Kaleena: Kaleena's Kaleidoscope
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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.
Hi! I’m Kaleena. I’m a California girl who moved to Korea two years ago to teach English and pursue my dream of living abroad and writing all about it.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog because I’ve always loved to write and I found myself compelled to tell stories of my adventures. But I also seem to be a magnet for ridiculous and bizarre situations that my friends swear do not happen to normal people, so they encouraged me to share my experiences on the blog.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Say Kimchi: A Bizarre Photo Experience ß One of my funny experiences
A Road Trip to a Remote Land: Goheung Island ß Beautiful photos of the countryside
Food Porn: What I’ve Been Eating in Korea ß Pictures to make you drool
Falling in Love, or Fish Tanks ß A blind date gone wrong
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?
Life in Korea is different in nearly every way. At first it seemed fairly similar but once I’d been here for a few months I realized how vastly different Korean culture is from my own. I definitely experienced culture shock, and I wondered about everything from why Korean couples wear matching outfits to the Asian allegiance to the squatter toilets. Eventually, though, I learned how things worked and even if I didn’t ever come to understand or agree with them, I knew what to expect and how to cope.
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?
I don’t know if you can ever be fully prepared for what awaits you in a foreign country, but for the most part I knew what to expect and what I would need. If I could go back I would have brought more shoes! They only carry small sizes and the shoes made here are expensive and not that great of quality.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh, but where to begin?! I was forced to “fake vote” and take pictures at a bamboo theme park; I fell in an abandoned fish tank on a first date; I went to a weight loss clinic and was told I’m “obese” (when I’m very clearly not); I was poked in the belly and laughed at by a pint-sized body builder at the gym. The strangest experience might be the time my friends and I were leaving a temple and a group of Koreans convinced us to put on bright orange traditional dresses and wear giant wooden boards on top of our heads and take photos with dressed up high schoolers, all with no explanation as to why or what the photos were for. I wrote a post about my 13 Ridiculous Moments of 2013 that rounds up some of these funny stories.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?
- When teaching, don’t expect to have a huge impact on the students’ English abilities. Instead, focus on fostering a fun environment that motivates students to learn English and opens their minds to multicultural perspectives.
- Don’t worry about bringing things, you can buy almost anything here. Iherb.com is a lifesaver for food products. But if you have big feet or a big body, bring shoes and clothes as you will have a hard time shopping.
- When you arrive, don’t take the comments or staring or weird experiences personally. Learn to laugh about strange and frustrating things and you’ll enjoy your time so much more.
How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here is large and finding friends is very easy. My city has a very tight knit group of foreigners, but anywhere you are it’s easy to find like-minded people through Facebook groups, clubs, and organizations. I’ve met some of my best friends in Korea and we’re even going traveling together when our teaching contracts are up!
How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?
Loud, crazy, busy, filled with pushy old ladies, frustration, laughter, love, and inspiration.