Time has continued to fly past, and I’m becoming ever more aware of our impending departure. With that in mind, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on my time here in South Korea. After two months of being away from home, I’ve realised there are most certainly things I miss and can’t wait to get back to. On the other hand, I know there are so many things about South Korea that I’m going to miss the moment I step off the plane in Auckland. With that, I’ve collated a list of five things about New Zealand I’m missing at the moment and will follow this up in my next post with five things I’ll be missing about South Korea on my return to New Zealand.
What I miss:
Fruit and vegetables
I spend the summer in New Zealand eating my way through peaches and nectarines and enjoying salads and dishes laden with greenery. While I love the Korean diet, the relative lack of the vegetables and fruits I am used to has been the only part of it I have really struggled with. Usually, in New Zealand, I start the day with a couple of types of fruit, and when I cook dinner, I always have a vegetable as a main component. Here, I’ve realised there have been periods of a few days where I haven’t so much as looked at a broccoli or carrot – although I have eaten what feels like more than my body weight in kimchi (even if it isn’t a green vegetable).
The New Zealand air
It has been a bit of an adjustment remembering to look at the air quality index in the weather app each day. This is something I never really think about in New Zealand, as our air quality is generally very good year-round. Here, there have been days where I’ve returned home with an irritated throat or nose before checking the weather app and realising the cause.
My own space
Dorm life came with its own learning curve, as this has been my first time sharing a room with someone else and not having my own space in which to relax and spend time in my own company. While I’ve had an amazing time in the dorms, there is something infinitely comfortable about having your own environment where you know nobody is watching or listening, and you can stare into space, listen to music, or simply lie on your bed without needing to worry about anyone else. What’s more, I have missed having shared common spaces to hang out with people – as the dorms here don’t have anything of the sort. If we don’t have the energy/money/time to sit in a café to catch up, we all retire to our individual rooms.
This one is more of a me problem, but my fragile stomach means that whenever I go to a café, I order a drink with oat or soy milk. In New Zealand, this is virtually guaranteed to be available wherever you go, to the extent that I never really check the menu before I ask for it. Here, though, having alternative milks is the exception, not the rule. I’ve had to pore over cafés on Naver Maps before I go to try and find the small print on their menus or try my luck by asking when I order. Sometimes, the waiters look very confused, too – I had one experience where the lady taking my order then shouted into the kitchen to ask someone else before the resulting “no” was then shouted back along the chain of workers.
Smiling at strangers
This one is perhaps the cultural difference that I continue to forget, even after two months. In New Zealand, I stroll around the city smiling at those I come across, or nodding at them in acknowledgement. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly cheery, I’ll even say “hello” as I pass. This is something that I feel is deep within the New Zealand culture, as I have grown up my whole life watching my parents do the same thing. However, in Korea, these tendencies don’t seem to exist, at least not as widespread as in New Zealand. People don’t tend to make as much eye contact or acknowledge each other in public, so I’ve had a few situations where I’ve smiled a little too enthusiastically at people in the street only to have them stare back in surprise.
Although these are five things that I love about life in New Zealand, I’m still feeling a growing sense of sadness at my coming departure. In my next post, I’ll explore five of my favourite things about Korea that are contributing to this sadness!