Definitely, China is not the best place to stay long term. I have never been to China, but people seem to forget that they are still Communist, just with a few different rules that they used to have that allow them to take part in the commerce of the world. When the Olympics were in China, China tried to make China look better than it was. They were still using Communist tactics.
f there was a poor slum, they put up a big wall so that no one could see it was there. They painted one side of a building and made it look like, but the side that no one could see may look like a slum. I saw these things on the news when I was in S. Korea. I had a student who went to China to study, and they came back telling of overwhelming poverty. They stayed in a university dorm that was an old drafty building with very little heat, and it was hard for them to find places to eat descent food. China may be Communist, but there is still a terribly uneven distribution of wealth. There are super rich in China as well as people poor enough to live in the streets in big numbers.
The Chinese also eat even more exotic food than Japan and Korea, even though they both eat exotic food too, but China’s food it off the charts at times strange from what I understand. They do actually eat monkey brains in China. Korea got an import from China that I would never touch. It was a can of silkworms made to eat. I had a Korean friend who went to China, and when she came back, all she could talk about was the poverty, the dirt, and the stink. After talking to people who had been to China in Korea, I knew that it was smart for me not to be teaching in China.
If you were to choose between Korea and Japan, the choice is hard because each have their perks. Both Korea and Japan are rich countries, and the people’s life style is good. I actually haven’t seen much poverty in either country, even though I know it exists. Both S. Korea and Japan are extremely peaceful countries. The standard of living is good. Both countries are clean, and Japan is super clean almost to the point at times of trying too hard, but I admire the Japanese for their cleanliness. Both countries have extremely old, interesting cultures, as China does too, except Communism has tried to squash man of the old customs, but the old customs are encouraged in S. Korea and Japan. The salaries are also noticeably lower for teachers in China than they are in S. Korea or Japan.
S. Korea and Japan have extremely good systems of public transportation. They both have extremely good healthcare and health insurance. There is one drawback in Japan that S. Korea doesn’t have. The heating in Japan is not always good. When my student was in China, the heating wasn’t good because of the lack of money allotted to take care of the building by the Communist government.
However, in Japan, sometimes in winter, places are cold because of the Japanese customs. Shintoism teaches them to stay as close to nature as possible. There are times this goes so far as causes people not to use heaters like the samurai not using heaters in the house in winter. It also causes the Japanese to be inventive. In Japan, there is no central heating. They might have a heating unit connected to the wall that blows out hot air, but it never reaches the floor because hot air rises, so the floor is cold. They may have a heater attached to the bottom of the table and a big quilt that goes under the table top and down over your feet and legs, but the rest of the room is cold. They may have a coil in the toilet seat that heats the toilet up when you sit on it. The people who invented these were trying to deal with the Japanese Shinto idea that they shouldn’t be heating their houses. I knew of a missionary’s wife in Japan who actually got frost bite on her feet because she was going to people’s houses and taking her shoes off at the door like everyone does in Japan, and her feet got really cold and ended up with frost bite. The homes in Japan can get extremely cold, but not because of lack of money, because of Shintosim.
In Korea, the heating system is actually a dream even compared to American homes that have central heating. Koreans heat the floor. There is a heater under the whole floor. It is really nice when it is cold outside to be able to go barefooted in the house and your feet stay warm. The Koreans take their shoes off at the door too just the way the Japanese do. There have been times in Korea that I was outside, and it was extremely cold, and it had been a long day, and I went into my apartment, laid down on that warm floor rather than on my bed, and went to sleep because the heated floors feel so good! If your heat is turned up too high, you need house shoes or you will be walking on a hot floor, but there are units on the wall where you can control the temperature of the floors like the unit on the wall in America where you can control the heat. The only drawback to the heater on the floor is that you need to have a wooden floor or a concrete floor with linoleum on it. A carpet like you have in America doesn’t work on Korean floors.
If you don’t have a heater under your floor in Korea, you can buy large mats with heaters in them to put in the floor. You can also buy beds that are basically a big slab of marble that go in the floor with a heater inside of them. Korean beds are nothing to brag about. Both the Koreans and the Japanese may sleep in the floor or have a regular bed, and some Koreans prefer a bed that is like a marble slab without a mattress. Many Koreans don’t want to sleep in beds because they want to sleep on that warm floor. The traditional way of sleep in Japan is on mats in the floor in a room with tatami mats (straw mats). Both countries like to sleep in the floor, but the Japanese futons (special Japanese bed made for sleeping in the floor) is usually more comfortable than sleeping on a Korean floor. If you live in Seoul, though, you will have no trouble having a bed. Recently, I have seen recliners for sale in S. Korea, but I have never seen them for sale in Japan. S. Korea has more of a push for comfort and practicality than Japan.
If you are a Christian, you will love S. Korea. There is a church building on every street corner, and sometimes even more. More than 50% of the population of Korea claims Christianity. Since I taught at a Christian university, there were business owners who heard that I was teaching at a Christian university, so wanted to give me a discount at their business. Both Koreans and Japanese can be extremely welcoming personally and in the businesses. As far as Christianity in Japan, it is hard for an Japanese person who decides to be a Christian because they have a bad history of Christian persecution. They no longer persecute Christians. In fact, many appreciate Christians because of their kindness, but they can’t appreciate Christianity.
f you don’t learn language easily, S. Korea is easier than Japan. There are TV stations and radio stations in English in S. Korea. However, when I was in Japan, there was nothing like that on our TV. We used to go to the library in Japan to check out movies in English to have something to watch in English. The Koreans have an extremely big push to learn English. Another thing that is on almost every street corner is a hogwan, a private school, and most of them are dedicated to teaching students to speak English. Koreans love English!! Many of them speak English. In Japan, there are people who speak English too, but not quite the love and push of English that you find in Korea. I taught at a Japanese Juku, a private school, and they taught English as well as Math, Kanji, etc. in the evenings after school. There are many Japanese trying to speak English too, but they are not as successful as the Koreans have been with their hogwans. In S. Korea, I taught at a university, and at one point, I figured out that about 80% of the professors in that university could speak English even if they weren’t English professors. If you go to the doctor in Korea, at least 80–90% of the doctors speak English. Many of them have studied in an English speaking country. If you are not a language learner, you can get around with English much easier in S. Korea than in Japan. If you go to a restaurant and try ordering in Korean, often your server will speak back in English in S. Korea. Koreans are just in love with the English language!
The crime rates in both S. Korea and Japan are extremely low. Both countries are good places for children. However, space is a problem in both countries. Many Koreans and Japanese both live in extremely small apartments. Both countries have a lack of space. Japan is just several small islands that are banded together into one country. Korea is just one small peninsula. Both countries feel the lack of space. In Japan, I had to rent a parking space away from my apartment. In Korea, there was a parking lot by my apartment, there were too many cars for the parking lot, and each individual parking space was very small. They had to develop a system for what you could do with your car in case you got home and all the spaces were taken. Their system worked, and any system I saw meant trusting your neighbor which you can usually do in Japan and S. Korea both because the crime rate is so low in both countries.
It is hard to choose for someone whether they would want to live in Japan or S. Korea long term. Both places are good to live in, but I wouldn’t recommend China. As far as whether you should live in S. Korea or Japan, it is according to your personality. If you definitely have to have warmth in the winter, go for Korea. The weather can get extremely cold in S. Korea in the winter, but they have compensated well. There is also lots of snow skiing in S. Korea in winter because they have more mountains than any country in the world. It is according to what part of Japan you live in as far as the coldness in the winter. I spent a winter in Okayama, and there was barely a little snow, and it wasn’t very cold at all, but it was still hard to heat our apartment. If you go to Okinawa in Japan, it would be much warmer, but if you went north up to Hokaido in Japan, there would be lots of snow and cold. If you aren’t good at language, you better go with S. Korea. If you are fascinated by Kanji, go for Japan. Only the scholars use Kanji in S. Korea. I really think the choice between S. Korea and Japan is according to the personality of the person. I love both places