It’s first week here and whilst we await for our ‘permanent’ home to be ready (hopefully for this weekend), I’ve got a little more time on my hands to wander and observe. I’m under no illusion that my current euphoric state will crash and burn at some stage in the next few weeks or months. I’ve been warned about the swings and roundabouts of expat life, but I guess we’re all prone to low points irrespective of where we are.
In case you may be interested, these are my top ten ‘best things’ of Korea so far:
- EXPAT COMMUNITY; the next time you wonder why all the Asians/Poms/Africans (insert any other nationality) move to Australia and then congregate only with each other, there is damn good reason. These people are your tribe, they understand your language – oral, body and cultural. It’s why the expat community here is so strong. We’ve been welcomed with open arms and everyone shares – the minute you learn where Greek yogurt or sour cream (or God forbid, chicken stock) can be purchased, you shout it across the island!
- SOCIAL LIFE; And just to demonstrate my point, our phone just rang and it was Audrey looking for Trudy (apparently, Trudy used to live in our apartment). Audrey and I got chatting and worked out we literally live across from one another and should do coffee. She’s from Mindarie, has been here a year and her husband also works for Inpex. We then learned we’ll be at the same lunch tomorrow for 40 women – champagne cocktails start at 11.30am. I mean, really…..what’s not to love?!
- FACEBOOK; okay, I get it has nothing to with Korea but has everything to do with help and connecting. It’s been a lifeline for every expat here. I was in bed at 10pm on Saturday night and got a message from a colleague I worked with for many years at BHP Billiton. We were both gobsmacked to learn we were each here. Oh, and I’ll see her at lunch tomorrow too.
- HAZARD LIGHTS; let’s remember my next big task is driving (they’re opposite to us). My driving lesson is on Tuesday and then we get a car. It’s like ripping the band aid off, I know I have to do it and quickly, otherwise I will lose my nerve. That said, I am completely at ease knowing that whenever you need to stop – for any reason at all – apparently you can just do so and put your hazard lights on. This applies to buses on bridges, cars in the middle of the street, any ‘ol reason. Yeeha!
- PATTISERIES AND BAKERIES; no one can explain to me why there are literally 3-5 of these in a 100m radius. In our street alone, we have Luxe Boulanger, Tous des Jours and Paris Baguette. It only seemed fair that I try all and have settled on the latter as our favourite. I do a bagel run for Rob every day (apparently it’s part of my duties as an expat wife).
- THE ISLAND; surprisingly beautiful. The coastline and mountains are stunning. As you drive the coastal route, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe – many of the houses have a European feel. And then you hit the city areas and it’s like someone went nuts with Lego – as one apartment building after another rises through the valleys. I would recommend however that you Google the ‘Goeje Island to Busan’ bridge. It’s a work of art. Lots of fabulous cafes and restaurants too.
- THE APARTMENTS; are brilliant. They have all the mod cons including underfloor heating and heated toilet seats (very nice for the middle-of-the-night tinkle). We’re in a temporary apartment now and then move to something even nicer in the next week. All apartments only ever have floor boards because summer apparently is so hot and humid and carpet can go mouldy. They all feature beautiful gardens and always have a 24 hour deli (which is highly problematic when each night the conversation goes, ‘do you want me to run down to the shop and get a chocolate’?)
- THE SHIPYARDS; I must have missed my calling somewhere along the line because nothing excites me more (except for maybe the French patisseries) than seeing the shipyards. Some would argue they are a blight on the landscape but I could sit and watch those massive structures all day. I can’t wait to tour Rob’s yard which is apparently bigger than the other but is not entirely visible from our town.
- THE PEOPLE; for the first few days, I was sure they thought I was royalty of some kind. I’ve never been bowed to so often. As it works out, that’s how it is done here – little handshaking, lots of bowing. They are very honest people too. There are stories of guys leaving their wallets in cabs and the cab driver turning up the next day to return it. Nice to know for the next time I’m drunk in a cab and do same.
- THE LANGUAGE; actually, it’s not a favourite but I’m trying to be positive. Do you know how hard it is to try and work out what everything is at the supermarket (and even if you do, you can’t follow the bloody instructions to cook it anyway)? Similarly, trying to use the appliances is a ‘push and pray’ approach – we just push every button until something works. Today, I went to the supermarket and bought five items which took me 90 minutes to find. And let’s not get started on the cost of beef. One 250g steak will set you back $15. That said, you can get most things you need but typically have to source it from a range of areas. We now know we can buy from G Mart in Seoul (which sells a lot of international foods) and it will be delivered to our door within 24 hours. And appparently Costco in Busan will supply most of our needs. I may have to apologise in advance about how excited I may be to find good ‘ol Aussie sausages (we’ve been known to track down the best pork pie maker in France so I’m sure I can do the same for a sausage).
So there is a little taste of Korea. I’m not sure what I actually expected before I came. I’m not sure I had any expectations and maybe that is why I’ve loved it so much so early. Every night we’ve been here, Rob and I sit on the couch, look at each other and say ‘Holy shit, we’re in Korea!’ It’s only appropriate then that we have the Lord’s Prayer printed on our living room window 😉