Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with for a life abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle. In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it. Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.
A while ago, Chelsea emailed me after reading an Expatriated feature which introduced me to her blog, Lost in Travels. One month ago, she featured me on her series about perspectives and now I'm happy to have her sharing her experiences here. If you haven't already, meet Chelsea!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
My husband and I were married in Tulsa, Oklahoma and shortly after, moved to the small island of Geoje in South Korea.
How did you end up in South Korea and what inspired you to make the move?
Neither teaching nor moving abroad were originally the plan in my husband's and my life. He had graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Science and shortly before getting married, I had finished my degree in Fashion Marketing. We were starting to plan our future lives together when the calling to travel and for a unique beginning to our married lives set in. My husband, Jeremy, had a college roommate that had just finished teaching English in Korea and was able to help us find a job. It was the perfect opportunity for us to experience a new culture, travel the world and save money at the same time.
What is the best part of living overseas?
Being overseas has given my husband and I so much more time together compared to what we were used to in the states. Living abroad is kind of like a long distance relationship in the fact that it can make or break it. Fortunately for us, we have grown so much closer as a couple and learned so much about one another. Living abroad gets you out of your element and away from your usual support system. True colours really show over here and thankfully we have fallen even more in love because of it.
What do you miss most about home (besides friends & family?)
I miss being able to run to the store and get exactly what I need. Whether it is a new piece of clothing or a certain ingredient that I need to make dinner. Being 5'8" clothing is a challenge in itself. I can sometimes find tops but most pants look like capris on me. Also, so many of the recipes I use call for ingredients that I never thought would be difficult to find here or I never thought would cost as much as they do (hello nine dollar sour cream and fifteen dollar oatmeal!)
What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to in South Korea?
There are obviously small cultural differences, which are to be expected when moving overseas, but I would have to say the toughest is that we're mostly friends with fellow expats. We all have a ticking clock in this place and that means you can become very close to someone and the next month they can be gone. We knew that when we came over here but it's a different story when you're watching someone you've shared such an amazing and unique experience with board a plane and you're not sure if you will ever cross paths again.
Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?
Teaching in Korea has given me a book's worth of awkward moments and funny interactions with the kids that I teach. Other than a lot of them having weird names (I've had a Wolf, Chocolate and Cloud just to name a few) I would say one of my favorite stories involves a six year old named John. Well, one day in my class we were playing a simple game of 'find that shape,' I was yelling out triangle, square, rectangle and they were all doing really well at finding that particular shape in the room. When it came time for 'circle' one little boy, John, ran up to me and grabbed my boobs. Later when a Korean teacher asked him why he would do that his answer was simple. 'They're bigger than my mom's.'
Packages from family! There are so many things that you can never anticipate that you won't be able to find in a different country. Or some things that you just prefer from back home. We have been blessed with amazing family members that have been willing to send us an occasional box with everything from clothes, cosmetics and food. We also found out early on about an amazing little website called gmarket. Everything you could ever need in a household for a lot cheaper than you can find it in a store.
What is your biggest lesson you've learned from your time abroad?
Patience. It is not a virtue that comes easily for me. But as a teacher, I spend most of my day trying to explain lesson plans to kids that hardly know the language. I sometimes have to explain the same thing three times in three different ways. Not to mention, as an expat living in a country where I know very little of the language I need to remind myself to be extra patient as I try to describe what I want or need in a store because after all, I'm the one that should be able to speak their language.
If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?
My husband and I visited New Zealand while on our honeymoon and it was the first time we stepped foot in a new country and felt like 'this feels like home.' We always talk about doing a year there after we're finished in Korea so we'll see!
Any advice for the newly expatriated?
Get involved. Part of living overseas is the people you experience it with. There are so many different groups and activities to get involved with, pick one you love and join. I know personally, us getting involved in one of the local foreign churches has made all the difference. We have built a tight community over here that we know we can turn to and rely on and it's made living overseas so much easier and enjoyable.
Thank you for participating Chelsea!
I completely agree - relationships are put to the test when you move overseas as a couple but it has brought us so much closer together!
To read more about Chelsea and her husband's life in Korea, you can check out her blog Lost in Travels.