Friday, February 9, 2018

Things I'll Miss/Things I Won't Miss, episode 3

I'm back.....and it's time for another episode of Things I Will Miss About Living in South Korea, and Things I Won't Miss About Living in South Korea, take three. As we are looking down the tunnel that is expat life, we are finally seeing a light there.

Hello, light. I've been waiting for you.

As you all well know, our experience abroad has not been easy. There have been good times--even great times, but they'll always been evened out with not-so-great times that have challenged my family (and me personally) in ways I never would've expected. And while I'm super stoked that, I always like to give myself props on the following:

1.) I actually did this in the first place. (How many people can say they've been willing to put their entire lives on hold to live somewhere where they didn't know a soul, or the language, all for the sake of their spouses career?? Not many, if we're being honest. But I did it. Go, me.)

2.) I've made it through the entirety of my husband's work contract here. (I've seen so many people throw their hands up and say, "NOPE. I'M OUT." And despite being unbelievably jealous to see them go home--wherever home is for them--I've stayed. I might not be the strongest or smartest woman out there, but d*mn it all to h*ll, I'm no quitter. I stayed the whole time, despite hating it. Go, me.)

And 3.) This is not an easy place to live. It wasn't like we moved to France or London or Switzerland, or some other lovely place where American's romanticize the idea of traveling to. We went to a country that has a reputation for being hard on its expats and for being tough to live in. I'm about 80% sure we would've had a completely different experience had we landed in a different country, rather than South Korea. And the fact that we landed here is not proof that I'm a giant, marshmallowy wimp (even though I am, we've discussed this before) is proof that I took the hard road, and walked the length of it. Sure, I was limping and crying much of the time, but still, I walked it. Go, me.

Boom. I'm awesome.

Regardless of how tough this experience has been, there are most definitely things that I will miss......and not miss.....about living in South Korea. With every good, there is some bad, and vice versa. A yin to every yang, and so forth. With every country/culture I experience, there are things I like, and things I don't like. And this holds true in South Korea.

So......THIS is what I am going to miss about living here:


Guys, I cannot even begin to explain how safe it is here in South Korea. Yes, there is crime. Yes, there are thefts and rapes and murders. Yes, there is supposedly a Korean Mafia that everyone knows exists, but nobody actually has definitive proof of..........but overall, compared to my home country of the USA, crime is almost nonexistent. Everyone has their own theories on it, and I have my own, as well. Frankly, and my more conservative friends are going to unfriend me and block me for saying this, but...guns are banned here, and IMHO, that cuts down on crime in a big way. People are allowed to own guns, but they are kept in safes at the Police Station, and you have to go check them out to be able to take them to a range to go shooting. People are properly, and extensively trained, and often denied the right to own a firearm if they are deemed unstable. Not that I think they should lock up all the guns in America. Not at all. But I do like the idea of not letting them get into the hands of crazy people. Sort of seems like that cuts down on violence, but that's just me........

I can send my children--two young boys, and a very attractive teenage daughter--anywhere in our city, at any time of day, to any place of business, and I have the assurance that they will arrive safely. It is definitely not a guarantee. Like I said before, crime exists here in South Korea, it just isn't prevalent. It is much less likely to happen than it is in our home country--yes, even in our home state of rural Washington. If I leave my wallet or purse in a cab, it will likely be returned to me, unharmed, with everything still inside of it, yes, even cash. If I leave my credit card inside of a store, it will be there waiting for me--likely in the same spot on the counter where I left it--when I go back in a panic. When my children ride their bikes somewhere, I worry less about them being kidnapped, raped, and chopped into pieces (which is exactly what I worry about in the USA) and I worry more about them being hit by a car being driven by a distracted, untrained, sh*tty driver.

Crime is viewed here as dishonor, and people don't like to bring dishonor down on themselves, their family, or their place of work. To have a customer robbed of their credit card within their restaurant would bring shame on the owner, and nobody wants that. To have your child caught stealing from a store, or the school they attend, would bring dishonor down on his/her parents, and nobody wants that. Dishonor is bad. Honor is good. This means crime rates are low.

Crime happens here, I'm not saying it doesn't. It just does not happen as often, or to the shocking and offensive degree it happens in America. I am not going to enjoy retraining my children to walk around on the defensive night and day, and to feel fear and trepidation about every stranger they meet. This will be a rough, rough transition for our entire family when we move back home, and I am not looking forward to it.

And yes, I say ALL these things knowing the there is a mentally unsound dictator with nukes living about two hours north of me at this very moment.

Think about that.

THIS is what I'm NOT going to miss about living here in South Korea:

Pretention, it's what's for dinner.

Oh, LAWD. Don't even get me started on the pretentiousness of the people I'm surrounded by here. Fur coats as far as the eye can see. Designer handbags for adults, and children. The newest and greatest electronic devices. Fancy cars that serve very little purpose besides making every person with a penis standing on the sidewalk gasp in ecstasy.

People in the city we live in are wealthy, and they want everybody and their dog to know it.

(Insert eye roll here.)

There is a woman who picks up her twin first graders every day in a bright yellow Ferrari convertible. The problem? She lives across the street. She's literally driving across the street to get her kids, and make sure that everyone sees her in her fancy car. There are women who wear head to toe designer clothing (literally Givenchy and Prada) to pick their children up from school. That's it. There's nothing else on the agenda. Just pickup. There are children carrying iPhone 8's and tossing around their Apple computers like toys. There are families with nearly empty apartments, because all of their funds are spent on outward appearances--who needs a couch, when you can have a Mercedes to be seen in? There are families who rent the nicest high rise apartments in the nicest, fanciest buildings purely because it's "the place" to live, and they want the benefit of having the "right address." There are lavish fundraisers for a school that people are forking out 35K a year to send their children to, rather than to support actual needy causes. There are wealthy Asian children schooling my daughter on "white privilege" while wearing Gucci backpacks, and being picked up from classes by daddy's personal driver. There are endless cocktail parties and luncheons, meetings to discuss whose child is the smartest, and whose husband is the master of the universe at whatever company he's running, but none to discuss actual subjects of any substance. Designer labels take precedence over what's inside of a person's heart. Money speaks louder than kind words. Bank accounts are infinitely more important than souls.

In South Korea, it is a status symbol to be able to show the world that you have money to spend, and frankly, it makes me sick. It literally turns my stomach, and I'll be grateful to leave it behind this summer. A soul has infinite worth, and a bank account has nothing to do with it.

Stay tuned for another episode of What I'll Miss/What I Won't Miss coming won't want to miss it. I'm full of exciting observations these days.