Hello, intrepid traveller, today I’m coming at you with some fresh tips on how to move countries and live like an anxiety-free human person. These tips are super fresh so make sure you consume them before their use-by date. Fruits and veg in South Korea have a tendency to go from crispy fresh to dead and wrinkled in a Pyeongchang-minute.
In December 2018, I moved from cushy, livable Melbourne, Australia to very foreign and very Korean Seoul, South Korea. I did this in the name of love and to put an end to one year of loving another human from a long distance. I had been to Korea before, dabbled in studying the language and had eaten my fair share of Kimchi. This made the culture shock relatively smooth… wait what am I saying? No amount of kimchi could have prepared me for the ensuing culture shock. The culture shock ricocheted off of every crevice and subway passageway in Seoul. Aftershocks of my culture shock are still being felt throughout the city. Alas, I am here to help you!
What the fork is Culture Shock?
So, let’s talk about culture shock. It’s real. It’s messy and it can also happen in reverse. Yeah, that’s something they don’t tell you on Buzzfeed. Culture shock, to me, is dealing with all of the new things around you in a new place that makes living a little bit uncomfortable. Kind of like when you sit on a wet patch of grass and have to walk around in discomfort for a bit, but then you’re fine because it’s only wet grass. Here’s some culture shock that you may experience in a place like South Korea:
- The language can be a bit of a culture shock because you thought that watching a few K-dramas would be enough to get by (I’m partly joking).
- It might be hard to have a successful shopping trip to the supermarket because the things you would normally buy are either not there, or are five hundred per cent more expensive than back home.
- If you’re in a new place where you don’t look like everybody else, people might stare at you constantly and try to talk to you and objectify you as a token foreigner. This is very uncomfortable and makes people feel stupid, do not do this to foreign-looking people. Shockingly, they’re actually people.
- People might do everyday things like taking the subway very differently to people in your home country. For example, people in South Korea love to PUSH you until they’re off the train without any ‘excuse me’s’ or ‘coming through’s’. Also, people here don’t give up their subway seats for the elderly and that’s a culture shock!
Boy, I could write a whole POST about culture shock! I kind of did write some back when I first came to Korea and you can read it here! Okay, let’s begin all the ways to help your sorry self mitigate these culture shocks and how to prepare your life for emigration (aka the point of this blog post).
Let’s get some fresh tips on how to Taylor Swiftly emigrate!
1. Bring all of the things you rely on in your home country. They may be available in the country you’re moving to, but may be hard to find and super expensive. Besides, you’re going to need time to figure out where to buy things, where not to buy things etc. Just equip yourself with enough to last 6 months. For example, I brought Vegemite, skincare, Colgate toothpaste, shoes for my clown feet and more bras than a human could possibly need. I wasn’t sure how readily available these things would be. I’ve been in Korea for 10 months and I still haven’t managed to find shoes that fit me properly.
2. Take photos of all of your pals, places and things that feel like home. Sometimes, you just want to be reminded that you have stuff that makes you who you are. You can also find new things in your new country to add to that list, but it’s nice to be able to remember who you are. It can be hard to remember that when you’re in a completely new environment with minimal friends and you’re referred to as a ‘foreigner’ on a daily basis.
4. Bring oodles of passport photos and documents and photocopies and digital copies and a portable scanning app and a pocket-sized accountant and an on-standby lawyer and you get the gist. Trust me, you don’t want to go to a Japanese convenience store at 3am to print out a passport photo because you have to be at the Korean embassy at 9am to get your Visa. It’s just the type of stress one does not need in their life. Bring copies of everything important, back them up on your digital world and give some copies to a loved one in case you somehow lose all of those.
5. Don’t overpack. You think you’ll need stuff but you know you won’t and you know you’re going to want to buy all the things in your new environment. Just bring the things that will give you the most comfort in your life. For example, I knew that I didn’t need to pack my own Marimekko plates but I also knew that mealtimes might be a shade duller without them.
6. Make sure you will be financially set up to visit your home every once in a while. Family is important. Don’t move overseas if you don’t think you’ll be able to make the money/time to come home every once in a while unless you’re only going for a hot minute.
- Get all of your shots
- See your dentist
- Pop into grandma’s
- Stock up on pain killers and cold medicine
- Hit the books – learn about the language, culture, manners and all that shiz before you move countries
- Tell your government how you’ll vote in elections
- Organise your digital living space (computers, iPads, hard drives etc)
- Tell your bank you’ll be out of town so they don’t lock you out of your account
- Clean out your bedroom and turn it into a place your parents can rent on Airbnb
- Cancel your gym membership, phone plan, library card etc.
- Make sure your passport is good for a while
- If you’re Australian, let Smart Traveller know where you’re going and check their information about your destination
- Have a party for your friends even if nobody shows up (it’s the thought that counts)
- Make a budget spreadsheet and pretend you’ll stick to it
- If you’re moving to Asia, say goodbye to clean air
- Write down important addresses where you won’t lose them
- Savour your last sip of coffee from your fave cafe, it may be your last
- Kill all of your indoor plants or give them to green thumbs
- Take out about 5 things from your suitcase at the last minute because you know you’re kidding yourself
- Set some goals for yourself so you’re not running around without direction
- Take note of where embassies are and how to get there
- Make sure your life is sorted on the other side (house, job, school)
- You can sort out phones, banks and other life admin at the other end
- Last but not least, get ready to get a bit emotionally messed up while you adapt to your new country
Whether your moving for six months or for eternity, no amount of blog post writing and list-making will really prepare you for moving your life to another country. Just make sure that you remember every awkward encounter and savour it as a memory of that time you moved country and everything was hard. For me, it has been almost a year since I left home. My language skills are getting better each day and I no longer feel like a tourist. I still have moments that make me want to cry and curl up into a ball because of something awkward that happened with a shop assistant or a stranger who has stalked me off the subway to ask if I have a boyfriend. You know, stuff that happens in any country. Culture shock is a given and emotions fluctuate. Don’t you think experiencing a new culture like a local in a new place is worth all of the awkward encounters in the world?
Let me know what you’d like to see on my blog. I am working hard to write more and more, so stay tuned for regular posts. I would love to hear your feedback, so leave a comment below or let me know about your experience moving overseas. Have a great week, internet world!