I am finally in walking distance to two Starbucks. When I was living in Florida my sister and I would have to make special trips to Starbucks and we always had to drive. It took a gigantic move across the ocean to have the wonderful privilege of living close to a cafe street with a thousand cafes.
Right now I am sitting in a cafe that was a a location in a Korean drama. Korean is being spoken around me and I am sitting with co-workers/friends working on school stuff. Sometimes life is a surprising adventure.
To continue my amazing adventure that is called my life, last week I took a trip to Japan. It was not a a pleasure trip. It was actually a work based trip. I had to make a visa trip in order to work in the country of Korea. Now for some reason Korea requires people wishing to get a visa to be out of the country in order to obtain their visa. Considering Japan is the closest country I had to take a few days off work and go to Japan. I was lucky because I found a consulate that had next day processing.
As I sat at a Japanese Starbucks I started to wonder how on earth all of this happened. I wondered how the Japanese culture differed from the Korean, from the American? How would my kids (students) act while I am away? If I walk down that road what would I find? How did my life become so amazing? What if I loved Japan more than Korea? You know all the normal Starbucks thoughts that you reflect on when staring at your coffee cup.
Japan has several different cultural differences from Korea that was very prominent in the two days I was in Japan.
1. Japanese people love eating alone. Okay love might be an exaggeration. However the Japanese people seem to enjoying eating alone and reading or writing or simply thinking. Koreans however love being in a couple. It is very odd to see someone by themselves unless they are working or studying (even then you can find people hanging out or studying together). Koreans are big on never being alone.
2. Japanese people are use to seeing Westerners. It was not as surprising to the Japanese to see me. Even though I live in a very Westerner populated part of Korea, I still get the occasional “Stop and stare.” No, it is not because I have something on my face.
3. Japanese people are okay admitting they have no clue what you are saying in English. Many Koreans, most Koreans, okay all Koreans, will shake their heads in agreement even though they have no clue what you are saying.
4. Japanese are very work driven. Most everyone looks like they are coming from a business meeting. While most Koreans are dressed in their best, however where I live many people simply wear outing clothes.
5. Where I was in Japan was pretty flat and everyone had bikes. Korea seems to travel by mass transit and cars. Lots of cars in a very confined place.
Over all I felt more confident in Japan simply because no one really watched me. I could do anything I wanted go anywhere I wanted and I felt like people would try and help me. They were very nice and accommodating to a silly lost foreigner (though I had a map and never really got lost). I feel like Korans loose patience or are a bit harsher towards Westerners. I also feel like at times Koreans are more judgmental than Japanese.
There is a part of me that would like to go back to the city I went to in Japan just to visit again to see if it really was how I saw it or if I was seeing things through a tourist lens. Overall I enjoyed my trip my Japan. However I live in Korea. After Japan I felt like I could do pretty much anything in Korea. I had more confidence and ability to do things on my own. I need help sometimes but basic every day life like shopping and getting food have become slightly easier.
Overall I feel like my Japan trip helped me understand my time in Korea even more. I am still enjoying my amazing life here. I am becoming more and more use to doing things. People that work in shops are beginning to recognize me and it feels great. I am starting to be able to travel by myself and soon I will have a bank account which will make things even more easier. I am excited to finish settling in and start to really live a normal life in Korea. Is it possible to live a normal life as a foreigner in Korea? Do I really want to live a normal life? I guess questions to be reflected on in another Starbucks cup.
Thanks for reading!