It’s day 12 of the quarantine here in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Any minute now, we’re expecting a knock on the door for our third PCR test, the second since arriving in the country. We’ve had minimal contact with others, so I’m expecting negative results. Then, it’s three more days in complete isolation– just me and my boo, our laptops, and Netflix – just chilling. But that’s okay because we are back in Korea, a country we both love. Here are the reasons why, when faced with the options of Korea or Germany, we chose Korea.
Choosing Korea or Germany
I first came to South Korea as a tween with my family many years ago. Together Steven (my partner) and I have spent nearly a decade in this country. We’ve lived near the border, in Seoul, and down south in Daegu.
We both prefer Daegu. It’s a medium-sized city, similar in size and population to Chicago. It’s the 4th largest city in South Korea behind Seoul, Busan, and Incheon. Daegu is home to 2.5 million of the 51 million who populate this peninsula. Fifty-one million people in a country the same size as the state of Indiana with about 44 million more people.
So what’s the appeal? When faced with the options of living in Korea or Germany, we could have easily moved back to Germany, but we chose to come to South Korea instead. And, yes, the kimchi is delicious. But it’s not as good as a chilled Riesling. So why’d we come back?
First, let me be clear. I love Germany. I’ve spent a total of six years of my life exploring the culture, learning the language, and drinking the wines. If wine were the only factor in choosing our next travel adventure, I’d be yodeling my way across a vineyard instead of sitting in front of this Korean bbq grill right now.
The Way Korea Handled the Pandemic
When we decided to move to Korea, we compared the governments’ response to the pandemic. We both lived through the SARS outbreak a few years ago and felt the Korean government (and the people) had much experience handling viruses.
As a result, we believed we would be safer and travel sooner. We had no idea this pandemic would rage on and on, so while we don’t regret our decision, the travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, and vaccines have had a more significant impact on our travels so far.
After finishing quarantine, one of my first stops was a local makeup store. Last night when I walked up to the counter, it was easy to tell that the cute little Korean girl behind the stacks of pale powders and whitening creams was screaming inside as I, a black woman, approached her.
I also know she breathed a sigh of relief when all I wanted was some lip gloss and mascara. I know how she must have felt because it’s the same look my Korean girlfriends used to give me when we first met. And if I’m honest, I STILL get from time to time. Lol.
It’s not easy making friends here, but we did. Steven and I made friends five years ago. Our friendships survived and only got stronger with the passing years.
K-Beauty and Getting Pampered
I love Korean skincare products. But if I’m honest, before I moved to South Korea, if I washed my makeup off before bed, I was doing good. I wore lotion, of course, but I didn’t have a skincare routine. But now, you wouldn’t know that now because I’m a skincare junkie.
Don’t let anyone tell you Korean dermatologists can’t treat black skin. Ultimately, you just need to find the right one for you. There are many opportunities for sistas with dark or black skin to get laser and other dermatology treatments for hyperpigmentation, folliculitis, acne, and anti-aging.
I admit I was confused about the terms brightening and lightening. Lightening reduces pigmentation, and brightness increases the radiance and glow of the skin. Lightening has to do with discoloration and evening out skin tone. Brightening is more about restoring vibrancy to the skin. Brightening is not the same as whitening.
Uniquely Korean Shopping
I love Seomun & Gwanmun Market. They are great places to wander around, pick up a custom-made hanbok, taste your way through the night market, or buy tier B fresh fruit. There’s a market for everything from electronics to seafood and light fixtures to antiques.
The underground malls are a great way to get away from the searing HEAT you will experience in DAEfrican summer. Trust me – it’s unbearable.
Rest stops, temple stores, Daiso, Artbox, and cosmetic stores like Innisfree, Olive Young, and The Face Shop. Korea is really the place for ultimate shopping experiences.
Hiking, Mountains and Walking Trails
I love to hike. But you don’t have to climb one of the surrounding mountains to get a workout here in Daegu. There are more than a few walking and biking trails throughout the city. One of the best is along the river.
Today I walked along the scenic riverbed with flourishes of hibiscus and daisies. Fish with whiskers pucker the surface of the gently flowing water.
From door to door, I walked more than 7 miles – the last two in silence. And I did it alone because I felt safe. I always feel safe here in Korea.
Unfinished Business in Korea
So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to more than 70 countries – most of which are in Europe.
South Korea is a tremendous jump-off location, with cheap flights to explore the rest of Asia. There is still a lot for me to discover here in Asia, and it’s so far from America, now is the time to do it.
We hope to get to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. And I won’t be mad if we get a chance to go back to Indonesia and Thailand too.
Want to read more immigrants’ stories of how they ended up in South Korea? Click Here to read about one Cambodian student’s journey to Korea.