The thing about Korea is that I have met so many people who I never would otherwise. I don’t just mean because geographically, I wouldn’t have been able to meet them, but also that in the normal course of affairs I might not have become friends with these people. Making friends after university seems a far harder and more involving process. In Scotland, I had my work pals, but not as many friends I would spend my spare time with. Vancouver, I hardly knew anyone. Here in Korea, the influence of being in a small, expat community in a non-English speaking country seems to have expanded my outside-of-work social circle dramatically. I have met people in all sorts of random ways too (in bathrooms at bars, through random acquaintances, while wearing their underwear, at birthday parties for people I didn’t even know) and people who I might not have naturally gravitated towards back home.
Oddly, I suspect I am known as something of a social butterfly here. I know a lot of people and very much enjoy chilling and wandering around and chatting with all of them on the weekends. Which is weird for someone who had very small social circles all through university and for those years in Edinburgh after. I am also the known party girl amongst my coworkers, again amusing as I was certainly not a partier like this in university or in Scotland or Vancouver. In Vancouver, I could count on one hand the number of nights out I had. Funny that. I love the social lifestyle, but I admit to still having my hermit tendencies – without my solitude during the week, I’d not be able to handle all those people and all that activity.
Working amongst such a small group of people, and one that changes and morphs with each contract ended and new contract started, is quite an experience too. The dynamics and relationships in such small groups are fascinating and sometimes frustrating. I have quite a preoccupation with the motives and hidden intents of everyone I interact with (no doubt why I am so fond of reading novels) which makes all this mini-environment-ness of living in Korea so interesting to me. (I have a shocking habit for making up my own words, no doubt unsuitable to my profession as an English teacher.)
And interacting so closely with people in the American military has been an experience. It has shattered some of my stereotypes and no doubt led me to build others. However, it has been an interesting change of perspective and led me to learn a great number of things I knew nothing about previously. And I suppose that is the mark of any interesting interaction, really, that you learn and occasionally embrace new things. And of course, there is the insight and frustration that comes from living in Korean society. Frustrating when it comes to dealing with my Korean boss, insightful when talking to people my own age and my students. And who knew I was going to learn so much about Nigerian society by coming here? But there you are. Life in Korea has certainly never been boring.