Belgian Expat Living in Korea South - Interview with Marie

Published: 10 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Marie is the blogger behind Be Marie Korea. She is 24 years old, living in the capital of Korea. Now she is working as a freelance designer and writer. Marie's expat blog is called Be Marie Korea (see listing here)

Busan Cultural Village
Busan Cultural Village

Here's the interview with Marie...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from a small city in Belgium called Ypres. The first time I moved abroad was to England while doing my bachelor degree. 5 years later I moved to Korea.

In which country and city are you living now?
Since 3 months I have been living in Seoul, South Korea. Before were were living in a smaller countryside city in the South called Gyeongju.

How long have you lived in South Korea and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived in Korea for 1 year. I am loving Seoul, so would love to stay here for at least a couple of years.

My Korean Wedding ~ Traditional Clothing
My Korean Wedding ~ Traditional Clothing
Why did you move to South Korea and what do you do?
I moved to Korea to be together with my 'now' husband that I met 3 years before while backpacking through Korea. I came here first to get to know the country better and to spend some time with my parents-in-law.

Did you bring family with you?
No, I moved to Korea by myself to live with my husband. So I wasn't alone when I got here.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The first months of my life in Korea were the most difficult. First of all I moved from London, a world city, to Gyeongju, a small country city with almost nothing to do. So adapting to this new life style and environment was almost impossible for me. The only job options I had here were teaching, which I liked, but it wasn't my passion. I'm a designer, in heart and soul. Take that away from me and you'll take away a part of my happiness. We only lived in Gyeongju for 5 months, as we decided together it would be better for me and us to live and work in the capital Seoul.

The second thing I struggled with was the food. My Belgian stomach was totally not prepared for this spiciness; on top of that I was a vegetarian. If you know a little about the Korean cuisine you will know it is very hard to find food that isn't spicy and doesn't have any meat in it. Especially in Gyeongju, a city with only a few foreigners and a couple of foreign food restaurants. I had stomach problems almost every single day! Even ended up in the hospital a couple of times as I couldn't stop throwing up. Not the most pleasant experience in my life.

The last thing that was a bit of a barrier were my new parents-in-law. They tried, but I'm not Korean; and at that time I didn't know the customs, the language, the social standards, etc. They really wanted me to behave like a Korean, which I understand as they didn't have that much experience with foreigners, but I couldn't meet their expectations and we couldn't communicate.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
There were quite a few foreigners in Gyeongju, but it was really hard to find them and get in their friend group. In Gyeongju, most people stay there for a year to teach English and then move to a bigger city or back home. So people who were living there more long-term weren't really interested in expanding their friend group to the short-term newbies; and I don't blame them, it's hard to constantly say goodbye as an expat.

Now in Seoul it is so much easier to make friends as the expat community is so much bigger. Most of my friends are fellow expats as communication is so much easier than with Koreans.

Korean Wedding Ceremony
Korean Wedding Ceremony
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In Seoul there are so many different things to do. It's a great city to live in for expats. Nowadays the Korean government is trying really hard to promote tourism by organizing free trips and events.

What do you enjoy most about living in Korea South?
I really enjoy my work, working as a freelancer can be challenging but also very rewarding.

Another thing I love about living in Korea, is the travel opportunities there are for foreigners. There are many free culture classes and free trips all over the country.

How does the cost of living in Korea South compare to home?
Compared to London, Seoul is extremely cheap. More affordable housing and food. It's not even comparable.

The cost of living is rather similar to that in Belgium. Transport, housing, food have very similar prices.

Andong Mask Festival
Andong Mask Festival
What negatives, if any, are there to living in South Korea?
I'm not really a negative person, so there is nothing that stands out as being a problem or negative. Of course there are some difficulties, but that would be the same in every country you are living in.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to South Korea, what would it be?
Learn the language! Get to know the culture! You can get around without but it would be so much easier and locals will treat you nicer if you try to communicate with them.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Saying goodbye is really hard when being an expat. Friends come and go so much faster that they would at home. As all your friends are also foreign expats that eventually go back home or to the next country.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don't think I will be moving back to Belgium any time soon. When I'm going home to visit I always feel like I don't belong anymore. It's weird to explain, but I feel like a foreigner in my own country.

Namsan Mountain Hike
Namsan Mountain Hike
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be independent; when moving to a new country you will not know anyone, or have no friends to help you out. Be prepared for having to figure things out by yourself, without the support of friends or family.
  2. Do research. Get to know the country and city your are moving to. Read about it, connect to Facebook groups and even try to contact some people living there to find out about meet-ups or activities.
  3. Don't be negative. Of course there will be hard times, when you have problems, can't get easy things done, are home sick, things are not working out the way you expected. Don't get hung up on this, just stay positive and move on.
  4. Take this opportunity with both hands! It's a unique chance to have the full cultural experience of the country you are moving to. Travel around, join cultural activities, learn the language. Your time will be so much more rewarding if you really engage with the country.
  5. Learn the language! Try to learn at least the basics, especially when you are moving to a smaller city where people don't speak English. It will be so much easier to get things done, like go to the supermarket, take the bus or taxi, get a phone plan, go to the doctor, etc.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is focused towards foreigners living or travelling in Korea. The aim is to provide information and inspire people to visit different places on the Korean Peninsula.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
[email protected]

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMarie is a Belgian expat living in Korea South. Blog description: Marie is blogging out travelling and living in Korea.
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