How Korea Has Changed Us.

South Korea. A place we call home. We’ve most certainly fallen in love with this little place surrounded with mountains and outlined in ocean. Although maybe it seems like it this life abroad is not always rainbows and unicorns.We do have jobs (although incredibly low stress!!!) We still work 9-5 and the kids…well they’re kids. They can be absolute little pieces of snot at times and the next day angels. We have 6 weeks of vacation a year. Which, by the way absolutely should be a world rule. Now, we just turn our noses up at the American standard of 2-3 weeks & 6 weeks maternity leave. Well, it’s safe to say we never want that again. We aren’t the “work till we die” kinda people & honestly I think Korea taught us that if we don’t want that? We never have to have it again. We all have choices & each choice may impact the next. For us, Korea has changed our mindset on so many things. It’s really hard to describe to people just how passionate we are about this lifestyle we are living & plan to continue seeking.

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#1. We LOVE traveling.

There is no better way to experience the world and learn about how it works than traveling. We can’t wait to slow travel. With no agenda other than to soak it all up. The people, the food, the mountains, valleys, and the hustle n’ bustle the cities will bring. We aren’t rich and we don’t ever plan to be, but we sure hope to provide this worldly education to our children someday. Not only did Korea further spark our desire to travel, but we are committed to make it apart of who we are for the rest of our lives.

#2. Community is everything.

Korean culture is community. If I had to use one word to describe Korea for me the first word that comes to mind is community. I felt it in Fiji & I feel it here. Everyone looks out for each other. Taking care of each other is what matters. Tom mentioned that despite communication barriers people are willing to help & therefore anything can get done. We bought a car in Korea, moved into an apartment we picked out, and figured out how to navigate daily errands- all with the help of a community that we’ve found in Korea.

#3. It was the best thing for our marriage.

It’s too much to explain here in just a few sentences. It’s been the best decision for our marriage, happiness, our future. I elaborated on this over on a guest post called: What living abroad did to my marriage.

#4. We learned that less is best.

That simplicity is what we seek. That we wish our storage unit back in Wisconsin would sorta just spontaneously combust so we never have to think about it again.

#5. You don’t have to love the food to make it work.

I don’t like spicy food. I hate raw fish & I especially dislike hot soup in the summer 90 degree heat and 100% humidity. I love breakfasts and brunch which are almost obsolete down here in our corner of Korea. Guess what? I’ve figured out what I do like. I make it work. Tom cooks up a mean brunch & other delicious fresh foods that I do love. Korea’s changed my view of food production & made me want to support local more than ever.

#6. Korean grandma’s are some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met.

They garden, farm, fish & work extremely hard. It’s incredibly  humbling.

#7. Living abroad CAN be achieved.

Living in another country doesn’t just have to be something you only dream of. We did it. So can you. I wrote about that here. After I married Tom I wasn’t sure we would ever live outside the states. Now, I find myself livin’ & loving and writing this post about how Korea changed our lives & this is just the beginning!

#8. You meet people who are CRAZY interesting.

Living in Korea has led us to some of the most interesting & unique people. With similar passions to see corners of the world that we never dreamt we could see. People who are thinking outside the box to make this lifestyle work. A guy hiking across the entire country of Korea, a gal and her boyfriend who are both sponsored to hike all over the world, crazy cool expats with travel stories to last years. There has never been a time in my life that when I look around I realize that the small group of us is made up from people all over the world. There is nothing cooler than that to me.

#9. We seek new opportunities for growth. 

Both Tom and I are quicker to recognize fun opportunities for growth in our lives. He is the calm to my storm. I’m the girl who is always looking for “what’s next” & Tom is the steady, reasonable, logical 1/2 to our team. I think together we are able to feel when things are becoming stagnant and when we are ready to seek a new adventure. Korea reminds us that the world is SO big & that there is so much to see.

#10. Everything in moderation.

Living in Korea (especially for Tom) changed our view on work. We both don’t want to work ourselves into the ground. Life doesn’t have to be one big bucket of stress and work.  We both view work differently after living here. We don’t want to live to work. Rather, we know that no matter what we decide to do we have SO many options. That we can always make do with very little. That if you don’t like something- change it. If you want something bad enough- find a way to make it work. Work in moderation & don’t work yourself into the ground.

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South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes- Loneliness Abroad

korea oneLiving overseas is one wild experience! An experience that time and time again I continually have to pinch myself to make sure that this is real. Then there are those days where I feel like the completely awkward foreigner who just misses silly things like eavesdropping in on conversations and being able to carry a conversation effortlessly. Although (for Tom and I life is absolutely amazing 99.9% of the time here) there are definitely sacrifices we have had to make while living in Korea. For example, since last April we have missed eight weddings, holiday gatherings, graduations, and too many birthday celebrations to count. I’ve missed seeing my sisters grow inches & shoe sizes, their sports, and their school events.

Loneliness is a real thing while living abroad.

So today, we are chatting about just that- loneliness. It’s a concern that I believe can hold people back from taking the plunge to come live abroad. Today, I bring you Chloé, Lisa, Alison, and Caitlyn to give you their two cents on loneliness while living abroad (two of the gals came to Korea alone while the other two came with their significant others!)

 

How do you deal with loneliness?

photo (10)The best way to deal with loneliness is to surround yourself with people. It really helps to familiarize yourself with the community of foreigners, or even to try and socialize with the other teachers at your school (even if they don’t speak English – I have KonGlish conversations ALL the time), because then you always have that security blanket of people you can fall back on. I haven’t felt as lonely as I thought I would, and that is in great part because I actually have Caley (another teacher, who lives an apartment building away from me and teaches at the school across the street from mine). Making friends is really the best way to keep the loneliness away because these are people that you can spend the year with and discover Korea with. If all else fails, skype is always a great pick me up when you need to talk to your family and friends.

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What do you do to make Korea feel more like home?

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 The first thing I did in the first few weeks I was here was try to make my apartment feel like home. I knew that I wanted my apartment to be a place I could come home to and feel comfortable in. I had brought lots a pictures from home, so I bought a bunch of cheap frames from Daiso (Korea’s amazing dollar store) and hung pictures up all over. I also got some cute bedding and a few other household things/decorations to make my apartment my own. Another thing that makes me feel at home is baking. I found a decent oven for around $80, and I absolutely love it. Even though we all come here to experience a new culture, I think it’s important to also do things to remember home and the things we loved about where we’re from.

 

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We brought some pictures and decorations from home to make it cozy right away. During the first few weeks, it was nice to look at our walls and see pictures of our family and friends. I also frequently stay in touch with people from back home. There are so many ways for me to communicate: FaceTime, iMessage, Skype, KakaoTalk, email, blog comments, Facebook, etc. It makes me feel so much closer to the people I love who aren’t here with me.

 

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Around the holidays when homesickness is likely to set in…what do you do to ease the loneliness?

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I can’t imagine having come to Korea alone, so it’s difficult to speak for most single foreigners living here, as for me (being married) homesickness hasn’t been much of a thing. I can say though that I know Christmas will be tough this year, but to avoid feeling down and homesick, we have organised a big Christmas eve party at a local coffee shop which we have rented out for the evening, so we’ll be spending the evening with 30 special friends.Christmas morning will be our time, for prezzies and time with Jesus and then the afternoon will be spent at home with 4 of our best friends sharing a meal and some laughs I’m sure too. I know I will get tearful on Christmas day, but if anything it only makes me more appreciative for the amazing family I have back home and if one thing is for sure, you truly do learn to be grateful for the small things in life, like friends on Christmas day to help fill the family void inside of us.

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Friday will be the last post in this series. The gals will give pieces of advice for those who plan to move abroad or move to Korea!  What about you? If you’re far away from home how do you deal with living away from loved ones? What do you do to ease the loneliness?

 

If you’re just joining us for the series click the highlighted words below to catch up:

Day 1- Why Korea? Why did these lovely ladies choose to move abroad to Korea?

Day 2- Teaching in Korea. The ins and outs of what it means to be a public school teacher in Korea.

Day 3- Finances in Korea. What do our finances look like as an expat teaching in Korea.

Day 4- Life Outside of Work. What is life like outside of teaching? How do they spend their weekends?

 

 

South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes- Life Outside of Work

koreaHappy Monday Morning from Korea!

It’s a great day to be alive. This past weekend we visited a beautiful little traditional Korean village, did some hiking in another national park, and this morning Tom watched some of the Packer game before we went off to work (he loves football!)I like to think of it as the more tired you are on Monday morning the better the weekend was!

This week will call for some yoga, gingerbread house making, watching some Homeland, and some relaxing. Many of the questions I have been asked about Korea involve what our life looks like outside of work. While work is a big part of our life here (since we work 9-5 Monday to Friday) we take advantage of our weekends and our holidays. We look forward to the weekends when we can travel Korea and see friends too. Today, I have my fab 4 back to talk about- Life in Korea outside of work. I think you’ll find it interesting and hopefully helpful even if you don’t want to move abroad you’ll get to see a bit more closely what our life is like here in Korea.

Let’s start with Chloé from Canada.

What does a typical weekend look like? Do you work on weekends?

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Luckily I don’t work weekends, and I am a bit of a homebody so I do spend some time at home. The good thing about Korea is that transportation is so convenient so when I don’t want to spend the weekend home, getting around is really easy! Sometimes the bus schedules are a little weird but it’s nothing big.

Typically if I’m going to go away for a weekend, I will usually try to leave the Friday night so that I have the whole day Saturday to do what it is that I want to do. A lot of the time it will be a group of foreigners getting together to do something that is planned and coordinated where and when we will all meet. Sunday is usually the day when we head home.

If there are people who are homebodies like me, or don’t really like to travel too far, don’t worry there’s tons to do around. My first weekend here I climbed a mountain! Also there’s always some sort of event happening in a town not too far away.

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What has been your favorite thing to do in Korea?

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Definitely exploring Korea. A lot of people come here and use Korea to travel to the surrounding countries, which is perfectly fine and a great way to see so many parts of the world, but many people don’t take the time to appreciate the amazing things that Korea has to offer. This country is filled with an incredible amount of history and beauty, and I would suggest taking the time to go exploring!

 

 

 

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 What does a typical day (after/before) teaching look like? 

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We are both early birds and fitness lovers so we get up at 6am every morning and usually either go for a run or go to gym. If we gym, then we shower and eat a packed brekkie there before heading off to school at 8am.

For the first half of the year, our evenings were such a special time for us, as for years we have had so much on our plates that seldom have we had nights alone at home together. But as my business has got busier and busier, I have taken on more and more clients and am now currently coaching every week night so I tend to only get home between 7 and 9pm every night. Hendrik gyms after school and then spends most his evenings at home waiting for me to get back. We try our best to eat a cooked meal together at home every night but more recently my schedule hasn’t been allowing for this, but this is very-much a short term thing. We see friends every Friday night and often have close friends round for dinner or pizza on our roof.  Weekends are us-time, we do long runs together, we hike and we travel!!!

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What do you do outside of work?

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On the weekdays, we lead pretty normal lives. We cook dinner, watch our favorite TV shows, clean the house, go grocery shopping, work out, meet up with friends, etc. However, on the weekends we are able to explore Korea, thanks to our car (and Tom and Elicia’s ride, as well) ! We love to get outside, so we have spent almost every weekend hiking. This country is crazy beautiful!

 

 

 

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Next up on Wednesday will be- Dealing with loneliness while living abroad & we’ll finish up the series with tips on moving abroad. It’s been a blast reading through their responses to the questions and my hope is that it’s useful information for those who may be thinking of moving abroad and also informative for our family/friends back home to get a closer look at what our life is like over here in Korea!

If you’re just joining us for the series click the highlighted words below to catch up!

Day 1- Why Korea? Why did these lovely ladies choose to move abroad to Korea?

Day 2- Teaching in Korea. The ins and outs of what it means to be a public school teacher in Korea.

Day 3- Finances in Korea. What do our finances look like as an expat teaching in Korea.