How Korea has changed me


It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Korea for 8 months now! In this time I could have had a baby (lmao) or completed a semester at graduate school (if I could get my life together). Instead, I chose the land of Kimchi pancakes and mandu- legitimately sorry if you have never put these things in your face. In this time I have climbed more mountains, put with ridiculous antics from various bosses and met more personally influential people than I can count. Before I came here, I was a different person. I had never traveled and the world seemed so vast it was overwhelming. I was social but afraid to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. I was neither confident in myself nor my abilities; but above all, I was anxious. As someone who suffers from anxiety this kind of seems like a non-realization. “Thank you captain obvious!”

I know it sounds a little silly, but I never realized the extent to which my anxiety was a detriment to my daily life. It wasn’t until I finally stepped out of my small world that I was able to realize this, and grow as a person. Change is an unavoidable aspect of a healthy life, but when I compare mine now to my life then, there are a few very obvious things I can’t help but notice….

#1- Meeting meat

I’m sure this comes as a shock to all my stateside homies. To my homies posted up in Seoul: I’m the girl who went vegetarian at around 10 years old. I’m “that gender studies girl” who chopped her hair off after a heated classroom debate about the ways long hair contributes to the oppression of women. I’m the girl who went vegan at 23. I’m the girl who got into bar fights while championing for the rights of living things who cannot speak for themselves. I would roll up to a bar or club and survey the scene; analyzing patrons who may or may not pose a threat to the feminist ways. Armed with the bible Our Bodies, Ourselves you probably would have found me lying in the wait for a first offender at your local bar. As you can imagine, passion + alcohol = “that escalated quickly.”

When I decided to move to Korea, I knew being Vegan was nearly impossible…and I agree. It seems impossible now! Not only because raw vegetables are a viable source of currency because freakin everything is fermented! But because I love bacon. In Seoul I had the first bacon and hamburger I can remember having. In Seoul, I had Bulgogi and Samgyeopsal and all I have to say is: I want all the bacon. This newfound love I have for meat makes me feel like a monster and hypocrite- the bacon seems to be crying piggy tears “don’t eat me! What have you become?!” Also, pigs are my favorite animal so it seems offensive to pigs. But ermagherd I understand so much….

#2- Letting it Go

As a teacher in Korea, the amount of crap you have to put up with on the reg, seems almost astronomical. You are at once expected to appease the children and be fun- an entertainer for your children; and to surpass the needs of their parents- an educator for their children. All at the the low, low cost of your dignity which is then “taken care of” by your boss giving you buckets of money. “Come to Korea!” they said. “You’ll make so much money” they said. Well, yes…but also, no.

In the expat community, the benchmarks of success are:

1- Are you getting paid in the correct amount?

2- Are you getting paid on time?

3- Is your boss a criminal?

If you answered YES to all 3- “Stay golden, Pony Boy.” But be cautious- shit could hit the fan like Drake “0-100 real quick.”

If you answered YES to 2/3- There is a term for this. It’s called everyone, and we meet at the bar at 9pm.

If you answered YES to 1 or NO to all 3- “Run, Simba. Run away, and never return!”

You really just have to swallow your pride, realize you aren’t a teacher by its common definition and take notes from Elsa:

#3- Hatred for the Stepford wife

I know what you’re thinking- you’re not married yet, Molly. You’re correct! I am not married. I do have a very significant other at home- whaddup Paul Rudd!- whom I was living with before I came to Seoul. I did the domesticated thing, and all I have to say on the matter is:

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Don’t get me wrong- I love Paul Rudd more than anything and I cannot wait for our reunion. It’s just that I h8 housework more than anything in the whole entire world. Maybe this is because chores were forced down my throat as a child, and I’ve had an innate loathing for *all* things related to cleaning since my inception.

All I know is I love coffee- I love it just like those adorable Gilmore Girls whom I don’t bother hiding my love for. I am Lorelai, beaches! My first investment in Korea was a $30 coffee maker, which I seriously debated returning once I realized it meant having to buy a mug. A mug that I would have to wash. A mug I would have to wash myself- along with the pot- regularly….like often. I furthermore don’t have a washing machine in my apartment, so I have to walk a block to the laundromat and spend $9 to wash and dry. The fact of doing laundry makes me cringe, but having to pay for it?! I think this fact is downright outrageous (even though the machines have soap preinstalled- or whatever) and borderline communistic **JOKES, guys!!!** so I wait until I have to shove 2 loads of laundry into 1 machine prey to the universe I don’t break the thing. I’m GOING to get my moneys worth! *bitter old woman

#4- Money ain’t a thang

Money ain’t a thang but a plane ticket- that’s what I’ve always said. Well, It’s what I’ve always said since I started saying it today. But it’s true, ya’ll! Money used to be something I would work myself dry to get; and for what? Numbers in a bank account. The realization that the world isn’t so big after all is simultaneously freeing and a burden. Freeing because I know I can feasibly go anywhere I want. A burden because there’s so many places to choose from! I don’t see the point in working a dead end job that you hate, just to make a bit of dough. You spend so much time at work, why would you want to be doing something you hate- and to do it just for something as superficial and lofty as money?

Of course, everyone needs it but in the end, when you’re lying on your deathbed about to croak- what is going to give you peace of mind? The fact that you now have lots of paper to burry yourself in, or the fact that you really worked your tail off to get where you are now? You traveled to X amount of countries, ate exotic foods, did what the locals did no matter how batshit crazy it seems. My money is used to first take care of what needs to be taken care of, and second as a vessel for my next adventure. I don’t see how priorities could differ- if yours do, dats cool dough.

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#5- The name is bond

Living abroad has taught me how to live adventurously. I am pretty much down for anything from skydiving (haven’t done it yet, mom!) to swimming with sharks in the Philippines (this too! But stay tuned). There are so many experiences I never would have imagined having. To put them all into this post would be extremely time consuming, so if you’re interested we can grab coffee at a stupid coffee shop and talk. Take your pick!

We can drink coffee with sheep:

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We can drink coffee in wedding dresses:

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We can drink coffee with hello freakin’ kitty:

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Being adventurous means being more social, so I’m willing to meet one of you freaks if we have something in common- like being weird at weird cafes. I’m totally down. Just, don’t ever suggest that we eat live octopus because that’s where I draw the line. Bacon and eggs are always the way to my heart but, I will never do that….ever. It’s just cruel. Do you want to be horrified?

#6- Appearance is *almost* everything

Before I came to Korea, you could find me walking around in the basic uniform: Uggs, leggings, fitted sweatshirt. Sometimes if I wanted to deviate, I would opt for the Basic office casual look: Uggs, skinny jeans and a button up shirt. Korea is a place where your worth revolves around your appearance. Even babies dress better than the average American. Children roll up to school in brand new sneakers every week and don’t even think twice about it. Boys go to the hairdresser for a fresh perm at least once a month. Every subway station is littered with advertisements for 1+1 cosmetic surgeries “buy one, get one free!” If you graduate from high school, and your parents don’t gift you a double eyelid surgery they don’t love you because you probably got a C one time.

Koreans are fresh ta death and I suppose it’s good that some of it has worn off on me. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find me basic bitching on Facebook because Korean Starbucks doesn’t have the Pumpkin Spice latte- and you *better* believe I will decked out in: Uggs, leggings and a fitted sweatshirt when I go all out basic bitching. Because ‘murica. Because yolo. Because I’m gonna do what I want. #hatersgonnahate Dear Korea: you’ll never change me enough to desert my Uggs.

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#7- Communicating = patience

I’m sure this applies to living abroad in any country that comes to your mind. As an English teacher, you have to speak slowly and clearly- but even more so with the locals. I have found that the more words I employ, the less people in general understand what I’m saying. Like if I say “the bank” rather than “bank” it’s like I’m speaking some ridiculous language no one has ever heard of. As a result, articles just aren’t a thing I use regularly. So not only do I have to communicate with a limited vocabulary, but I must also do so with an exorbitant amount of gestures. This happens less often in class than in everyday situations, but the fact remains that you can, indeed, communicate without certain words in your sentences- if you replace them with ridiculous waving. The more, the better. I don’t know if this is speaking towards my patience, or my lack thereof because it’s frustrating when people don’t understand after the 10th time. In that, I would rather look like a mentally ill and physically handicapped bird that is desperately trying to fly away, than have to repeat myself for the umpteenth time.

I would like to think I employ wild gestures into everyday communications because I am more patient as a person. Which is definitely true. However, more often than not I feel like this clip accurately describes my interactions during vocabulary classes:

All the aforementioned are reasons why I feel as though I have changed- for the better, possibly?

If you are abroad, in Korea or otherwise do you think your experiences have changed you in the same, or different ways?

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