British Expat Living in South Korea, Interview With Lily La

Draft: 16 Dec at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Lily La, a travel writer and teacher. She moved away from her home city of London 6 months after graduating with a BA in English Language and Journalism, to pursuit teaching and freelance travel writing. Lily now lives in South Korea, where she teaches a cheeky bunch of kindergartners, and writes in her spare time. She shares her travel stories and photography via her blog, Away with Lily Lily La's expat blog is called Away with Lily - World Wanders (see listing here)

Meet Lily La - British Expat living in South Korea
Meet Lily La - British Expat living in South Korea

Here's the interview with Lily La...

Where are you originally from?
London, England, United Kingdom

In which country and city are you living now?
Geoje Island, South Korea (Second largest island after Jeju!)

How long have you lived in South Korea and how long are you planning to stay?
I have now been here for almost 10 months (time flies!), I plan to stay one year.

Why did you move to South Korea and what do you do?
I moved here because I was offered a teaching job, something I've always wanted to do. I didn't really think about moving to South Korea until I was unexpected offered the job.

Did you bring family with you?
Sometimes I wish I did, even just my dog but I didn't. I came here alone.

Myeongsa Beach, Geoje
Myeongsa Beach, Geoje
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
My first month was probably the hardest, purely because I was so used to having my family and friends around me from when I wake up in the morning, to when I go to bed at night. Suddenly, I was waking up alone, to a silent apartment. I missed my mothers cooking, British food, my local pub. Luckily, I met some great people and settled into my job well, which helped with the transition.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
On Geoje, there's a huge foreign population because of the sheer amount of teachers and the workers from the huge shipbuilding on the island. It's the second largest island of Korea, but the community is very small – most teachers know each other, or have heard of each other and their schools. As we have such a huge foreigner population and a small community, we have lots of groups that cater to that. I started taking Korean lessons and met some great expats here. There's also sports teams and church etc, that are a great way to meet people. I try to socialise with both expats and locals – makes life a lot more interesting.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Hiking, and beach. The spring and summer here is probably the best. I loved hiking Mt. Daegumsan in the spring because the views are so great, and the fields of azaleas are stunning. It's also not scorching hot like it is in the summers here, so you don't feel like you're gonna faint! I live on an island, so I'm lucky to have beaches and sea view everywhere I go. During the summer, many expats did weekly weekend BBQ and volleyball on Gujora Beach which is great. My favourite beaches are Hakdong, which is a pebble beach, and Myeongsa which is located in the more rural south of the island.

View of the islands from Mt. Daegumsan, Geoje - South Korea
View of the islands from Mt. Daegumsan, Geoje - South Korea
What do you enjoy most about living in South Korea?
The beach views and the rural countrysides. I wanted to be in the countryside, away from the city, and I got it. I love the peace, quiet and fresh air.

How does the cost of living in South Korea compare to the UK?
Geoje can be pretty pricey compared to the rest of Korea because of the amount of wealthy families (mainly from the shipbuilding). But the pay is good, and the cost of living is VERY low compared to my home city of London.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Transportation. Getting on and off the island. We have no trains, which can be a good and bad thing. We have one bus terminal which can get you around Korea eaily, but bus tickets to certain places run out quickly. Bus tickets to Seoul for example, can be booked a week in advance and sell out super fast. We have a bridge that connects the island to Busan now, and bus tickets to get there are regular, but on countless occassions, bus tickets from Busan back to Geoje are sold out, and there's no other way to get back but take a taxi, which is pretty pricey.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be? Embrace it. It will be your home for (I'm assuming) at least a year. Eat the local foods, talk to local people, and learn about the culture. It will make life a lot easier, and make you a lot happier! When I first arrived, I wasn't (and still not) a fan of Korean food, but the more I threw a strop and refused to eat it, the more I was making myself unhappy. I just decided to eat it, eat the lunch school provided me with, and found it growing on me, with little bits and bobs I even like.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Missing my family, friends and dog. I skype them all on a regular (yes, that includes my dog, Lucky). It's hardest on special occassions, New Years, Christmas, birthdays. I just want to hug them and sit around the dinner table cracking jokes with them sometimes, instead of eating dinner alone at home after work. Also, when you're sick and living alone, away from family can be very hard.

Embracing the local food
Embracing the local food
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Amazingly! I already have a huge list of things I want to do and see. I want to go back to my local pub, stuff myself with shepards pie, fish and chips and top every meal I have with gravy. Being away from home for one whole year has made me appreciate everything about it.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Socalise with locals and other expats
  2. Learn a few basics in the language; numbers, directions
  3. Explore the country and city
  4. Stay positive
  5. Embrace both the good and the bad

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I tell stories on what I get up to, details of what I see and do, on my travels. I travel a lot. I used to travel Korea every weekend so I've seen a lot of the country. I write stories and take photographs to go with it. I post about my favourite places, advice, and food.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog (see link below) where I have a contact form, or my facebook/twitter page.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLily La is a British expat living in Korea South. Blog description: I'm Lily, a Londoner, currently living in Geoje, an island in South Korea. When I'm not teaching my cheeky bunch of kindergartners, I travel, I photograph I write. Welcome to my adventure!
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