After 18 months living in Asia, I finally managed to schedule a trip visiting home this month. This job affords few holidays so I just haven’t had to time. After feeling a bit homesick, I decided to use one of my two weeks to spend some time with my friends and family in England.
HOW POLITE EVERYONE IS
This was sometime I noticed immediately after getting on the plane bound for Birmingham. A lady held the bathroom door open for me. This may not sound like much, but it blew me away. Korean’s are necessarily rude; they don’t tend to hold doors or overly apologise like the English. And it’s something I love.
Yes, we may say sorry when we don’t need to. But isn’t that better than never saying sorry or excuse me? I also had an incident with my car and the ice. I managed to get stuck. Every single person stopped to ask if we needed help. A man even walked down with a shovel. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of my community. My entire week was spent commenting on how nice everyone was. I think it annoyed my friends and family a bit…
UNDERSTANDING WHAT’S GOING ON
Okay, this is totally my own fault. I tried to learn Korean. I can read it and get by. But it’s a HARD language to learn. I speak decent French, and basic German and Spanish, so I not terrible at languages. Korean is on another level. There’s different sets of numbers, different ways to see hello depending on who is leaving and age, and random English words mixed in.
As a result, I rarely know what’s going on around me. Sometimes this can be fantastic. If I’m on a train or in public, it’s nice to be able to just focus on what I’m reading. In England, I find myself unwillingly eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. On the other hand, it was nice to feel conscious of what was going on and what people were asking me.
HAVING MORE THAN ONE ROOM
My apartment is free, so I feel like shouldn’t complain. For the most part it is fine. It has everything I need, it’s warm, and I can move around. But I do miss a house. Not even a house, just having more than the one room.
My bed smells of what I cook. I get out of bed and am in the kitchen. It’s just a bit much. And I spend hours trying to keep the floor clean.
Visiting home and going back to my mum’s house was a dream. There splendid floors with rooms designated for different purposes. It was amazing to sleep in a room that contained only a bed and wardrobe. I have learnt that I can live in a small space though.
When I considered moving to Seoul, the air quality didn’t even cross my mind. Pollution is a big issue here. Far bigger than lots of people realise. There are days when the Lotte Tower, which is 2km from my house, isn’t visible.
Generally, it doesn’t really bother me. It can be pretty intense during ‘Yellow Dust Season’ which is around April. The Koreans tell me it is ALL coming from China, but it’s generally accepted that Korean industry does it fair share to contribute.
It wasn’t until I moved back to rural Warwickshire that I realised how much I’d missed it. I went out into the countryside a few time and couldn’t believe how much better I felt. My lungs instantly felt happier and I had more energy. As somebody who always tries to be healthy, this is one of the reasons I want to move back home.
GLUTEN FREE IS A THING
Korea is not known for being overly health-conscious when it comes to food. Kimchi does promote long life, but it is also high in salt. They number of smokers here is also pretty high. This is one of the things I have struggled with most here.
Koreans don’t really accept Celiac or gluten intolerance as a real thing (I am speaking generally and from my experience here, not for the whole country!) I even went to see two doctors with allergy symptoms and was laughed at when I said gluten has always caused me problems. Therefore, loads of things are bread or gluten based here. I struggle to eat out here, and am often forced to eat at home or order online.
Going back the UK was HEAVEN. Every menu has GF symbols and at least one option. I went into Nero for a coffee and half the cakes were GF. It was glorious to be able to choose from a selection again. Don’t get me started on the Free From aisle in Tesco….
EVERYTHING BEING CLOSE
Seoul is a megacity. Its sheer size continues to astound me. I often embark on trips across Seoul on a Saturday that are almost 2 hours one way. This has now become the norm for me.
Visiting home I remember what it’s like to live in small town. I can walk anywhere within an hour (if I’m walking speedily!). It takes me an hour to walk to the river here. Being back home I also have access to a car, which makes everything different.
The real difference is that it made me more social. Being able to travel for 10 minutes to meet someone for a quick drink is far more appealing that travelling for over an hour. While the options are often more limited, I would take the smaller town any day!
This list is incredibly positive, and on the whole I enjoyed visiting home. I felt far more at home and it has motivated my move home in February. There were several things I disliked about England, especially seeing it with fresh eyes, but I will save that for a different post!