Expat life is great, don’t you know? I promise that I’m not rubbing it in and just stating a fact. Living in a smaller South Korean city was a big reason why I loved ex-pat life. There are many detractors out there, so just trust me as I explain why.
Why I Love Expat Life
For one, these places are rarely as noisy as those big city hotspots though spending a Sunday in a busy coffee shop can make one want to rethink that position. Winters here get boring, due to the lack of indoor options. Otherwise, small cities are awesome! Most of them are chock full of nature featuring scenic hiking trails and if one is lucky enough to live near the coast, beautiful views of the sea.
Take for instance, Namhae on Korea’s south coast, it’s been a favorite spot for many people and is home to lots of beaches to enjoy. Another highlight is a spectacular hiking trail right in the middle of the island.
And though the beach (Namhildae) isn’t spectacular, Samcheonpo is another great place with a plethora of islands to explore within a short ferry ride. The best and scariest experience we encountered was on Saryang-do and the “Jagged Rock Trail” there. What memories!
Get Over the Staring
One small-town annoyance is the staring. Surely, there is still the occasional glare which may happen in Busan or Seoul but honestly, it’s certainly a more frequent occurrence in the smaller towns.
Sometimes I wonder if the people giving the EYES have ever seen a foreigner in the flesh before. That’s an honest question because it’s possible. Some Americans have probably never seen someone different from their own family and in Korea, certain pockets are seriously too rural and isolated. So the staring is understandable. It happens all over the world.
But occasionally, I seek escape behind my sunglasses and can’t because of some old guy and his evil glare. Yes there are times when shaking someone and say “ITS RUDE! STOP IT!” looks like a solid option. But one has to remember that it won’t end. They won’t quit, at least for the short-term. Just ignore and if possible, appreciate it. Because back home, you’d just be some normal person walking along the street and NOBODY would care to look at/talk to you.
While the endless questions regarding name and hometown will never cease, we all have stories about more inappropriate situations that may have occurred away from the bigger cities. Perhaps a friend of yours has been fondled up and down by an old lady while touring one of the small town festivals scattered between Korea’s larger cities. Maybe someone we know received threats by an incoherently drunk (and yes, naked) man in a sauna before he slammed his head on the tub and “took a nap.”
Expat Life is Always INTERESTING!
So there are some weird things that may happen to foreigners in Korea and for that matter, everywhere. Everyone has interesting stories of daily encounters with strangers that would never happen in our respective hometowns. That will always keep our time here… what’s the word… interesting.
People are eager to meet and speak with outsiders and yes, some are unhappy about the foreigner presence. That sentiment is everywhere and it’s our responsibility ignore those people while enjoying the folks who DO want to meet and speak with us.
If living away from home, always remember that expat life could be much worse. Take advantage of as many days as possible. Enjoy this fortunate life and don’t think of those stares or uncomfortable situations as a personal affront. It took me too long to realize this.
Aside from the near-death experiences with scooter drivers/taxis, pushy old ladies at markets, and the publicly drunk guys feeling slighted after bumping into you; things are okay and expat life is always interesting and easier/safer/infinite-good-comparatives than being at home.
Do you think this is true? What do you make of life abroad? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section!