How Living in Korea Has Changed Me

Since I've said it so many times, I'm just going to skip the "I haven't written in a while" speech. Because it's obvious that I haven't with the lack of posts. I have a lot in drafts, but I didn't publish in a while, and I know. Being in College really takes away your time.

I'll just say that I'm glad to be writing again, from a little cafe in South Korea. I want to get back to writing reviews about music and cosmetics again, though cooking will be difficult with my current lack of kitchen equipment. First, I really wanted to write about the changes I've seen in myself since moving here about six months ago. Although it's only been half a year I feel as if I've lived here forever. I can barely remember what daily life in The States was like anymore, and it feels like it's been a short time and forever simultaneously. Crazy right?

I've become more independent

I used to have company with me for every place I went and every task I needed to complete. Going to the store? Find someone to come along. Need to order food? Ask someone to call instead of you. Want to go for a walk? Take someone with you. I lived my entire life in pairs. I didn't go places alone, except in an airplane between someone dropping me off and someone picking me up. I didn't feel that comfortable doing anything alone. I was always scared of being by myself, especially when it came to traveling. 
Now I take the subway and bus alone all the time. It's normal for me. The first few times I was terrified, I'll be honest. I didn't want to get lost and I just wanted a companion with me at all times. But after living here for a while I'll walk around alone, go to a cafe alone, and just in general enjoy a date with myself. I do enjoy the company of others, but I don't require it. I feel confident going out alone. 
Maybe it's because of the safe environment that Korea offers that I was able to do this, and the way that public transportation is very easy to figure out. I don't need to worry as much about the dangers of being out alone. (Obviously I'm still cautious, but I'm not scared anymore.) 

I started to understand my identity more

When you start living in a new country you seem to figure out who you are more than ever. Maybe that’s why so many people travel to “find themselves”. You are away from everything that used to define you and you have to figure out who you are without those things. And whatever it is you really remember and miss are the things that are truly important. When I’m away from my friends and family I started to realize a bit more who I was. And honestly, I’m not Korean and my personality is different. I started to realize how different I see certain things once I came here. (Not every person is the same but I think each country has a general mindset.) I’ve started to really embrace who I am the more I realize what that means. 

I care about my health and appearance more

Korea is an image conscious country. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many well-dressed people at once before in my life. Even the babies have more style than most adults I know. Naturally this make a person a bit more image conscious. A lot of people who move to Korea say that they changed their style or were more aware afterwards. Maybe it can be taken to the extreme of vanity, but in general you just want to be more presentable when around other presentable people. I don’t want to go out in sweats and a hoodie anymore, I want to dress nicely. This really can be a good or bad thing, whichever it is I still changed in this way.

I lost weight 

In the last title I put health as well. I’m not saying I became a health nut, in fact it’s harder for me to get fruits and vegetables here than when I lived in The States, but I intake less salt and sugar and am more active in general, so I naturally lost weight because off this. I walk more because of public transportation (also my dorm room was on the 8th floor and I took the stairs most times) and I mostly eat soup and rice, and a lot of fish and fermented things. I think the change of diet and exercise was good for me in the long run, and I didn’t need to do anything drastic to make it happen.

I appreciate the difficulty of speaking a foreign language 

The reason you learn quickly by immersion is that you have no choice. I need Korean to get by in my daily life, and so I have to remember things. I didn’t feel comfortable at all when I first got here. Speaking a new language is challenging, intimidating, and just plain frightening at times. I look a Korean in the eye or order at a café and I just completely blank out, suddenly any language skills are out the door. It’s so hard to learn something new and be away from your first language. If you've ever wondered why there are Mexican, Korean, Chinese, etc. districts in the US, it's probably because it feels comfortable and safe that way, in my opinion. And there's nothing wrong with that. I am pleasantly surmised and partly relieved when someone lets me do all my ordering in English. Yes, I am completely capable of ordering in Korean. But when I can feel comfortable and effortlessly order and talk with the clerk, that's something that I miss at times. 
I'm also working part time as an English Tutor, so I'm beginning to understand how difficult and weird English is. Goodness! When I have to explain what's what in English, I realize how hard it must be to understand all the "rules". 

I have a deeper cafe obsession 

Since coming to Korea my love of unique and quirky cafes has had a chance to flourish. There are cute cafes everywhere and I want to visit them all. The atmospheres and decorations are different all over and I love the cozy feeling of sitting and having something to drink. There's also really pretty latte art and and ceramic cups at a lot of them as well. Of course, you can get coffee in a mug in other places around the world, but my point is that there's a whole "cafe culture", so to speak, here in Korea. A lot of people go and sit there, eating cake or waffles usually. You can go alone, but most people go with a friend and just hang out chatting and reading magazines for a while. This is probably my new favorite pass time because it suits my personality so well, and I never had as many chances to do this before. 

I became more competitive and bold 

One of the last things can again be seen as good or bad for me. I wasn't very competitive before. I didn't care if I lost a game or got a worse grade than someone else. But since joining the Korean school system, I have a drive to be the best more than ever. If you're unaware, there's a percentage grading curve used in schools where about 35% can have A, 35% can have B, 35%, and the rest get C, D, or F scores (Roughly). This means even if you technically earned an A, if someone else earned it "more than you", aka got one or more points, you can get a B or C still. It's really sad and it's the reason college student life can be cut-throat. I didn't care much before if someone else got a point higher than me, but I do now. Because getting a B instead of an A simply because you got 97 and they got 98 seems totally unfair to me. Anyways, I just try harder than ever now to work hard at school, and I also try to speak with Professors, etc. and participate in class more than I ever did in High School or Middle School.

There are a lot of little and big things that have changed in my life since moving here, and I feel like I've grown in many ways. While I think part of it is from living away from home in general, I think the country, and the specific country you move to, has a lot of influence as well. I'm living my dream and I love it here, even though there are times when it's hard. Mainly I want to say that the people and environment around us mld us into the people we will be in the future. You do have a choice in this, but I believe there are also things that just become a part of who you are over time. The funny thing is, I know when I go back to visit The States I'll probably think things are weird there because I'm so used to doing things "the Korean way" at this point.

I do have a question for the people who read this article. Have you ever lived away from your native/home country? If so, what changed about you because of that? I'm really curious if any of those things will be similar or different than mine. Anyways, thanks for reading! I hope to get things running regularly again soon, but I honestly cannot promise anything because another thing I've learned is that in life, stuff happens.

See you next time you jump down the Rabbit hole,