Stephanie And Ryan: Hedgers Abroad
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Seoul, etc.
We both grew up in small towns in northeast Oklahoma. While attending Oklahoma State University, our paths finally crossed and we have been inseparable ever since. We have always shared a love for travel, whether road tripping across the country together or simply exploring the red dirt country roads of Oklahoma.
After all those years, we finally tied the knot. A bit scared of settling down and starting careers and a family, we set out to travel the world and experience something vastly different than our lives in Oklahoma. Following months of preparation, research, and planning we finally landed in Seoul in February 2013.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When moving overseas, there are innate struggles that you will encounter. One of our biggest anticipated difficulties was the possibility of losing communication and closeness to our family and friends. From the onset of our planning, we sought to resolve this problem by starting and maintaining a blog while we were abroad. Ever since then, our blog has attracted attention from other expats who also share a love for adventure and we have enjoyed expanding our blog to include videos as well.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
We really enjoy our newest blog section called Let’s go to… where we explore around Korea and show a bit of what life is like living in Seoul. We especially love these posts for their inclusion of video segments which give our viewers a chance to see Korea through our eyes. In our most recent entry, we rented bicycles along the Han River and spent an afternoon cruising down Seoul’s most famous waterway.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Seoul differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Let us put it this way, the population of the ENTIRE state of Oklahoma is 1/3 the size of Seoul’s! Needless to say, we definitely had to get used to the amount of people bumping and shoving their way through this huge city. We took for granted the personal space that we had back in the states. This is especially apparent when using public transportation. Standing shoulder to shoulder while on an hour long subway ride, is not preferable, but we have learned to deal with it and take it in stride.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Seoul? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Our planning and plotting started for months before our move. We were excited about starting our new lives together and wanted to know everything we could about Korean culture. It didn’t take much time before we found other expats who also lived in Seoul and so we read all about their lives and the struggles that they encountered. There are also many vloggers who share their daily lives and experiences online and we soaked it all in; getting more and more excited every day. We learned so much that helped to prepare us; however, there were still challenges that we came across that we couldn’t possibly foresee.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
On one weekend vacation out of Seoul to the fortress island of Ganghwa-do, we got pretty lost looking for the beach. We ended up walking up and down the same road drawing many stares from the local shop owners. We were getting a bit frustrated with the situation when we finally found the ‘beach’, which was just a bunch of mudflats that met the ocean.
We decided to make the best of it and walk around in the mud. Upon the first few steps, we sunk in almost up to our waist. After struggling for a while through laughter and tears, we finally made it back to the rocky shoreline only to find a group of Koreans pointing at us while laughing and taking pictures of the silly foreigners. We smiled and waved and to our surprise, they invited us to share their picnic. One of them was an English professor at Seoul University and we had an amazing time talking with them and sharing stories.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Seoul?
- There is a saying called “expect the unexpected”. That is unrealistic, however: do not expect everything to go perfectly. There will be bumps along the way, but one of the biggest lessons we have learned is to accept these as part of the amazing adventure we’re on.
- Which goes along with our next tip: be flexible. There will be many things that will simply be out of your control while living as an expat in Korea. We thought we were easy going and quite adaptable before moving here, but boy were we wrong! Every country has its own way of doing things and you will have a much better experience if you are willing to accept that which you have no control over.
- Learn about Korean culture. Not only will this save you from culture shock, and sometimes embarrassment, but it will also help guide you through life as a foreigner in Korea. Having prior knowledge of traditions and etiquette will help prevent you from making those classic foreigner blunders. Taking the time to learn about Korean culture will give you a better understanding and a deeper appreciation for the community you are becoming a part of.
How is the expat community in Seoul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We were very fortunate to become fast friends with some of our coworkers at our school. When we first came to Korea, there were many things that we needed help with and we were lucky to have met so many wonderful friends that have been more than willing to lend a hand. However, if you are not as fortunate as us, the expat community in Seoul is amazing. There are many outreach programs that get like-minded expats together in a variety of ways. By simply searching the web for these groups, you can find many opportunities to meet new people and perhaps make new friends. There are Facebook groups, blog communities, and many foreigner districts throughout Seoul that will surely help any newcomer to Korea!
How would you summarize your expat life in Seoul in a single, catchy sentence?
Traveling through life together one adventure at a time!