Well, I’m now back in snowy Korea after a wonderful, albeit brief, two weeks at home celebrating Christmas with my family. While it was the best Christmas a girl could wish for, I was surprised to realise that, although in many ways it felt like I’d never left, my home for the first 22 years of my life suddenly felt quite alien.
The shock of going from a 24/7 neon metropolis like Incheon to the heart of rural Leicestershire hit me as soon as we left the airport when, much to the amusement of my family, I couldn’t get over how dark it was. And there were so many stars! When I looked out of my bedroom window in the morning I saw green grass, not grey concrete, and the first cow (not on a plate) in over a year.
Most of the pop culture references from the last 15 months that didn’t involve Gangnam Style (or Gangbang Style as one of my parents’ friends so brilliantly mistook it for) went straight over my head, and I hardly recognised any of the music on the radio. I also discovered that my friends and family don’t quite seem to share my love of K-pop.
My purse took a bit of a beating, as I’d completely forgotten what English prices were like. I was horrified to discover that a large glass of wine now costs £6 at my local pub, that’s the same as a proper meal, complete with beer, in Korea. I felt like I’d been mugged after making the mistake of getting a round in.
I could step out to cross the road when the green man was on without fear of being mowed down by a rogue taxi, and walk down the pavement without worrying about dodging delivery scooters. I waited at a zebra crossing so long that I got beeped at because, shock horror, pedestrians actually have right of way! I didn’t lose an hour of my day waiting at traffic lights and (most!) cars abide by the rules of the road. Wonderful.
Then there was the biggest difference, the ‘language barrier’. Hearing so much English, and actually understanding everything, was almost overwhelming. My ears went into eavesdropping overdrive! I noticed that my English had changed too, as I often found myself speaking in simplified English illustrated with overly enthusiastic hand gestures. Then of course there were those pesky Americanisms creeping in from time to time, I thought my brother was going to slap me when I suggested watching a ‘movie’ one night. Not speaking Korean was also surprisingly difficult. Standing in WHSmiths trying to work out why the cashier was looking at me like that until I realised I’d just thanked her in Korean was a little embarrassing to say the least.
Now I’m back in Korea, saying ‘thank you’ to people in English, taking my life into my hands when I cross the street, and missing bacon sandwiches. Thanks England, it was fun, see you next Christmas!