Shoebox Apartments

asian apartments

We live in a small apartment here in Korea. Well, let me rephrase that to say that in American standards, we live in a small apartment. We feel very blessed and fortunate to have the size apartment that we do because we have known couples whose work has provided them with a 300 square foot studio apartment for the both of them. How they’re both still alive is beyond me. But needless to say, all three of our apartments in Korea have been smaller than what we’re accustomed to back home in the States. And while some things on this list may not apply to our current spot, they all could have been said about at least one of them.

So if you’re sitting there wondering what qualifies as a small apartment or wonder if yours fits the bill, this should help. You know you live in a small apartment if:

.It takes you 15 minutes to clean the entire thing

.It takes just as long for it to look like a train wreck again

.It’s impossible to lose or misplace anything

.You can vacuum the entire place without switching wall outlets

.You have an oven the size of a toaster oven and even that you have difficulty finding a place for

I’m just impressed we could fit a turkey inside. Even though it was so close to the elements that it had lines on it.

.You can see every room from one spot

.When the trash bag is full, you can smell it from every room

.If you leave the door open when showering, all the windows in the apartment fog up

.Your kitchen table is where you do most of your cooking because you can barely fit a cutting board on your counter.

Our first kitchen. I did most of my cooking on the table since I could barely fit anything besides a plate on the counter.

.It takes about five minutes for the place to cool down or heat up

.You don’t have seasonal decorations, not because you don’t want them but because you don’t know where you’d store them

.You have a dorm sized fridge because you can’t fit much else. Thankfully we were able to upgrade to at least a half sized fridge

.You don’t have to yell or even raise your voice in order for another person to hear you across the apartment or in another room

.Your social events have a max capacity guest list

.You have to find new and unique places to store things…like under the couch

This is where we kept out out of season clothes

.You are constantly switching out the clothes in your closet because only one season fits at a time. The rest go under the bed or in our case…under our couch.

.Every time you buy something new, you have to get rid of something. Not because you think it’s the  ethical thing to do, but because you don’t have enough room.

.At least one or more people have to sit on the floor when they come over…good thing we live in Asia and this is seen as normal.

I just want to end this by saying that even though we live in a place smaller than what we’re accustomed to, we now very much prefer it and no longer want to get a large house when we move back to the states. It’s funny the things you can get used to!

A Place to Rest Your Head

Our new humble abode. This is what most of the new apartment buildings look like where we live.

I’m very happy to announce that we are unpacked, uncluttered and completely settled into our new place. While it was a long day last Saturday as we spent the good part of 13 hours packing up, making trips back and forth and unpacking everything, we now feel right at home in our new place.

Packing: our worst nightmare but our cats dream come true

While with our last place, we drove around solo and found new buildings, it wasn’t possible to do that with our new location. We moved out of a relatively new, spread out area where buildings are being completed monthly and into an older town nearby which is densely populated with people and apartment buildings. We needed serious help navigating this maze of buildings.

We recruited a great Korean friend of ours to help us out. Little did we know that it would once again, take a lot of foot work to find the perfect place for us. See, in Korea, you can’t just go to one realtor to show you all of the available apartments like you can in the States. Each realtor is responsible for a certain area and can only show you a few apartments each. We must have gone to 6 different realtors to see more apartments that I care to remember. We saw brand new 350 square foot apartments (that we tried our best to be optimistic about and try to plan where our furniture stacked boxes would go) to 800 square foot apartments that we had to navigate through the smoke clouds and piles of trash to see the place. Let’s just say, we were a little more than discouraged.

Then we found the place. You know, the one the realtor shows you, knowing perfectly well that it is just out of your price range. The one that you compare all other places to after that. Yea, we saw, and fell in love with, that one. The thing is though, it wasn’t entirely out of our price range. The key money (remember, it’s like a really big deposit) was really low so we offered them more key money in exchange for lower rent. No go. We were disheartened but continued on our way to look at more apartments. Later that week we got an unexpected phone call from a previous realtor saying that she got the owner of the place we loved to come down in rent. Perfect! We went down to the office to sign papers only to find out the place was already taken. But! But, wait for it, the one across the hall that was bigger and more expensive was still available. If we couldn’t even afford the smaller one, there was no way we could afford the larger one. We were about to give up hope and hit the pavement again when they told us that the landlord was willing to give us the larger place for the price of the smaller one. The shock didn’t wear off for days after that. We feel so blessed to have been able to get the apartment we did, and we have no doubt that God has His hand in all of this (and probably to teach me a little lesson about patience!). 

This is the one room hubs is disappointed about. No room for a shower curtain in this one!

So, might I add, that Koreans have a pretty awesome habit that many foreigners who are provided unfurnished apartments take full advantage of. In each apartment complex, there are ‘furniture drop off’ areas. Aka, gold mines. Our second year we moved into an unfurnished apartment. The landlord graciously provided the bed, fridge, tv and washer but that was it. So for a good month we went scavenging for furniture. Sure, we could go buy it. But when we aren’t staying forever and we have found perfectly good furniture in these areas, what’s the point? I am proud to say that we found every piece of furniture in our apartment minus the bed and TV stand which were provided. Couch, chair, bookshelves, vacuum, microwave, table, the list goes on. Through this process, Korea has taught us to be extremely thrifty. And we’ll probably be the couple back in the states that’s looking through the dumpsters for a new chair. I’m ok with it.

Apartment Living Korean Style

Well we did it! We found a new apartment closer to work and surprisingly it’s not the size of a shoebox!  Through finding a new apartment, I realized that I had never shown any pictures of our old place on this little blog of mine. Finding an apartment as a foreigner can be a little tricky. Most of the time, apartments are provided by the school for the foreign teacher. But since we knew we wanted to stay in Korea for a few more years and weren’t sure if we would be staying with the same school, we wanted to find a place of our own so if we did by chance change workplaces, we wouldn’t have to change apartments.

To find the place that we are currently in, we narrowed down the area that we wanted to be in and drove around for days, looking for new buildings or buildings that would be soon be done. We then gave the telephone number of that apartment to a rockstar Korean friend of ours who would then call the building and get all of the details for us. Not too difficult, just time consuming. We felt extremely blessed with the building that we found. It was a great location for us at the time, the landlady was beyond nice and went out of her way to work with us and make us feel at home, and it was the perfect size for the both of us. Which surprises me since back in the states we felt cramped in a 700 square foot apartment and our old place was roughly 600 square foot apartment (or about 18 pyeong-the Korean measurement) and felt spacious.

Paying rent in Korea is a little different also. You have rent but then you also have what is called ‘key money’. Think of it as a really big deposit before you move in. Most apartments start with key money of $5,000-$10,000. But here’s the cool part. Say you found an apartment for $600 and they required $5,000 key money. Well say that you had more money saved up (lucky you) and wanted to put it towards the apartment. Well, typically for every $10,000 extra that you are willing to put down, the rent will go down by $100 a month (this is not a rule but what we have found to be true). Every apartment has a limit of how much key money they will accept and how low they will let the apartment rent go down to. But it’s such a great way for those savers out there to save some money on rent. You may be asking ‘do you get that money back?’ And the answer is, yup. Every penny of the key money that you put down, you get back the day that you move out of the apartment. Win win.

Without further ado, our humble Korean abode.

Most of the apartments in Korea don’t have key holes. Instead they have keypads where you type in the code and it opens the door. Great for people like me who are prone to lock my keys inside. 

Before and after of our bathroom. Traditional Korean bathrooms have no separation of the shower from the rest of the bathroom which leaves the whole place soaked whenever you shower. To prevent this, hubs took a ridge of plastic and used caulk to secure it on the floor, stopping any water from flowing out of the shower area and also added a shower curtain.

There is no central heat and air in Korea. This is both our air con and our heating along with having floor heat.

The view from our back window.
Wood cabinets are extremely expensive and therefore extremely rare in Korea. Majority of places have plastic cabinets and prefabricated kitchen units. 

merry merry christmas

this december has been surprisingly cold outside. when we first came to korea it was cold but we were told not to turn on the floor heat in the apartment because the cost of it was so high. (apartments here have heated floors instead of central heat) so we plugged in an electrical heater and thought nothing more of it. turns out, it was just as expensive if not more so. our bill was the highest in our building (something i’m slightly proud of) and a government official was sent to our house to find out why we were wasting so much electricity. i guess we know better for next year.

charlie brown christmas tree

we were debating whether or not to get a tree but the holiday season just doesn’t seem the same without one. we went to homeplus (the local supermarket) to look for one. we saw a lot of decorations and decided to come back the next week to pick some out. by the time we got back to the store, around the 10th of december, everything was sold out. they had a sad looking fake tree and some bulb ornaments left. we decided that we would try out luck at finding a tree out back, and by out back we mean the mountain that sits behind our apartment complex. the mister did an amazing job at finding the perfect charlie brown tree and even made a stump holder for it. i was in charge of making homemade ornaments and decorations…never again. it was kind of like our idea to string popcorn for our tree last year. we made it half way around one side of the tree and stopped. i enjoyed the first hour or so of making the ornaments and then wanted to give up. i have never folded so much paper in my life. you would think i was majoring in origami. but now it’s done and over and we’re going to try to save all of them for next year somehow so we can sit back and enjoy more of the season.
christmas lights
korea is predominantly christian but when it comes to christmas there’s not a lot of celebration. the day is more seen of as a day to hang out with friends and your significant other than it is to be with family. we spent the day making crepes and mexican food with friends and watching old christmas movies. the perfect way to relax before heading back to work the next day.

these are salt dough ornaments that are really common to make with children. we tried them with our kindi classes too.diy salt dough ornament

the amazing bottom that jeremy made for the tree

homemade christmas tree bottom

we’ll be heading to japan tomorrow and we can’t wait for a getaway! i’ll be sure to get pictures posted when we get back! merry christmas!

Home Sweet Home

know you guys have been just dying with anticipation to see what sort of living conditions we have over here. well the wait is over my friends. we actually got a really nice place, seeing as how most couples we have talked to have to share a studio apartment. yes, we’re newly weds and crazy in love, and that’s why we’re glad we get to keep it that way in a spacious two bedroom apartment. 

korean apartment

our lovely living room with dumpster furniture. trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. we know that each piece of furniture usually only has one previous owner. they are not big on thrifting or used things here because they think that part of the previous owner’s spirit stays in the piece that they owned. in every apartment building there are areas where you can leave unwanted furniture and such. lucky for us, it’s right next to where we park our bike everyday. i get my shopping fix in every single day. and that large rectangle looking thing in the corner? that’s our air conditioner. they don’t have central air conditioning here so every building has something similar in it. 

korean apartment

 

our front door and shoe closet. you’re supposed to wear different sandals inside but we haven’t adapted that far yet. you can also see our lovely lamp made out of bamboo that was made by our friends jesse and chelsie who were at our same school before us. also, our front door doesn’t have a key. i love this since i’m a space cadet when it comes to remembering important articles, such as keys, before leaving the house. instead most apartments here have a simple keypad in order to get into the apartment. 
korean apartment
the views from our front balcony. it was a hazy day but the mountains right out front is one of the tallest mountains on the island. we have yet to climb it but it’s on our to do list. we found out that you can drive your bike halfway up. i know it would be the lazy way out but i’m ok with that. 
korean apartment

 

our spacious kitchen. and yes, that fridge is definitely not full sized. it reaches to about the bottom of my ribcage. and that is our oven sitting on top of it. through that back glass door is another balcony with our washer in it. they don’t use dryers that much here because of energy efficiency so we have a large drying rack that we set up to dry everything. 
korean apartment
view out of the back of our apartment