People often ask me what it is actually like living here in South Korea. There are a few things that I want to make very clear:
1. South Korean do not and have never eaten cats. Old men did used to eat dog (the Chinese believe it helps old guys get it up) but it has been banned since the 1964 Olympics. South Korea reinforced this with an animals rights and protections law in 1991. So yes, the horrors of Chinese medicine used to be part of Korean society, but they are not anymore. Koreans use Western medicine now.
2. South Korea is not a third world country. Your Samsung phone came from here, as well as your LG appliances and your Hyundai car. Here, we get the technology as soon as it comes out. It isn’t approved for export until later, so you get the technology years after us. We live in the future, and the US (not the best country in the world) lives in my past. We have wifi everywhere, 4G wireless even at the top of mountains, and efficient public transportation connecting the country. So don’t ask me “Do you have to squat over a hole to poop?’ The answer is no. My toilet has features.
3. I am not afraid. Cops don’t shoot people. People don’t shoot people. There are no guns or cartels running drugs or anything. It is crowded. I won’t argue with that. But you know that you are safe. If you want to leave your bag on a table while you go get your coffee, you can. If a woman wants to walk home at 4am in a mini skirt, she can. It’s safe, and nothing bad happens. I mean, coming from The Square in Phoenix, I am not used to ever feeling safe. I am used to gun shots at night and ghetto birds overhead. But I haven’t heard one gunshot in the years I have lived here, and violent crime is very rare.
4. Everything just looks cooler. Yeah, we have our skyscrapers with no personality. But there’s always a temple next door. Or a restaurant like the one pictured (above.) It’s Asia, and so all those cool exotic things you imagined are totally here, from a raccoon cafe to a sex park. Yes, everyone knows Taekwondo, because they learn it in public school. I have, in fact, seen a fight break out and it was just like a martial arts movie. Asia is exactly as awesome as you think it is.
5. The healthcare is great. I had cancer, which one in six people deal with in their lifetime. But not all of the people who beat cancer get to go back to a normal life. Most of them have bone damage from radiation, gland damage from chemo, and other problems that require continued medical care.
I pay 12% of my income in taxes, and I get lots of wonderful things for that. One of the things I get is very cheap dental care and free healthcare. But not just healthcare! Healthcare that is not for profit.
My doctor has no incentive to rush me. He will ask me questions, and than patiently listen to my answers. He takes my opinions into account, which means so much. And I never have to wait to see him. I always get an appointment the next day if I need it, and wait a maximum of 10 minutes in the waiting room before I go to his office to talk. It’s efficient and wonderful and everything the US healthcare system pretends to be but is not. And it’s also free.
6. The holidays are better. Teacher’s Day is a day set aside just to honor teachers and their important role in raising societies children. Chuseok is all about eating just like Thanksgiving. Christmas is a date night and you don’t have to buy presents. There is a Children’s Day where you’re supposed to stay home and play with your kids. And Buddha’s Birthday is just amazing. All the lanterns and parades and floats are just awesome.
7. Best of all, I can get drunk and get home. I like that drinking is not treated as a “bad” thing here. And they have cheap cabs, fast subways, comfortable luxury buses, and commuter trains. Want to go out with your friends, but afraid to drive home drunk? No worries! Everyone drinks here, and that’s why they have plenty of ways to get out and back again safely without driving.
There no shortage of ways that it’s better than Arizona here; that’s for sure.