The Day I Ate All My Kimchi

Today’s post is written for the Reach To Teach, Teach Abroad, Blog Carnival. I’ll be participating in their monthly series focused on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers from all over the world. You can catch it here on the 5th of every month. The host for February is Sharon Couzens from TEFL Tips. You can read the rest of the entires here. Check back next month for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to March’s Blog Carnival, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Dean from RTT here:

The topic of the month is:

At what moment did you finally start to feel like you were at “home” during your time living abroad?


What does it mean to feel like a local in a foreign country? I think it’s a sense of familiarity, like the lady from my local kimbap restaurant who knows how I like my fried rice five months later. It’s also adapting to your surroundings in the same way that I no longer need a death grip to stand upright on the bus. Maybe it’s having a favorite restaurant that always serves you rice on the house with your curry because they appreciate your recurring business.

How long does it take to learn the vernacular of a new city? Knowing the way lines move and just the right amount of times you can press snooz on your alarm clock. Audrey Bergner from That Backpacker says it took her 7 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days. She just woke up one day, and the sense of urgency to explore seemed less prominent. For me, it was a little different.

It’s been painfully cold in Daegu, at least for this Caribbean girl, and stepping outside of my cozy apartment doesn’t seem worth it. One Sunday afternoon, I decided enough was enough. I charged up my camera and headed out to the park. I met a friendly face who asked me to take a picture with him, and I obliged, not even thinking twice about it. I knew how to read the street signs to make my way easily from the designated subway station. I took pictures, and worried so little about what people around me might be thinking about ‘the foreigner.’ I watched the puppies playing on the grass, and kicked a ball around with a little boy who was curious about my tripod.

It was a normal day. It didn’t feel weird to hear Korean women chit chatting around me as a walked down the sidewalk. I didn’t panic when I took a wrong turn. I wasn’t worried when the sun started to go down. I didn’t have to think, and I didn’t even notice.

Then I decided it was time for a quick bite to eat. Desperately craving something comforting and delicious, I made my way into a little restaurant and ordered Yukguksu (beef noodle soup). Famished, I started mixing all the ingredients, and then something odd happened…

I reached for the kimchi

Let me explain something to you. Kimchi is usually drenched in a savory (is it?) red chili sauce. It’s spicy, strong, and poignant.

I ate all of it. The entire little bowl. Suddenly I was very aware of my surroundings. I didn’t only finish it all; I thoroughly enjoyed it

I knew right then and there that Korea was no longer foreign territory.

How long did it take you to feel familiar with a new city? More importantly, have you ever tried kimchi… and eaten all of it?


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  1. Kimchi is a great indicator for Korea! I ate my kimchi every day at lunch during the school days, and always while out for a meal ^^

    • February 8, 2015

      I so commend you for that. As you can tell, it took me some time :).

  2. February 7, 2015

    I do eat all of the kimchi 😀 Feeling at home in Korea was an ongoing process, especially once that dreaded culture shock really sunk in around the three-month mark! I’m glad we both pulled through in the end.

    • February 8, 2015

      I’m so glad also! Thanks for stopping by, Holly 🙂

  3. Jane
    March 9, 2015

    I used to live in Daegu when I was young! How are you liking it?

    • March 9, 2015

      Hi Jane! 🙂 That’s so great, I’d love to know how much it’s changed! I really like it; it’s a nice location in relation to other cities in Korea… it’s easy to get around and there’s a decent amount of stuff going on in the city, so I’m happy here. I hope you get to come back sometime, if you want to!

  4. Hi Neysha! Just wanted to say how great this post was! It really spoke to me when I read it several months ago and I came back to read it again because I haven’t forgotten about it. I know the feeling you describe and it’s one I love. Thanks for bringing me back to that feeling entirely through your story!

    • May 29, 2015


      Thank you so much for this comment. It means so much to me! 🙂

  5. […] be forced to get over it. My perspective is wider, now. I’ve found new things that comfort me: I eat kimchi like a pro, and my squat is extra stable (TMI?). I say those things in jest, but a year ago eating […]

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