I’m fascinated with other countries and different cultures, especially those of Japan and South Korea, so when I found out that not one but two of my best friends were moving to these countries for their studies I was green with jealousy. They’d each been in their chosen country for just a few weeks when the horror stories started to trickle in though.
My friend that moved to South Korea lived there for a whole year, teaching English to Korean students. I don’t know the finer details of the job, only that she was told she didn’t actually need to know Korean to do it as it was going to be an English-only classroom. Guess what? She needed to know Korean.
She told me that everything from doing her food shopping to buying a train ticket was absolutely impossible, and her blog was packed with posts lamenting the fact that she hadn’t even tried to pick the language up before she left the UK. Of course, after a couple of months she started to get to grips with it, but not before her students played a few pranks on her. I’m sure you can imagine the kind I mean – telling her a word meant something terribly polite, when it’s actually something that can get you punched.
My friend that went to Japan already knew the language – she was studying it for her degree. She got to live there for a year as well and her biggest issue was with the food. She’s one of the pickiest people I know and on the first night there she was taken to a sushi bar. This girl won’t even eat a fish supper from the local chippy, so raw fish was absolutely out of the question. It didn’t get any better for her though – she just could not stand the food. She called me quite a few times in tears, all because she was desperate for a plate of ‘normal’ food.
So, if you’re planning on moving overseas, all I can tell you is that you need to do your research first. You can guarantee that there will at least be minute differences in the culture, and you’ll need to brush up on your etiquette unless you want to accidentally offend anyone. Learn the basics of the language in order to get by and always, always be aware of what the food is going to be like, unless you want to be living off biscuits and fruit juice for a year!