American Expat Living in South Korea - Interview with Alison

Published: 11 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Alison and her partner in crime, Kenny, are currently living in South Korea. They met while teaching at an elementary school back in the U.S. and took their love of education and traveling abroad. These days, you can generally find Alison exploring and hiking outdoors. She also loves to cook (it's been an interesting experience so far in Korea), read (thank goodness for e-readers) and stay in touch with her family and friends back home (iMessage and KakaoTalk are wonderful inventions). Alison is really enjoying all that comes with expat life so far - both the ups and the downs! Alison's expat blog is called a k wanderlusts - our adventures abroad (see listing here)

Trekking through Ba Be National Park, Vietnam
Trekking through Ba Be National Park, Vietnam

Here's the interview with Alison...

Where are you originally from?
The beautiful Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Washington, USA.

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

How long have you lived in South Korea and how long are you planning to stay?
Our year contract began in November 2013. However, we're fairly certain we'll stay another year, so that means we will probalby take off in November 2015.

Braving the rain at a college football game in Seattle
Braving the rain at a college football game in Seattle
Why did you move to South Korea and what do you do?
Kenny and I both really enjoyed teaching in the U.S. However, we both had a strong desire to take our teaching abroad. So, after a great deal of research, we decided South Korea seemed like a fantastic option for us. The English teaching jobs here allow us to maintain similar lifestyles as we did in the states.

Did you bring family with you?
Just us two.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Fairly easy, thanks to a few people. For one, I found a girl's blog who lived in Yeosu before we moved. I contacted her and she gave me some great advice. Once we finally moved here, her and her husband were so helpful in showing us the ropes around town. Also, I felt it was so nice coming over with Kenny, because we could share all of our experiences together, both positive and negative.

That's not to say there aren't some rough days! The adjustment was smooth, but there have been some moments where I really miss the comforts from back home.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
In addition to our friends we met on the blog, we also went through orientation with a couple of expats who ended up living in Yeosu too. Once we arrived in Yeosu, we started meeting our friends' friends. Our local expat community just started to organize weekly events, so that will be a great way to continue to socialize with other expats. It can get lonely sometimes, so it's really important to make sure you fit in "social time" during the week.

Jumping around in the Trang Islands, Thailand
Jumping around in the Trang Islands, Thailand
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Yeosu is beautiful! We are right along the sea and surrounded by mountains. My favorite activity is to pack a lunch, head to a mountain, find a trailhead, climb it and enjoy your meal at the top.

What do you enjoy most about living in Korea South?
The physical beauty of the country. We really loved being close to the water and mountains in Seattle, so we feel so grateful to have moved to a place that is very similar.

How does the cost of living in Korea South compare to home?
It depends. Some food and clothing can be more expensive here than back home. However, there are times when you go to the market and you walk away saying, "What a great deal!" There are definitely things that are much cheaper here. Some examples are health care and car maintenance. Overall, the cost of living works out to be very similar between here and the U.S.

Plunging into the sea in Boracay, Philippines
Plunging into the sea in Boracay, Philippines
What negatives, if any, are there to living in South Korea?
Expat life can sometimes be isolating if you aren't putting in effort. Also, it can be hard to communicate with locals if you don't know much Korean, which can lead to some frustration.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to South Korea, what would it be?
Leave your expectations at home! If you arrive with an open mind, you will be much more flexible and therefore probably enjoy your time here a great deal more.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being away from family and friends. Luckily there are so many ways to communicate these days. However, nothing can compare to good old-fashioned face-to-face interactions.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
First things first - I will go eat American, Mexican, Thai, Italian, Vietnamese food immediately. Then, I will have to adjust to understanding conversations around me. My brain often tunes out when people are speaking Korean (unless I make a concerted effort to try to comprehend), so I am sure I will be overwhelmed when I can suddenly understand everything being said around me!

Island hopping in El Nido, Philippines
Island hopping in El Nido, Philippines
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Make sure to pack photos, letters, posters, etc. You will be really grateful to have some decorations when you first arrive at your new home. Everything will feel much more cozy!
  2. Make a big effort to stay in touch with people back home. During those times of frustration and loneliness, those people will be your lifeline!
  3. Get out and explore your new city/town. The more you explore, the faster you'll become familiar with your new environment.
  4. Embrace the "bad days". They are going to happen. It's part of the whole expat process. Just know that you are learning something from that not-so-good experience.
  5. Be brave and try the local food! You can learn a lot about a culture from what the people eat. Plus, you can give your family and friends advice when they want to go to a restaurant that specializes in your new home's cuisine.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
We write about our adventures teaching and exploring different places in Korea. We also have various posts on our travels in other countries. Stop by and let us know you visited!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
We have a "contact" section on our blog, so feel free to drop us a note. We'd love to hear from you!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAlison is an American expat living in Korea South. Blog description: our adventures abroad in south korea and wherever else the world takes us (by Alison Pirtle)
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