Monday, June 28, 2010

Korea v. Japan

Lately I've been feeling Seoul-sick. I have never been homesick since I got to Japan, but along with my mild culture shock of the past few months came a weird "longing for Korea" feeling. After much thought and sharing with some friends, I finally put my finger on it. I really miss Seoul, and living in a big city. I miss taking the subway. I miss the neon lights and the loud music. I miss the crowds. I miss the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on my doorstep. I miss disappearing and blending in (sort of). I miss being surrounded by tons of young, stylish people. I miss being anonymous.

Yet, I would not trade my life in rural Japan for city living in Seoul. My experience in Japan, despite the daily challenges of the countryside, has been WAY smoother than anything I've ever experienced in Seoul. For one, the language part has been so much more interesting in Japan: Japanese is easier to speak than Korean, but more challenging to read. Studying new Kanji and mastering the kana has been very rewarding.

The food. Even though I love Korean food, eating it on a daily basis was very difficult for me... too spicy. It was challenging to cook the foods I liked. I love Japanese food, and I find there is much more variety. I'm always craving it! And for some reason, it's easier to find import products here.

I had a rough time with some cultural differences back in Korea. I found people to be very rude sometimes, especially in the subway. Korea was loud, and the streets dirty. Even though Japan has way too many rules and can be overwhelming when it comes to etiquette, I appreciate the politeness and complete silence in public transportation. And the cleanliness!

Yet... I do miss the warmth of Koreans. They were the friendliest, most approachable people. I miss having strangers come up to me in public places and chatting with me. Japanese seem far too intimidated and terrified to even look at me sometimes. However, I love how individualistic Japanese people are, each having very different hobbies and music/food tastes... something that seemed more rare in Korea.

{Peaceful and beautiful Japan}





{The exciting chaos of Seoul}




I would love to hear what people think about Korea v. Japan, if you have experienced both!

I feel very much at home here in Japan. I do miss Seoul like crazy, and cannot wait to visit again soon, and getting lost in the Seoul chaos. The Japanese countryside is lovely, but I'm a city girl at heart... that's what I came to realize. But... my heart is in Japan, and I'm completely absorbed in this love story I'm having with this country.

10 comments:

Corie said...

Hi Vivian, I recently came across your blog and just wanted to say I'm really enjoying it. I'm about to finish up two years of teaching in Seoul, and I know I'm really going to miss it, so it's interesting to read your perspective as someone who's been here and then moved on. I'm moving on to London next, but I was definitely captivated by Japan both times I visited, so maybe I'll end up there one day. For now though I'll stick to living vicariously through your adventures--it sounds like you're having a great time!

Vivian said...

Thanks Corie for your lovely comment! I wrote you a reply in your comments on your blog, the entry about Seoul :)

xo

LH said...

Hi Vivian, I am a teacher in Seoul, SK, and have been keeping up with your blog, and am currently very interested in teaching in Japan as well! Your town seems like a great place to live, but I agree with the things that you expressed about Korea! Here is my blog: http://laurainkorea.tumblr.com/

Vivian said...

LH- Your blog is so great!! Thanks for your comment, I always love reading them!! xo

Kelly said...

Hi, Vivian. I've only traveled to Japan for two short trips, but I absolutely agree with what you wrote about how it differs from Korea. When I was there, I loved how clean and organized it was, but I started missing the chaos and noise of Seoul by the end. And the rest of your posts are rocking, too!

Also, thanks for your kind comment on my blog (KellyinKorea). If you head back to Korea before March, let me know!

Natalie said...

I love your blog. I have been reading it for awhile and actually emailed you for info about Korea in the fall (thank you again for that!)... and now I am here living in Seoul. I went back into your archives and read about when you first returned from your year in Korea. It was nice to read about the things you missed, as it gave me a new appreciation for them. I love this city, even with all of its faults and how at times everything seems so contradictory. I would like to travel to Japan for Chuseok but haven't sorted flights out yet. Then I will have something to compare! :)

Vivian said...

Thanks, Natalie!! I love your blog, too!! So happy you made it to Seoul!! I left you a comment on your blog :)

志穎志穎 said...

欣賞是一種美德~回應是最大的支持^^....................................................................

French lover said...

Je pense comprendre ce dont tu veux parler, le fait de vivre dans une grande ville, de disparaître quand tu passes le pas de la porte, de te fondre dans la foule... Tout cela me manque dès que je passe quelques semaines hors de Paris. Je suis vaguement agoraphobe, je déteste les gens, je joue des coudes et suis la pire piétonne ever (you have to be when you live in Paris) and yet I miss all of this as soon as it's taken away from me.
Je pense que c'est peut-être plus l'aspect grande ville qui te manque et non le pays ?
Quoiqu'il en soit tu as effectivement l'air très heureuse depuis que tu es au Japon, et ça fait plaisir à lire :)

MrSamO said...

Hi Vivian, interesting blog. I also taught in Japan and Korea (did China too), so I can relate to the few things you wrote. I find both group warm in their own ways, the Koreans would hug you whereas the Japanese would think about you. When I was shopping for groceries in Korea I still had to folk out 290 won for a packet of natto :-) However, nothing beats Korean hotpot and kimchi especially for those winters, I'm glad you can buy those in Japan (which was funny because I lived in Japan for 3 years and never knew what those red vegetables in a little round containers were for!) I'm trying Japan again but this time rural style, hope it's awesome!