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Jan: Hanji Happenings

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in South Korea makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Korea, etc.

I’m an Australian who has been an expat for 12 years. I moved to South Korea as my first ex-pat post in 2000 and spent 3 ½ years there teaching English. Whilst I was there I learnt the Korea craft of Hanji making and I continue to enjoy it all these years later.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I started blogging about a year ago on the recommendation of a friend who was learning hanji from me. Over the years I’ve had difficulty getting supplies for my craft but I’ve learnt lots of ways to overcome this and continue even though I don’t live in Korea any more. I wanted to help other ex-pats who may be in the same situation.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

This was one I did recently.

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?

It wasn’t my first experience as an expat overseas but it was the first time to a country that spoke so little English at that time. I think it has improved.

I did get culture shock when first arriving in South Korea as I was based in Andong a very traditional city where few people spoke English. I remember being so confused by the fact that I couldn’t read the language as it wasn’t Romanized and when I could, I still often didn’t understand what the words meant.

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?

No, wasn’t fully prepared for what awaited in South Korea but I don’t know what I could have done differently. I had some Korean lessons before I left Australia but I found it difficult to learn out of the context of the country.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

After I’d been there a while and got use to a lot of their customs I started to bow to the Koreans when they bowed to me. There was an incident when I was on a platform waiting for a train and a man walked towards me and I automatically bowed. It was only afterwards that I realized it was another westerner. I walked on quickly and giggled to myself.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?

  • Try to learn the language and customs of the country
  • Research where you’re going to be based
  • Make sure you’re going to be employed by a reputable company

How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

At the time I was there, and because of where my husband and I were based, it was difficult to find any other expats apart from those that worked at the University with us. We were all housed in the same apartment block so we ended up working and socializing together and we’re still in contact with some of them now, 10 years later, even though we’re spread all over the world.

How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?

Interesting culture, amazingly friendly people and fantastic food!

Vladimir Rostev

"InterNations not only helped me finding great business contacts but it moreover helped my family to quickly settle in."

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"Getting to know other Scandinavian women was so easy with InterNations. We quickly got connected and became friends."

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