Although I very much miss my parents and friends back in Philadelphia, there are 3 perks that I will miss about living in Korea and wish could be emulated back in the States. They may seem like such simple things, but I think they’re important when it comes to an ideal place to live in.
1) Reliable & Cheap Transit
As someone who has always relied on public transportation, this is one of the things that I’m interested in when I go to a new place. Korea’s transportation is incredibly cheap, with a one way ride being priced at a little more than 1 USD. For as little as this, you can get pretty far. There are tons of train lines to choose from and covers almost anywhere you’d want to visit. This obviously doesn’t include their fancier long distance trains and buses that go to Busan, for instance, but I will say that I’ve had good experiences with them as well.
Something I really like is that when you scan your transit card, there is a screen that shows you how much money is left in the card. This helps you know when you’re running low and should recharge soon. It relieves the stress of knowing whether or not you may be rejected or not and is much easier than having to check at a refilling station every so often. I must credit Septa Key though that they do have an online refill system, so this also helps with this problem but I personally think this is much easier and helps bring transparency!
My only complaint is that you can only charge your card with cash. It can be bothersome at times, but I think it’s a small price to pay compared to all the upsides.
2) Safety & Trust
Korea is overall a really safe place to live. I think it is unfair to compare Philly with Korea, since the two places has extremely different cultures in what we can or cannot do, but it’s worth being mentioned. Philadelphia isn’t exactly known for its safety, but I’ve personally never run into any trouble in my entire time living there. As long as you keep your street smarts and avoid certain areas, you are likely to be safe. However in Korea, I feel 100 percent safe walking around at night, even alone in the late hours of the night. Even though transportation is something I heavily rely on, safety is a top priority.
On a related note, something I’ve noticed is how trusting people are with their belongings with others. People regularly leave valuables out and things unattended when they go elsewhere. I often have trouble trusting unfamiliar people with my things– even if I need to go to restroom, I feel the need to pack my things up and bring it with me. Here, people do it like its nothing. At first I thought this was such a weird phenomenon, but it’s really admirable the trust they have in others. I think it’s a good example to follow by and should be the norm.
3) Tipping & Tax Culture
The tipping and tax culture in Korea is one of the biggest gaps between what we have. I really enjoy the notion that what you see is what you get. When you order food, you are not expected to tip afterwards. In fact, it may even be considered rude to tip as it may be mistaken for arrogance or pity. While it is important to thank the staff for their hard work, I think it’s convenient to know the total price without having to calculate tips afterwards. Personally, I think that having overall higher prices on the menu instead of having service workers rely on tips is the way to go.
Likewise, when purchasing products at a market or anywhere else really, the price listed includes the tax. I think it is important for customers to have total transparency of pricing when it comes to ordering food or even just buying everyday items. It is refreshing and helps in decisions of purchasing items.
I hope that one day we’ll be able to have these things too in America! They are definitely changes that I welcome with open arms. This is not to say that Philadelphia doesn’t have its own charm- it surely does! Living in Korea is just such a change of pace and it’s fascinating to me the differences in culture and environment. May the remaining few months of living here be ever so peaceful!