worm) or other food with anyone else.
#9 Your Korean language skills have gone in one of two directions: you’re kinda competent or you’ve completely given up
Probably everyone comes to a foreign country with the idea that they’ll learn the language. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way: you have a desire to communicate with the locals, you want an easier time getting around, you want to pick up a language just to have another useful life skill. You learn to read hangul and you think, “Hey! That was easy! I’ll be speaking Korean in six months like a native!” After that, maybe you learn one, or both sets of numbers in Korean and you think “Wow! Now I can understand and communicate prices and tell time! This is awesome!”
Then reality hits. Korean is hard. Really hard. What bad is that most middle-class Koreans who want to get ahead are doing everything they can to learn English and want to speak English with you; not Korean.
You really worked hard and after a couple years, you’re conversational, but not fluent. The number of people in this group is dwarfed by the people in the first.
#10 When you’ve left Korea, traveled somewhere else, return to Korea and it feels like home
Can’t agree more.
* * *
.. with some modification based on my personal experiences.🙂