Awesome Korean Adventures

Living and engineering like never before

Monthly Archives: November 2016

Korea vs Finland

“What do you think of Korea? How is it different than Finland?”, some people have asked me. Although Korean and Finnish people have things in common, such as politeness and quietness, there are many differences between the two countries and their people. Honestly, I find myself thinking more highly of Finland after spending more time here.

The first thing to note is that the people don’t speak English very well. One time, when I went a barbershop, I tried to explain my haircut in layman’s terms, very simply. Despite that, they had no idea what I wanted. Instead, they tried to communicate with me using a Google Translate app so I just told them to do whatever. It ended up fine though, so I’m not complaining. I think Koreans work really hard on whatever they decide to do in life, which is why they do so well in many areas.

Contrary to Finland, rules are only guidelines here. We are constantly threatened with severe punishment if we break a law or a rule, whether it’s smoking near a building or submitting a document after the deadline. However, when something happens, they don’t take any action. I’m sure that In Finland, these rules would be more heavily enforced.

Also, Korean engineers could learn a thing or two from Finns. Firstly, the websites are horrible in terms of user experience, and often times only partially translated to English. Disgustingly enough, we also have to use Internet Explorer or some sites don’t work. In classrooms, the desks and chairs are less than great to say the least, but I guess it could be worse. On the other hand, the subway system in the Seoul area is great. It’s super easy to go from Suwon to Seoul and back or even go to multiple stations on the way. The subway is likely the best thing in Korea.

In Korea, you can constantly hear cars honking at each other. That’s because the drivers don’t respect the traffic laws and often drive through red lights. Especially the motorcycle who drivers go through any small gap between cars with little to no consideration for anyone else or themselves. I’ve even seen bus drivers do a U-turn at a super busy intersection. The pedestrians act in a similar way. Many people go through red lights, which is a little crazy, considering the way people drive here. Also, Korean people never dodge others on the sidewalk. They will literally bump into you if you don’t dodge them yourself. I used to avoid them but now I don’t really care, as they will probably get hurt more than I will on collision.

Since the winter is finally coming, I’ve noticed some odd things. Finnish people would think it’s not very cold here, which in a way, it isn’t. The temperature only goes down to about -5 before the end of the year. Despite that, people often times wear a coat while inside, because the insulation is nothing like it is in Finland. Asians have probably never heard of double glazed windows and the walls are not much better. And for some reason, all the toilets and showers are positioned so that the cold air gets in and makes things very uncomfortable. Even the electric bills must be huge, to keep the buildings somewhat warm.

Eaternational Day

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The day we’ve all been waiting for was finally here, the so called International Day. I couldn’t wait to not wear the Finnish national costume for the occasion. Deciding to check out the festival area after school, I went to class as usual. To our surprise and joy, the teacher told us that we are going to be doing some “research” at the International Day area instead, and so the class was dismissed. He told us that if he sees us at the site, it counts as attending the class. With that, wearing my fresh from-the-oven Ajou university jacket, I headed for the festival area.

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The festival area was located on a field of grass near the borders of the school. Each participating country was represented by a booth, where the exchange students showcased and sold food, drink, snacks and other miscellaneous things. Many people spent the whole preceding night cooking for the event for a chance at winning one of the prizes. Ajou had prepared awards for the best booth, best food and the best performance. Of course, Finland was the only country with no booth since we were too lazy to put in any effort. Unfortunately, I am not Savonian enough to be able to make fish-rooster. Although I bet people would have been disgusted beyond belief, if we showcased some good old mämmi.

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At first glance, I noticed the biggest crowd in recent history in front of the USA booth. I have yet to know what they were offering, however, since I opted not to wait in line. I only know that they had a million US flags hanging from the side of the stall, which is to be expected at this point. Little did they know about the upcoming elections. I guess since there’s a million of them here, the Chinese people actually had two booths. Instead of waiting in line for the US booth, I unwisely got myself a cup of totally-not-spicy Chinese food. Jasmine warned me about it but the other guy told me not to worry. Although I couldn’t distinguish the ingredients, she told me that it was “some fish stuff”. Well, as it turns out, the stuff was pretty spicy. That said, I managed to suck it up, literally, as we headed for the next booth.

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Next up, I wanted to see what the Uzbekistani guys were cooking. However, there was an intense cloud of smoke coming from over there. So instead, we spent the rest of the time walking around, chatting and taking pictures. I bought a plate of the Nepali food, which was really great in my opinion, and it seemed like Jasmine thought so as well. Interestingly enough, the Swedish guys were actually selling snus. And some kötbullarna. Evidently, everyone hated the liquorice at the Denmark booth. Only European things, it must be.

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Before leaving, we went to the voting area. I peer pressuredly cast my vote for China and of course Nepal for their food. Lauri also appeared there in his burgundy overalls and green sunglasses. What an unlikely combination, I must say. After the event, there were all these cool performances and of course the award ceremony. And we missed it because we misread the schedule.

Halfway Home

As the midterm comes to a close, I pass the halfway stage of my exchange period here in Korea. So far, I’ve learned much about other cultures, things that I both like and dislike. Esp ecially regarding dormitory life, I only knew what I had seen in movies or games. I’ve also met great people along the way. Although I miss my old friends, I’ve met new friends during my time here as well. Now, after staying here for a little over two months, I have a decent grasp on the way things work. It’ll likely be more of the same now that I’m accustomed to living here.

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Nowadays I find myself untroubled by the nightly racket. Since the staff didn’t lift a finger to punish the Chinese people for being rowdy, I learned to live with it instead. I’m pretty sure they don’t even realize that most people find it really annoying. Another thing, some people like to play music in the shower and sing to it. Some guy even started singing a Chinese ballad at the toilet, when I was taking a leak next to him. I was almost in tears because he had the voice of an angel. Even the way people greet each other varies greatly. Finns, Swedes and other Europeans often settle for a “Hi” or “Hey”. Contrarily, the Uzbekistani people always say “Hello, how are you?” and expect a “How are you?” as an answer. Funnily enough, Jasmine once asked me “Have you eaten?” and I told her that I just ate before class. She ended up laughing because what she said basically means “Hello” in China.

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Before coming here, I took many things for granted. The difference in time makes it difficult to play games with my Finnish friends. However, when I was alone at the dorm, I could stay up late and play with them. In two months’ time, I almost forgot what it was like. Although I’ve already gotten used to living in Korea, I still look forward to seeing my friends again. It seems that Finland and Europe in general, are considered a paradise by many people. To be honest, the only things that I care about in Finland, other than pizza, are my family and friends, both of which I always took for granted.

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Lauri is likely the best roommate I could ever hope to have, and he also likes similar things as me. Together, we go to the gym and play badminton on a more or less regular basis. We went running a couple of times only, due to the severe lack of pururatas in Suwon. It’s great to have a person to talk to in Finnish. All the Uzbekistani guys are really nice and friendly too, although I don’t see them that often nowadays. In addition, my statistics course team is comprised of me and two Swedish guys. Unsurprisingly, they are quite similar to Finnish people. Lastly, Jasmine is just too nice towards me. I might be looking through rose-tinted glasses, but she seems like the greatest person to be around.

Inevitably, I will feel sad in December, when leaving everything behind. That said, I believe that all the experiences will make my life richer in the long run. I will leave with a whole new perspective and a newfound appreciation for things previously taken for granted. Still, I have almost two months left to go and I should make the most of it.