America to Geoje Island - Expat Interview With Amanda

Published: 24 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Amanda Grove is a recent college graduate and a newlywed. After graduating college Amanda and her husband Derik moved to Portland, OR, where they worked full time for a year. After that year the couple felt like their life was dull, boring, and they felt 'stuck.' In the Spring of 2012 they decided to follow a path which led them to South Korea, teaching English to children and adults. They love their new life, love to travel, and love adventures. Amanda's blog, Living in Another Language (see listing here), sums up their time spent abroad, for however many years that may be.

Living in Another Language

Here's the interview with Amanda...

Where are you originally from?
Portland, Oregon USA

In which country and city are you living now?
Geoje Island, South Korea

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived here since February 2012 and plan to stay for a few more years! The end date is not specific, we will stay as long as we see fit.

Why did you move and what do you do?
Derik and I are both very adventurous people. We love to travel. After a year of 'living the American dream,' we decided that having a full time job, owning a house, and owning a pet wasn't enough for us. We are both still young, and we felt inspired to move out of the country for a few years before we decided to settle down and have a family.
Fortunately for us, we were in contact with a few people who were teaching in South Korea, and we were able to get a job very quickly (5 months).

Living in Another LanguageDid you bring family with you?
I brought my husband! We have been married now for 2 years…and definitely wanted to experience expat life together!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
My husband and I are very flexible when it comes to changes. The transition was very easy; we had some friends already in Korea that helped us move in and get settled. Honestly I think the hardest part was the lack of communication (phone and texting) with my friends and family back home!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
After 9 months I can say…it still is difficult making friends. So many people come over to teach for a year and then leave. A lot of expats have the mindset that they will 'do their time' and then go back home. With that mindset it is really hard to make close friends. People come and go so often that, unfortunately, a person can truly say, "If you don't like the people that are here now, wait six months and you'll have a whole different crowd."
I do mainly socialize with other expats I have met through Facebook, church, or school.

Living in Another LanguageWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The BEST thing about South Korea is that this country loves festivals! I was once told by a Korean co-teacher that the reason why South Korea holds so many festivals is because the country is so small and it's people need something to do. This statement is very true, the country is the size of one US state!
Derik and I have enjoyed many, many festivals and plan on going to quite a few more! There is ALWAYS a festival going on somewhere. Food, family, friends, lights, amazing views…what's not to like?

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I enjoy the freedom.
I have the freedom to travel wherever I want to. If I want to go to Thailand, Vietnam, China, Australia, Europe on vacation…I can. For some reason, once you live in a different country, vacationing somewhere else completely different doesn't seems so difficult. Derik and I have already visited once other country over summer break, and plan on visiting another over winter break!
I have financial freedom. It's no secret that teaching in Korea is beneficial monetarily. Not only does your employer fly you out here, they pay for a place for you to live in! It's so nice to be saving money instead of spending it on loads of bills.
I enjoy the lingual freedom. Yes, I know this sounds slightly strange, so let me explain. Living in a country that speaks a different language (and is not derived from Latin roots) can be frustrating at first. But now I have found a 'calmness' about it. I'm living in a little bubble where I can blur out what people are saying around me because I don't even know exactly what they're saying anyway. I don't have to spend those few extra moments reading all the store and street signs and all the neon flashing lights around me. I actually CAN choose to ignore things. And it's quite pleasant.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
I mentioned this above, but it is significantly less! We can save 5x the amount of money as we could back home due to living expenses! Our school pays for our apartment, the electric and gas bill is 1/3 that it was back home, and public transportation is trustworthy and efficient (I don't need to drive a car everywhere!).
I was surprised however at the cost of food and clothing here. I relish the day when I can go back to the States and buy an avocado for less than 4 dollars.

Living in Another LanguageWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I am, by nature, a very positive person. I see the good in just about anything, so it takes me a while to think up of something negative. I would say the only thing would be lack of communication with loved ones. Sure you can Skype or chat online, but it's not the same as back home. It's hard to because of the time difference. I don't know how many Skype chats I've had to reschedule due to time difference errors!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
As materialistic as it sounds: Stock up on anything and everything you cannot live without: makeup, types of clothing, food…etc. Why? Because in most cases it is incredibly hard to find American/foreign things around here. If you do, most of the time they are severely marked up. I've had the biggest difficulty with makeup though. I'm too scared to try foundation or any type of makeup base for my face in fear that it has some sort of 'skin whitener' or bleaching cream!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Missing big events that have happened to my family and friends. My youngest sister is expecting her first child and is due in December. I have missed the entire pregnancy. She is 14 months younger than me, and we really do have a special bond. It is so foreign to me that she is pregnant, yet the photos on her blog and Facebook do not lie to me! I would give anything to be able to be there for her when she has her little girl, however my job contract will not allow it.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It is going to be a few more years before I actually do return home. Honestly I think I will appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to live somewhere else during a crucial and memorable time in my life. I will go back as a more 'learned' person and appreciate the things I have seen or done. It will be hard to understand people who have no wish to travel. Even this early on I have problems with this concept. There's a big world out there yet some people do not want to take a chance in their lives to explore it. That is tragic to me.

Living in Another LanguageWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Know about where you're going. Try to find people you can connect with BEFORE you get there. It will make the settling in process that much better. Know the customs (you don't want to be rude), know the culture, know what the native people live for. This will help you in your perception of the way these 'strange' people are.
  2. Do your research as to what resources you can find there. Clothes, housing, transportation, and just general living expenses. This will help you pack and plan for the future as an expat!
  3. Keep your mind open, even after you arrive! It's so easy to get caught up in just trying to 'live' and 'make due' in a foreign place you forget to have fun! Pretend your a tourist and you only have a few weeks to travel in your new country. Why? Because at the end of your time spent away from home you know that you've fully experienced the country you were living in. You've tasted the food, you've hiked the tallest mountain, you've visited the countries biggest temple. Those are the memories you will remember!
  4. Get out of your comfort zone. You will not make new friends cooped up in your house waiting for the next day to arrive. Join a group, get involved! I am currently involved in a church which gives me opportunities to meet people and enjoy other expat families.
  5. If you don't know ask! Yes this rule applies even in South Korea. There are always people ready and willing to help you with any question or problem you may have. Chances are there may even be a Facebook group with members living and working in the town you're in, and would be more than happy to share info.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog was originally set up to keep in contact with my family and friends back home, so they would know what we were up to. It makes it easier telling it one time (with pictures) instead of 10 times to different members of our families. As I have continued writing and photo journaling in the blog it has morphed into a site dedicated to my family but also to fellow expats! I share funny stories, crazy experiences, travel tips, AANND international online shopping websites that I've tested and have gotten A++ results.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
By commenting on my blog or sending me an email: aschweim{at}gmail{dot}com Or there's always Twitter! My username is: @inanotherlangua

Amanda blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Living in Another Language has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Amanda, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Gramma Schweim wrote 11 years ago:

Mandy does a exceptional job writing on her blogs. They are so enjoyable for us, family members to read. We know what they did, what they are going to do,keeps us updated to favorite foods etc. this is great! She is a excellent writer ......

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