The Expat Life

By Lindsay Nash

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

“What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I liked having goals.”

–David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

Finn and I always grab cookies after school at our neighborhood bakery.

Most days, at 12:30, I rush from daily lunch dates with Whit, to Finn’s preschool program to pick him up. I don’t have to go far–we have restaurants every 10 feet here in our neighborhood. And Finn’s school is just next to our high-rise. I rush to the door, ring the doorbell, and grab Finn’s shoes from the cubby just outside the door. He comes out with a big sneaky smile that brags about his day, dons his shoes, and then with his red backpack weighing down his shoulders, turns around and gives a full bow to his teacher.

Finn and one of his teachers at school

We’re out the door in a flash. He tells me what he had for lunch: rice, soup, seaweed. It’s always the same, but every day, I ask him. Sometimes he comes up with something different to tell me. We go to the bakery (again, about 20 steps down the road). Finn gets one cookie shaped like a pig, the other shaped like cow. Only two, I tell him. One. Two, he says, counting on his fingers. He gets to give the money to baker. He holds it out with the traditional Korean two hands, and then bows deeply after she gives him his loot.

Finn has adjusted wonderfully to his new life. He has a new best friend, Abigail (he calls her Dabi-dail, and I’m certain this is why she adores him), and they’re in class together at school. They play together in the afternoons after naps. Dabi-dail’s father is British, and his mother Chinese. Dabi-dail only speaks Mandarin, but seems to understand English. She and Finn are truly the best and closest of any two-year-olds I’ve ever known. It warms my heart.

 

Every Wednesday, we go to a Play Cafe, a wonderful place where moms sit and sip coffee, and toddlers run around to their hearts content. A train circles every hour, which they get to ride in, and there are enough toys to keep them busy for a lifetime. Last week, I took a video of Finn and Dabi-dail jumping on the trampoline there. “DO-YAK! DO-YAK!” they kept chanting to each other. I asked Jade, Dabi-dail’s mom, if it was Mandarin. Never heard it, she said. Later that night, I showed Whit the video. Wait a minute, he says, pulling out our trusty Korean dictionary.

“Doyak: Jump,” it states, plain as day. Finn and Abby are already speaking Korean, and Korean words that we don’t even know.

Whit is busy with his job. He teaches in the afternoons, and is usually home by dinner. He’s getting back into the swing of teaching and this week is already giving mid-terms. Wow, time is flying!

 

My new jogging stroller

 

Nice to see the husband in a tie again

Life as an expat is just as wonderful for me. There is something so special about an expat community, something I truly missed last year back at home. I haven’t been this busy with life and friends since my university days.

Every Tuesday evening I have yoga classes in my neighborhood. My new friend Shauna teaches them, and she’s truly an asset to our expat community. I’m learning to bend, stretch, and challenge myself in new ways, and it gives me an hour and a half of quiet meditation every Tuesday. I feel very lucky to have this quiet time to myself once a week.

I started a book club this month, and Monday night was our first meeting. I wasn’t sure who would show up–I only know a handful of people. But we had nearly 10 women, from all walks of life, to come and decide on our first book. Expats are interesting, like-minded people and conversation was easy and entertaining. I can already tell that these women are going to be some kind of special for me.

I work in the mornings until I pick Finn up from school, and any time I can squeeze in an hour or two in the afternoons and evenings. I am working for BikeToursDirect, a great company based out of Chattanooga, Tenn., that is connecting people to local bike tours all over the world. Just this month, my boss informed us he was going to give us 3 weeks of paid bike tours anywhere in the world every year. All expenses paid. (I’m currently planning a fall trip with a co-worker somewhere in Asia).

 

 

 

Next weekend, we’re moving to a bigger place after spending a couple months in a tiny one-bedroom. We’ve made it work fine, but we are really excited to move into this new place and make it our home. And lucky for us, it’s just in the building next door.

Life is busy and full for us here in Korea. I think it’s hard for some people to imagine us living over here, wondering what we do and how we get by. But it’s a wonderful place, with warm people and fiery food. We do feel challenged on a daily basis, and sometimes it is frustrating when you can’t just ask someone for exactly what you want. But there is something so nice about living in a culture very different from where you came from, and learning to accept it, and then embrace it, and then seeing your own life and world in a very different light.

5 thoughts on “The Expat Life

  1. Rebecca says:

    I feel much the same way. I was very distraught about the recent fuss in North Korea, not because I was really worried that something bad would happen, but because I didn't even like to THINK about having to go home! It's also nice to read about the experience of expats with children. My fiance and I don't have kids yet, but we'd like to someday, and probably in Korea. 🙂

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  2. Jessica says:

    Hi Lindsay, I just came upon your blog and I am hoping you can give me some advice. My husband and I were planning to come to Korea to teach in the fall. We just found out that I am pregnant, due the end of January. We would still really love to come to Korea. We are excited at the idea of him teaching and me coming along for the ride. We were planning on doing a home birth anyway, so the idea of giving birth in Korea doesn't seem like a big deal for us. Based on your experiences, what would you advise us to do?

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