Korea: My 4 Month Update

*I’ve vowed to be completely honest when documenting my Korean experience. I’m also allowing myself to feel however I feel in this moment. While things are usually on the up and up, I still have those spells when I am in a generally negative headspace. This post is a reflection of that.*

I’ve been in Korea for 4 months now… Yea, I’m over this whole expat in Korea experience. There, I said it!Β Let’s talk about 10 things I’m currently over, shall we?

Over It

1. My neighbor who makes it her duty to scream like she’s starring in a p0rn0 flick for her late night (and sometimes early morning and afternoon) romp sessions with her gentleman caller. The walls are thin, you’re too damn loud, and I want to sleep in peace. The last time this happened, I banged on the wall with a hammer to tell them to quiet down. The next time it happens I’m going to be banging on her damn door. She’s Canadian so I know there won’t be a language barrier when I politely tell her to shut the f*@k up.

2. Being nice to people just because we’re English-speaking expats in a foreign land. Truth is, I’m 99.9% sure we wouldn’t be friends or acquaintances if we were back home. Besides the language thing, we have very little in common. Why I felt the need to fake the funk for so long with others is beyond me. I’m over playing nice. I don’t need noraebang or BBQ buddies that badly.

3. Soju and makgeoli – and pretty much any other binge drinking activity. After my last bout with alcohol, I’m over doing what I’m sure is extensive damage to my liver. I don’t care if it is a social activity, if you require copious amounts of alcohol to have a good time then we have very different definitions of what a good time entails.

4. Acting like I give a damn about visiting temples or historic places. At this point, all the historic places are starting to look and feel the same to me. I now need something new to tickle my fancy. Surely there’s more to this country than temples and old walls. I’m ready to explore the new Korea. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a whole new country.

5. Taking public transportation. While I enjoy not paying for gas, car insurance, or parking in the city, I do miss getting in my SUV and hitting the road whenever I choose. I’m over breathing in other people’s kimchi flavored air on public transportation. Yes, I know I *could* buy a car and hit the road as I so desire, but let’s be real. I don’t want that headache. I doubt I’m staying beyond this year and I don’t see the point.

6. Speaking of kimchi… I’m mostly over that as well. The only kimchi I will consistently eat is grilled kimchi at Korean BBQ. Yum! All that other stuff? You can keep it. Lately I’ve been craving Caribbean foods like fried fish, coco rice, arroz con pollo, plantains, oxtails, and curry goat. I can make all of those dishes, but procuring the ingredients can be somewhat challenging. What I wouldn’t give for a Goya hookup and a variety of fresh, tropical produce right now.

7. My teeny, tiny apartment. I have 1 window that doesn’t let in much light or airflow. I have a peeping Tom or creepy animal (the verdict’s still out) who keeps trying to open my window-screen from the alley at night. And I have mold slowly growing behind the wallpaper and on the headboard of my bed. Spending time in my dark, dank, apartment is now torture.

8. Rainy season. Thanks to copious amounts of rain, the smell of damp and mildew are permeating everything in my apartment, the school, and the country. Ick! I don’t do mildew or mold very well at all. The smell literally makes me sick. My eyes are always burning and I’m constantly fighting to get rid of it. My co-workers and other Koreans say it’s just par for course being in this country where it rains every day for 2 weeks (and counting) straight. How can people live like this?

9. Not fitting in. Generally speaking… I don’t fit in here. I’d like to act like this doesn’t bother me, but it really does. I am obviously not Korean and I’m guessing I’m also not the typical, fresh out of college, never really lived on my own before, expat English teacher either. Their jokes, their cultural references, their penchant for getting utterly shitfaced ALL. THE. TIME… Not for me. Granted, I’ve had my share of FUBAR moments thanks to rounds of soju, but I’m over it (see #3). I’m human and I long to be understood and accepted just the way I am.

10. Being so far away from people who truly matter to me. I’m missing weddings, birthdays, graduations, and babies to follow this crazy adventure of being an expat. I think it wouldn’t bother me so much if everything was A-OK here, but it’s not and so it does.

I realize that most of my issues aren’t actually Korea specific. Many of them have to do with my social circle and feeling like I lack a true community. I think that is the biggest challenge of an expat – or anyone who leaves their established community to set up a new life elsewhere. I also realize that being in an a state of depression (thanks, rainy season) isn’t helping my outlook on life very much either. I’m praying that I can get out of this funk I have been battling for the last month. I’m ready to be happy again.


15 thoughts on “Korea: My 4 Month Update

  1. Truth. I totally understand a lot of the list. The first 3 months without glo (and even before the rainy season) were tough for me, where the only people I could really speak to were the “let’s get drunk, go clubbin, and be crazy” expats. If I didn’t have music (writing/performing) to get me through it and entertain myself– it would have been much tougher. But now having glo makes it so much better–I’m lucky. I wish there were more good people like you living closer to us though, to make it even easier. Let us know if you ever need a sober friend or need anything at all. And hopefully the dang rainy season will pass and we can all be happier (until winter here, haha).

    • Thank you! In complete honesty, I have been that expat before and… Frankly, I had to face the cold hard fact that I’m too old for that mess. LOL! I’m not saying this to villainize anyone who chooses to live this way, but I realized it wasn’t my scene. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way… LOL! I really do thank you for this reminder that there are people out there who understand my stance. Looking forward to seeing you both this weekend.

  2. I’m sorry you’re in a funk right now – but you do have some trips coming up so I hope that helps! Earplugs don’t help with the wanna be porn star? I’ve definitely dealt with mold in my apartment before and it’s no fun. If you want me to ship you some Goya, I can! just let me know

    • Earplugs would probably help to quiet her surround sound antics. I may take you up on that Goya offer πŸ™‚ In the meantime, the countdown to Bali is steadily going.

  3. I’m here for you, like you were there for me in my times of trouble! If you ever need to talk, you’ve probably noticed by now that I’m on facebook 24/7 :$.
    It’s tough but I promise you’re in that part where all the new, shiny things don’t grab you’re attention anymore and you’re starting to see all the shitty things up front and centre. But it really does help you appreciate living in a different place a whole lot more – we still have so much to learn it’s insane! Can’t we just both go to Cartagena and complain about stuff together? :'(

    • Thanks, chica! So much to learn indeed. And you may be slightly joking, but I did think about relocating to Cartagena next. Not sure about that one yet.

  4. Oh my god, that first one. Hahaaaaa. I hope you’ve gone round to her, hun.

    I felt exactly the same in Mexico regarding point two. It wasn’t until I’d be there for over a year that I had a good *small* blend of expat and Mexican friends who I actually had things in common with. I guess we do tend to cling to whatever feels familiar at first.

    I’m actually experiencing the alcohol issue while being back home in the UK now. I noticed that people only drink in Mexico & the US while being with friends and enjoying themselves. People hear drink for the sole purpose of getting as plastered as possible as quickly as possible and I’m over it. :/

    Totally resonate with visiting historic places too. In Mexico after a while I was like, ‘Yup. Seen one set of Mayan ruins, seen them all.’

    Sorry, I’m going to stop replying to every individual point now. I know this was written a month ago. I wonder how you’re feeling now, whether anything’s looking up. I think it’s pretty normal to feel that way when we go to live abroad. It can be so isolating and you can get over the cute little cultural ‘quirks’ so quickly. These funks are too be expected I guess. Sorry you’ve been feeling this way though. It’s never fun.

    • I’ve said nothing to her, but the noises have stopped. I think her boyfriend is on vacation. Lol!

      Community is everything. I suppose you’re absolutely correct. It will take time. I also think as I resume my hobbies things will change.

      As for the drinking. I love rooftop wine gatherings. But the whole let’s get plastered for no other reason than we can? No, thanks. I don’t recover as well as I used to. Lol!

      What part of Mexico were you in? I lived in Guadalajara for about 3 months and loved it.

  5. Also, I was just going to say how much I love that you’ve written this. Most people just focus on all the happy, smiley things … which is fine but it’s nice to get a good balanced perspective too. πŸ™‚

    • You know, I struggle with how much of my real experience I should share here. I don’t want to come off as the bitter, emo English teacher. Then again, everything can’t be all rainbows, sprinkles, and unicorns all the time. Glad someone else appreciates it.

  6. This was a nice read. I taught in Busan from January 2010 – January 2011 and my first 6 months were pretty miserable for many of the reasons that you mentioned, especially the reasons pertaining to social circle. I would go to Seoul much too often for it’s social scene and had to stop that because I was spending all of my money for these weekends and I was neglecting meeting (or trying to meet) people in the city I actually lived in. I must say though that my final 6 months were much better. By that point, I was somewhat used to daily life in Korea and I was able to meet people that I would actually hang out with outside of Korea, and this made all of the difference. With the constant outflow and inflow of English-speaking expats in Korea, you’re bound to come across a few individuals that you actually feel like you can bond with on some level other than common language and Soju.

    Funny thing is, I’m coming back to Korea in a month for another round, but using my first experience as a learning experience, I’m already making changes so that Korea 2.0 will be much better than Korea 1.0. I second the idea about hobbies and keeping yourself busy in whatever capacity during your free time. I’ll also be in the Seoul metro area, which will be so nice for the simple fact that Seoul is the only place in Korea that I feel has a somewhat diverse expat scene. Of course many of the expats there are the young, fresh out of college type, but simply by virtue of its size, Seoul allows you to meet a greater variety of people.

    And I’ll end by saying that once I left Korea (which lord knows I was ready to do once my year contract was up!), I was able to appreciate the experience more. Unlike other living abroad experiences I had had up to that point (France and Brazil), I stood out in Korea and couldn’t blend in culturally or physically (I’m also black, which wasn’t an issue in France or Brazil). What this did was get my out of my comfort zone, which was really needed even though I couldn’t appreciate it at the time. Korea definitely isn’t a top choice of an expat destination in my mind if I could choose, however, I probably grew the most there. Perhaps you’ll view it the same way once you’re gone?

    Best of luck during your final months! The final 6 months ARE better! πŸ™‚


    • Hi Brian!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. Things started to look up just as I was approaching month 6. I like your idea of changing things to be better prepared for Korea 2.0. Like you, I’ve certainly grown here. Korea has challenged me in ways I couldn’t even imagine before I came. I’m better for it. I’ll even miss this place once I leave – whenever that is. I’m now considering renewal or starting a new contract elsewhere next year. Time will tell.

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