I'm Laura and I’m fascinated by the world. I’m fascinated by the people in it and their cultures and religions and definitely by their food. I could happily eat my way around the world, especially if there is cheese and red wine and dark beer involved. I’m in awe of how the more I see, the more I find there is to see.
1. Why did you move abroad?
After graduating from college in 2010, my boyfriend and I headed off for what we thought would be a whirlwind year of travel. We started in New Zealand and accidentally stayed for a whole year. That year in New Zealand opened up our eyes to all of the options we had for traveling and living around the world. So, we headed to Australia where we enjoyed another two years. After three years of living in English speaking countries, we decided we wanted to get out of our comfort zones. Thus, the idea of moving to South Korea was born.
2. How do you make a living?
I teach English at a private academy. It's a different experience to anywhere I've ever worked, but the kids and their funny antics make it worth while.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I speak to my parents every Sunday night. It was less often when I first left home, but as I grow older and stay away longer, I miss and appreciate them more. I have learned the importance of keeping in touch with those that are close to me. Skype is a favorite for me, but I also heavily rely on emails, Gchat and Facebook messenger to speak to people more often. Group messages make me feel a lot closer to home.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Seoul?
I love the quirks, the little things, like the matching couples, the sock shops and the cat cafes. I love how a meal here is an event, one made for sharing. I am honored when a Korean offers to pour my drink after I pour them theirs. I came here to experience a new country and its people, but I've fallen in love for the little nuances of this culture.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Seoul?
It can be very frustrating sometimes. The work culture, especially at English academies, is one that is so wildly different to any work environment that I have experienced. Everyday is a learning curve, a chance to grow my patience and my cultural understanding of this country I call home.
6. What do you miss most?
My family. I miss my niece and nephew who are growing up without their nomadic aunt. I miss my parents and my siblings. I miss my friends and celebrating all of their life milestones; their engagements, their birthdays and job promotions. I miss not being just a phone call away.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I tried to pretend I wasn’t scared. “Fake it ‘til you make it”, right? I joined groups to meet other foreign teachers as well as local Koreans. I asked lots of questions to anyone I could – mostly about food, what to eat and where to eat it. For me, learning the language has been key as well – how can you expect to integrate if you cannot communicate?
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The Internet is one of the fastest in the world and yet the country seems to rely on outdated versions of Internet Explorer. Most Korean websites won't even run on other web browsers. Perhaps they're just giving the rest of the world a chance to catch up.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
“You’re going to be so healthy there!” so many people proclaimed to me before I left for Korea. “You’ll probably even lose some weight”. It’s partly true; Korean food is really healthy, but like many countries these days, an influx of expats from around the world has led to the home of the best fried chicken I have ever had. It’s deep fried twice to a crispy perfection and it definitely tastes too good to be healthy.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Anywhere is lower than Australia, but Korea has a very comfortable cost of living, especially due to the perks that are granted to the majority of English teachers here. Most schools pay a good wage (it hovers around the national average) in addition to providing you with a rent free apartment. It has allowed me the luxury of saving without really trying.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Moving to any new city or country can be difficult. My biggest piece of advice would be to just get out there and meet people; it’s the best way to feel more involved in a place. Join a book club or a hiking group. Check out meetup.com or Facebook for what’s in your area. When you have new friends to call on it will soon feel like home.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging just over three years ago while I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand. We had just had a huge earthquake and I had an influx of messages from friends and family back home. I decided a blog would be a good way to keep everyone in the loop about how we were coping. I also wanted a place where I could write down all that was happening around me; I wanted to try to make sense of the situation. Since then it has morphed into a lot of things: a diary, a letter home, a photo log, a place to tell stories and a way of connecting with like-minded people around the world.
Laura's Blog, An American Abroad
To find out more about living in South Korea
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