My expectation vs reality of living in South Korea as an exchange student



Living life back in the states, I always wondered if living in South Korea was just like what I imagine in K-dramas. From the aesthetic sceneries to the cute couple culture and drinking and nightlife, I had great expectations for South Korea. However, to my surprise, living in South Korea have both exceeded and fall behind my expectation.


Expectation: Portion size is defiently smaller since everyone is super skinny here.

Reality: Actually, portion size is larger, much larger than back in the states. However, despite the large portion size, Korean food consists of vegetables in many dishes like the bibimbap and tofu stew. The food here is also always fresh so not only are the nutritional aspect considered but Koreans, in general, consume less processed food than Americans.

Expectation: Everything is spicy! Like for real spicy!

Reality: If there is one thing that is super true about living in South Korea is that the foods here are super spicy. Almost every dish you consume in South Korea is spicy. SO, if you can not handle spice, it’s about time to learn how to eat spicy food.

Expectation: Food is super cheap!

Reality: Unless you are eating CU food every day, the price of food will slowly add up throughout the weeks and months. The last time I calculate my food expense, it slowly rounded up to about $200 per week and $800 per month. The reason so is largely influenced by the cafe culture. Down the streets of Anam, there are about 20 or more cafes and bakery shops and the prices of coffee and bakery items can be pricey. Other food items like fruits are super expensive here, so if you love your fruits, be prepared to spend a lot of money on them.

People and Culture

Expectation: People have the same common courtesy and social etiquette, similar to southern hospitality.

Reality: People in Seoul have similar social etiquette to people in New York. You will get a bump on the shoulders and people will not apologize. People don’t greet random strangers and most times, you will get random stares if you are a foreigner.

Expectation: The fashion is 10 out of 10.

Reality: When I said fashion week every single day and everywhere, I literally mean Seoul. People here dress so nice that if you don’t, then you will definitely stand out of the coward. Even simple causal wear, South Koreans know how to put together even the laziest outfits. From my stay in Seoul, I have changed out my whole wardrobe just to look somewhat decent walking around Seoul.

Expectation: Couple culture is just like what we see in the K-dramas.

Reality: The couple culture in South Korea is so evident that as a singlet out there, you definitely feel the loner vibe sooner or later. Especially as the weather gets colder, more and more people are coupled up