Big Feet in Korea: Prepare for the Worst

Here’s a big piece of advice for you if you’re an American guy preparing to live in Korea: Bring multiple pairs of shoes if you have big feet. Learn from my mistake, if you know what’s good for you, and bring many pairs of shoes with you. If you’re over size 10, you will regret the day you didn’t heed my warning. But before I tell you the story of my big feet, let me fill you in on the first three days living here in Korea.

All slippers in Korea are too small for my big feet.
This was at a local dog cafe. You put on slippers that they provide. No place ever has slippers that fit my big feet.

The First Days of Orientation

First, it feels like so much longer. Orientation typically requires the entire day. During this time, we learn the language school’s (or hagwon‘s) teaching philosophy and program, which has included observing other teachers and mock teaching our peers. Then we have the night to do with as we please.

Coming from a teaching background, the school’s curriculum isn’t difficult. If I wasn’t here, I’d be feverishly preparing my own curriculum at home, so this cuts away that work and allows me to focus on just learning their expectations. So hey, not too bad right? Plus, they prepare most of our meals, and they gave us a small stipend to get the meals that aren’t. They only serve vegetarian food, so it has been interesting adjusting the diet, but I haven’t minded. We can always stop at a food stand in the evening and grab a bite here or there containing some seafood.

Korea never gets my name right. But that's better than not having any shoes for my big feet.
Did I forget to mention that during my stay here, my name has never been spelled right? Not once… And it has taken a different form each time. Upon walking into the Guest Apartment, I was greeted with a sign that welcomed “Jade Moore.” Welcome to Korea! 🙂 But hey, at least they’re prepared for me. My big feet and I never had a clue.

Learning a Little Korean

Danny and I have been lucky to have our roommate with us; he was born in Korea but has been an American citizen the last 10 years, meaning he’s fluent in both English and Korean. This has made ordering food and traveling so easy (I feel like we’re cheating). But he’s also taught us phrases or words to use in different situations. If you were to ease drop into some of our conversations, you’d think you’re listening to a guy explaining things to his kindergarten siblings. For instance, we’ll walk around the city and I’ll tug on his arm; after pronouncing a word, I’ll point to it (“Is that right?”). He’ll correct me if I need correcting and then he’ll tell me what it means.

One time this happened, I had pointed out the word that stood for Viagra. Too convenient, right? Other times, I’ll turn to him randomly and say, “Hana! Dul! Set!” while holding up one, two, then three fingers. “Very good,” he says, “you know 1, 2, 3!” I feel so bad for him.

The Problem of Having Big Feet

In our latest adventures, we’ve been looking for sandals for me and Danny for two reasons. First, everyone in Korea wears them and we stick out like sore thumbs. Second, it’s been so humid and hot (record heat wave!). Finally, in Korean culture, you take off your shoes upon entering a house and leave them at the threshold. The floor has a special lip or color deviation showing where you can’t walk past.

Thing is, each shopping district we’ve gone to, we’ve been out of luck. Wednesday, we went to Dongdaemun Market. While we got to sit and watch a fountain show at the Cheonggyecheon stream afterwards, which was nice, the market itself was surprisingly sparse of men’s sandals or shoes. Then yesterday, we went to Myeongdong and Sinsa, and that’s when the horrible realization set in: My big feet are too big for Korea. The highest size stores had was 280, roughly a size 9.5 in America. My unfortunate shoe size is a 12, a depressing 295/300. Though it’s a bit bigger than average in the West, you can still find these everywhere. Here? I can’t even find shoes on GMarket, the Amazon of Korea.

Check out this unforgiving chart that doesn’t even include my size on it. This can even be a problem for women, though I think it’s probably less dire in their situation.

Oh Korea, why have you forsaken me?

What’s Ahead and a Few Pictures

This weekend, we get a bit more free time. The group is going to a singing room (noraebang) at some point, and we’re also going to see what a local bar is like. Below are a few photos I took of random things or highlights these past few days.

Next time, I’ll report on what we did during our time in orientation. Enjoy the pictures! Till next time, friends!


0 thoughts on “Big Feet in Korea: Prepare for the Worst

  1. hahahahaha sounds like you are having so much fun already!!lucky you!!
    Please keep posting pictures and let us know about your adventures😉
    Love it!❤️

  2. Jared, this week and month have been frustratingly hard for me. I’ve stumbled over what life has thrown me, and I’m scrambling to get back to where I just was: in a place where I could grow, learn, and move forward. I also started a wordpress blog recently, and this week I’ve been thinking about posting, but stress has killed the motivation each time. Then, you remember slowly over time, as time shows you, that there are things best left not forgotten. Friends better left not forgotten. And they inspire you while you hope it isn’t too late to return the favor.
    I have a few dear friends, and most of them are all spread across the world. The ability to communicate with everyone is such a gift of our times… but to be able to enjoy reading of your friends travels, to be truly happy for someone, and proud of them.. is so great! Thanks for starting this blog to document your journey. For selfish reasons, it is helpful to have something to look forward to reading and someone to look forward to catching up with. And I love how my heart and mind immediately wanted to blog, and reach out, and keep informed all my friends who I love reading and hearing from. Maybe for your sake, it could be nice to follow along as I document the goings on of my American trials and journeys here in Atlanta. You have made me want to write more often, along with a few other writers I’ve been stalking lately. 🙂 I hope all is well, and I’ll look forward to reading again soon.

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