When I first moved here, I was disappointed to be placed in the countryside. I thought that it would be nice to be closer to big cities offering comforts like English-speaking restaurants and Mexican food.
I have come to see that it’s actually a blessing Matt and I were placed in Cheorwon. We really like it here. The top 5 reasons living in the countryside is for us:
5. We get a rural bonus! Even though we live in a town of 30,000 people that would definitely not be considered rural in the U.S., we are considered rural. So Matt and I each get about $100 extra per month as a bonus, which we put to good use traveling outside of our area some weekends.
4. Korean language practice. We’ve been forced to try speaking Korean more than we might have if we lived in a city where people are more likely to speak English at restaurants and tourist destinations. Cheorwon isn’t a big tourist destination, so restaurant workers aren’t as used to hosting (or dealing with) foreigners. That means we have to try harder than if we were in Seoul or Busan. (Though I must admit a negative to living in a small town is that there are no Korean language classes offered here. I think I’d learn much faster If I had a structured class to attend with a teacher to hold me accountable.)
3. The food. We heard when we moved here about the amazing food in our area, and we may be biased, but we tend to believe it. It’s delicious and better than what we’ve had in other cities (besides Chuncheon where the dalk galbi was amazing). It’s also so fresh because of all the farms in the area. Cheorwon is famous for its rice, which is the third-most expensive rice in Korea.
2. The outdoor life. The scenery in Korea in general is beautiful. In our area, there are many mountains to hike, and there is a river nearby where we will go rafting soon. We’re going to buy bikes so we can explore the area more, as well.
1. The people. We have been so lucky to make friends here so quickly. Many of the people we met at orientation hang out with other foreigners all the time. Since there are only a few foreigners in our town, we couldn’t do that even if we wanted to — but we don’t want to. We love meeting Koreans and learning more about their culture.
We have been invited to several people’s homes, including the home of my co-teacher’s parents-in-law. I’ve been stopped while walking home from school and invited to a garden party, where I was fed and offered soju. With limited English skills from the hosts and my limited Korean, we made do with gestures and a few words here and there. Eventually I learned that one of the women’s sons was in my class, and she wouldn’t let me leave without a few servings of homemade kimchi to take home. Another woman sent me home with fresh lettuce from her garden. I think those situations would be harder to stumble upon in Seoul, where there are more foreigners and you don’t run into the same people every day.