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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Natasha, an American expat who’s currently working and living in rural South Korea. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city, shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
Hello! My name is Natasha and I currently live and work in South Korea. Having thought about living and working in Asia for several years, my husband and I finally took the plunge and moved here last year. Our lives have changed greatly since moving abroad.
Having lived in South Korea for nearly a year, I’ve gotten more comfortable with my surroundings and daily experiences. I currently live in a very rural area, so there’s a lot of beautiful countryside to see. I work from 9-5 in the surrounding town, which is about 20 minutes away, by bus. Every morning, I get up by 7 to get ready for the day and I’m out the door by 8 to catch a bus to the next town. At work, I teach English to elementary school students, which I really enjoy.
Three days a week, I teach at my main elementary school and have several classes with breaks in between during my 8-hour workday. Two days a week, I travel another 45 minutes away to schools that are much more rural. While this requires more time and transportation, I’ve gotten used to this weekly commitment.
Traveling by bus is something that I hadn’t done in a long time back in the United States. I had lived in an area with not-so-reliable public transportation and always drove myself everywhere. Not having a car has been a big change in my daily life, but I’ve gotten very used to taking the bus and walking around a lot. It’s helped to keep me in shape and I’ve come to appreciate reliable public transportation.
In Korea, I tend to eat out a lot more because it’s so affordable. Back in the United States, I did eat out some but not daily. Here, I often get pre-made sandwiches or eat in at a restaurant because it’s convenient and doesn’t cost very much at all. Most Korean meals consist of rice, kimchi, and some type of soup, and a bunch of side dishes. Fried chicken is also a big thing here! At school each day, we eat school lunches, which are the same as the ones provided to the students, so we’ve gotten to taste a wide range of Korean food.
In my evenings, I spend time with my husband, who also teaches. We watch movies and stay in a lot, since we live in such a rural area. A big chunk of my free time is also spent working on my blog and freelance writing projects. I enjoy the fact that I don’t take my work home with me, so it gives me a lot of time to work on other projects.
One of the best parts about living and working in South Korea has been the ample vacation time that we get with our teaching positions. In the last year, we’ve been fortunate to get to see and explore many parts of South Korea. We’ve also traveled abroad to Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam. We’re already drawing up a travel wish-list for our next year of teaching. Looking back, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to travel as much as I do now – and now I’ve fallen in love with it.
What’s frustrating about living in rural South Korea? Sometimes it’s just the silly cultural differences that we’ll never fully understand. Not being able to fully communicate can also be a challenge. At the end of the day, I try to remind myself that this is a learning experience and I should appreciate the opportunity – regardless of the stressful or scary moments.
I try to connect with South Korea by learning as much as I can about the history and culture. I also go out of my way to try to communicate with those I meet, even if it’s just a few phrases or a simple bow.
If ever given the opportunity, I recommended visiting South Korea – there’s so much to do and see!