6 Life changing lessons I’ve learned living the Expat Life

As my time in Korea is slowly coming to an end I’ve begun to reflect on my experiences here. What I’ve realized is that I have learned so much living the expat life. I’ve done things I never thought I would do, met people I would have never met (my future husband!!!). I have practically grown up into my adult life in another country!

I’m going to be honest, these past two years in Korea have been difficult! I’ve really struggled with the cultural differences. I’ve been angry, frustrated and really negative towards Korea and have been just biding my time until we leave in September. I’ve been one of those jaded foreigners which has not made for an easy expat life.

With change comes clarity

Now that we are three months away from moving on to our next adventure (more on that later). I’ve begun to realize that this is the last time I will ever be in Korea. And with that, I have taken a step back, taken another look and decided to take it all in. I’m not going to wish this time away or count down the days until we leave. Which I have been doing.

I’m going to slow down, live in the moment, and see the beauty and excitement that I felt the first time a came to Korea. I have my newbie glasses on and I’m able to see Korea with all the excitement and amazement I did when I first came over.

Expat life, expat lifestyle, living abroad, international life, expatriate, expat in Korea, Life lessons, Intentional Living
Me enjoying…. beer, soju and delicious food!

The  Reflectiveness that come with Expat Life

So with this goal in mind, I’m examining what my life in Korea and life as an expat has taught me. I want to share this in hopes of reaching other people who may be thinking of teaching abroad. I want to show you that it isn’t always easy; it can be downright frustrating and so challenging! But, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Why? Because I have learned lessons and grown and developed in ways I never would have if I’d stayed at home in Canada.

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Here is what I’ve learned…

  1. It doesn’t matter where you live; you choose how to live your life. You can have any kind of lifestyle you want whether it’s in Korea, Canada, Russia, or Spain! You can cultivate the life you want to live and moving will not change that.
  2. Your home is where you make it. Wherever you are it is important to set up a comfortable space for yourself. Somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and helps you relax and feel “at home”.  The beautiful apartment we have in Korea has been a safe space for me. It is our home and a safe haven! Read more about this here: how to set up a home abroad
  3. Preparation, research, and learning from other people’s experience is everything!! Living in Korea I never know what to expect. Things that I think will be easy, are not. Rules are different, customs are different and things are just done differently here. Like, getting a gym membership …for most gyms and lessons you have to sign up for a certain day (usually the beginning of the month). You can’t just walk in and sign up whenever you want (and that is just one example of many!). So, anytime I need to do something I research it online, I reach out to my Facebook groups for advice (most people have already gone through it and they give great advice based on their experience), and I make sure I’m prepared as possible. I’ve become much more intentional in my planning which has helped me avoid a lot of challenging situations.
  4. Find a support group while living abroad. Creating a community of people who like the same things as you and you can rely on will help you feel more comfortable living abroad. This is even more important because your family and friend network is so far away. Reach out on Facebook groups and join expat activities, groups or clubs in your city! I actually haven’t had this during this last stay in Korea and it has made it a little more difficult. But I’m lucky to have an amazing partner, and we have some friends to connect with. I’ve also found it helpful to reach out to my friends and family back home to find the support I need.
  5. Be intentional about your life, set goals, and work towards them. Although this is something that can be done anywhere, it becomes even more important when you’re living the expat life.  You’re continuously moving to different countries and need to find new jobs, a place to live and set up your life again. Goal-setting helps you make these decisions and work towards your next destination.
  6. You can have the life you want and travel and teach at the same time!! I’ve always thought that in order to have a family I would need to settle down in Canada, find a stable a job, meet someone and stay there. But I always knew I want to keep traveling and teaching in other countries. While living abroad, I’ve met an amazing partner who recognizes the value of traveling and working abroad. The lifestyle we can cultivate and the family we can have while doing it! So yes, you can have both! It is possible! There are a lot of expat families out there!

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How has living the expat life changed you? Comment below!

 

Author

Welcome to the Unconventional Life Blog! I'm Eliza a professional English Langauge teacher living an international life. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about teaching English, working and living abroad.

9 Comments

  1. Your points are too true! I think that life is really what we make it, and it can be whatever we make it, anywhere in the world. Location is less important than our own actions. It’s certainly easier in some places, but it is always possible.

  2. I agree with your points about “having a support network while abroad” and “home is where you make it.” It definitely helps a partner in crime (so to speak) while teaching/living abroad who is on the same page with you and not someone who is complaining or whining about the whole thing. Secondly, for me home is where my dog is, haha (actually saw that as a logo on a bag and though it was pretty appropriate for my life!) Plus a pet acts as another support network who is always happy to see you no matter where you come home to.

  3. Eliza! Thanks a lot for such a beautiful post. Seriously posts like this make you want to travel more and inspire others. the 6 lessons that you learnt are sooo true. I truely believe that one can (and should) easily adopt to the culture he is living in. As dalai lama said, world is just like a book and those who don’t travel read only its one page. So, i travelling, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and celebrating diversity should be one of the goals of life. 🙂 Keep inspiring us 🙂

  4. Aw, I hope you enjoy the last few months. It can be tough if you just don’t jive. I’ve been here for 12 years and I couldn’t agree more that setting up a home, my home, is so important. Whatever happens outside, I know I will come home to my space. A space I’ve made after careful consideration of what I need to be happy and also what is calming. Life in a city this gigantic can be insanely stressful, but an oasis in my home really helps with the stress sliding right off.

  5. Very cool. It happens often that we tend to notice the bad things and not see the good things. I’m glad you’re taking a step back to really appreciate the time you have left. The grass is always greener on the other side, I’m sure there are many things that have been excellent in Korea, in addition to what you mentioned already as well. Soak up your last moments and wish you great success in your future destination!

  6. What you mention about reaching out to other expats to find out information in advance is definitely a point I resonate with. Korea is pretty difficult to navigate if you don’t speak the language. It’s not the most foreigner friendly country, and there are plenty of challenges. What you mention in your opening about being anti-Korean is something that I too have struggled with having lived here 3+ years. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  7. I had a similar experience of really “coming of age” in Korea… And meeting my husband there too haha. I like your retrospective because it’s great life lessons you’ll take with you anywhere you go.
    There’s a wire from Hemingway that I’ve always taken to heart– “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from place to place,” (I might be paraphrasing). But it’s true, it’s about how you’re living your life no matter where you are.
    Though certain places lead to certain opportunities and adventures. Can’t wait to hear about yours!

  8. I think finding a support group is the most important thing do. When I was in Korea, I’m the only foreigner in the workplace. It’s really hard to adjust right away. Luckily, I found friends using social media. They made life in Korea better.

  9. Your points are all true. Reading through posts about complaints in Korea and Koreans make me feel “old”. Expats need to be more adaptable to the culture and way of life of the people and the country they go to and make the most out of their stay. Having friends here and your own support group help a lot. I don’t like bashing or blaming Korea and Koreans just because I am not comfortable here. It wasn’t their choice why I was here, after all.