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 Jennie and I originally come from Scotland. After university I worked to get my TEFL certification and moved abroad to live in Thailand for one year in a small city in the North called Phrae. I met my now fiancée there and moved to Western Australia with him for another year. When my visa ran out we decided on making a move to South Korea where we lived for another year in the small island off Busan called Gejoe. We worked in a very small hagwon until packing up and moving on again to Vietnam where we are currently living.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I moved to Thailand it was the first time I had left home for longer than 4 weeks! I come from a very close family and originally started blogging just to keep all my family up to date with what I was doing and show them pictures. As time when on and we moved to different countries it suddenly became a tool to log our experiences as well as help other people deciding on making a move overseas!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favourite blog entries are: My Thai top 15 which I was asked to write for a website and made me remember all my best moments from Thailand. When we visited the DMZ in Korea, I was fascinated and I loved writing it up and learning more about it. Hiroshima Peace memorial museum where we went on our school holidays in Korea, due to family history and connections it was highly interesting for myself which I always think leads to the best entries as you have so much to say and so many feelings and memories about your visit! Finally Diving with sharks was one of the BEST experiences I did while in Korea… or anywhere!! I even had a video to go with it.
Tell us about the ways your new life in South Korea differed from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
As Korea was not my first time living in Asia the culture shock was kept at a minimum! Not only that but where we lived was the biggest shipbuilding yard in the world which meant there were always loads of foreigners kicking around. My favourite thing to do in Korea was the Jiljimbang or Korean spa, especially the one in Busan Spa Land… I was obsessed!! It might not sound appealing as you have to get naked in a room full of strangers, but it is the most relaxing experience EVER!! Food wise… I can just never get used to Kimchi… I have tried so hard!! Despite not liking it you always find something else you do like! As I always say to everyone… living in a different country is very similar to back home, yes you may eat and do crazy things and experience a new culture, however, I still go to work every day, moan about Mondays and sometimes hate/love my job!
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?
Yes, I was very prepared for Korea in most things, I stocked up on loads of things that I knew I would need such as blonde hair dye, tampons, bras, but I was not prepared for just how cold winter gets!!! Luckily, many UK stores ship to Korea as I had to have a whole new wardrobe shipped out!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One of my most memorable moments from expat life was my first ever Thai Oil massage in Thailand. I was uncomfortable taking off all my clothes to start with, but then came my masseuse… a ladyboy! She came in and said “Sorry all ladies are busy but don’t worry I am a ladyboy!!” I then proceeded to have the weirdest (and best) massage of my life, however, I had to giggle when the masseuse couldn’t stop laughing and saying “I want!” at my chest!
Another of my favourites was my nickname in Thailand from the students “teacher big mew”… it took me 4 months to understand why this was my name- it means ‘teacher big milk’ I was mortified!!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?
- Life can get frustrating when you are living away from home, however, try your best never to lose your cool at a Korean, or anyone else from another country, you will make them uncomfortable and you will never get the help you need. Koreans can be shy so don’t scare them away!
- Try to learn some of the language even if it is a simple ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. The local people will love you for it and you will have the chance to really get to know people!
- Respect the culture you are in, remember you are in a different culture so what might seem normal behavior to you might not be normal behavior or considered offensive in another country. IE public displays of affection, getting too drunk, talking about sex etc…
How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Where I lived there were literally thousands of expats!!!!! Although if you live somewhere where there are not as many have a look online, usually there is a bar they hang out in or groups you can join on facebook!
How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?
A fun, bungee jumping, shark diving, skiing, filled time full of Soju and Kimchi and K-pop!