I'm coming up on the end of my second year here in Daejeon. I've learned a lot about the city and how to live and get around without knowing the language well. I like to share as much as I have learned with others because it was difficult learning it at times. I will break it up in two parts: medical and general living.
Health is pretty important so I will start with the medical:
1. Always go to a doctor that is comfortable speaking English. Ok, this may sound like a no brainer, but I made this mistake. I'm fairly comfortable speaking Korean about a few things, and I'm a pretty busy person. So I decided to visit a doctor's office because it was closer to my work. While he is a very good doctor (according to Koreans), he cannot speak English. My tiny problem turned into a bigger problem which would have been beneficial to have a doctor that I understood and that understood me better. While I did get through it, it was not fun and not comfortable.
2. Only go to a regular doctor for mild medicines. Basically, if you want the best over the counter medication go to a regular doctor. If you want something stronger that will take care of whatever it is your kids gave you this week, visit a specialist. My favorite specialist is the 이비안후궈(the ENT) because it never fails that's what my kids give me. My favorite ENT is across from Time World in the building next to the NongHyup with the pharmacy and the eyeglass store on the bottom floor. He's on the sixth floor. I think its called 주인이비안후궈. His English is pretty good, but the medicine he prescribes works every time. The best part about visiting the specialist is that it doesn't cost much more than going to your regular doctor. Unless, you go to a big hospital or the OBGYN.
3. Unless its an emergency, don't go to the emergency room. I've visited the ER here in Korea a few times. Twice at Eulji University Hospital in Dunsan Dong and once in Boryeong. One thing I have learned, no one speaks English. Two of the times that I went, it was an actual emergency that I needed medicine for. It was definitely cheaper than the emergency room back home, and they were able to give me medicine to ease the pain. One time I had to stay in the ER because the doctors office closed, but they wanted to give me an IV. That time was horrible. None of the nurses would check on me because they didn't want to speak English. My IV stopped 5 times, and an old lady in the bed next to mine flagged down the nurses every time until she left. After she left it stopped two more times. A 5 hour IV turned into an 8 hour IV. I told the nurse to just take it out, I was leaving at 7 hours there was still a good 1/3 of the bag left. It was ridiculous.
4. Go to the hospital for most specialists. Except for the ENT I mentioned before, the hospital is the best place to go to for specialists. My hospital of choice is Eulji University because they have an English translator on staff during regular business hours. She will accompany you through your entire visit, and she ensures that you understand everything.
Now onto General Living:
1. Live close to your work. Winters suck here in Korea, and it is not fun trying to get to work when you live a 45 minute walk from work. Taxis are impossible to find in the morning when there is ice on the ground. You will end up having to walk which for me takes 15 minutes longer when there is ice because lets face it when has anyone in Georgia ever had to walk on ice?
2. Buy a bicycle. Rush hour sucks in Daejeon so most of the time it is faster to ride a bicycle. Not to mention it saves a ton of money!!!! The only time I don't ride my bike is when there is snow and ice on the ground (if your wondering why refer back to #1).
3. Join an activity. It doesn't matter what the activity is. Meeting new people is never a bad thing. If you're worried about joining alone, don't be. I've done just about everything on my own since I got here including joining two different gyms and a church. Yes, it's nice to join with a friend, but you will meet more people by yourself. Korean people are kind of shy when it comes to talking to foreigners. So if you are always around another foreigner, a lot of the times they won't talk to you.
4. Learn Korean. Even just the reading part. I cannot tell you how many times being able to read Korean has saved my butt. It just makes life easier being able to tell the taxi driver where you want to go, read the signs that are in Korean, and order things properly.
5. Diversity!!!! No matter what aspect of your life financial, friendships, food...diversity is important! But in this case I mean friendships. I am in no position to give advice in any other area. lol. No matter where you live be it Korea, America, Canada, Mexico, Africa. It is very nice to have a very diverse group of friends. It makes things interesting! You can learn new things, try new foods, and play new games. But more specifically in Korea, have a good group of foreign friends and a good group of Korean friends. Foreigners are always leaving Korea. It is very nice to have a person that understands you and your culture. Most Koreans will always stay in Korea. It is definitely nice to have some one constant. It is a balancing act (TRUST ME). Often Koreans don't understand your foreign friends and your foreign friends don't understand your Korean friends. If it is too much, just keep them separate.
6. Fighting Gyms. I've been to two fighting gyms here in Korea and have run into the same problems at both gyms. From my understanding, all fighting gyms are like that in Korea. Here are the reasons. Most Korean women hate to exercise (sorry to generalize this is what I'm told and this is what I've seen), but they also want to lose weight. Most of the time, they join a gym for a month, maybe 2 max and then they quit. From my observation 1 out of 7 stay longer than a month and 1 out of 20 stay longer than a year. Therefore, instructors don't spend as much time training women as they do men, so often women that actually want to train feel excluded. Also, a lot of Korean men are "too shy" to fight women, and by "too shy" they mean they don't want to be embarrassed if the fight doesn't go well for them. Another problem, Korean high school boys and college boys say what they think without filters. This is everywhere! And even if they absolutely love you, they will say stuff that seriously hurts your feelings even though they are only high school kids. So my advice, find a gym that the owner is very understanding and that will help you get through these things.
These are just a few things that I've learned, and they are my experiences. Maybe there's a different Korea out there somewhere, but this is what I've seen. lol. Feel free to post your own advice and lessons on here. I'd love to not have to go through some bad experiences. lol!