Operation Expat, Over and Out

As we all now prepare to leave South Korea and expat life, three of Geoje’s recent residents share their experience of ‘going home’.

LEAH GILL

My name is Leah and my husband, Clarke and I lived in South Korea for just over three years, firstly in Ulsan and then on Geoje Island.  We had our first child, Piper, now two, whilst living on Geoje.  In mid-2016, we returned to Australia where Clarke works on an oil and gas project in Darwin.

gill-family

Aside from family and friends, what were the three things you couldn’t wait to have again in your home country?

Because we didn’t move back to Perth, but moved to Darwin on another project, I’m still missing my friends and family a lot, but to be in an English speaking country again, with easy access to shops, medical/health and sporting immunities at our finger tips has been quite the blessing!

What have you found most pleasantly surprising about returning? 

Not that we can swim up here in the NT, but having access to beautiful clean beaches, lakes and parks is nothing short of magical…..I certainly don’t miss wading in the murky waters of Deokpo beach!!!

What have you found most challenging or frustrating? 

As mentioned, we didn’t move back to Perth when we left Korea, so not being around my family and friends has been hard for me. I’ve been lucky enough to visit them since our return, but nothing beats falling back into your “old life”. For me it feels like we’ve just moved on to another project, where you have to start all over again!! I guess I do feel a bit lonely here, but life throws these challenges at us from time to time, so I guess I just have to pick myself up, and get myself out there again!!

Do you miss Korea at all?  If so, what do you miss most about Korea?   

I absolutely miss it!! There were always going to be parts of Korea that you never really understand or like, and being so far from home was hard, but right before our abrupt departure, I was in a really happy place. I had a great bunch of friends, my daughter and I were always busy doing things with her pals, we got to travel around the world, my husband was home every night and I felt the most content I had been since moving there in 2013.  Perhaps it was our sudden leaving that left a little hole in my heart, and not being able to say goodbye to everyone properly was even harder. But such is the life of expat families in the oil and gas industry…. I know that eventually everyone we ever met will return home too, but for a fleeting moment, this was our lives and it felt so right, and we were so happy!! I’ll always miss that sense of close knit community and involvement. Everyone seemed just that little bit closer. I guess you could say it was like having a second family.

What insights or advice would you have for those of us still to return? 

I think the hardest transition will be adjusting back to “normal” life. We lived in such a bubble in Korea, that you forget that the rest of the world turns and everyone else’s lives still go on. You don’t realise how easy it is to socialise and catch up with your Korean expat mates, that fitting back into the lives of those closest to you can be tricky. Not everyone is up the road, and nor are they always available. I know like most things, it’ll take time, but it’s always going to be hard coming out of the “Korean bubble”!

AUDREY WILLIAMS

My name is Audrey. My husband, Andrew and I travelled to Korea after a short stay in our home town Perth, Australia.  Prior to going home, Texas was home for almost a year.  Circumstances forced us to return but with itchy feet we once again explored the ‘expat’ life.  Between us we have six children, three were permanently home in Perth, whilst three lived a footballer’s life in the UK. So we were pretty well torn between them.

The children: Andrew 34, Nikki 32, Rhys 28, Abby 25 and twin boys Ryan and Aryn 22. The grandchildren had arrived along our travels and finally the decision was made to return to Perth.  The fact that my parents were unwell had also forced my hand.

Intentionally it was always me coming home after three and a half years in beautiful Geoje whilst Andrew continued until his job had finished.  As it happens, we both left together.

It was heartbreaking leaving such a beautiful country and such amazing friends. Geoje itself is such an amazing place – the culture, the traditions, the people. It was an adventure I will truly remember as some of the best times of my life.

williams-family

Aside from family and friends, what were the three things you couldn’t wait to have again in your home country?

The answer to this is – the variety of supermarkets and food available.  Besides that, I can’t really think of anything else because I just loved living there.

What have you found most pleasantly surprising about returning?

Nothing really.

What have you found most challenging or frustrating?

Most challenging:  getting back to the Perth routine.  I didn’t work for quite a few months and found it very lonely as everyone else was working so finding things to keep me busy.

Do you miss Korea at all?  If so, what do you miss most about Korea?   

I do miss Korea terribly, mainly I would say the people I met, who became my extended family.  I miss the ability to do so many scenic walks, so local to me. I miss everything really.

What insights or advice would you have for those of us still to return?

Enjoy your time and make the most of that beautiful country.  Life certainly has slowed down for me since I’ve been back.

LISA COOK

My name is Lisa and before coming to Korea my family were in Malaysia for seven months, before that we lived in the same home for 11 years in Perth WA.  Along for the adventure of a lifetime were our three children, Jordan, 18, Chelsea, 15 and Jack, 12. Simon and I had always wanted to take on an expat gig and jumped at the chance, the kids not so much. They were all at a complicated age and found it difficult to leave their friends behind. Still adventure was on the agenda and that is exactly what we got. We managed to see some amazing sights all over the world and our kids have become seasoned travellers in such a short time. Whether it was a school trip to Langkawi, playing soccer in the Dana cup in Norway or simply a girl’s trip to the UK and Rome to celebrate Chelsea turning 18, lots and lots of holidays and adventures, too many to mention.

Our kids have learnt to wakeboard, snowboard, ski, converse with people in non-English speaking countries, found their way around undergrounds but best of all it has taught them humility and compassion for other nationalities.  Our journey came to an end in January 2016 as we needed to return to Australia for Chelsea to attend University.  Jordan was also already living back in Perth as he returned two and a half years before us, and I as their mother needed all my children under one roof again. Sadly, as the job is still not finished my husband needed to stay on, taking on an 8 & 2 roster which is pretty tough on all of us. Still nothing is forever.

cook-family

Aside from family and friends, what were the three things you couldn’t wait to have again in your home country?

Aside from family and friends, I could not wait for the feel of my own bed, (Korean beds are notoriously hard and mine at home is incredibly soft, pure bliss to be back in my own bed).

I could not wait to do a full shop in a supermarket with everything I need in it, It’s funny how annoyed I can get now if what I want is out of stock and I have to travel to another store!!! Heaven forbid.

A third thing is a bit hard to put my finger on but at a push I guess, being able to go clothing shopping again and find something in my size.

What have you found most pleasantly surprising about returning?

The thing I find most pleasantly surprising is how quickly you settle back in to how life was before, I have a friend who had experienced life as an expat before and she had forewarned me that settling back could be difficult. I think having my children around me helped with settling back into our Aussie way of life.

What have you found most challenging or frustrating?

I’m not sure I find anything too challenging or frustrating, but people’s anger on the road and refusal to merge always reminds me I am no longer overseas. I sometimes struggle with social media and it is difficult sometimes to see our friends or my husband still over there having a great time (some would even call it FOMO!!!!).

Do you miss Korea at all?  If so, what do you miss most about Korea?   

I miss Korea and the lifestyle we had, a lot – and if the opportunity arises again in our lifetime and our children are off our hands, I really think I would do it all over again. I miss the wonderful people we met over there, other expats and the locals we made friends with. Some people don’t think so but Korean BBQ** is awesome and try as I do, I struggle to make it as good myself at home. The scenery in Korea is magnificent and I will always have a feeling in my gut, we could have seen and done more.

**This is clearly a jibe at this Blog’s writer surely 😉

What insights or advice would you have for those of us still to return?

I’m not sure if my advice on returning will help as others may not share my experiences. I have found that surprisingly little has altered while I have been away, very few people want to hear about your adventure so you do have to master the art of knowing when to and when not to mention some of the awesome things you have been lucky enough to do. Brace yourselves – if you totally embraced and loved your time abroad, be prepared to mourn that time a little. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, but I was lucky and I met some wonderful people I am able to call friend and knowing that you will share good times and a vino or two with them again helps.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s