We lived in the third biggest city, Daegu, which was quite an experience since neither of us had ever lived in such a big city before. We lived in Jisan-dong, Suseong-gu, and were within walking distance of Suseong Lake and some of the best restaurants in Daegu.
The first cultural difference we encountered was that people in South Korea don’t seem to navigate the same we do in South Africa, since they do not use street names and house numbers, despite an attempt to introduce a more Western system. I foolishly would ask taxi drivers to take me to Artville, Jisan-dong, Suseong-gu, Daegu, South Korea, only to be met with a completely blank expression. It might be supposed that it was a language barrier causing the problem, but even showing the address carefully written in Hangul did not help. Over time, I learned to direct taxi drivers to Hwangeum Junction, then go to the Presbyterian Church, then turn at the school for learning disabilities, then turn etc. etc. and we would arrive at our apartment building.
Here is a view of our dong, our neighbourhood, from the nearby mountain. We had an English-speaking dentist on one side of the block, and English-speaking doctor on the other, and we were close enough to Home-Plus, the Korean version of Tesco, where we could get some familiar western food. Just near Home-Plus was a gym with a swimming pool. All the basics were very conveniently located nearby.
Most of the time, however, I bought food from people on the side of the road on the way home from school. The food was much cheaper, and it was a good opportunity to practice my terrible Korean and negligible haggling skills on the locals.
This was the entrance to our apartment. You can clearly see the whole place in this one photo. Our place was actually fairly big, by South Korean standards. We were lucky enough to have a separate lounge, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
The view from the bathroom.
The view from the lounge.
This was the bedroom. The apartment came with an incredibly uncomfortable bed, so we ended up sleeping on the same mats that Koreans traditionally use, which we bought from the 시장 (sijang: traditional market).
It was actually ideal in winter, since we were in direct contact with the 온돌 (ondol). An ondol, an adapted form of the Chinese Kang, is a heating system of under floor water pipes that heated up the whole flat quite comfortably.
This was the very narrow kitchen. Most people living in an apartment building like ours wouldn’t do much of their own cooking, but we were comfortable enough with our fridge, gas burner, and our own washing machine squashed into the room.
The view from our kitchen window overlooked the Apsan mountains in the distance.
The traditional Korean houses gave way
to the more common apartment buildings in the distance.
The bathroom was tiny, and like many bathrooms we encountered in South Korea, consisted of a shower, toilet, and basin all in one room.
We soon became used to everything getting wet when we showered, although in the beginning it was a bit of an annoyance.
This playground was right around the corner and served the multiple apartments in the area. The playground was tiny: by comparison, my garden while growing up was twice the size, and was just for me and my three sisters. This was part of the adjustment process when living in such an incredibly densely overpopulated country.
The view of Suseong-gu, the district in which our flat was located, from Apsan mountains.
Lastly, here is a schematic of the flat.
It was a bit of an adjustment living in such a densely populated city, however, the infrastructure was excellent. We’ve never had faster Internet, transport was cheap and efficient, and we our basic needs were met.