The tides of working overseas

I’m back.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, but I’ve found the time and energy in midst of the chaos.

Relocating and shifting away from comfort is chaotic: both good and bad.
Everything falls onto your shoulders; when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, you’re all alone by yourself.

This is my 4th month living in Korea as an office worker– there are times where I absolutely love it and others where I truly wondered why I’m here.

So perhaps, I can share it you. If you’re facing the same struggles, I hope you find solace in my stories. If you’re confused, I hope you can get some answers from what I’ll be saying.

How it all started

I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2019 with a Criminology Degree. My grades were pretty good, but I was so conflicted and unmotivated– my hopes of being a cool detective and working in an precinct like Brooklyn 99 was utopic.

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I started off working as a freelance private tutor and I completely loved my job. But it wasn’t enough to pay my bills.

It was in August 2019 when I was offered a job in my internship company in Korea. It took me a while to make my decision but I eventually did and here I am.

The Journey….

Was definitely not easy. I had anxiety months before I traveled; my Asian parents were disapproving; I was dead terrified.

It wasn’t the fear of change,
It was the fear of losing comfort

But the day had to come– I packed my bags and went to the airport. Executing my plan was easy, but the planning was a huge struggle.

Trust me.

Getting on the plane was easy. Buying plane tickets wasn’t– can I afford it? what about my visa? have I packed enough?

Working in my office isn’t easy, but I can get by. But looking for a job isn’t–what if I can’t get a visa? what if I hate it?

As you’re flooded with your thoughts, you’ll already find yourself there

in your house, getting ready for work.
and before you know it,
You’re already at your office desk.

The HIGH

When it’s going great, working overseas is pretty euphoric. I’ve never learnt so much in such a short span of time.

As an Asian, I lived with my family all my life. I’m 24, but I’ve never lived alone for more than 3 months. I never knew how to pay my bills.

Freedom was extremely euphoric

It can either be your best weapon or your biggest downfall. I used to spend all my nights partying in Korea years ago and went for my internship hungover–that was what I considered as freedom.

But these days, I realized the ultimate freedom was walking out of your bathroom completely naked; no family members, no big windows= no peekers.

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Most importantly,

Satisfaction

When you take a moment during random parts of the day to feel thankful for your achievements, you’ll feel higher than the clouds.

Despite having troubles at my job, I was nevertheless satisfied with how much I’ve done and how much I’ve tried.

 

The LOWS

Within the first two months of working in Korea, I fell out with one of my closest friends. The problem about working overseas by yourself is that you become deluded with loneliness. And because of that, you start over-relying on people and placing unrealistic expectations on them. When you do that, you’ll start to realize that

Everyone, to some extent, is an a**hole.

We are all a**holes in someone’s life. None of us are that great.

Social norms can be frustrating

Adapting to social norms and getting confused if certain behaviors are social norms can be quite problematic too.
There are infamous work cultures in Korea that everyone knows about: long working hours (I don’t have that), the overemphasis on hierarchy (totally felt that), sexism and racism.
You may argue however you like, but these issues are so real and troubling.

As the saying goes: When in Rome, do what the Romans do

but what if you know it’s completely wrong?

And lastly,

Loneliness

Loneliness isn’t about having no one to talk to. Loneliness is when you don’t feel the comfort of being at home.

Home is emotional– you can find home in a person, in a place.

As a foreigner, you may meet a dozen people but never ever find home.
Or you may find home in other foreigners who share the same sentiments are you but at some point, one of you may leave.

 

Tips

I’ve done internships, backpacked and worked overseas for a couple of times. Every experience is different– just so you know.

So after scrapping the surface of working overseas, here are my tips:

  • Take your time
    • not saying that it’s definitely gonna suck, but you’ve to take your time to plan and know your options.
  • Everything is going to work out eventually
    • I was doing freelancing with a French company and the boss told me: just trust that if you want something enough, everything will fall into place.
      Law of attraction? Definitely (Maybe– if you don’t believe in it).
      Reap what you sow? Definitely.
  • Listen, But never take everyone’s experience as what’s going to happen to you
    • If you were to ask a Korean about their working experience, they’ll tell you a completely different answer.
      If you were to ask an ESL teacher about his/her working experience, they’ll give you a different one as compared to an office worker.
      I believe that everyone’s advice should be valued, but they should never be taken as a complete dummy’s guide to your own personal experience.
      147150700310_20160819
  • Study 
    • Studying and gaining knowledge about the process is not only helpful but also respectful. Studying about the visa application process makes things easier for everyone.
    • Trying your best to study their language is respectful. It’s cute making mistakes but knowing you’ve tried, but it’s annoying and obvious if you don’t give a shit.
      returnees-children-en
  • If you’re uncomfortable, something is definitely not right.
    • I came to realization recently that many people are confused about cultural norms. There are cultural norms that are mildly annoying, but not really offensive. While there are some cultural norms that pass off as cultural norms when actually people are just trying to take advantage of you.
    • Let me give you an example: 
      • An appropriate but annoying cultural norm in Korea: People like to stop in the middle of the road and have 0 sense of spatial awareness. Annoying, but not offensive at all.
      • An inappropriate a ‘cultural norm’ in Korea: Acquaintances in a professional setting/ study group/ sports group making you feel like you’ve been harassed.
        When I spoke to my Korean friends, I realized that it’s abnormal behavior. So, many foreigners who knew no better put up with it because they thought it was culturally appropriate when it truly isn’t.
        Annoying and offensive. no means no. 
    • Every culture has their own set of appropriate and inappropriate norms. Just because you’re a foreigner, it doesn’t mean that you should put up with things that you’re uncomfortable with. Turn it down respectfully or speak to someone about it.

 

 

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps and if you’ve any questions, do leave me a comment 🙂

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