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Living in Korea – 10 Ways it’s Different From Scotland

Living in Korea is completely different from life back in Scotland. It’s been a good 6 months since I landed in Incheon airport. Some of my friends still think I’m just on one big holiday which couldn’t be any further from the truth. I can tell you that it’s really challenging when you arrive in a new country and you are completely unfamiliar with everything. Things here are tremendously different from what I knew in Scotland and a lot of it is actually positive.

1. Living in Korea – Where Supermarkets are HUGE

Back in Scotland, we’re all familiar with the usual supermarket chains like Tesco, Asda and Sainbury’s. The buildings of these supermarkets pail in comparison to how giant supermarkets are in Korea. The most common supermarket chains are Lotte Mart and Homeplus. These places tend to be in massive multi-storey buildings and they sell absolutely everything.

My nearest Lotte Mart sells groceries, clothes, toys, furniture and even electronics. So a trip to Lotte Mart feels like going to Tesco, Ikea and Currys all in one. Scottish supermarkets don’t feel as massive and usually the purpose they serve is mostly for buying food.

2. Convenience Stores don’t Really Exist in Scotland

I remember when I lived in Mexico City and I absolutely loved heading to Oxxo to get some rum for Friday night. In Korea, it’s a similar case with a number of chains such as GS25, CU and of course 7-Eleven. In Scotland you don’t really get this convenience. What you do get instead are slightly smaller versions of supermarkets.

3. Living in Korea Comes With Extremely Hot Weather

Scotland is a country with horrific weather. During summer, you would be lucky to have 5 days of sun. That means it’s extremely rare to even appreciate the fantastic beaches we have. I’ve had about 2 months of summer and it feels absolutely scorching. The humidity is extremely high and it’s really not something I’m used to.

This means I can spend my Saturdays on the beach and I can cool down with a swim in the sea. I really enjoy taking my time to unwind on the beaches around Busan as I’m spoiled for choice.

4. Living in Korea Means Having an AC Unit for the First Time

The heat is definitely unbearable, however I can turn the air conditioning on to cool myself down. For the first time ever, I have an air conditioning unit in my flat. When it came to turning it on for the first time, I was weirdly excited. In Scotland, this luxury doesn’t exist because hardly ever gets hot enough to need air conditioning. When it gets too hot in Scotland, we just try our best to get through it.

5. Daiso Reminds me of Woolies From Back in the Day

If you grew up in Scotland at a similar time to me, you may have fond memories of frequenting good old Woolies. In Korea, Daiso is a chain of shops which has the same energy that Woolworths once emanated. You can buy a whole variety of different essential and random things there.

Just the other day, I needed a screwdriver to set up my new TV and I was able to buy one in Daiso for just over a quid.

6. I Really Stand Out in Korea

I can’t say I look like a typical Scotsman. When I lived in Stirling, people asked me where I as from and were surprised with the answer. Despite that, the small country of Scotland feels so multicultural that you think nothing of seeing people from all over the world on a daily basis.

On the other hand, Korea is one of the most homogenous countries in the world. Outside of the big cities, it feels like a rarity to see other foreigners. Even when I’m on the metro in Busan, I’ll often be the only only foreigner on the train.

7. Vandalism is Really Rare in Korea

An incredible thing about Korea is that you very rarely see vandalism. In Scotland, I remember seeing ugly graffiti everywhere. In parks, there are all sorts of things the public can use such as exercise equipment and even places where people are free to read books. If this was Scotland, these things wouldn’t last a day without being ruined completely.

8. Drinking is More Accepted in Korea

This might sound odd, but it’s definitely true! Scotland has a rather difficult relationship with alcohol and the government has made every effort to stop people from having their fun. However, in Korea it’s possible to buy soju or makgolli for less than a quid. Moreover, it’s common to see people enjoying a drinking session on the picnic benches outside a convenience store. This would be unthinkable in Scotland as drinking in public is heavily frowned upon.

9. Scotland has Much More Open Space

Korea has a population which is 10 times that of Scotland. What’s mental about this is that Scotland is not that much small than Korea. This means that space is so much more scarce in Korea. All over Korea, there are huge tower blocks everywhere you look. On the other hand, the majority of tower blocks have been demolished in favour of nicer-looking places to live.

10. Scotland has Better Snacks

We all laughed at Karl Pilkington for bringing Monster Munch with him all the way to China. However, I cannot say he is wrong for doing so. Snacks are widely available in Scotland and you can be spoilt for choice of what to eat. Even though Korea is full of convenience stores, it can be hard to find some decent snacks. Moreover, living in Korea, you will struggle to find crisps as decent as Monster Munch.

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