THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE MOVING TO KOREA
So, we're finally making moves on the life list.
Graduation? Check. That crazy Grad after party? Double check.
Earning your first real pay cheque? .......................... Working on it.
So many people were caught by surprise when I told them of my move to Korea.
"Korea? Why? I don't get it? You're like, not even Korean..."
A GIRL WANT(ed) MONEY, OKAY.
I honestly wish I had a cooler story as to why I decided to spontaneously pack up and make the big move to South Korea.
But, I don't ....
And just like the limited thought put into making this move, the afterthoughts followed suit. My research did not go past, "Are there black people in Korea?" and "Where to turn up to trap music in Korea?" Your web browser history never lies...
After living in Korea for 13 months, I have come to one life conclusion - you can never prepare enough for a new life experience.
I hope you're unlike me and at least have your packing and research done BEFORE the day of your departure. And if so, you now have the time to read up on some Korea related stuff that hasn't crossed your mind yet. I've learned a thing or two during my stay, and I wish I had some more insight before I made the move. So, let me be your virtual BFF and let y'all in on some secrets I wish I knew before moving to South Korea.
1. Teaching English isn't the only way to move to Korea
Although it is a more popular route for fresh university graduates, you can score a gig in Korea doing something else equally cool, if not even cooler. I managed to score a coveted freelance writing position as an expat blogger for Naver and 10Magazine based in Seoul, South Korea. And, a few modelling gigs here and there can help you get a foot in the industry. Follow your passion and don't let it restrict you to certain places. Chances are, you can do it in Korea (or anywhere), too!
Aren't you happy you made a life-saving smart decision for once and didn't apply to that teaching position in North Korea? I know you were probably desperate for some pretty coins at the time, but this could have been you (us).
2. Teaching is a full time job.
WHY DID YOUTUBE GET SO MAD WHEN I SAID THIS. I don't get it...
"SO, like, did you think you'd just go to korea, twiddle your thumbs and get paid?"
Well, actually...I did.
I didn't expect the large amount of finger grease and eye rolls it took to get through hours of marking tests and writing reports. I didn't expect the double role of part time dance instructor and acting coach either. And I definitely did not expect the little vacation time!!
My work days started strong at 9:30 and dragged on until 7:00 p.m. But what made the long work day not suck so bad were the free fresh Korean lunches. Did I mention, fresh AND free ^_^
3. You will live in a *free* shoebox
Your girl lived a minimalist life in Korea. Having no cell phone, no car and no rent was BLESS and I wish that life for everyone looking to $ave a ton. But in all honesty, I would have preferred to pay a little extra on rent to get a larger apartment because man oh man, that shit was small. I lived in a bachelor studio apartment (open concept) with large bay windows overlooking the city and mountains. I can't lie.. my view was amazing with Jangsan mountain right in my backyard. But it didn't make up for the lack of space. Now that I know better, if you are moving to Korea on a teaching contract, you can request to get a housing stipend which is essentially an allowance for housing. This way, you can find your own apartment within your budget and have autonomy in choosing where you live.
4. Being black won't make you famous
"My melanin glow would cast a halo and bless me with success and fame in the faraway East," she thought.
Sounds like a dream, right?
I was rudely awakened by the haunting faces of rejection and no selections. Unfortunately, I found that if you do not conform to the Eastern beauty ideals (i.e fair skin, thin) which are Eurocentric in nature, then you'll more likely have a difficult time finding success in the fashion and entertainment industry in Korea. Unless you're this guy o_O
5. Plastic Surgery ISSA TING
We can all agree on saying that korea is a pretty homogenous country. And as a tall black curly haired female, I stick out like a sore thumb. Not only do I deal with the stares and random skin rubs by ajummas on the subway, but I awkwardly face multiple plastic surgery ads promoting promotions to make your eyes wider and nose slimmer. Paired with skin whitening ads and pin straight hair goals, your girl was feeling mad awkward. Seoul will definitely steal your soul (and money $$$). And its not coined the plastic surgery capital for no reason...
6. Koreans will fetishize you if you're ethnic.
Lol, I feel like this one may offend someone. But I promise you, I found myself in so many situations where myself and/or foreign friends are fetishized. It's funny because the majority of Korean guys who approach me can speak *maybe* beginner English, so it's usually me trying to connect the dots ad play mind scrabble mid convo.
But there is one thing the Korean guy never fails to string together.
"I LOVE BLACK GIRLS"
D)ALL OF THE ABOVE**
But I can say that it is not just us black girls (and guys..the Korean guys loved my dark skinned friend CHAD). But Korean guys often mistaken my Caucasian American friend for being a Russian prostitute. They love their Russians...
These are just a few things I've learned throughout my stay in South Korea. It was one roller coaster for sure, but definitely a ride I don' regret!
*Cues sappy music and gets nostalgic*
Until next time...
- XO, Chels.