I sometimes feel like I talk too much about my time in South Korea, and that at some point people will get tired of my stories (my poor roommates…), but then you get asked to write about it, and you want to talk for thenext 2 hours. But since this is not a story time around a camp bonfire, and because I am still readjusting to life in America, I’ve decided to write briefly about how my two years living in South Korea has changed me and the ways I think.
-I ask the question “why?” a lot. Having had to try to forget what I knew about American culture, and take on what I could of Korean culture, I now look at the way things are done here and ask “Why do we do that?” Why do we shake hands instead of bow? Why do we say “Bless you” after a sneeze? Why do we walk on the right side of the sidewalk? Why is it “proper” for women to sit cross legged? (It’s actually not proper in Korea!) Why do we say “Bon appetite” at the beginning of a meal…French?? Why is it rude to talk with food in your mouth? You may be able to think of easy answers to all these questions, but all of these were things I had to question and learn new answers to while in Korea. Where do our cultural norms come from? Why exactly is it that we do…any of the things we do?? I feel much less that there is one way that things should be, and question if our actions are a result of our beliefs, our culture, or something else entirely.
-Luxury things are of no interest to me anymore. Tour buses, cruises, 5-star resorts… no thank you. I don’t want to relax in a fancy hotel room, I don’t want a tour that only shows you the main attractions. I don’t want all the bells and whistles. Those things have their place, but if I go somewhere, I want to GO there. I want to stay in a local’s home. I want to explore the backstreets of a historical city. I want to find my own way to that attraction, and rely on the help of the locals, not tour guides. One of my favorite things to do in a new place, is go to a grocery store, and buy a whole bunch of things I’ve never tried before. Its so much more fun and fulfilling when you can say you navigated around Tokyo on your own. Not to mention the stories you’ll get to tell!
-“Home is where the heart is” has a completely new meaning. My idea of “home” had always been the big white house on highway 1, out in the country side of Iowa, surrounded by cornfields. It never changed and I never wanted that to change. Until I found a new place that I liked just as much as home. I now feel like I have a home in Korea and a home in America. But even that might change. Now I am in Chicago, and I’m sure after a while, this will feel like home. I don’t feel such an emotional attachment to the idea of one place being “home” anymore. I’ve moved my life halfway around the world and back, and now to a different state. I’ve detached a bit from what I used to know, and think more about what is.
-I’ve become more independent. When I left for Korea two years ago, I needed a change of pace. I wanted to be thrown out of my comfort zone. And by golly, I was! And it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a new language. I can now navigate around a city of 23 million people on my own. I can plan an entire international trip by myself, and pull it off. I’ve learned new recipes. I’ve learned how to fix things or go about solving problems as best I can on my own. I can more easily talk to strangers. I’ve grown more confident in who I am and my abilities. And learned to rely on myself and my own abilities.
-I’m much more adaptable to change. Long term change, short term change, change of scenery, change of pace…whatever. When living in a new country, where English is seldom spoken, every day is an adventure. Sometimes you simply have no idea what is going on, but you have to just roll with it. In Korea, I had a set schedule at work for which classes I had when, but I learned that the schedule could change without prior warning, and I’d be lucky if I was told a reason why! One of my friends in Korea always used to say “S.N.I.P.” (smile, nod, ignore, proceed or repeat) as her method of getting through things. Although “ignore” sounds a little harsh, it more means that sometimes all you can do is just smile and go on as best you can, and everything will work out in the end. Change isn’t always exactly easy, but I can deal with it more easily now.
Of course I can think of at least 5 more things to add to this list, but I’ll stop here. As many challenges that come with moving across the world in whatever direction, I have absolutely no regrets about going, and now I want to travel more, and live in more places, and experience more things! As I live in Chicago, and adjust to a new life here, I look forward to seeing where God will take me next! ~Megan Yoder