Thanks to Nancy and her request, I want to write a little bit on how we LIVE here in Seoul. How do we live with all the cultural differences and deal with the seeming inconveniences of expat life? How are we able to live far away from family and what we are familiar with? How do we keep perspective of our future while we have to focus on living day-to-day? We have been here in Korea for over 5 months now with another year left, plus the prospect of staying yet another year. We have little to offer in wisdom, just what has worked well for our family. So take what you will, and if you have any more wisdom to add, please do so—we are VERY curious to hear. [hint…to all the people out there who have had to live abroad for a long time like my dad, 엄마, all those in Daniel’s family, friends, and other readers here in Korea, I am talking about you!]

To start off, this is a very broad topic. There are a million things we could talk about such as how we eat, or how we travel, or how we communicate with family. Way to many things to deal with in just one post. We’ll try and address those things in later posts. For this post, though, I want to talk about something that I believe to be the most important thing when living out of your comfort zone; a little thing called attitude.

What got me thinking about this, was a story a friend of mine told me just a couple weeks ago as we went shopping at Costco. Her mother ran an English school south of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do province. She hired a couple that was from a small town either in the States or Canada or something….I forget the details. Anyway, after a few weeks the wife called my friend and told her that she, the wife, couldn’t take living here anymore. The lifestyle and culture was so different that they felt it was better that they went back home. So, not too long after that, they left Korea. Now, I don’t know all the details of their situation (it could have been really bad or something) but, from what my friend had noticed, the couple just couldn’t adapt. Things were too different. Too hard. I am also not trying to say that they just had a bad attitude, but it did get me to thinking of what a person has to have and develop to live in a place that is different. That thing is a positive attitude. I heard this from somewhere, probably a movie, but a tree that is too stiff and can’t bend will surely be broken by the strong wind (or swift currents of the river). But, if the tree is willing to bend and it can move with the storm, then it will survive. Living in a different culture is like that strong wind or strong river and if you keep insisting that things need to be just as it is in your own culture, then you will break. But, you don’t have to be a wash-out either. You should hang on to those things in your own culture that you value most. But, be patient, tolerant, forgiving, understanding, and willing to learn. That is what having a positive attitude is all about.

Daniel and I have tried really hard to harbor this attribute daily in our lives. Even though I am half Korean and have grown up with some knowledge of Korean culture, it was a culture shock actually living here. Apparently growing up with a Korean mom and visiting Korea a couple times wasn’t enough to prepare me for what I have encountered (and will encounter) here. So far I have met with many things that I love and also with things that I don’t agree with. I could choose to focus on the bad, and complain a lot….however, I choose to see the good and hope that I can be an example and maybe even do something about the bad that is here. Living in a foreign country reminds us daily that we don’t know everything and that we don’t have all the answers. It is truly a humbling thing.

Anyway, I think that a positive attitude is one of the essential things that you need to develop in order to live well in a foreign country.