Andrea: When in New Places
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- Maggie: Maggie Moo Does Korea
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- Tania: Small and Tall Travel
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- Jennie: Jennie McKie
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Korea, etc.
My name is Andrea and I’m a Canadian gal who ventured off into this life as an expat with my husband in 2011. We’ve been teaching English, travelling Asia and experiencing the new ever since.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about my two cents on expat living and my personal evolution in 2012 after having lived here for one year. I was about to start my second teaching job and I had some time on my hands to get it off the ground. With a year of experience to reflect on I had no shortage of topics to blog about.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I absolutely love a post I did on the only bucket list you’ll ever need. It really drives home my personal philosophy on what this is all about, and what I think is most important wherever you may be or go in this world.
My other favorite post is my rant on things that annoy me in South Korea, but with a positive twist revealing what I’ve learned from them. It was great therapy to both write and realize what I’ve taken away from the not so lovely side of things.
Tell us about the ways your new life in South Korea differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
South Korea is the exact opposite of Canada. It’s loud, crowded and without a lot of open space. I definitely experienced culture shock during the first few months of living here.
There was one time in particular where we went grocery shopping and I experienced the most intense culture shock ever. The aisles were jam packed with people who were staring at us as we walked by. There was a man on a microphone announcing something nonstop at full volume next to all of this raw fish; the smell of the raw fish was overwhelming. All of the food packages with Korean writing on them were so confusing and disorienting. All I wanted to do was just run away. That was so intense - thankfully that was the worst of it, and it got a lot better from there!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in South Korea? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
In all honesty I barely prepared for the big move as far as researching what the overall experience would be like. I think we were ready for an adventure and to just jump into it with open arms. It was perfect that way - no expectations means no disappointments, right? Our first school that we taught at was a rather large disappointment in all ways, but even so, it sure makes for some colorful memories of this whole adventure!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, every expat who’s worked in a hagwon (private academy) in South Korea knows they’re hit and miss as far as the quality is concerned. Our first hagwon was a definite miss by all accounts. We got off our flight and showed up at our new apartment, which was located above the school we were going to be teaching in. It was 1:00 a.m. and I remember asking this Korean woman, who hadn’t said a word to us yet (she ended up being our manager), when we would start working. She looked at me and instantly replied “tomorrow!” I was in total, utterly exhausted shock.
As we entered our very dirty and cold apartment with 6 suitcases that contained all of our life’s possessions, we had a very distinct “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” type of moment. Then, we heard a knock on the door and it was one of our co-workers, a fellow Canadian, and he said “Here are 2 beers; you’re probably going to need them!” As the door closed we were just staring at each other like “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
After 3 years of living here we still talk about those initial days, and yes, they make us laugh now…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?
- Forget about what you think this experience will be like, and brace yourself for developing patience, acceptance and a whole new way of seeing things.
- Attempt to define this experience and try not to let this experience define you. Everything is what you make of it after all.
- Kimchi gets better the more you eat it. You’ll find each restaurant offers a unique kimchi flavor - try, try again until you find one you like.
How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We’re a married couple in our 30’s so we enjoy spending our time together for the most part; occasionally we’ll meet up with other couples for dinner, weekend trips and outings.
The expat community in South Korea is readily available if you’re looking for it.
How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?
Embrace the new.