I remember my mom telling me once: “When you’re in your teens, your life passes by at 10 mph; when you’re in your 20s, your life passes by at 20 mph; when you’re in your 30s, your life passes by at 30 mph…” and it goes on. As you can probably guess, she meant that time flies by faster as you age. And my oh my, she could not be more right. This past 3 months sure were a whirlwind of changes. Instead of getting swept away by the rapid changes, I wanted to take a step back and see how I’m faring so far. So here is my overview of how I’m doing so far:
The big move…
During my times living abroad, I have visited Korea many times to visit family and friends. I never felt out of place nor did I even worry about such feelings. However, it wasn’t until I decided to move back to Korea, those feelings started creeping up and turned into fear and doubt. The fact that I’m starting a new chapter in Korea started to make me feel like an outsider, and that was when my identity of a “third culture kid” became even more pronounced.
There were definitely a list of things I needed to get used to in Korea. Initially, my biggest challenges were culture and language. I didn’t forget my mother language, however, I rarely spoke it in Seattle (for there were few opportunities to do so) and of course, I was physically distant from the culture. I found myself stuttering when trying to communicate the simplest things, and I could tell that my overall aura just screamed “non-Korean.” I knew this because wherever I went, people asked me if I was Korean-American, and when I told them “no, I’m Korean” they had that puzzled look that seemed to question my behavior. That was what bothered me the most, because I would be forced to act “Korean” because of my ethnicity. More so because I know that Koreans can be a bit hostile to other Koreans who act contrary to their expected social norms (aka me). I knew I had to find a healthy balance soon without having to compromise too much of who I am.
The work life
After scrambling for weeks, I finally landed a job at a prestigious British international school in the heart of Seoul. I remember a huge wave relief washed over me when I got the call from the very nice HR manager that I got the job. Not only for obvious reasons, but also because I felt that the environment of an international school would suit me way more than a traditional Korean company. And sure enough, I was interacting with smart, educated people from Korea, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. It might have not been my dream job, however, I felt that it was definitely a great way to start without having to deal too much with culture shock. The fears that I mentioned above started slowly dissolving away as I started working. My Korean was improving exponentially by the day, and I was finding the Korean culture less intimidating.
The Seoul life
I started hanging out with friends from the U.S. and my college who were in Korea, who were here much longer than me. They showed me around, and took me to fun places around the city. I try to soak up the city as much as I can and find the city’s charms in every corner we go to. I realized that Seoul is very metropolitan and there are awesome hidden gems sprinkled everywhere, which I love discovering. The best thing is that you do not need a car to get around. Public transportation is super convenient and reliable, and you can walk everywhere pretty much after you get off your stop. Like every big city, it is fast-paced and there is always something going on, which is exactly what I love about living in a big city.
As I’m writing this, I realized just how much I have adjusted to living here. Honestly, I thought I would take much longer to get used to living here. I think my experiences living abroad all these years has definitely gave me some tips on adjusting quickly. I’m definitely not at the point where I go “I LOVE SEOUL AND I WANT TO LIVE HERE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” yet, as I still have dreams of living elsewhere in the future. However, it is surely taking shape as “home.” My home is becoming my home – what a strange statement, huh?
How are you doing in wherever you are right now? No matter where you are, or how long you have lived there (for a few months like me, or your whole life) I think it’s fun to just take a step back and evaluate your relationship with your home. With that said, have a wonderful weekend!!