Living in Korea: Katey's Encounter

Updated on Aug 29, 2023 · By Tom

Welcome to this new format. In there you get the chance to talk and share your experience in Korea! We believe that everyone is unique and that listening to your story will inspire others.

So without further ado please welcome our first guest: Katey!

About Katey


Q. Hello Katey, thank you for being here, can you present yourself?

My name is Katey I’m a junior marketing student at Yonsei university, I decided to stay in Korea for a year long so I’ve been here for eleven, ten months now, so I’ll be leaving next-next month back home in L.A.


Q. Can you speak Korean?

Oh very little…

Q. It must have been quite complicated when you first arrived here…

Absolutely, when I came to Korea I didnt know any Korean at all whatsoever, not even like hangeul, nothing. Everything was pretty hard like ordering, in the restaurants I would just point on what I wanted. But now that I’ve spent time in Korea, and had Korean classes I can communicate better but don’t expect me to speak full on Korean haha.

Q. This makes me wonder why you choose to come to Korea in the first place?

It was one of the programs being offered at my school so it was between Japan, Spain and Korea.
I already speak Spanish so even if the dialect would be different it’s basically the same language. As Japan had its borders closed so I couldn’t go there.

Q. So you chose Korea by default?

Ah no I was also interested, I’ve also looked K pop and dramas but that’s not the only thing, the thing is that I live in L.A so I live very very close to Korea-town so I was already exposed to Korean culture with Korea-town whenever I went there to eat they would be like “oh you have to go visit you need to go visit” so it kinda was you know my own liking of Korean culture.

Katey's experience

timothy-ries-cherry blossoms-unsplashSource: Cherry Blossoms by Timothy Ries

Q. What is the biggest advice you would give to foreigners that are coming to Korea soon?

My biggest advice would be to exchange money with your home country’s bank. You don’t realize how expensive it is to exchange in the airport or in Seoul until you need to. You don’t really realize how much money you’ll spend until you first come here, you have your ARC appointment, your Dasio runs you know! And without your ARC you cannot open your Korean bank account so you are only running on the money you brought.

Q. So far would you say that your trip has met your expectations?

The thing is that I came to Korea with no expectations so a lot of people come to Korea with expectations so when they are not met they feel like “Oh I didn't enjoy Korea because I was expecting this” or  “It’s not like in the K dramas” that wasn’t my mindset. I came to Korea with a fresh mind: it’s a different country, it’s a different word, so I just have to start fresh and make my own experiences. So I didn’t watch any vlog before coming to Korea because I didn’t want to be influenced because someone experiencing a certain way doesn’t mean I would feel the same in that situation. My experience in Korea has been great because it’s my experience. I’m not focusing on what others have lived and thinking “When am I going to live that too” so whatever I experienced was unique. I never had a bad moment in Korea so yeah everything ended up pretty good.

Q. You never had any bad experiences?

Well of course I had some but they didn’t overweight the good stuff. I guess the biggest difficulty was just the language barrier, but it’s totally my fault you know, cause you cannot go to a country and expect them to accommodate you when you are the one going to their country. I should have been more prepared, that's totally on me. 
Oh and now that I think of it, I do remember that there was this one time when I lost my phone, idk .. alcohol..*laughs* I think I left in the taxi and since I paid by cash I have no recollection of that taxi! It was one week before Halloween so I could have waited and see if someone had reported it but I was not going to spend Halloween without a phone so I just went to the Apple Store and bought a new one, a very expensive life lesson!


Q. Did you have any struggle for the ARC, SIM card, etc? How hard was it to get them?

For the ARC we just filled it out with Yonsei so all the paperwork was pretty much done with them, I think what was great is that Enkor also gave it to us, if we just asked for in they would provide us with the paperwork and that was convenient because most of my friends’ housing company or landlord took forever to send them the license or whatever. So I was able to get my appointment fast.
For my phone I first started with Tracy but once you are in Korea you realize there are way many other cheaper options that give you the choice to do it without ARC and upgrade it later on.

Q. Do you have some hobbies you like to do in Korea?

I love hiking, it’s something very accessible in Korea so I like doing it a lot and I have never ride bicycles as much as I do in Korea, I use that little app called 타랑께 it’s super cheap an hour, it’s like 1 or 2 thousand won so it’s something that I catch myself doing often. Now that concerts are back I’ve been to concerts a lot, it’s my most expensive hobby! I know that some people like to do cafe-hopping but I don’t think they realize how expensive it is in Korea. So I don’t do that but I do like to walk around Seoul it changes me from L.A. because in the U.S. there are freeways and highways everywhere so you can’t really walk from one place to another like that.


Q. Do you have any memorable experiences in Korea? Some concert, event, or encounter you will never forget?

I went clubbing in Apgujeong and there are some celebrities there but you know we couldn’t record or anything. So I didn’t meet them cause I’m not stupid but I did see them, it was the BTS members. It was very lucky, but me and my friends said alright, let’s just pretend that we didn’t see them cause they are having fun but that was something I won’t forget kinda partying kinda next to them. So thank you to whatever this place is called. 
I also had the chance to spend Chuseok with Korean friends, I think having local friends really completely changes the whole experience, we also got to show them Thancksgiving and how we celebrate Christmas and New Year.
Another memorable experience is that I’ve done paragliding in Tongyeong. It was amazing.


Q. So you went to Tongyeong? Have you travelled around the country?

 Yes, I’ve travelled a lot, Yeosu, Tongyeong, Busan, Ulsan, you know, everywhere. And for a very cheap price. It's one of the many advantages of Korea, you can travel in a 3-hour long train trip for less than 20$. It’s at least 3 times more expensive in the U.S. for even shorter distances. I also did Jeju Island, even though it was raining we still went out and we enjoyed the scenery and everything. Some old people were walking around with tangerine hats. I thought it was so cute.


Q. Did you suffer from COVID restrictions?

When I first came to Korea I had to self-quarantine for 2 weeks and the restrictions went from 10 to 9pm, it then opened to 12pm and just got removed. But I think since I had to experience half the year with tight restrictions is kinda forced me to do more things cause I knew I had a time frame. But now that the restrictions are gone I feel like I have time so actually do less things. And back then there wasn't that many people going out but now it's insane! Go to Hongdae or Itaewon and even Sinchon there are so many people. Now that the restrictions are gone I even see foreign families with kids, parents, and grandparents. A lot of them came during the cherry blossoms, that was a big shock for me, I didn't realise how many people there were until then, everybody was taking pictures, you couldn't even walk. And it was also kind of surprising, don't Korean see cherry blossoms every years? Are they excited every year?*laughs*

Haha they might be! I think it's a good way to wrap up today's interview. Thank you so much for your time and your experience, we wish you the best for the rest!

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