Russians abroad: business, lifestyle and “traditions’ interlock”
An interview with Miroslava who moved to South Korea (Busan) in 2015
Welcome to Matryoshka’s diary. Today we are talking about Russians living abroad and in particular about those living in Busan, South Korea. Our guest, Miroslava, moved to Korea in 2015 for work and never left the country. In this interview, she shares her experience of living in Busan and tells how the interest in Russia and Russian language has grown over the last few years and so did the Russian community. Read the interview and think about how you would live in other country. Say, in Russia (Enjoy Russian School autumn&winer courses start very soon!).
Where in Busan do you recommend having some traditional Russian food?
Texas street, or also known as Russian street, is situated just across the road in front of Busan railway station – the place where Korea Train Express (KTX is South Korea’s high-speed rail system) leaves for Seoul. There you can find Russian restaurants and food shops: Tiger, Alye Parusa, Blinok, Imperia, Rusko which serve traditional Russian food. Visit Tiger restaurant for good Russian 3-course lunch, and just remember that a squid salad with mayonnaise is a must-try dish there. Then stop at Blinok café, which is located just down the street, to try some traditional Russian pancakes with various fillings such as berry jams, nuts, fruits, etc. If you want some Russian food to enjoy later, stop at Imperia food shop for the tastiest Russian cake in the City, Napoleon. Once I was asked by Japanese, why we have such an interesting name for traditional Russian cake, why not Petr or some other Russian name? The answer is simple, just because we can only cut enemies using knife.
What do Russian people do in Busan?
If we are talking about professional activities, most Russians in the City are connected with shipping / fishing / ship repair businesses. A famous Gamcheon Port, a popular location for many Russian for their business operations and ship repair works. All year-round Russian sailors can be seen in the port area and around the city. Russian ships sail up there sometimes just for 1 – 3 days for discharging frozen fish or other seafood, or they can be berthed there during several months for repair works, it depends on the purpose of the vessel’s call in Gamcheon Port. When the work is done, sailors usually walk along the port and nearby areas searching for free Wi-Fi, which can be found in many public places across South Korea, or shopping (previously, in the 90’s sailors used to buy Korean household appliances, which were really advanced for that time and were not available in Russia, such as microwave ovens, double cassette recorders etc).
You can ask why Russian ships prefer to arrive Busan for business activities. There are several reasons.
- Firstly, the good location of the port, as it is situated almost in the heart of the Asian region, accurately between the Asian part of Russia, Japan, and China, which makes it a good transit port for different cargos. Some Japanese ports are also good for these purposes, but one obstacle which is very important, Japan is not so safe, earthquakes and tsunamis are quite common for Japan.
- Secondly, the developed infrastructure and facilities: piers, docks, cold storages, roads, bridges – everything is built to last for ages. Thirdly, the cooperation between Russian and Korean businesses is beneficial for both sides. Russians can offer a big variety of wild-caught fish and seafood from Bering and Okhotsk Seas, North and South Kuril Islands, which is not only very delicious, but also very healthy. Koreans can offer advanced technological equipment and repairing services for ships.
Busan is also attractive for Russians as a tourist destination. Some people come to Busan for vacation mostly in summer to enjoy swimming and beach activities, water sports, a big variety of delicious Asian food, shopping (Korean cosmetic is a must buy for Russian women).
Moreover, medical tourism is also popular; many wealthy Russians come to Busan and other Korean cities for medical treatment. It can be anything ranging from plastic surgeries, laser vision correction, and in vitro fertilisation, to cancer treatment. For Russian people medical treatment in Korea costs a lot of money, but it attracts many people because of advanced medical equipment, which can’t be found in most Russian cities. Russian translators are available almost in every big Korean hospital. There are even medical agencies, which arrange every service for Russian patients, from booking flights and hotels/apartment, to medical appointments, documents translation etc.
Learning Korean in the environment where one is immersed in the culture, is also popular for Russians, especially for Russian Koreans (overseas Koreans, which were born in Russia, or also named Russian ethnic Koreans) and Russians from the Far East of Russia. University language courses or bachelor’s / master’s degrees are the top choice for Korean Language learners. In addition, there are a lot of language schools and free public language courses, so there is a variety you can choose from. Furthermore, there are some opportunities for foreigners, especially ethic Koreans, to get Korean government scholarships for studying at Korean university. Having aspiration to learn any Asian language and culture is a key for every foreigner, especially from European countries, to grasp main Asian language skills. For Chinese or Japanese students it is easier to study Korean, they have a lot of similar vocabulary and grammar, but for students from other countries it is a big challenge to learn Korean, it is a completely different way of thinking.
Are there any events in Busan, which are connected with Russian Culture?
Yes, there is a variety of events, some of them are organized by Consulate-General of the Russian Federation in Busan. For example, in the end of winter there is a Russian celebration of coming spring, called Maslenitsa. This event takes place at the biggest beach in the city, Haeundae Beach and includes traditional Russian performances of singing and dancing, traditional competitions and of course, traditional Russian food, such as pancakes and pies.
For the International Women’s Day celebrated on the 8th of March, there is usually a music performance organised by consulate-General of the Russian Federation in Busan with splendid performances of world-known masterpieces of music and literature and dinner. Another major event is a celebration of the Victory Day in May by organising the event known as Immortal Regiment. Now it has become an international movement, which is held in the memory of fallen Russian soldiers who fought in the Great Patriotic War against Nazism. Relatives of soldiers take part in the memorial procession with portraits of fallen grandfathers, which sacrificed their lives for our peaceful future.
Moreover, every year in Busan there is an event, called the Global Gathering. It is a festival for everyone, who is interested in cultures of different countries; there is a Russian booth with traditional Russian food and souvenirs. To find out about every event in the city and some great places to visit follow this public account @busan_tuzhur on Instagram or Facebook, all the posts are in Russian, so it is useful for people, who don’t speak Korean and can’t search information in Korean media, but still want to explore Busan.
What are some popular Korean traditions that Russians can use in everyday life?
Koreans always bow to show gratitude to a teacher, a doctor or even a salesman in the store, also when leaving or entering to greet people. The lower the bow, the more respect person wants to show. After studying or living in Korea for some time many foreigners also start to perform bows in everyday life, so do I. Also, there is a proverb in Korean: “If you have only one bean, you should divide it into two parts and give one part to a relative or a friend”. I think this represents the values of the country which are deeply engrained in the Korean culture. Taking care about other people, country and nature, building a prosperous and inclusive society.