Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3 Things I Wished I Knew Before Moving to South Korea

Back at home in Australia, I always had my small circle of friends and family. I knew moving to a new a completely different country would not be easy and come with many struggles. I knew that and I was prepared to fight that challenge.

Ever since young I never ever really spent time with my family. Being in a typical Asian household, my parents ran a Chinese Restaurant for over 10 years in Australia, leaving little to no time for family bonding. The only "family bonding" that I have experienced is helping out at the restaurant and eating out at yumcha during birthdays and christmas and other special holidays. So I thought moving away from home and being absent in their presence would be something I would be able to handle compared to most people.

However, there were things that I discovered since moving to Korea that I wished I knew prior so that I wouldn't be giving myself such as hard time and going through these I guess we'll just call it "side effects" from moving away from home to an unknown and completely new country.

1. Fighting Loneliness
I will never forget the day I left. My best friend saw me just before I left to the airport and she was in tears. I was stricken in shock and tears because I never realised just how much I was loved by her.. Like I knew but it wasn't until that day did I realise just how much of an importance I was.

Now 3 months in, we still talk almost every single day and I feel lonely that I am not able to see her or have proper girl dates. Everytime I go shopping or just go out, I always wished she was with me and when I see other girls in the street with their girlfriends linking arms and giggling, it makes me envious and sad all at once.

Also, meeting my boyfriend's family and spending time with them made me realise just how much I missed home. I'm very fortunate and grateful that they look after me and take me in as another daughter in the family. However, whenever I see my boyfriend and his siblings interact and playfully fight with one another and tell stories and laugh with their parents during dinner, deep deep down I felt lonely and longed for my own family too. Although they treat me just like their own daughter, it's still not 100% the same you know?

Which leads us to the next topic.

2. You'll Feel Guilty
Well for me at least I think moving abroad is kind of like a selfish thing to do. At the time I did not realise it but after being away for 3 months now, I feel extremely guilty and sad despite my initial excitement.

When my best friend got her first real job, she sent me a msg and I was so happy for her. However, a part of me felt regretful that I wasn't there to celebrate with her. When she told me news that her sister was admitted in hospital, I wasn't there to comfort her or able to lend her a shoulder.

My parents also recently just retired and they always send me pictures when the two of them go out. It makes me happy that they retired and can finally relax and look after their health, but I feel sad at the same time because I am not there with them to enjoy the moment. I am worried sick that something will happen to them and I am unable to fly back instantly.

At first I thought living abroad would be a wonderful things. I would get to travel, meet new friends and build on my career in a new country. I thought I would be living the dream of my life, but really I'm not making anyone happy except myself.

I was so caught up with being happy that I totally and obliviously looked past the pain in my parents eyes. The day they sent me off at the airport, we all shed tears because the reality of me traveling to an unknown country to them essentially scared the shit out of them. That they would not be able to see me for the year, would not be able to look after me if I was sick and just yeah.. As I crossed the security checks with tears still running down my face, and seeing their faces disappear as I walk through made me realise how loved I was despite the fact that I never spent much time with them. Which made me feel worse and all choked up that I would be gone.

3. Language Barrier
Although I knew language would be a huge challenge it was not what I expected.

Fitting in and trying to make new friends was also much harder than I thought. I still have yet made friends who I can sit-down-and-have-a-deep-conversation with. Since I do not live in Seoul, I have not met anyone who can speak fluent English here in Daejeon. The primary language is of course, Korean, and although I am taking classes to learn, it is still very difficult for me to communicate with others. I can speak enough to get my way around and survive (at least I think so) but there are a lot and I mean a lot of times where I want to say something but don't know how to. For example, when I meet the bfs family, there's a lot I want to say but it is hard for me to say what I want in Korean. I try my best (and by that I mean broken Korean, probably equivalent to a toddler) and thankfully they understand me.

When I go shopping, I don't know why but every time I enter into a store, the staff literally tails me and watch my every single move. They ask me what I'm looking for or if they can help and I'm literally just like staring at them with a blank face and then shaking my head indicating "no".

Getting lost and catching buses is a nightmare. Not being able to ask for directions properly let alone understanding what they say, now that's just another story that I don't want to get into.

TIP: Google Maps will be your bestest friend. But since I am terrible with directions and reading maps this does not suffice..

Of course there are more things to be mentioned but this is just my top 3 that I want to share as of now. I know moving to a new country is a scary thing, so I just want to share my own personal experience and let everyone who may be in a similar situation know that you are definately not alone in this.