Getting LASIK Eye Surgery in Busan, Korea

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo

On Saturday, I got laser eye surgery here in Korea. It was a really wonderful experience and the best part is that I can now see! So far into the distance! Without wearing glasses! I know that’s the whole point of getting laser eye surgery, but as someone who has lived almost her whole life wearing some kind of corrective lenses – to me this is quite literally a miracle. This is a very long post, but I wanted to share my experiences for anyone thinking about getting LASIK in Korea.


One part of my motivation for coming to Korea would be to get my eyes fixed here. Korea has the highest number of LASIK procedures in the world because in general there is more myopia (farsightedness) here, at least according to my optometrist. This means they are very efficient and supply-and-demand means the price is much lower! It all depends on where you go, but you can expect to pay around 1,300,000 won or about $1200 US dollars. Back home, it’s usually at least this much or more per eye, so it’s definitely worth the cost. Also since I wear contacts, this surgery will pay for itself in just a few years.


I had a really easy and straightforward experience with my surgery and really liked the clinic I chose. I’d had Hivue Eye Clinic in Seomyeon recommended to me by a few friends who had done the procedure earlier in the year. They offered a discount to foreigners as many clinics in Korea do.


The timing of my procedure was so easy. I booked a consultation for Saturday but had heard that sometimes they offer to do the surgery the same day. They warned me not to wear contacts a week before the surgery, but since I didn’t think I would be having the surgery on the day of my consultation I only stopped wearing them about 4 days before. Still, they said it was fine.

My consultation was at 11:30 and took about 1.5 hours from start to finish, including several tests of my eye health and determining my prescription. That included a sit-down meeting where they explained to me each test and my results compared to the normal baseline population. I had never gotten that kind of information on my eye health back in Canada and I must say it was both interesting and comforting to know. Then they sent me off for lunch and told me to come back in an hour for the surgery.

I came back, was sent down to the pharmacy to buy some eye drops, signed a consent form and had two more short tests. Then I was taken up to the surgery room and had to wait quite a while for someone else’s procedure to be completed. But once it was my turn, it moved very quickly and took altogether only about 1/2 an hour in total.

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo


Here are some things you might encounter:

  • They took my blood to make “medicine”. (I’ve since Googled this and no longer am so alarmed, but trust me I was at first.) They use your blood plasma to make special “autologous” eye drops that prevent dry eye and encourage healing. But I have friends that went to other eye clinics in Korea and did not have this.
  • I had to stand in a special wind chamber before entering the operating room, presumably to get all the dust off my clothes.
  • Since it’s Korea, I had to take off my shoes outside the operating room.
  • The staff may not speak much English. I was lucky that my optometrist had some basic English, enough to explain the procedure, and I had help from the contact who works with this clinic.

During the surgery (I had LASIK, not LASEK):

  • You might have to get up after the corneal flap has been cut and move to another operating table across the room. This was a very surreal experience and all I could think was “there are flaps in my eyes!” That said, I could see fine to walk even if it was a little blurry.
  • You won’t feel any pain or even much sensation. There is an intense pressure on your eye before they make the flap, but after that I didn’t feel anything. My biggest fear was having to watch what was happening but in fact I couldn’t see much at all.
  • You will smell a funny burning smell when they use the correcting laser, which is a bit disconcerting.
  • The lights are very, very bright and it was hard for me to keep my eyes open.
  • You don’t have to worry too much about keeping your eyes open because there is a (painless) clamp that holds your eyelid gently open.

After the surgery:

This will differ for everyone of course, but at my clinic they said I’d be totally fine to walk around and see right after and I was. I took the subway home with a friend of mine but I probably could have navigated it alone! That said, I had some discomfort: it felt as if there was something in my eye, and I had a lot of light sensitivity for the first few hours. Also, things were a bit filmy and blurry with a halo effect around lights. Before I went to bed that night though, it was much more comfortable and I could see pretty clearly. When I woke up on Sunday, it was like magic! My eyes as of this writing are still fairly dry but my vision is great! In general, my clinic said to expect only about one day to recover from the LASIK procedure.

Be prepared to go into the clinic after one day, one week, two weeks, and a month intervals. My day-after followup was a very short eye test and the doctor took a look at my eye under the microscope. Everything looked fine and they say I have above 20/20 vision now.

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo


I was really pleased with my experience and am absolutely thrilled with the results. My recovery time was absurdly short with minimal discomfort and best of all, my eyesight is great now. I am so excited that I was able to give myself this gift and feel very lucky that I got the opportunity to be in Korea and was able to feasibly save up for this.

If anyone has any questions about the procedure, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Would you ever get a medical procedure in another country? If you wear glasses, would you get laser eye surgery to correct your vision?

10 Things To Know When Visiting Korea

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

I’ve been playing it cool here on the blog for the past few days, but in real life I’ve been totally freaking out in the best possible way: my mom is coming to visit me in Korea in just 2 weeks!!! No amount of exclamation points will ever be enough to explain how excited I am. When I left for Korea back in March, I never thought anyone would come to visit me –  it’s just so far away! And although I had a few friends flirt with the idea, ultimately I just didn’t see it happening. Flash back to one week ago today, when my mom somewhat spontaneously decided to visit. In 3 weeks. Incredible.

Literally: I still don’t believe it. Or, I do believe it and I’m thrilled, but it still feels a bit surreal and so, so wonderful. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my family, and it really does feel unnatural. I’m very grateful I’ll get to see my mama, talk to her incessantly, and show her around my corner of Korea. Before she arrives, though, I wanted to tell her the top cultural differences to be aware of while she’s visiting. So I decided to share them with you as well. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Don’t assume the sidewalk is safe

This may be the case in other foreign countries I’ve not yet visited, but I know for sure it’s different from back home. Here in Korea the “sidewalks” are actually bike paths, with no real designated area for pedestrians to walk. Everyone does walk on the paths, of course, but it’s important to be aware that at any moment a motorcycle or bicycle could come riding down the sidewalk towards you. In my experience, the motorcycle drivers (mostly delivery guys) are excellent drivers, and are used to slowing down and/or dodging pedestrians, but even so, people usually get out of the way for them so it’s good to be aware.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

2. Don’t assume that crosswalks are safe

Let me put both safety considerations up front, because of course I worry about these ones the most. Crosswalks are not really respected here the way they are back home. Don’t assume a driver will stop for you or even slow down. Taxi drivers regularly and possibly obliviously block pedestrian access to a crosswalk. At big intersections obviously the cars stop for traffic signals and you’re safe to cross. But at little ones sometimes you have to be careful – there’s one very near to my house that cars come whipping across constantly and it really is the pedestrian’s job to check if there are cars coming and whether it’s safe to cross. I’m not saying every driver is like this, but I have definitely noticed a consistent pattern.

3. Korean Toilets 101

Western toilets are becoming more common, but especially in public bathrooms they are usually outnumbered by the good old squat toilet. I hadn’t used a squat toilet before coming to Korea but I’m comfortable with them now and it doesn’t bother me at all to use them. They’re really not that bad!

You will probably need to bring your own toilet paper. You can buy little tissue packs almost anywhere here (don’t worry mom, I’ve got you covered) and they’re worth carrying around. All bathrooms at private businesses and restaurants will have TP, and many public bathrooms will too, usually in a big roll on the wall outside of the stalls (so remember to grab some before you go in!), but a lot won’t.

The bathrooms are fairly clean but they can smell pretty bad. Strange, I know (get used to it, there are a lot of juxtapositions in this country) but let me explain. Bathrooms are usually well-maintained, but there is the (forgive me) unpleasant* practice of putting used toilet tissue in an open wastebasket in the corner of the stall which is unsanitary and smells bad.

*I try not to use negative adjectives when I’m describing Korea or any other foreign country but this is one of the things I really don’t like.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

4. You will be different

Especially if you are not visiting Seoul (but even if you are, sometimes!) you might get stared at more than you’re used to. This is usually by the older generation or very young children who see foreigners rarely. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it’s not usually hostile, but it can still be very disconcerting at times. I’ve had young girls point and say “waygook!” (foreigner) to their parents, or a middle-aged man stare at me for entire subway rides all while whispering to his wife and them laughing together. My friends and I have been the only foreigners in an entire several train cars. I have a twenty minute walk to work each way and it’s rare for me to see another foreigner.

So you may be stared at or approached because you look different. Very often older people want to talk to you and practice their English a bit, asking where you’re from and how old you are (this is a very common question that is not considered rude in Korea). For the most part, none of this attention is necessarily negative, just perhaps surprising.

5. Public transportation is very quiet (except when it’s not)

There can be a touch of a double standard when it comes to volume on all forms of public transportation here. Most of the time, the subways are close to silent, but it’s okay if people talk quietly. My friends and I have gotten shushed more than once for talking at a reasonable, normal volume. On the other hand, you’ll often encounter locals talking very loudly into their phones or families being very noisy on trains. Either way, it’s a good idea to be a little quieter than you’re used to.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

6. You should give and receive politely (even though it’s okay if you don’t)

Traditionally in Korean culture you are meant to give and receive things (especially money) with either two hands, or one hand while touching your elbow. Most people don’t expect foreigners to know about this practice so you can get a pass if you forget, it won’t be overly offensive. Some places I go, such as grocery stores, they don’t do it, even if I do (and I’ve observed this with Korean customers as well), so it’s possible that the tradition is being phased out in more casual places.

If you’re eating with other people, it’s respectful to never pour your own drink, instead pour for someone else using two hands, while they hold the cup in both hands as well. My little kids always give me everything from homework assignments to board markers with both hands and it’s so incredibly sweet.

7. Koreans are very expressive people

Koreans are very expressive with their language and sounds. When they listen, they make little noises, almost to confirm that they’re listening actively and sympathizing with the speaker. There are also certain words that are meant to be said in a very particular way. For example, my kids taught me the word that means “oh my goodness” or “oh dear me…” which gets said a lot. I repeated it with good pronunciation but they told me it had to be said in a far more expressive way, basically with feeling. (You can see some examples of how to pronounce “aigo” here, if you’re curious.) From what I can tell from my limited Korean knowledge, this is really common.

I actually love this tendency to make sounds and be expressive. My friends and I have unconsciously adopted it, and I think now I probably make way more sounds when people are talking than I ever did before. It feels natural and it’s kind of fun.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

8. But sometimes Koreans are hard to read

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought something was really serious based on facial expression and the aforementioned tone of voice only to discover that it was not a big deal at all. This happens a lot at work, especially when you feel like you’ve done something wrong but in the end it was completely fine. It can also be very hard to read people’s facial expressions if you don’t know them. For example, I’ve been stared at many times (see #4) with what seems to me to be a very hostile expression, usually from an older woman, which has made me feel uncomfortable. But a few times I’ve tried smiling back, only to see a big grin pop onto the person’s face! It’s a good lesson that you can never tell what anyone is thinking, but I think Koreans are more guarded about their emotions showing on their faces than most. I’ve found it’s very easy to misunderstand people’s meanings and moods here.

9. You can get by knowing only a little Korean

This is surprising but true. Sure, you won’t know what’s happening around you a lot of the time, but in general you’ll probably be okay to navigate through subway stations, buy groceries and find your way around. It’s not ideal, but Korean is a notoriously difficult language for English speakers to learn so I would suggest arming yourself with a few key basic phrases and the rest of the time relying on big smiles, little bows and giving money politely (see #6). My top sentences are: Hello “annyeong haseyo”, Thank You “kamsahamnida” and I’m Sorry “mianhamnida”. More here.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Korea

10. It’s not that scary or different

In general, Korea is a very nice place to visit. It’s clean, fairly modern in the cities, and doesn’t feel totally foreign or exotic most of the time. Granted, I live in one of the big cities here and it’s quite different if you go to some of the more rural towns. And that’s not to say that there aren’t big cultural differences, there are definitely several. But for anyone who is nervous about travelling to such a foreign country: you’ll be just fine. The signs and menus are in Korean, but there are some in English too. There are apartment buildings and roads and a subway system. There are bananas at the grocery store. There are rocks and trees and the beautiful ocean. It’s a bit intimidating to arrive in a country so different, in some ways, from your own, but you’ll quickly get used to it. In fact, it may not feel very foreign at all!


I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the more glaring differences between Canada and Korea, so if you spot any I should add to the list please let me know in the comments below! These are the things that stick out in my brain the most, the most interesting or important differences, but there are hundreds more, large and small that differentiate the two cultures. That’s what’s so brilliant about living in a foreign culture, you get to experience the subleties, both good and bad, of the people and the country, in a way that’s very hard to express in writing or photos. Which is why I’m so thankful I’ll have the opportunity to show my mum what it’s like here, so that she can really understand this part of my story.

The Funniest Konglish Phrases


I’ve been living in Korea for over 5 months now, but the English translations can still make me laugh out loud. Walking around, you see a surprisingly large amount of English printed on t-shirts and signs, but very little that makes any real sense. Hence the term Konglish! Konglish technically means words in the Korean language that are basically English words, but most foreigners have adopted the term to mean hilarious translations of Korean phrases into English as well.

I have noticed that most of my students use Naver translation services (Naver is basically the Korean Google) to translate words into English and the results are almost always bizarre or too formal. By contrast, typing the same word into Google usually gets a more accurate translation. As an example: on Naver, the result was “refractory” but on Google the result was “annoying”, which is what the student meant.


I can only assume that the thousands of Korean t-shirt companies are also using less-than-ideal translation software to come up with the gems that they do. All of the phrases listed below are taken verbatim from store names, poster slogans and of course, the infamous t-shirts. Anything that looks like a typo or grammar mistake on my part is not – all are written exactly as they were originally seen.

Ps. In case anyone is worrying – I truly am not meaning to make fun of anyone Korean in posting this. In fact, I think most Koreans who have a grasp on English would also find these shirts and slogans absolutely hilarious. Not to mention that I don’t think it’s a reflection on Korean people if they don’t understand that these sayings are funny. I live in Korea, the language is Korean, and English is not overly important here, nor should it be. All this is to say: take it lightly, the way I do! It’s not a reflection on anyone Korean.

  • Hot Dog Fighters
  • Be classy with eye gentry
  • Baby Café
  • N. Hollywood I Am
  • Play wave athletic sportive
  • How to Slake Summer Festival
  • Holy chic, try popular new things
  • Play with me joy
  • Zombie nation eats your hard
  • Venereal disease
  • To the Difference
  • Kitsch Something
  • Grand Open
  • Fashionabl stylemixpink
  • Beard Papa’s
  • New Paradigm Party Restaurant
  • Let’s Party Time
  • Love Ritual Hoegaarden
  • Jerry is the natural leader
  • These sailing crews will explore the Atlantic
  • You’re nothing but a pack of cards
  • Lady yourself more


Funny, right? They always put a smile on my face, especially when I spend time thinking about what the original Korean phrase could even have been before it was translated. Some of them just seem like a graphic designer threw words together that looked cool, and others I just laugh and think that there must be a native English speaker at a desk somewhere giggling as they design gibberish phrases for the fronts of t-shirts.

Observations in Korea / 03

Korean Observations 3

Once again, I’m amazed that two months have gone by since the last one of these observations posts (you can see my first two here and here). That being said, even though I’m coming up on the end of my fourth month, I feel like I’ve lived in Korea for much longer than that. I think that the stress and slight upheaval that came with the announcement about my school closing down took the wind out of my sails a bit because it brought up a lot of the more frustrating and difficult aspects of life in a foreign country. The dust has settled and I’m back to feeling more balanced and positive about life here, but the experience definitely expanded my sense of how long I’ve been in Korea. Fortunately, I’m still really enjoying myself, and I haven’t stopped making observations about the funny and interesting parts of this culture. Here are some more of them:


In some bathrooms, instead of liquid soap dispensers they have a bar of soap on a stick. It looks exactly like this.

Every time I’ve taken the inter-city train here, it’s always been totally packed. They sell “standing” tickets for trains, so lots of people stand in the aisles, sit on the stairs between train cars, or sprawl out and sleep literally across the entire floor in the dining car. To me, that last one seems like a fire hazard, but it’s totally normal here.

Koreans make excellent ice cream. At your local convenience store you can choose from a huge variety of individual ice cream bars and cones in the freezer that are very cheap and very good. Some tiny convenience stores also have soft-serve ice cream machines! And my absolute favourite part of the pre-packaged ice cream cones is their packaging ingenuity: they have pre-scored lines at every inch or so, meaning you can easily unwrap the cone strip by strip as you eat. It’s so simple but so smart. You can sort of see an example here.

When I opened a new bank account last week, the woman told me to choose a 4 digit PIN number. A few minutes later, she said I needed to make a 6 digit number as a type of security code, but that the security code needed to be my 4-digit PIN plus two zeroes at the end. This struck me as fairly hilarious and ridiculous, because of course if everyone is told to do the same thing, how is it any more secure than the 4-digit code?

In a lot of bathrooms, there is a little button you can press to make a loud “flushing sound”, presumably so you can do your business more discreetly. In some bathroom stalls I’ve also seen an “emergency call” button.


Some Korean couples dress exactly alike, and I mean that they literally wear the same things from head to toe: same shirt, same pants, same shoes. Everytime I see it, I do a double take and have to laugh. Yesterday my friends and I spent a good deal of time discussing the mechanics of how the couple makes that decision, since most Koreans live with their parents until they’re married and so the younger couples presumably don’t live together and share a closet. Do they text each other about the outfit? Does the girl pick out his outfit or vice versa? You can see a bounty of examples here.

Cellphones seem to be much more common in the workplace here than they are back home. For instance, in addition to the bank phones on their desk, tellers at the bank will also have their cell phones out right in front of you, will use them to check things, and last week the woman who was helping me took a cell phone call right in the middle of our transaction.

In general I have to say that Korean women seem to care not at all about panty lines. This is not to say that I think they should, but it’s just very different from back home. Even young stylish women wearing pencil skirts or pants usually have visible panty lines.

When you walk into big stores (similar to Wal-Marts back home), there is a designated “bower” on every floor who bows to you as you enter and leave. On trains too, the customer service agents who walk between cars often bow as they enter and leave a train car – and this is even on the very cheapest, most run-down train line!


Koreans have a hilarious preoccupation with “dong” which is Korean for poop. They have these red bean treats that are shaped like piles of poop, and in Seoul we even went to a café that was, for all intents and purposes poop-themed, but in the most cutesy and least-gross possible way. Picture fairy lights strung around a tree that has cartoon, multicoloured piles of poop hanging off it. It’s equal parts funny and totally baffling.

In Busan, foreigners often get “shushed” or asked to stop talking by Koreans on the subway, even when objectively they’re not speaking very loudly. Granted, the subways are often very quiet (sometimes almost freakily silent, with everyone fully absorbed in their phones and not talking to one another) so speaking even quietly is a disruption, and sure, sometimes we foreigners might deserve it when we get a bit too loud, but usually it’s unfair and unpleasant. Especially considering that in a huge number of circumstances (including on quiet trains), Koreans can be extremely loud, especially when speaking to their families or on the phone. We’ve heard from Korean friends that when it does happen, it’s usually because Koreans find our accents and language deeply annoying, moreso than because of the noise level itself. This is just one of those times when you really feel like a minority in a culture different from your own.


A lot of people, mostly middle-aged and older women, walk around with umbrellas up when it’s sunny outside so that they don’t get any kind of tan, since Koreans think that tans are not beautiful.

Most stores and jobs seem very overstaffed. Tiny kiosks and totally empty stores usually have at least three employees, I’ve seen 5 people on hand “helping” (watching) one guy change a vending machine, and of course there are the aforementioned bowers.

Once at the local track, my friends were annoyed by a woman walking slowly around the track with a huge antenna sticking up from the tablet she was holding, watching a Korean soap opera on full volume.

Korean Baseball GameAt the baseball stadium, everyone is allowed to bring their own food and drinks (yep, even alcoholic ones) in from outside, and there are convenience stores inside the stadium with the exact same prices as outside. At the end of the game, they pass out bright orange plastic bags which everyone ties into big balloons or bows and loops around their ears. The bags are meant to be used for everyone to clean up their garbage at the end of the game, but they’re used for a bit of fun beforehand, ha.

Take out food culture here is really very excellent – it’s usually free delivery, and the food is brought wrapped in plastic but on real plates with real utensils and often with all the side dishes that Koreans eat with their meals. After your meal, you leave the dirty plates and bowls on the floor outside your apartment or in the corner of your office, and the delivery guy comes back to pick it up later. Yes, really.


It’s funny: the longer I spend living in Korea, the more funny differences I notice between here and home. I thought that this country’s idiosyncrasies would start to fade as I got used to living here, but actually the opposite has happened. I had to hold back on this post because there are still so many things I could add (for instance: elevators don’t have sensors and sometimes eat you alive; I had to open a new account at a different bank for my new job because my boss (inexplicably) refuses to do a transfer to the bank I am already with; dried sweet potato is a popular snack), but I’ll save a few for the next installment. This is a very different culture than the one I grew up in, and while there are some frustrating parts, mostly the differences are just funny and interesting.