Q: How are you surviving in South Korea?
It’s almost been two years since I’ve moved to Korea. I’ve had my share of good days and bad days, but the thing I like most about living here is the things I’ve come to discover about myself along the way.
Living so far away from people who know you, surrounding yourself with completely new influences, and coming into contact with various mindsets, can be an overwhelming and daunting adventure. Depending on the person, this pressure can bring out the worse or the best in people. I haven’t decided which category I fall into yet, but I have discovered, well, I supposed noticed would be a better word, some definite things about myself while living here.
During my short time here, many of my foreign comrades have come and could not adjust to the Korean lifestyle, which resulted in them leaving sooner than they probably expected. While living here is by no means easy, I’ve found that possessing certain qualities will help considerably in a swift adjustment process. As I write this, I realize that I’m not 100% adjusted to my life here, but these things have kept me going this far, and I look forward to where these qualities will take me in the future.
- Friendly & Positive Personality
- Strong Standards
- Accepts new Challenges
#1 – Adaptable
Observe, grow, learn and enjoy~ that’s what I try to do, and it has helped me a lot here.
How do you fare in new environments?
I’ve found that maintaining the mentality that you are a foreigner and will only be considered that way throughout your duration in Korea helps you mentally brace yourself for many things. Just expect the unexpected and hope for the best!
This mindset has helped me personally in many situations that I may deem less than favorable. If I don’t understand a particular mindset or cultural aspect, I remind myself that this isn’t my country, and even though I don’t fully understand it, I can take the time to learn more about it. Now, there are certain things that I may never agree with or want to practice in my personal life, but learning more about it helps me to understand the people around me better. But that’s just how I think, take it or leave it.
Korea isn’t a perfect country, but there are many unique and interesting things about it that you can learn and grow from if you give it a try. I’ve noticed a lot of people try to figure out what a country is like before they go there. They watch movies, look at YouTubers, and read the news, and with that information, they think they know exactly how life in that specific country will be like. I did the same thing, and while those things gave me a good idea of what life could look like for me, it wasn’t until I moved here that I fully understood. The reality is you never know how YOU as a person will mesh into a new environment so take a chance on yourself. Your transition could go a lot smoother than you expected.
#2 – Friendly & Positive Personality
Be the kind of person you would love to be around.
If you were, to sum up, yourself in one word, what would it be?
Most people like to be around someone who is friendly and easy to talk to. Being as friendly and kind as you can to others can go a long way in alleviating some unnecessary pain that you may experience otherwise. Also, trying to maintain ‘the-glass-is-half-full’ kind of mentality will assist you through the dark and trying days.
There are days where it can be hard to find the silver lining, when you may wake up with your pillow soaked in tears and your heart heavy, but still doing your best to look for the good even on those days will help you to push through.
I know I say this a lot but put yourself out there and make friends!
But I’m not an extrovert, Julena! Making friends is really difficult for me.
If you’re thinking that right now, don’t fret. I understand the sentiment. I’m also not an extrovert. In fact, I’m quite introverted. (For those who need Myer-Briggs proof, my personality type is INFJ 😜). So, meeting new people can be quite nerve-wracking for me at times. Even though I struggle with it internally, I would say that making friends with the natives, though not extremely easy, wasn’t exorbitantly hard. You can find other foreign friends by checking out groups on Facebook, your job, or the local community (if you live in a bigger city😅). Still, if you want to befriend the natives, then you’re going to have to put yourself out there 99% of the time and introduce yourself to people. Think about it this way, what have you got to lose? Nothing! Besides, chances are they really want to be your friend as well 🙂.
From an early age, I made the golden rule my life motto, and I do my best to follow it daily. This has helped in my adjustment process, and I’m certain it’ll help you as well~
#3 – Open-minded
Don’t knock it until you try it.
Even if you may not agree with some of the things that the people around you do, understanding their mindset will definitely come in handy. You don’t necessarily have to agree with a person 100% live in harmony with them.
Respecting a person despite their differences and choosing to accept them as they are, is something that has proven beneficial to me while living here. There are many things people around me do that I don’t necessarily agree with. Even though I refuse to adopt their habits or mindset in my personal life, I still choose to see who they are, look beyond our differences and respect them. The same goes for the dominating culture around me.
Before moving here, I tried not to have many expectations or preconceived ideas of what the country would be like. I wanted to leave that page blank for the country to make its own impression on me as I lived in it. I wanted to give my life here a fair shot and let Koreans prove themselves to me.
Choosing to be open-minded, curious, and empathetic to the people and culture around you can aid in your transition here. Don’t let the dramas and k-pop fool you; life in Korea is quite different than what you see in the movies. Give the country a chance to make its own impression on you instead of trying to force it to fit the picture you had in your mind.
It’s only fair. 💁🏾♀️
#4- Strong Standards
Be unapologetically yourself and stand up for what you believe in.
Knowing yourself and what you stand for will help you greatly in confusing times. Many people will have an opinion on how you should live your life and how you should do things, but if this goes against your standard for living, find the courage within yourself to walk away from it.
Staying true to your inner compass will help you make decisions that you won’t regret later on. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be open to new experiences; no, on the contrary, I think you should live your best life, but you should know where your personal line is and be able to stand your ground when people try to cross it.
In life, I’ve discovered that any kind of leeway you give, people will jump on it and try to push their luck to see how far they can get you to go. I’ve said ‘no’ more times than I’d like to admit, and I’ve been teased a lot for my decisions, but I’ve noticed that once I compromise and do something I know I don’t like, I just end up regretting it. My ability to stay true to my heart’s desires has helped me develop a strong backbone and thick skin, which comes in handy in a collectivistic society.
Knowing yourself, how you work, and what you believe in will help you to adjust to a society that may be vastly different from your own.
#5- Accepting New Challenges
You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.
Who doesn’t like a good challenge?
You know that feeling of satisfaction after you’ve successfully taken on a new challenge and did better than you expected? Even if you fail, that feeling of achievement that you tried something you really wanted to do is still nice.
While staying true to your heart and maintaining your standards is crucial in life, don’t close yourself off to new challenges and opportunities. I believe that it’s crucial to try as many things as you can.
I wouldn’t consider myself a very adventurous person, but I try to open myself to new adventures and take certain risks. I’ve found that finding things to not just keep you occupied on those lonely days but will also help you attain your life goals is beneficial in providing you with a purpose. Don’t back away from a good challenge. Take a risk on yourself, and jump on the chances that come your way.
And there you have it, folks! These are some things that I’ve discovered has helped me adjust into this new society, and I hope it proves beneficial to you. I know this post went on longer than usual, but what’s the harm in having a large post every once in a while. 😉
Until next time,
See ya around, friend~~