I am just finishing my second year of university, and since then I’ve gone back to Seoul twice during my summer/winter vacation to see my family. It’s hard, I get homesick easily for my parents, brothers, and life in general in Korea.
We’ve lived in Seoul for 3 years and just a month ago, my dad found out that his job was transferring him to the countryside of Korea (near Songtan). We’ve lived there previously before moving to Seoul, but having lived life in both the rural and suburban areas, I’m pretty sad that they’re moving back to Songtan. I’m going to miss living in Seoul.
Life in Seoul is fast-paced and very exciting (or at least, for a young person like me). The public transportation (such as the buses and subway) is very fast and efficient, making it easy to go anywhere without having to drive or invest a lot of time and money to travel. From my old house near line 4, I was a few stops away from some of the major shopping areas in Seoul (Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Itaewon, I-Park in Yongsan Station). And life is always bustling, whether in the day or night.
Unlike the countryside, where life dulls down at around 9 or 10pm, in Seoul, the late night shopping centers start opening at that time until 4 or 5am, noraebangs are opened late, cafes are too, people are out clubbing or drinking with friends, and the city just feels so alive at night.
In the rural areas, life is much slower. There are more local groceries and businesses and definitely more elderly people around (ahjummas and ahjusshis). Transportation is also harder. To get to Seoul I’d either have to take a taxi to the subway station (compared to in Seoul when I would walk 10 minutes to get to the station) or take the bus and then transfer to the subway station, or take a local bus to go to the main bus terminal that will take me straight to Seoul. Nonetheless, it’s more of a hassle to travel, although in general South Korea’s public transportation system is really great. At least they have buses and subway stops to nearly everywhere in Korea that are easy to use, it just takes more time to travel and effort to travel when you’re in the countryside.
I guess there are a few advantages to living in the countryside. First, the local weekly markets are really nice and inexpensive. It’s definitely cheaper to buy food, clothes, and supplies in the rural areas. The vegetables and fruits are really fresh and cheaper than buying them in Seoul since these are from local farms in the area. Also, I noticed that stationary stores (the places that sell pens, notebooks, phone charms, and other little cute trinkets) are way cheaper too and still just as cute and fun. Even restaurants are also inexpensive and actually taste a lot better.
I remember in Songtan, about 4 years ago when we lived there, there was this really delicious pizza and chicken delivery place. I thought it was a chain restaurant but I hadn’t seen any in Seoul, and also, for some reason there were no pizza+chicken delivery places in Seoul unlike in the countryside. It still baffles me why there wasn’t any but now that I think about it, the pizza+chicken places have faded out because it’s too expensive and less profitable to sell both pizza and chicken rather than one or the other. When I come back home (well, to my new home) in Songtan for the summer, I hope that delivery place is still there or one that sells both pizza and chicken.
I guess I got a bit too carried away with talking about food, I can’t help it since Songtan had some really delicious, inexpensive food places compared to Seoul. Even the Korean BBQ meat (samgyeopsal) is super cheap, mmmmmmm.
It’s also nice because when we lived in Songtan before, I have memories of walking with my mom to buy groceries and other necessities at the local supermarkets. In Seoul, we would just call and have our groceries delivered from the Lotte Mart across the street or my mom would actually drive to E-Mart. All these places are always crowded with lots of people and it can be stressful and overwhelming sometimes. You get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it feels any better or more comfortable. It will be nice to spend some quality time with my mom in a relaxed area by walking together to the market and buying things without feeling rushed.
These are a few differences I’ve noticed about living in both Seoul and Korea’s countryside,. It’s not everything and I feel like I didn’t go too in-depth, so if there’s anything you’d like to know more about feel free to ask or leave a comment!