Side Effects of the Expat Life

Last week my father came to visit me. Of course I was glad. I haven’t seen most of my family in 8 months. But in some ways it was very strange. Two different lives I have lived collided and I saw how disjointed they are.

Seeing myself and my lifestyle through his eyes illustrated how different things are now. I like many of these changes.

Let’s face it, my lifestyle probably wouldn’t be possible in the US. Culture aside, as a single, recent college graduate, my current level of independence is unusual for my peers in the States. Being able to afford a decent apartment in a major city- living without assistance from family or having a roommate is quite a luxury. I am able to afford transportation and health care. On top of this, I am able to make payments on my college loans and set aside money to travel out of the country during my work vacation.

I am well aware that compared with many of my former classmates, I am quite fortunate. And because I have been spoiled by this so early in my working life, moving back to the States isn’t an appealing prospect at the moment. I have been careful with my money and don’t spend much day to day. I want to have that travel money stocked up. I really wouldn’t want to go back to the States unless I could find a job that would afford me a comparable lifestyles.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to stay in Korea. I am planning on staying another year at this point, but after that, I don’t know. There are many things I like and find interesting about Korea, but I don’t know if I want to get stuck in here for decades. I am not completely happy with the hagwon system here. From the what I’ve read, there are several countries with education systems that seem more suited to how I think of teaching.

And of course, there is the problem many who have succumb to wanderlust experience: chronic flare ups. It is a thirst that isn’t easily slaked. You think of all the other places you would like to see. Once you have taken the biggest step and left your home country, it’s much easier to jump to another place. I don’t feel satisfied with short visits- a frantic week or two trying to take in the necessary sights isn’t enough. There are many places I long to know more intimately. I want to see the day to day.

Of course you must put down a few roots where you go, but the thing about expat communities is that there’s always turn over. Everyone is coming and going so it’s hard to hold on to people. Even the locals I am close with are an ever-changing bunch. Many of them are interested in language exchange for the purpose of going to other countries. I guess it’s inevitable a group of women mainly around their mid 20s, that many of my friends are getting married it seems.

So at this moment, I am considering making 2016 a year for a new country. I don’t know, maybe my short trip to Japan in July will help me calm my wanderlust for a while. And I will visit the States again in the fall. But ultimately, I have to think about how long I will be staying in Korea and what will come next when this venture ends.