First post from my Seoul apartment

A lot has happened since i got here on the 25th—some good, more bad.  There are so many things i have trouble with when it comes to Korean culture, and i’ve already been a victim of them for the past four days.  That’s the thing:  it might just be the “culture,” but when it’s something you are so unfamiliar with, it feels like a threat.  Anything unfamiliar is a threat when encountered against your will.

If i had to pick the one thing that is making me most miserable right now, i would have to say that it’s the complete disregard for privacy.  I think i’m always so tense and tired because i know there are people monitoring me from every corner, trying to find out everything possible about me.  The administration office manager, who lives across the street from me, asked me the other day why i wasn’t home at night.  My lights were off, she said.  It was quite a nasty shock, but at least she had the decency to let me know that she can see my window.  One of the English teachers who picked me up on the day i arrived here with the other Native English Teachers has been taking care of me and helping me sort out administrative details like getting my Alien Registration Card and finding office supplies for me.  I have nothing to do with her—she’s a 3rd grade teacher and i don’t teach any 3rd graders—but she’s over 50, unmarried, lives close to me, and has nothing better to do.  Sometimes i’m touched by all the things she voluntarily does to help me get settled in, but other times, i can’t help but suspect that she only does it to get information out of me.  Every little thing i tell her, even the most mundane details, spreads through the entire school like celebrity gossip.  Lunchtime is basically catching up on everything that the entire staff found out about me the day before.  Gossip here is such a threatening invasion of your privacy, and not only do i feel uncomfortable being dissected and broadcast that way, i don’t like having to partake in it.

I’m not used to getting so many phone calls in a day.  My brother calls once a day, my uncle and grandma call once or more a day, my mom calls twice a day…from the States.  The 3rd grade teacher calls whenever she has news for me about administrative things, so it could be anywhere from one to three calls a day from her.  Here, when a teacher needs another teacher, the first thing he/she does is reach for their cell phone.  That came as a shock to me, too.  I hate phones and phone calls to begin with—always have and always will—so this is going to take a lot of patience on my part.

I’ve been crying everyday because people won’t leave me alone.  I truly do appreciate their care and concern, but sometimes i just need to be left alone.  I like figuring things out on my own.  I have too much pride to have people help me with things.  I like everything to be under my control, and my control only.  I don’t trust anyone enough to help me with anything, not even my family.

I lashed out at my parents today because i’m getting sick of hearing from them everyday.  I don’t even have time to sleep or lesson plan properly, let alone talk with them about nothing at all.  They do have some reason to worry about me, i’ll admit that.  I live in such a poor area that my plumbing is unreliable and unsafe, and at any moment, i could lose all running water for hours and it would come back in a brown drizzle.  But i wish they would treat me like the adult that i am and trust that i can handle everything on my own, or at least with the help of anyone around me.  When they worry, i feel disrespected.

All things considered, i actually like my home and my school and would like to stick it out for a year.  It’s just that i really mean it when i say i need to be left alone.


Filed under korea, seoul

8 responses to “First post from my Seoul apartment

  1. Eve

    A girl after my own heart. I, too, need massive amounts of privacy and I think I truly lucked out on my placement – they haven’t been breathing down my neck. But so much of what you wrote hit close to home. During Orientation, I think I spent at least half of the time crying! It was so exhausting.

    I don’t understand the cultural rules at my school yet, but one thing that does upset me is that I am on lockdown – I am actually not allowed to leave the campus for lunch time, and this is a problem for me because I smoke. Smoking is strictly forbidden, and one of my co-teachers told me that I must keep it an absolute secret.

    But hopefully, like everything, things will get easier with time.

    I would love to hang out some time.

    • n

      I know, orientation was so tiring! I had to go up to my room every now and then to just unwind and be by myself.

      I’m not allowed to leave school grounds during work hours either, and i smoke, too. Actually, one of the English teachers picked up a call from the owner of my apartment, whose sole question about me was, “Does she smoke?” to which the teacher replied, “No, of course not,” without even asking me. I met with the owner and he said that smoking is prohibited because it dirties the walls. Bullshit. They’re probably dirty because the last NET turned the place into a shithole. So i’ve been smoking in here with the curtains down, cos i don’t want that admin manager to see. I also can’t smoke outside because i’m so close to the school, and anyone could see me.

      Yeah, once we get a little more settled in, we should hang out!

  2. Korean adults are not used to young and independent people. Children do not move out once they’re 18 or even move into dorms for college. My cousins all live at home and that’s totally normal and their parents still help them out with stuff. I personally don’t agree with it, but it’s their life style. I’d die if I had to live with my mom again. Seeing her on weekends is enough. Although I do like taking her out to eat and taking her shopping. I often treat her like she’s my daughter. I take her out to eat and buy her things. I don’t remember the last thing my mom bought for me with money she earned herself. I do like taking care of my mom though. As for my brother, I always threaten to kick him out of the house if he doesn’t get into college because my sister and I managed to go to college on our own so he needs to figure his shit out. He’s going to be a 10th grader and I can’t wait to have him out of the house. I need peace and quiet. “There are no freebies in this family!” is what I say to him. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing that, but I encourage him to be a strong and independent person, because we do not tolerate pussies!

    • n

      Yeah, that is true. I guess there’s nothing i can do about it except to tolerate it over time, or just be blunt and ask them not to meddle with my affairs.

      I hope your brother figures everything out!

  3. Hi! I found you by way of Eve on FB. I can’t wait to hear more about your journey once things become a bit more settled. Culture shock is always that: shocking! Keep the faith…

  4. Sorry to hear about the rough start. It’s tough sometimes when family wants to help in whatever way they can but it ends up being more of a burden. Last weekend for example, my uncle was trying to help me get settled into my place but his stubbornness and persistence did more harm than good. Don’t worry, things will get better soon. If they don’t, just make a run back to the good old USA!

    • n

      I know, that’s why i hate working with people! I want to have things my way, because that’s the best way! My uncle’s cool, though. He does whatever i say. I honestly don’t know how he puts up with me.

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