A few weeks ago I gave you a tour of our neighborhood; as requested, I am following up with a tour of our home! I don’t want to put too many details about our lovely home on the internet, so this is more a tour of what makes our life in Korea different from our life in the U.S.
First, a disclaimer. We are super lucky to have found our apartment. It is a rare gem, and I appreciate it every time I see someone else’s Korean home. Our home is much larger, has more amenities, and is more Americanized than most houses in Korea. It was very easy to move into and lessened our culture shock. Our home has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a large laundry room, a beautiful kitchen, and a patio. There are many people who live in more Korean style housing. Sometimes, I feel that Jared and I are missing out on part of the living abroad experience because we don’t have to deal with many of the Korean home features. Then, I look at my dryer, and realize how blessed we are.
Our house hunting experience was unusual as we toured the houses together even though we were on separate continents. (We have lived in four homes together; only one of those we both toured before selecting it!) Jared was in Korea and visited several homes; he took video of each potential place and messaged it to me. That way, I was able to be part of the process: asking questions and giving my opinions. We finally arrived at a decision around 4 am my time (I was too excited to sleep much anyway). Our decision points for choosing this home were Americanized amenities, brand new apartment, and the patio space. Out of all our homes, this has been my favorite. The size is perfect for us, I adore my kitchen, and we use our outdoor living space almost every day.
The main issue with moving to a foreign country was, of course, the electrical outlets. The U.S. uses 110 voltage, and Korea uses 220. Since our landlord built the complex with the hope that Americans would move in, we are lucky to have two 110 outlets in our apartment: one in the office and one in the living room. We bought new cell phones in Korea; so we use 220 outlets to charge them. Otherwise, we use transformers to power all of our stuff. They are so ugly and bulky, but make our lives much easier. I keep one in all the most used rooms: kitchen, master bathroom (for my hairdryer and such), master bedroom, laundry room (for the dryer), and living room. Our realtor kindly supplied all of them for us. Sometimes, I get annoyed that I have to plug my toaster/crockpot/electric skillet/food chopper/mixer/EVERYTHING into the transformer and then plug the transformer into the wall, but honestly, it takes 5 seconds; I’ll survive. At first, I tried to think of ways to hide the transformers behind things so that they weren’t as obtrusive, but since I am always turning them on or off and plugging something in, it wasn’t practical. Now I just accept these little bearers of electricity.
Another quirk that we had to get used to was not wearing our shoes in the house. It’s actually in our housing contract! I’ve never really been one to wear shoes around the house anyway, but I did keep all my shoes in our closet and walk around the house in them before leaving. Most Korean homes have a little entry way with a closet to keep your shoes in, and this is where you take your shoes off before entering the rest of the home. Most homes (and some restaurants) are like this in Korea, and now it has become second nature for me to kick my shoes off as soon as I enter someone’s house. There have been a few times when I already tied my shoelaces and realized I left something I need in the living room; I do this crazy tiptoe dash across the room. Somehow I think this run is necessary; I doubt it makes any difference! Our home doesn’t have any carpet, so this no shoes rule helps keep my floors clean. Although, I do sweep more often here than I ever have; I hate walking around the apartment and then looking down only to realize I have crumbs and dirt all over my feet. Gross.
I never appreciated the wonder of central air conditioning until the past few weeks. Every home I have lived in (10 before Korea!) has had central air conditioning. I had no idea how lucky I was. If you have central air, take a moment to enjoy it. Each room has a vent; each room is the same (approximate) temperature; your home is an oasis of refreshingly cool air. We have two air conditioners. One is a tall plastic tower in one corner of our living room. The other is mounted on the ceiling of the master bedroom. Neither are attractive or inconspicuous. Electricity is more expensive here, and to save money and energy, we turn off the air conditioner whenever possible. We use open windows, fans, and limited movement to keep cool as much as we can. When we do use the air conditioner, we limit the area that is being cooled. If we turn on the living room air conditioner, we close all doors that connect to the room; therefore, the only room being cooled is the living room. At night, we turn off the living room AC and turn on the one in the bedroom. This results in certain lesser used rooms becoming very, very hot. My laundry room could double as a sauna.
Our trash situation has often left me frustrated and confused. We have four trash cans. FOUR. One uses a yellow bag for food waste (no sink disposal here), one uses a clear bag for paper recycling, another clear bag for non-paper recycling, and a pink bag for all other trash. We buy the pink and yellow special bags from our realtor. It took me awhile to remember which receptacle was for which trash. Our recycling bags are large and fill up slowly, which is fine because they don’t stink much. The food bag is really tiny, which is good because I don’t want food rotting away in my kitchen. There have been several times when I don’t know what to do with a trash item, especially if it is a mixed material item. For example, a paper milk carton- the cardboard would go in the paper recycling, but it has a plastic spout and lid. If it takes me too long to figure out where it should go, I just throw it in the pink “other trash” bag. The grossest part is taking the trash out. They don’t have dumpsters or large outdoor trash cans. We just have a designated spot by the curb where we put our trash bags. You walk down the streets and just see random bags of garbage set out. There’s no specific day or time to set them out either. Our realtor assures us this is the correct thing to do. She said, “oh, someone comes to take it. They make money on it.” I don’t understand if that means it is their job and they get paid to do it, or if random people are collecting our trash and turning it in for money.
A few other things:
Again, though there are a few quirks in our new home, we are very lucky that they are all easy fixes. Some of the houses Jared looked at were very small, or didn’t have a dryer, or had an oven, but it was located in the laundry room. We are very happy with our new home and have enjoyed making it ours.
PS: We have plenty of room for guests (that we know)!