I've never been to Korea, and I've never had a particular interest in the culture either. I went to both high school and college where you can't go ten minutes on campus without hearing Korean being spoken. Loudly. Most of them tended to stick with to their own kind, I'm talking about to the point where the rest of us didn't know if they even spoke English. So Korea has always been on the periphery of my consciousness, but never anything more than that.
I would say that I'm moving my life to Busan without knowing anything before hand, but life doesn't fit into clean narratives like that. I've been asking around about life South Korea as well as Busan specifically for the last few months, and I've gathered quite a bit of second hand information from Koreans, Korean Americans, and Canadians and Americans who've worked there. I want to get down all my expectations and preconceived notions about Koreans and their culture and see how right/wrong the ideas in my head are once I settle in Busan and live there for a while.
I asked a lot of questions to these four:
Jane, Korean-American, family lives in Seoul
Katie, Canadian, taught English in Busan
Matt, American, taught English in Busan
Jin, Korean, from Busan
I'll also write down a few things I remember said from other people.
On Korean girls:
Jane- “They are very shallow and obsessed with their appearance. They like guys with money. They spend a lot of money on make up and fashion, and many have had surgery on their face or circle contact lenses.”
Katie- “Very childlike. Get used to not being able to have a conversation without her taking several phone pictures of herself to check her appearance or just for cute poses. From what I've seen in the locker rooms, they leave their pubic hair untouched. Completely unkempt bushes are the norm, the bigger the better.”
Jin- “They like slim, muscular guys who are tall just like any other girls. But they worry about make up and fashion a lot.”
On Korean Guys:
Katie- “They're taller than other Asians.”
Matt- They are pretty touchy-feely. A lot of physical contact between friends is normal.
Jin- “I don't have any desire to sleep with a Korean boy because then every Korean person would know about it the next day. But they are taller than Japanese men.”
Xixi- “I've slept with two and they were very selfish...”
The Arrival Store: “If you're used to American condoms, please bring those with you.”
On Korean food
Jin- “I miss Korean food a lot. It's very healthy, as long as you watch your sodium intake. There's a lot of salt, and they eat a lot of rice. Meat is very expensive.”
Jane- “Korean food is delicious. If you want a cheap source of protein, eggs are your best bet. Nuts and seeds are also expensive.”
The Arrival Store: “Pork is the cheapest of the meats, but beef is extremely expensive.”
On Korean social life
Jin: “They drink a lot. It's acceptable to drink until you are blacked out and be drunk in public. You're going to come off as very weird if you refuse a drink. At least have two drinks if you're in company.”
Katie: “The clubs are packed so tight that it's very hard to move around. You'll have to get used to that.”
Jane: “In Korea the guy is expected to pay for everything. I think Korean girls will think you're handsome. 5'10” is a pretty good height.”
On Staying Safe
Jane: “Don't accept free drinks from anybody. I've heard of cases where a girl is offering free drinks outside of a club and it knocks you out immediately. Guy nearby then kidnap you into a car. Taxi drivers have raped women using drug-laced gum as well. Even as a guy, be careful when you're out drinking.”
Matt: “It's a pretty safe country, compared to America.”
Jin: “Stay away from drugs and you'll be fine.”
I don't think anybody goes anywhere without any biases, preconceptions and expectations at all. I'm open about mine, but I haven't even gone to Korea yet, so I don't treat them like anything more than some people's opinions and experiences.