Firstly: Whoa. When I saw my blog views last night I couldn’t believe it! Thank you all so much for viewing my blog and enjoying it! It makes me so happy that many of you found it so useful.
Anyways, I got a few e-mails last night from you guys (thanks so much!) and one of them contained some really good questions! I decided to do a little Q&A post answering them because I think maybe others also have the same questions. The person who asked these questions is going to Busan, so some of the answers are directly about Busan. However you can assume things are similar in the other big cities.
Q: Are there areas where Koreans and expats hang out together?
Language exchanges are a good start. I just put up a post about my favorite language exchange group, MokTalk. There are others around the city as well.
There are many bars and clubs around the city that both Koreans and foreigners hang out at. I’m the worst person to be talking about this. You will hear the phrase “round two” a lot in Korea. After going to dinner with friends, Koreans always suggest “round two”. Round two is usually a bar or suljib (Korean bar). My kind of round two, on the other hand, is cake and coffee at a coffee shop!!
Anyways, here is the little that I do know. KSU (Kyungsung University), PNU (Pusan National University), Seomyeon, Gwangalli, and Haeundae are the areas where you can find a lot of foreigners and Koreans mixing. Thursday Party is one popular bar that has branches in all of these areas. KSU and Seomyeon have many popular clubs.
Obviously anywhere you go there will be Koreans. If your group is having a great time, they might ask to join!
Q: Are there stores that sell Western products, and how much more do they cost?
YES! Products is a large category. But yes, you can get all sorts of western products around the city. Everything? No. I talked about this a little in my packing blog post.
H&M and Zara have multiple branches around Busan and both have women and men’s clothing. There are also a few Forever 21, though I can’t remember if they have men’s clothing. Shinsaegae in Centum City has tons of western clothing stores.
Adidas and Nike are everywhere. Les More and ABC Mart also carry pretty much all the major shoe brands.
Do western products cost more here? Typically yes. How much more? It depends on what the item is. Apple products, for example, cost wayyyyy more. Western clothing isn’t too much more. Western food costs slightly more, but it seems way more expensive because Korean food is so cheap.
Q: Are there Western restaurants?
Yes! Outback, Subway, McDonald’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Johnny Rockets, Domino’s, Papa Johns. I’m sure there are more but those come to mind first.
There are also Korean owned Western restaurants. Butcher’s Burger in Gwangalli has burgers, SOL in KSU has the best pizza in Korea I’ve ever tasted! There is the expensive steak house buffet VIPS. Koreans love it (I’ve never been). There are different brunch cafes all over the city like Caffe Primo in Gwangalli.
If you go up to Seoul there is even more!!! Itaewon area is great for western food and also vegan/vegetarian options. Seoul rivals New York City for the most Starbucks on one block (it’s kind of ridiculous).
Don’t limit yourself to western food. There is soooo much good Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food. But yes, I also feel that occasional “I just want American food!!!!” feeling. Just know: not everything tastes the same as back home. The frosted donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts are terrible (that’s not frosting). And pizza from Domino’s and Papa Johns is just weird (toppings overload) and ridiculously expensive!!
Q: What should I bring with me?
See my blog post here. If you have questions about specific things please ask!
Q: Is it difficult socializing with all the other teachers etc spread across the city?
I’ll talk about “spread across the city” first. Getting Busan as your placement doesn’t necessarily mean city. The Busan Metropolitan Office of Education services a larger area, past the large city areas that people think of when they hear “Busan”. It is possible to get placed in the outskirts. There’s even a few islands that are considered Busan. I’ve heard stories about people that have been placed in these areas. It can take more than an hour to reach the center of Busan. The chances of getting placed here aren’t very high, but it does happen.
Is it difficult to socialize with other teachers in Busan? No! Language exchanges are a great way to meet other EPIKers and teachers, as well as Koreans.
During orientation you will be placed in a class with others from Busan (or whatever POE/MOE you’re going to). You will get to know each other because you literally spend all day with each other in classes and doing activities.
The Busan EPIKers in my intake set up a Facebook group and also a Kakao Talk* group. We used–and still do–these groups to ask questions, get advice, vent, and also invite others to do things. We went drinking, hiking, traveling, watched a baseball game. It’s really great having that support system, especially in the beginning, because you are all new and all going through the same things at the same time.
*The Kakao Talk app is a MUST for your cellphone! No one texts in Korea, they Kakao. Free texting, free calling, free video chatting. It’s great for even communicating with family back home.
Q: Should I join any sports clubs?
This is up to you! They exist. I know the one that advertised a lot on my EPIK intake’s Facebook was the Ultimate Frisbee group. I’m not a sports person, so I didn’t join any, but I’m sure it’s a great way to meet people. I say, if you like the sport then join. If you don’t like the people or it’s too much, just leave!
Q: Are there any blogs etc you’d recommend?
Busan Haps is great for getting news about Busan and Korea in English.
Busan Food great for finding great food in new parts of the city and sharing your own finds!
Busan Awesome has some really useful stuff. It isn’t updated anymore, so a lot of the restaurants are now closed. But it still has a lot of nice information about different things to do in different areas of the city.
Area Specific Facebook Groups. There are groups for different areas of the city. People post about new restaurants or events happening. People leaving also sell many things for cheap prices. I know of the PNU and Jangsan groups. There is also Expats in Busan and Busan EPIK.
Not a blog, but Busan eFM is an English radio station in Busan.
OK! I hope that answered your questions! Keep them coming!