An American’s journey through South Korea

I vacationed in South Korea for ten days to visit my older brother Joshua. To say the least, I loved it.

Initially, I found it very difficult to even believe I was in a place where no one speaks or writes in English or Spanish. I have been to Mexico a few times but when I didn’t understand a word or two I could always ask my mom for clarification and I would learn a new word. In South Korea, there was no translator. I was very afraid of getting lost since I knew that, if I did become separated, there would be no way for me to ask for help.

Luckily English is taught in South Korean schools so some people know a basic knowledge of it. However, if you ever travel to South Korea I will give the advice my brother gave me upon first arriving: “Don’t assume the Koreans do speak English. But also, don’t assume they don’t speak English.”

One time, when my family of four and I took a cab back to our hotel, our cab driver did not speak English. Usually this is not a problem because everyone in the world uses the same number system, yet we had no Korean wan. We tried to pay our driver in dollars but he would not take them.  We tried to explain to him that our brother was coming in another cab with wan but he couldn’t understand. It was stressful. This happened very early on in our trip, which is why we had not exchanged our dollars for wan.

The exchange rate between currencies is about 1100 wan to one US dollar. The average person would assume that in South Korea everything is cheap. This is not the case. Prices in South Korea are inflated to match that of American stores. For example, if a paperback novel costs seven dollars in the US, it would cost about 7000 wan in South Korea.

This is not to say I did not shop a lot in South Korea. My family and I spent most of our time in the capital city of Seoul, which has over ten million people. One of our days was spent shopping in a district of Seoul called Insaedong. All day long I was looking at turtles and knickknacks to bring back to my friends. I like turtles.

While shopping I noticed that the city of Seoul was very quiet compared to some of the cities I have been to here in America. Most of the cars were made by either Hyundai or Kia and there were no trucks. This meant that I never heard a throaty motor from a mustang or a monstrous grumbling from a bus. There were buses, but they were very quiet so I would assume they are hybrids of some kind.

Overall I loved my experience in South Korea because I spent time with my older brother, saw new strange things, and learned some Korean.

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