Experiencing Korea

South Korea is getting more interesting for a lot people nowadays. The country is spreading culture and amazing opportunities for many people around the globe. 

Experiencing Korea

Among the youth, the nation became a good option to build a career, have fun and learn more about its culture. Sofia could be included in the list of people who got very interested in South Korea. She told us a little bit of her amazing experience in the country of Korea.

Sofia, could you tell us some words about yourself and your future plans?

Well, I am 24, I’m in my second year of Master’s Program “Business and Politics in Modern Asia”. I am working as a marketing specialist, and I am still thinking about my career path but at least I enjoy what I’m doing right now. I used to travel a lot when I lived with my family but because of work I can’t really do it that often nowadays. So, my main goal for the nearest future is to work very hard, earn a lot of money and see as many countries as I can.

We have studied together and I know you have some interest about South Korea. When did you realize that this country is to your liking?

My interest was purely personal in the beginning – as you already know Hallyu has been kind of “sweeping the world” and I became a part of it. In 2017 I became interested in South Korean music, I started reading more about the country itself, people, their traditions, some of their aspects of life. Then I realized that I could turn this interest into something to do with my professional life so when choosing a path in Master’s Degree I picked Asian studies.

You've been to Korea, haven't you? What can you tell about your experience?

Yes, I had a chance to go there for my holidays in 2019. It was just a week in Seoul, but it was worth everything. When you already read something about the country, about its cultural specifics, you kind of know what to expect, so I didn’t have a culture shock (at least not a great one). It was very different from Russia starting from the people, language, some communicational peculiarities that we have already learned during our course of Communicational studies, food. But it was also great to find those differences, learn something new, adapt to it, fall in love with another culture.

What can you say about “how to socialize” in South Korea, do you have Korean friends? Give us some tips, please.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make any friends there, I was really busy following my plan to see as many things in Seoul as I could. But what I’ve heard of was mainly concerned with the pure interest in South Korean culture. For example, if you tell a South Korean citizen that you are trying to learn their language, show them some words or phrases that you’ve already learnt and kindly ask them to teach you something else – they will be really excited and glad that you do not neglect this huge part of their lives and try to accommodate to it. Yes, they will probably teach you some swearing, but they will still like you more.

Let us talk about the language. I am aware that you know Korean, what can you say about such great experience in learning Korean? Did you start here in Russia or just when you went to Korea?

I wouldn’t say I “know” Korean, for a foreigner it is really difficult to fully learn this language. When I went to Seoul the only words I knew were “안녕하세요” (Hello) and “감사합니다” (Thank you) because it was the basics, a lot of older generations in South Korea don’t really know English so I was struggling a bit. So, after returning to Russia, I realized that if I really want to link my life with this country, I need to learn the language. It was a self-studying at first, but Asian languages are really different from Western ones, I was really struggling with understanding their logic in formulating the sentences. So, then I found a school specializing particularly in Korean and I’ve been studying it for 1.5 years already and I’m about to take language proficiency exam in April. So, my recommendation for those trying to learn an Asian language – find a good tutor straightaway, it will be more effective.

In your opinion what is the importance of travelling?

Learning about another country from books or from other people is one thing. But actually, experiencing being there is totally different. When you travel, especially when you do it from a young age, you become more open to other cultures, to the thought that all the people are different and that it’s great – I think it would be pretty boring if all of us were the same. Travelling is a chance to find yourself, to surround yourself with people that can influence your whole life, help you in a difficult time. Travelling is a great gift and I wish all of us could experience that.

Do you think about having career in South Korea or live there for some period?

I have been thinking about it for a couple of years. Firstly, I was thinking that moving there and building a career would be incredible. However, then I realized that there are some aspects of daily life that I am just not completely ready for. For example, despite being very progressive country, women in business still have limited opportunities. This issue goes deep in the history of South Korea and of course it is very unfortunate and not really fair, but it is what it is. Thus, now I am thinking about finding a job that would include business travels to South Korea – that way I would be able to build a good career path and travel to the country that I dearly love.

Do you think South Korea is attracting more people nowadays?

Absolutely! I’ve already mentioned Hallyu, and it really has a great power on a younger generation. Everybody knows such groups as BTS, Stray Kids or singer (now an entrepreneur) PSY, a lot of people watched “Parasite” or “Squid Game”, Korean food is becoming more popular, companies like Samsung or Hyundai are also well-known. Despite being quite a small country in terms of territory, it has a lot of things to offer so more and more people are thinking about moving there or at least working with South Korea.

What advice would you give for anyone who wants to travel to South Korea?

Try to plan everything ahead – at least have a list of places that you would like to visit, have some routes planned. I’ve been only to Seoul, and it has a lot of things to see that I couldn’t fit in one week. So, if I didn’t have a plan, I would be completely lost and wasted my precious time there. At the same time, it doesn’t mean to just stick to the plan and strictly follow it – try to enjoy this experience as much as you can. Asia is so different from the Western countries, try to feel it and understand it.

And definitely buy clothes there, definitely.

Nicholas Antunes de Andrade