Retribution Gospel Choir, “The Stone (Revolution!)”
Totally anecdotal, but when I moved to lurvely Daegu about three years ago I went to the bank to transfer some money back home. It took about 45 minutes — I was pretty certain I was the first person to ever do an international money transfer at this tiny little branch (north suburbs, basically) and definitely the first person to require some assistance in English.
Flash-forward to today, and it took about five minutes to zip some money into my American bank account. Without me even having to ask, the teller started speaking to me in very good English. Granted, I had an old receipt with all my routing information, so that probably made the experience as painless as it was.
Still, if a sleepy little suburb of a sleepy Korean city (compared to Seoul and Busan at least) offers this kind of service in a neighborhood with only a handful of foreigners, it says something about how easy I have it in 2013. When I first started working here my co-worker suggested I do banking stuff downtown in the branches that have actually seen live, breathing foreigners before. And he was right — trying to do semi-complicated bank stuff at this tiny little branch office just wasn’t worth the trouble.
So maybe I’m just lucky that Ms. Pak is there to help me out these days, and that she knows me by my face. Or maybe the lesson is that you’ve got to find the people who are willing to help you and then make a point of keeping a good relationship with them (South Korea is the land of the business card, after all).
Maybe it’s because I have so much free time this month with college classes being over, but I’ve been thinking a lot about just how comfortable and convenient life as an ex-pat can be despite the language barrier (which is lessening, thanks Daegu YMCA!) and cultural differences.
Now, if only South Koreans would get their act together when it comes to salting and sanding ice on the sidewalk.
(I have to complain about something, don’t I?)