Why I Don’t Regret Leaving New York City for Daegu
|Me enjoying the New York City lifestyle|
Living in New York City meant spending my time watching Broadway musicals in Times Square, looking at Van Gogh’s and Monet’s masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and taking afternoon strolls through Central Park, so why would I want to give that up? Sure NYC is fabulous, but the glamorous city lights burn less brightly when you see them every day. I knew that I wanted to experience what it would be like living in an environment that was completely different from what I was accustom to. After finishing university, I decided the come to Korea to teach English before jumping into a career back in America. Coming from the Big Apple, I have high demands for what a city needs to offer to keep me amused, so picking a new place to move to was extremely stressful! Should I live in Seoul for the capital city lifestyle? Should I go to Busan and become a beach bum? These were the kinds of thoughts running through my head, but ultimately it was Daegu that stole my heart and I have never regret moving here since. In cases your wondering why I choose Daegu out of all the wonderful cities in Korea, here’s why:
I had an extremely active social life back in New York City, so my biggest fear moving to Korea was that I would end up all alone in a foreign country. Luckily, my fears didn’t turn into a reality and I managed to meet a few really amazing friends. You definitely have to make an effort to put yourself out there, but there are plenty of ways to meet people in Daegu. There is a large foreign community living in Daegu and there are many meetup spots, events, and communities for fellow foreigners to connect with each other. A number of local organizations including the Daegu YMCA offer Korean classes so you can learn Korean to better communicate with the locals. Also, the Korean natives in this city are super friendly to foreigners! Try going to a language exchange or an international party to strike up a conversation with the locals.
|me with number one Daegu buddy Ji|
2.Art and Culture
One of my passions I thought I would be sacrificing when I left New York was my indulgence in the arts and culture. I was so wrong! Whether you’re into theater, art, or music, there are plenty of places in Daegu for you to tap into your artsy side. Catch an opera show at the Daegu Opera House or vibe with the music at the Daegu International Music Festival, which happens to be Korea’s ONLY international music festival. Daegu has a vast amounts of museums that ranges from displaying everything from contemporary art to historical masterpieces. But you don’t have to be an art or history snob to enjoy Daegu’s museum culture. Try visiting the Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine or Daegu National Science Museum if you want to take a break from the painting and ancient artifacts.
3.Cost of Living
My goodness, New York City is so expensive! I’ll never forget the pain and suffering I felt sophomore year of university when I looked into my bank account and saw I only had a 3 cents (about 30 won) balance. Compared to other large cities, Daegu has a relatively reasonable cost of living. It cost about 1250 won to ride the subway or bus and there is a vast amount of restaurants where you can get a great meal for under 10,000 won. I’ve finally been able to save money without having to embrace frugality. There are also tons of free activities to do in Daegu with my favorites being visiting the free national museums and exploring Kim Kwang- Suk Road.
|Kim Gwangseok Street has some of the most vibrate art murals in the city|
4.Easy Access to Nearby Cities
As amazing as Daegu is, I definitely enjoy leaving town to see the rest of Korea. Thankfully, Daegu is a central point for getting to other cities. It only takes about 2 hours via KTX to Seoul, and 1 hour to Busan. The city’s two major train stations Dong Daegu and Daegu Station can take you to these two major cities and many others as well. When I need to save money, I ride the ITX or Mugunghwa train which is cheaper than the KTX, or I go to the Sobu Bus Terminal which has buses running daily to a majority of other cities in this country.
|taking a weekend trip with my girls to the cherry blossom festival in Jinhae|
Partying in New York is pretty awesome, but everything is ridiculously expensive and many clubs are so exclusive it feels like only Beyoncé can get in! That is why I love love LOVE going out in Daegu! While there are still some pretty exclusive places, overall nightlife vibes are so much more relaxed here. Downtown Daegu is the place to be any night of week if you’re looking for an awesome bar scene. My personal favorite place to go is Dongseongno street. It is one of the best areas in town for nightlife and has many options of clubs, bars, and lounges that cater to a diverse range of musical taste such as hip hop, house, pop, and American music. Suseong Lake also has a few upscale cocktail bars I like to visit. If you’re not really a partier, restaurants and coffee houses stay open relatively late so you don’t have to miss out on the nighttime fun.
|People in Daegu can dance for days|
6. Public Transportation
A typical day for me in NYC involved waiting at the bus stop for 20 minutes only to watch three buses pass me but refuse to let me on, then eventually board an overcrowded bus to be dropped off at the filthy, rat infested subway station, and finally squeeze into a train that stops every 15 because of delays. After experiencing the never ending nightmare of a subway system back home, the transportation system in Daegu has truly been a dream come true for me. Daegu’s buses and subway system are extraordinarily clean! They are so clean sometimes I actually miss my old rat buddies back in New York! Also, since there is only three subway lines, navigating your way through the city is a breeze! It took me almost a year to get a hang of New York’s impossibly complicated subway system, so this was a welcome change. My favorite thing is that some subway stations such as Banwoldang and Jungangno also function as underground malls with many retailers and food stalls available.
Daegu manages to beautifully balance traditional life with the modern world as there are a plethora of cultural sights in Daegu. Daegu is home to several hanok villages that date back to the Joseon Dynasty including Otgol Village and Inheung Village (Inheung Village is my favorite). Donghwasa Temple is home to a marvelous Buddha statue. For those seeking to disconnect with modern society for a moment, a temple stays at Donghwasa Temple can rejuvenate your body and soul.
|exploring Otogol Village. We had the entire place to ourselves that day|
Some people might be surprised that weather comes on this list since this city is so hot in the summer, it is referred to as Daefrica (Daegu+ Africa). However, the tradeoff for hot summers is that Daegu generally has mild winters with little snow. New York City winters can be pretty brutal sometimes, so this is a welcome trade for me. Also, spring and fall are quite beautiful and you can enjoy the flowers and the changing autumn trees with pleasant temperatures. When the blazing summer heat finally comes around, it only gives me more reasons try out the city’s water parks including Duryu Water Park, Elybaden, and Spa Valley which has the highest waterslide in all of Asia.
|enjoying the spring flowers|
9.Parks and Nature
One of the things I miss the most about living in NYC is taking strolls through Central Park in the fall. Personally, I don’t think any parks in Daegu come close to how magnificent Central Park is, but they definitely have their charm! I love visiting Wolgok History Park in the spring because it has absolutely beautiful cherry blossoms trees. In my opinion, Daegu may not beat New York City when it comes to parks, however Daegu definitely stands out when it comes to nature. I love being surrounded by mountains and getting a chance to explore them. If you’re looking for a jaw-dropping view of the city, Apsan Park has a wonderful observatory at the top and Biseulsan Mountain has a gorgeous azalea bloom in late April.
|cherry blossoms at Wolgok Historical Park|
|a gorgeous view of the mountains from Apsan Park|
I used to often visit Korea Town in NYC to eat Korean food, so I thought I was already a mini expert on Korean cuisine. I was so wrong! Korean cuisine is much more diverse than I imagined! Daegu has tons of great restaurants, but what makes it stand out even more is the street food. Seomun Night Market is the biggest regular night market in Korea and my number one spot for street food! Also, be sure to try Bangcheon Market for more traditional snacks and Dongseongro Café Alley for coffee and sweets.
All in all, I miss New York so much, but I’m super happy here and I find myself smiling here every day.