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Thursday,November 26,2020
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Seoul; A Comfortable Home for Expatriates
   
   

For expats, living in a foreign city is always a challenge because of the difference in language, culture, climate, and ethics. However, after living in Seoul for a few years, it feels like all those things that I used to worry about have completely dissolved. The reason has a lot to do with how Westernized and technologically advanced Seoul is today. As a foreigner, I actually feel that certain aspects of Seoul are better and more convenient compared to those of North America.

Seoul is one of the most homogeneous societies in more than just ethnicity, race and religion. As an outsider looking in, I feel like a lot of the people follow trends together too and strive to live a more Western lifestyle as a whole. The emphasis on learning English in this city is a lot greater than I’ve seen in other Asian metropolitans like Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. Here, children are enrolled in English academies as early as pre-school and many corporate companies require their employees to pass English proficiency tests in order to be considered for promotion. All types of signs and billboards around the city have English names and slogans. For tourists or expats, it’s very easy to order food at restaurants and coffee shops because there is usually a full English menu. Compared to my travels to Tokyo, Seoul is so much more English-friendly. That aspect definitely makes me feel more welcomed and contented in the city, so my fear of the language barrier has slowly but surely diminished.

Culturally, even though one side of Seoul has retained many of its traditional values, another part is eager to emulate and adapt to North American values. As a foreigner, I have never been so happy to see filial piety in the works. The cultural standard to respect your elders is something I really love and admire when I am living in Seoul. It might be a culture shock for foreigners but it is definitely something good to learn and embrace. North America lacks this value. In terms of following Western values, Seoul is trying to live the Eastern version of the American dream. After President Park Chung-hee’s economic transformation of South Korea took effect in the 1970’s, Seoul has been building up rapidly ever since. Today, with its proud title of the ‘World’s Most Wired City’, Seoul is a prime example of a developed Asian megacity that has an unstoppable future.

Messaging and browsing sites on my smart phone, while taking the pristine Seoul Metro to work everyday, makes me feel at ease if this was to be my home city. I no longer feel like an alien in Seoul now that I have learned how much in common the city has with North America. Now I’m just one of the Seoulites breathing in and taking advantage of all the great features that this bustling city has to offer.

Kun Jun Chen  kazimiar@dongguk.edu

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