The Good, the Bad and the Weird
Sometime in early spring I made a significant change in my life. No, I didn’t abandon Korea – it seems that it’s not time for that yet. But after 13 years, I left the metropolitan city of Seoul and moved 500 kilometers down South to Busan (albeit, also a metropolitan city, at least in name).
I’ll be honest: the perspective of the move made me physically ill. That, or it was COVID, really who knows these days. But the anxiety levels were high – I was leaving the comfy and secure life in the capital for… I didn’t really know what for? I was sure putting all my eggs into a basket that had a lot of holes, making the risk levels sour high.
But here we are, 4 and a half months later. Things didn’t turn out as planned or expected – both in bad and good ways. One thing is for sure – despite all the worries, I do not regret my decision.
Here’s a break down of the highlights of my life in the LA of Korea.
- The Location
I live in Haeundae, the beachy, Northern part of Busan. It may be far away from the business/industry infrastructure, but… I can see the sea from my window. In fact my whole house is a fabulous upgrade from my dark, dinky one-room in Mangwon, Seoul. I have light, I have space and working ghas never been a bigger pleasure when I can always go up to the rooftop and appreciate the oceanic panorama. That brings me to…
- The Lifestyle
Busan demands from you to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. On top of my regular CrossFit, I took up morning running by the beach. I lost weight and gained a whole bag of optimism, so even when my dark moods strike I’m equipped with resources to stay afloat. Also, because everyone is so active here, there’s an abundance of hot shirtless and bikini-clad bods, that keep the old eye happy like a labrador puppy. Oh, and I go surfing every other week.
- The Challenges
Surprisingly, this is actually a good thing. Seoul had become a bit stuffy and saturated for me, the startup community builder. Here, the startup community is still in its very early stages, the city authorities, although very ambitious, are like children in the dark about what they are supposed to be doing – in short there’s a lot of work and opportunities for a hustler like myself. Yes, it’s hard and frustrating at times, but if it pulls off, it will be a grandiose success.
- The OG project
The reason for my move to Busan wasn’t a whim, but an actual project with the city authorities. My team wrote the RFT for it and we were sure to be granted it in the official procurement process. Except we weren’t. It was the most frustrating thing ever – we pretty much had done a free consultancy project for 6 months, only to be blown off for ridiculous reasons. It hurt, it still stings my weak ego. But.. in the end it’s probably for the good. The project would have involved a lot of bureaucracy, red tap and sitting in a stuffy office. Whereas now I have the ultimate city view.
Busan may be smaller than Seoul, but it’s LOOOOONG. And filled with mountains. And a lot of traffic lights. In short, getting from point A to point B takes forever and then some. I’ve still to visit our official company address this month, but I cannot be bothered by the 1 hour travel time. Somehow, everything was more compact in Seoul. Here it drags on….
And by drag, I also mean how things work here. Nobody is really in a hurry in Busan (unlike the neighboring Ulsan, where they want a project proposal by the following day). The shops and gyms open whenever the owner decides to get out of bed (And that’s never early in the morning), things take TIIIIME. For a hustler and speed freak like me, it’s a bit of a drastic shift. And source of endless frustrations.
- The Prince Syndrome
Observed by my partner-in-crime, Busan men, especially middle-aged and older, suffer from the so called ‘Prince Syndrome’. Every one of the them is the king of his castle, to be worshiped and praised endlessly. They take critique, blame and other opinions very hard. For the most part, it’s a source of limitless jokes for us. But also an exercise in diplomacy so as not to step on the wrong side of a department’s Prince.
I never liked being linked to another country (just ask me where I’m from!) but these days to be asked if I’m Russian is like a slap on the face. For one thing, who wants to be associated with an aggressor. But also Busan, due to being a port city, has a significant number of Russian… ladies of the night. And when I’m asked if I’m Russian, it’s usually to follow up with a question about my service prices.
- The young, the old and nothing in between
The biggest shock I got about Busan is that it has a lot of young people (up to their mid-20s), a lot of older people (50 and beyond) but…. Not much in between. Due to lack of industries and corporations, most of it’s working-age citizens moved to neighboring cities (Gimhae, Ulsan, Pohang) or to Seoul. This also strongly reflects on the city infrastructure, culture and lifestyle: there’s a lot of hard, all night-and-day partying in Seomyeon but also 5am walking older couples in Mipo.
So there. Here’s my very subjective reflections of life in Busan. I’m sure the city has lots more to surprise me with. For now, over and out.
2 thoughts on “Life in LA of Korea”
We’re coming back to Korea in October (see my recent post on LinkedIn) and would be good to hook up and exchange any info and contacts.