Here's another one I've already read about in a ton of blogs: around the 3 month mark of your time in Korea you'll really start missing the comforts of home. It's my own fault. I should have sent myself a care package. I should have learned more Korean. I should have brought a friend or boyfriend with me. I should suck it up and deal with it. This one gets a little sappy - be forewarned that I'm not actually upset just went down a rabbit hole of memories. I'm missing the comforts of home.
Most of these have to do with food (and the "Canadian" foods I miss), so if you're hungry then this might not be the time.
1. I can't place a proper order.
I don't speak Korean. I can get by at lunchbox places (Hansot) and Kimbap (Kim Seon Saeng), I can terrify my students by telling them to STOP IT, or that I don't understand, or that I know they're talking about me in Korean (Way-goo-gin Seon-Saeng-Nim - literally Foreigner Teacher) - seriously they are so impressed when I say ANYTHING in Korean at all. It's amazing! Restaurant staff on the other hand? They either make fun of me (I pointed at pictures on the Hansot Menu my first week before practicing the Korean from the menu and trying my luck - it was only when I spoke Hangul that they started chirping me!) or they get irritated and I end up having to pull out the translator on my phone or simply leave because they make no attempt to help me understand. I know it's my own fault. It's not easy. When I was in Europe I could kind of figure it out having studied French, Italian, German, and Spanish, but this is an entirely different ballgame.
2. Cheetos and Doritos are a lie and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The Cheetos here are either sweet BBQ flavoured, honey butter, or tomato and onion. They lack the bite that proper CHEESE Cheetos should have. I found some cheese puffs/ balls that are supposed to be camembert-flavoured. Also a lie. The flavours are muted and sometimes when I just want a savoury snack I am SOL.
The Doritos here are Sweet Ranch flavoured, or mild cheese flavour, or a bomb of different heats including the overwhelming taste of wasabi. There are a couple of others but realistically the actual chip just tastes like they're gluten-free - you know...like cardboard with powder on it.
3. Koreans think foreigners can't handle the heat.
When I order something spicy I get raised eyebrows and sauce on the side. Usually it's just a sweet sauce without much kick. I bought jalapenos, hot salsa, Louisiana Hot Sauce, tons of chili flakes and decided to cook my spicy goodness at home. Jin Ramen (HOT) ain't got a thing on this gal.
4. EVERYTHING is sweet.
The chips...they're sweet. The bread...it's sweet. The meat...is sweet. The cheese...is sweet. The pizza...is sweet. I just want something salty and delicious. Please guys. I'm begging you - make something basic and savoury.
5. If you're not in a couple or a party then you're not enjoying a restaurant meal.
Korean food is designed for sharing. I'm dying to go to many of the awesome-looking Korean BBQ spots a block away from my place. I saw a chef carving beef today and want to go to there ASAP but if your crew wants to get dukgalbi then that's where you're going. If they want pork? Then group consensus wins. If you're alone? No dice - you're sad and there's nothing here for you. Go to Lotteria or head home and get McDelivery (which I have now set up and ordered from twice - danger, danger). I miss having my close-knit gal pals from Toronto who were always down to try anything once if good food, good wine, or a good story was involved.
6. I miss the International Foods available in my hometown of Toronto.
I want real pizza (not a crepe topped with "cheese" - the cheese here is not the kind of quality we get back home). I miss good quality cheese (and wine, and champagne!). I want tortellini. There is Indian food here but man, is it ever far from Hwamyeong. I want sushi - tonight I went to the local sushi restaurant and was told that all they served was sashimi and croquettes. I want Thai food and only know of one Pan-Asian "Fusion" spot in Seomyeon to get my curry on. I want to order chicken and not have to pay $18 for a box of chicken that could feed a large family but will go bad by morning. I miss order-it and just-eat. I don't want to talk to anyone I just want to order my multicultural food from the comfort of my bed in my jammies and have nobody question my decisions or get confused.
Most of all I miss having 3 incredible chefs and their teams cooking for me and explaining each individual ingredient with great detail (and then encouraging hefty bourbon shots). I miss my mornings with Des and Kat with real talk (and unreal scrambled eggs), Julian's creations surprising me at every turn (don't get me started on the mushroom poutine - I could go for poutine right now too...), Ryan's counter culture and supportive spirit (that goes for Rob too), and my afternoons with Sandy Sanderson and AR (I wasn't talking to you). Man, I miss you all and your incredible passion and zest for life.
7. The owner of my gym treats me differently than the 3 Korean referrals I brought in who all signed up as members.
I have a real problem with this one. My Korean friends paid the same as I did for the gym but they get access to lockers as well. I was never told about the gym clothes as well but I've gone ahead and started using them. When my colleague referred her friend she got a free month. I brought in another friend less than a week later and all of a sudden the promotion was over and no dice for me (this was the 5th friend I had referred, and yes - he was well aware).
I really just want the comforts of home. Meeting a Korean who can speak even the tiniest bit of English makes me over the moon. I found some no name nacho chips that have the crunch-factor I was looking for in the Doritos. I miss real bacon. I miss being able to buy meat at the grocery store without giving up my weekend party budget (meat here is PRICY - you're better off eating at a restaurant as it's actually cheaper). I miss my Queen-sized bed. Heck - I miss my Double bed from University. Sleeping on an old single bed is doing my back no good. I miss buying furniture and being able to hire a delivery service to get it home. My apartment is not a reflection of me in the slightest as the walls are completely bare and the couch is...well...that's another story that probably won't be posted here. Let's just say it came from a stairwell and caused a lot of grief.
When I'm sick I want my Mom - she provides cuddles, Vick's vapo-rub, and the kind of concern a girl just needs when she's on her own halfway around the world. Shout out to the God-fam for the support and love as well (my family is pretty great-looking, right?). Truly, I miss joking around with my Mom and my Dad. I miss our romps around Toronto when they would come in for Indian Buffet on King Street (shout out Agra - miss you guys) and a trip around the Eaton Centre. I miss our laughs - it's not the same on Skype (thought I'm incredibly thankful for such a service). I miss my parents' cooking. They always come up with innovative dishes but also know when to make my old favourites (I could SO go for pesto chicken pasta or Dad's famous Caesar salad right now). I don't have an oven or a blender - I'm just here chillin' with a hot plate.
Realistically I'll be here for the next 2 years so if anyone from Canada/ USA wants any Korean treats please suggest we become penpals - I will send it alllllllll as long as you promise to send me some comforts of home in return.