Maggie: Maggie Moo Does Korea
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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 Maggie Smith, better known as Maggie Moo. I am from Madison, Wisconsin and I have a crazy sense of wanderlust. I’ve only just moved to Seoul South Korea this summer and so far I am in love!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging about SK a few months before I actually left. I wanted to document my process from application all the way through to completion of my contract in hopes it would make it easier for those considering teaching abroad in South Korea.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
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?
When I first got to Seoul, it was actually in the middle of a typhoon! All of the Koreans were very calm as the American panicked. It was a humorous, even if mildly terrifying, introduction to Korea. My culture shock hasn’t been too bad but when I arrived I had an apartment without a bed...that was a huge surprise. My school delivered me a new one the next day.
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?
Prepared? Not at all, but that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it? There is something very liberating about being dropped off in the middle of a place you’ve never been. I believe getting lost is the best way to get to know a city. I was mugged a day before I arrived in Korea, so my optimism was at an all time high because I was still in disbelief that I had even made it at all. The only thing I would change would be to do a bit more research about the airline I flew with. One suitcase vs. two makes a big difference when you have committed to teaching abroad for a year.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The first day I arrived in Korea people began touching my hair, constantly! I have quite curly hair so I imagine it is much different. Literally everywhere, on the street, the subway, in chicken shops, at bars I even had a police officer bounce one of my curls and comment on my “lovely afro.” It took some getting used to...and loads of extra hair products.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?
- Be very aware that living in a non-native speaking country can be frustrating, so a good sense of humor is a plus! Accept the frustration, laugh about it and move on. Every time I had an odd or frustrating encounter I just told myself that it would make a great blog entry at the end of the day. I saw it as an investigative journalism piece and it didn’t seem so bad.
- Don’t go abroad expecting things to be the same. The whole point of moving abroad isn’t so you can live the exact same way you do at home! Showers over here are crazy, the toilet water really does spin the other direction, floors are heated, good cheese is rare, kpop dominates the radio, bed sheets are much different and the ramen selection will blow your mind! You will learn to love all of it, or you will live with it!
- Korean food- Eat all of it! Especially Kimchi, it might smell funny but it is delicious and unique! You might surprise yourself by being adventurous. Foods you would never touch at home taste entirely different over here and many of them are even an improvement on the originals! My favorite food is fried chicken and so far Korea has the best I have ever eaten!
How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is great and also very large! There are so many expats who are eager to help you adjust, get you set up with a bank account, give advice or even just take you out for a welcome soju and beer. Also, there are loads of expats sports clubs and extracurricular activities to get involved in- I am joining a local rugby team!
How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?
“There are times when it is beyond my imagination”-Jhumpa Lahiri