Moving to a new country, especially one like South Korea, where the native language is not English, isn’t easy, nor is it for the faint of heart.
Uprooting and upheaval are part and parcel with any move, particularly when the country you’re going to is wholly unfamiliar.
Sheer excitement upon arriving in South Korea
The transition will invariably challenge you, test your nerve, patience and moxie like never before. You’ll go through stages, the first of which being sheer excitement.
My excitement, upon touching down in Seoul, reached fever pitch. Eyes agape, like a newborn seeing everything for the first time, I had a new lease on life. The sensation was palpable, a feeling you have to experience to fully understand.
The raw, natural high you feel upon commencing on a new adventure is like smoking your first cigarette. It is as powerful and addictive as it is fleeting.
A simple task becomes ever-more difficult
One of the first things we noticed is the difficulty with which the most simple of tasks are accomplished. Thinking we were adequately prepared for our first taxi encounter, we had the hotel’s address, name and phone number at the ready. The address, however, was written in English and having the hotel name was about as useful as watching Korean soap operas.
The taxi driver’s English was about as good as our Korean. We got lost several times. Irritatingly, he kept the meter running every time he pulled over for directions. There was no way to convey are growing frustration.
Elevated blood pressure and 13,000 won ($13) later, we arrived at our hotel only to be informed that we had travelled in a black cab, the rates of which are double that of other taxis. Maybe it was all part of an elaborate plan to con the westerners. If that’s the case, he deserves an Oscar.
Lesson learned. We hit the hay after two piping hot – both in spice and and temperature – kimchi jjigae (soups).
South Koreans’ patriotism
In the morning both of us, enamoured by Seoul’s sites and sounds, stared out of our respective windows during the brief taxi trip back to Seoul Station. Most noticeable was the abundance of Korean flags. They were draped across buildings, used as lanterns and displayed on every street.
Koreans wear their country’s pride for all to see, their devotion and patriotism as abundant as kimchi.
The power cut stage – self doubt
The euphoric feeling, for first-time travellers, can last for weeks, even months. Well-versed, experienced travellers on the other hand can expect a short surge before entering the second stage, which I refer to as the power cut.
If you’re anything like me – which is a scary thought – doubts will inevitably will creep in. You might be thinking, “Have I made the right decision? Is it too late to go home? What have I done”?
Rest assured, this momentary doubt is normal. Of course, that’s going on the assumption my thought patterns aren’t entirely abnormal. Don’t let the negative murmurs get the best of you. Stay on course and embrace the challenges that will be indiscriminately tossed your way every day.
You’ll grow stronger, more confident and comfortable with your new surroundings each day. And soon, you’ll find yourself using chopsticks as if you were South Korean in another life.