Social Media & The Expat

So at home in London, I was not quite so proficient at checking my social media (it was a task to be completed on the parts of my commute for which I had network) or uploading things to it. However, I quickly realised that we are so incredibly lucky to have such instant methods of updating and communicating with family and friends at home so I’ve become better at it. I regularly upload photos to my Instagram (which I prefer to Facebook because it has a more limited audience) and as I’ve downloaded Instagram for my mum, that means my parents can easily see what I am up to or the end results of things that we have spoken about. I’m using Twitter to find out information about things in Korea, but also as a source of news (yes, yes, I am being wary of fake news and the like). I mean, we are SO lucky not to have to wait 2 weeks for real letters to be delivered or to get a calling card and make 5 minute phone calls from pay phones with a bad connection so, I embraced technology when we moved and used the internet way more than I used to for personal usage back home. The biggest change in my social media habits is the use of Facebook. It is actually an amazing resource for getting information about different things here, and so I decided to make today’s post about the different Facebook groups that I have joined and pages I have liked since Raj signed his contract.

Below is a list of the pages and groups, with links to each on Facebook. A number of the groups are closed groups, which means that you send a joining request and the page admins will accept or decline your request as appropriate. Some of the pages require you to send a message to the admin to confirm why you want to join the page (this helps avoid the inevitable spamming) so be sure to read any pinned posts and follow the instructions!Hopefully the dearth of information that is available makes it worthwhile to have a Facebook account, even if only for the purposes of joining some of these groups! And it goes without saying that all opinions on the groups mentioned below are entirely my own.

Songdo Expat Community : The very first group I joined and also the one I have used the least. I find it a difficult group to navigate and as a result, questions/comments posted often go un-noticed. When we first arrived, landing on a Sunday with a fair amount of luggage and nobody meeting us at the airport, I posted a question about the best way to get from the airport to The Prau and got no answer. I mean, sure, we worked it out, but for a group professing to make life in Songdo easier for expats, I don’t find it very helpful. Still, I’m loathe to leave it just in case I miss something golden…

Anglo Info Seoul : News, tips and advice for life in Korea. This is one of the groups that I let post to my newsfeed and I usually read an article a day. It’s where I learnt about the recent governmental troubles and protests taking place in Seoul, about the Chicken Flu outbreak of 2016 and other day to day news that I would have normally obtained from the free dailies on my commute. Similar to this group, but less active in my opinion Everyday Korea and Community Korea

Ourshop India: Indian groceries online. And before the opening of Costco in Songdo, also a useful stop for ordering a few Costco goodies online. Delivery is quick and efficient once payment is made (and they have a variety of ways to pay). There are other online Indian grocers but I haven’t used them so haven’t included them here.

Employment groups include  Jobs in South Korea , Jobs: South Korea and Non Teaching Jobs in South Korea all of which facilitate posts from prospective employers and employees alike.

Waeg Farm is a group for those of you who can’t do without your goat’s cheese – especially when it is made fresh and delivered straight to your door!

Korea International Nanny Service is not just for childcare, but cleaners / housekeepers often post here as well. Great if the 3 hour minimum call from the Incheon Cleaning Service  is too much for your needs

Korea Heritage Society  a group to share and enjoy in the rich culture of Korea, with regular posts on activities and events taking place across the country

Used Cars fro Foreigners and Koreans Check out my post on driving here for more information on why this group is so useful!

Expat Grocery Gurus Korea: New Products, Discounts And Clearance Sales featuring tips and advice on where to buy products, when there are sales etc. Everyone here is super helpful and friendly so if you are looking for the source for a particular product, don’t hesitate to ask!

Particularly useful for expats are:Every Expat in Korea,British Expats in Korea,  Indians in Korea and Expat Women in Korea. I mean, you get the odd douche (excuse my French) on all of the groups but by and large the communities are helpful, friendly and supportive.

Not one I’ve had much need to use but always a good to have around is Expat Healthcare in South Korea.

Cooking in Korea is a great resource for sharing recipes, gleaning inspiration, asking for tips and advice and, as I find when I’ve achieved something new in the kitchen, a bit of validation from others who are also navigating the world of Western Style cooking in Korea.

For Incheon/Songdo specific groups, these are a few that I have found:

Incheon Global Campus and Yeonsu, Incheon, South Korea features interesting events and information from our locality

Incheon-Songdo Photography for all the photo lovers in the area, with some really stunning shots of where we call home!

For buying and selling second-hand goods check out Songdo Flea Market and Incheon Flea Market.

Songdo Girl’s Night Group is a community for the ladies of Songdo with at least a monthly event planned

For the exercise conscious among you, check out GCF Yoga which is a beginners Yoga Class, taught in English 3 times a week at the G-Tower for GCF employees and their families and Zumba in Songdo , which is about, well, Zumba classes in Songdo.

Road Tips ideas for trips and events for the expats of Songdo, by the expats of Songdo.

I’m sure new groups will come along sooner or later, but for now, that’s all folks.

Advertisements

The Weather

Weather is weather, right? You’ve got Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and you know what to expect from the seasons. Not so in Songdo. Here, the weather is absolutely-off-the-charts-mental and you pretty much have to be prepared for every scenario.

Just last week (penultimate week of August) I was planning my days to make sure that I stayed indoors, with the lovely lovely AC, between midday and 5pm, just to avoid becoming one big sweat bucket the moment I left the apartment. Even at 9 or 10pm, it would be a sweltering 29 Celsius (Real Feel in the 30s) and that was supposed to be ‘cooler’ temperatures. Today, I’m sitting here watching buckets and buckets of rain top down and listening to the 90km/hr wind whistling outside the window. It is so strong, that I can’t even open some of the windows in the apartment due to the pressure! Our building receptionist just told me that this weekend is going to go back to be crazy-hot. Mental I tell you.

And let’s talk about the temperature swing while we are at it: from -20 Celsius in the winter up to a real feel of 40 Celsius in the height of summer. A full 60 degree swing is not something I have ever experienced before and, judging from the reactions of our friends here who hail from all over the world,  I’m not sure there are many countries that have the same temperature swing. People here are convinced that coming from London, the winters here must be nothing new for us but that is so far from the truth I don’t even know where the truth is when I look back.

Moral of the story: Be prepared for everything. You need to have:

(1) Thermals (100 denier tights, gloves, hats, scarves, coats and I love my trusty Uggs)

(2) Sunscreen – in the winter I can (and need to because the climate is super dry) use it in addition to moisturiser, and in the summer, in place of (more than one layer of product is not going to work well for anyone in the peak of summer humidity)

(3) Hats – for both hot and cold weather. And to cover up a bad hair day, you know.

(4) Umbrellas, and if you are going for true Korean-Style, you can use these as sun protection too, and for when it is too windy for an umbrella, rain jackets (NorthFace. Always NorthFace) and if you are a backpack carrier, a rain cover isn’t a bad idea.

(5) Sandals, trainers and rain-wear.

And you need to have these things year round, because you never know where the crazy will take you next.

Land of hope and glory? I think not. 

*Warning: the following post consists entirely of me ranting, so please navigate away from this page if that does not suit your current mood* 

I need to interrupt my love letter to Japan to share how I feel about America at the moment. I mean, what is going on people? Trump, and his goddamn wall, might be ruling the land, rape is being openly written off as “20 minutes of action” and the rapist is bejng given 6 months jail time, instead of up to 14 years, because of the potential impact it would have on HIS life?! ( Ed. for those of you who haven’t read the story: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/06/stanford-sexual-assault-case-victim-impact-statement-in-full). Er, hello.. we seem to have forgotten who the VICCTIM really is here no? 

Alongside this women are continuing to belittle the choices of other women, instead of supporting their right to make their own decisions – Hilary, I may not agree with your decision to stay with Bill but I sure as hell respect your right to make that decision for yourself. Where is the support people? 

Life in the good ol’ USA seems decidedly not good and I for one want to stay away.

I recently learnt that attitudes towards women in Korea are shocking – male privilege is rife and women are considered “second class citizens”. Violence against women is commonplace and largely ignored – those few people who bravely choose to make a stand are met with more violence and degradation. I thought that as the “wayguk” (foreigners) we could at least stand in support of those women here who don’t want to accept this as the norm and maybe give them hope that attitudes can be changed but when the “civilised west” propagates the acceptance of such behaviour, what good do a handful of us here have to foster a change in attitudes and beliefs. I’m deflated and demoralised (but apparently my ability to alliterate remains intact…) 

Not a perky post today but one that needed writing, if only to ensure that my poor husband doesn’t bear the brunt of my disillusionment. Suffice it to say, I have precisely zero hope of ever seeing America as a glorious land again… 

*Rant Over*

Top 5 Things About (my) Life in Korea

So to continue the series mentioned in my last post, I’m going to write about my favourite 5 things about being in South Korea. The 5 things are going to be particular to my life in part due to the fact that the first few months of our time here were too cold to really get to grips with the country and what it has to offer. I’m slowly discovering more and more but there is a way to go yet, so I’m keeping it ego-centric for now…

(1) Not Working

Yes, I know – this was one of the things that I miss about home but the other side of the coin is that I am really enjoying having this slightly extended break from pre-production/production matters. I have had a chance to explore some old hobbies – knitting, writing (both electronically and in my diary) and every day I come up with a new career plan that Raj, wearily, voices his support for – knowing that I will have a new plan the next day. I’ve had the time to meditate at least once a day – I would like to increase this to twice daily but Raj isn’t the meditating type and I have a tendency to fall asleep post meditating so in the evenings, I choose to hang out with him instead. (*Pats self on back for being a good wife*). I’m learning how to cook – and how to adapt a recipe to what is available in the local market, without compromising on taste. I would like to say that I have added working out to the list of things that I do now, but I’m not there yet. I bought a skipping rope and my sister-in-law has a bunch of at home work out videos on her website (www.rocofit.com) that I need to get to grips with. All in good time. I am sure that eventually I will want some kind of work to keep me occupied but for the moment, not having to work rocks.

(2) Learning a New Language

I like learning languages. I like writing and learning lists of vocabulary. I like the new grammar rules. I like trying o start a conversation and working those grammar rules in as I go. I’ve never learnt a language which doesn’t have a Roman alphabet (my mother tongue isn’t written, only spoken) so it is a first for me and I’m enjoying it. I know my Hanguel alphabet and I have lots of words that I am trying to learn. I am in the second semester of my class and sentences are making an appearance. I have class twice weekly and I try to be conscientious about doing my homework but it is definitely the toughest language I have ever tried to learn. Hopefully I will be someway towards proficient by the end of our tenure here!

(3) Making a House our Home

Here in Songdo, Raj and I have had the opportunity to make our very first home together and fill it with the things we like in a way that suits us. A lot of our furniture is from IKEA but we have all our trinkets and souvenirs from our lives separately, and our lives together filling the nooks and crannies. The coffee table in our lounge is perfectly suited to how to spend our time – a hidden section under the table where we can hide our laptops when dual screening is not an option (House of Cards requires concentration!) My little OCD mind has filled cupboards and drawers in particular orders and Raj is learning to follow the rules for putting things away – or leaving things out for me to do, which to my mind is better than it being done wrong. Although we’ve only lived in this apartment for 2 months it feels like a perfect little home and I’m already attached to it.

(4) Being a Tourist on my doorstep

I love wandering around my local area and actually looking at everything and taking it in, rather than the head-down-earphones-in-fast-paced-trot that was my go to walking style in London. I like taking pictures and using them on social media/my blog/just for me to look at. I like being a tourist and going on hop on hop off buses without having to travel for the pleasure of it. South Korea is never a country that I have known a lot about and I’ve learnt so much already and am looking forward to what there is to come!

(5) New People

So I know I wrote about missing having independent friends of my own age but I have met several of really nice and interesting people here and the hope is that as more people are hired, more families will be arriving here to increase our social circle. Little things make you bond (BACON! One of the local stores had a huge bacon delivery on Friday so Saturday saw a Bacon party at someone’s apartment. Amazing!) I’ve made random friends on various Facebook groups that I am now a member of, and, something that I never did at home, I interact with people on these various Facebook groups. I have a little community of people who offer tips and advice or just share in the my pleasure of having achieved something new, even if it is just a little win. I’m still in touch with my friends back home (thank you internet!) but there is something nice about a new bunch of people from different walks of life that I can now call friends.

Et voila. My top 5 things about living in Korea so far.

5 Things I Miss From London

I’ve been reading a lot of expat blogs – not just expats in Korea, but worldwide and there are a couple of posts that everyone seems to have in common:

  • Five things I miss from X (also known as least favourite things in X) [insert country here]
  • Top five things about X [insert country here]

So I decided to take a leaf out of their pages and today I will write about the things that I miss from London. There are the obvious things, that I knew I would need to have (TEA! English Breakfast Tea!) but as I had planned for those, they didn’t make the list..

(1) Ease of doing things

OK, so this isn’t a physical thing but at home, in pretty much any situation, I know where to go or who to contact for a quick fix. A current example is that my allergies are playing up, which means the corners of my eyes are super itchy which means a nasal spray is needed. At home, I would stroll into Boots, pick up my choice of spray and 2 squirts later, problem solved. In Songdo, I know which pharmacy I can go to (the one which involves the least amount of sign language) but I’ve had to prepare for the outing by looking up the active ingredients in the spray I would use, taking screenshots and Google Translating “Allergies” into Korean in advance. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that I have to do this every single time I need to do something ‘new’ it adds up . Hopefully tomorrow won’t bring the news that I need a prescription – otherwise 3 phone-calls later (me to the hotline, hotline to the hospital, hotline to me to confirm appointment) I might, if I’m lucky, be able to control my allergies in a weeks time…

(2) My own girl friends my own age

I know I am lucky to be living in an age replete with technology so I can email/WhatsApp/skype/Facetime my friends and family pretty much on demand – time differences are my only obstacle, but even then, if I want to chat to my mum, she’ll pick up anytime. And yes, there is a really nice group of girls here to hang out with (wine and dessert is universal after all) but the reason that they are within my orbit is Raj’s job. They are either his colleagues or his colleagues’ spouses (and typically, the latter tends to be older than me). But what I do miss is having pals of my own that I can call on for a night in or out or a good old gossip as need dictates. I am pretty sure my incessant rambling and heightened levels of crazy is going to be too much for Raj at some point or another… so all I can hope is that more families like us rock up in Songdo soon!

(3) The BBC

Or ITV, or Channel 4 or any Sky channels. I basically miss the kind of TV that is background noise whilst you get on with other things. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that we get Netflix here is a total lifesaver, but when I just want background noise, unless I play a series or a film that I have seen a million times, there isn’t a lot. Also, all the English is American English. I miss hearing a British voice or two – yesterday in Seoul, I almost gave myself whiplash when I heard a British accent on the metro. I was never an avid news watcher, but I always knew what was going on, simply through flicking through the free papers on the tube or having the news on in the background. Yes the internet is a great source of information but I spend a lot of my time on a computer as it is and I would enjoy taking my time offline wherever possible.

(4) Working

OK, this one is a double edged sword and will almost certainly be making an appearance in my top 5 things about Korea post, as it has been amazing having a long break (and as a freelancer, knowing that it is OK for me to do so) from the world of work and I am in a very fortunate position to be able to take the break. I’ve spent the time learning a lot of things that women of my mother’s generation would have learnt as a matter of course but was always too ‘unfeminist’ for today’s girl to want to spend her time doing. I’m teaching myself to cook and keep house and my limited sewing abilities are increasing which has all been quite enjoyable. I’ve also been able to indulge in my hobbies – knitting, writing, readingand general trial and error. Nonetheless, I do miss having a purpose outside of the house, where I can see an end result and know that my hard work created it. For the last three years, around this time of year, I’ve been gearing up to produce a Festival on London’s South Bank. Yes, the work was intense and hard and I invariably cried one day and fell sick immediately afterwards but when I look back at the pictures and feedback, I feel extremly lucky and proud that I was a part of it. My former colleagues are currently setting up this year’s event and I miss being there – including the hateful ‘profit and loss’ spreadsheets.

(5) Potato Waffles

Ok, a frivolous one to end the list – of course there are other things that I miss more but I have to say, I’m quite looking forward to having some Bird’s Eye Potato Waffles (they’re waffley versatile) when we go home over summer. Despite the fact that I am trying to be on a pre-London diet,  I’m looking forward to a Roast Lunch, Potato Waffles, breaded fish (or any kind of fish) and all sorts of other foods and food combinations that a peculiar Indian-English creature like me would enjoy.

So that’s that. I know most, or all, of these will be resolved given time but that’s where we stand for the moment! Here’s my parting photo.. a view of my old event from Millenium Bridge in London

11162512_10101147980919442_3728029395301018696_n

 

 

Travel Racism

A more random set of musings for today. Recently, I left a group on Facebook that was dedicated to women who love to travel. There were women from all over the world who shared pictures of their travel with one another, asked for travel advice and it was also a safe space to ask for help or advice – one girl’s story was that she had travelled far from home to see a guy that she had started seeing on a previous trip. Once she arrived, he was cold and distant and basically ditched her in a country where she didn’t speak the language and had nowhere to stay. Through the group, she met some other female travellers who took her in and gave her a shoulder to cry to get over the shock and from then on, she had a great trip.

So it couldn’t get better than a group that allows you to take a risk and share your passions in a non-judgemental way, right? Well that was my initial reaction.

In the last few weeks however, things took a turn for the nasty. It began with a self-proclaimed “Woman of Colour” (aka WOC)  posting a question about some prejudice that they had encountered on a recent trip and asking for advice and support. All fine. But then she post-fixed the comment saying that she didn’t want any responses from any non WOCs – i.e. white women. And understandably there was some backlash against this – at least, I found it understandable (and I fall into the WOC category.) If a Caucasian women had written about any prejudice, or how stares in certain countries made her uncomfortable (and I have seen this myself with blonde friends in the Middle East for example)  and said that WOC need not respond, everyone would have been up in arms.

All of a sudden, this group became a forum about whether it is OK to preclude one group of people (for any reason – hair colour, height etc) from answering a comment, if the poster of the question didn’t feel that they would have the relevant experience. From my point of view, it is never ok to categorically exclude someone. Even if their experience isn’t identical (and which two people’s are) it remains valuable. My mother taught me that if I don’t have anything nice or useful to say, then to shut up. So when someone asked where the best area to buy shampoo for afro hair in London was, despite being a through and through Londoner, I kept shtum. Likewise, when another girl asked about facing prejudice when travelling in certain countries, I responded that I didn’t feel that the prejudice was due to my being brown, but more just the view of women that was taken there – my brown male pals got things done easily without getting ripped off simply due to the luck that gave gave them a ‘y’ chromosome instead of a second ‘x’. This continues to be the case in certain aspects of my life in Korea. All I have to do is utter the magic words “I have to ask my husband” and anybody trying to sell me something backs deferentially away until the higher power in the house has spoken (little do they know that I have totally manipulated the stereotype to suit my needs and Raj would be perplexed if I started asking permission for, well, anything.. but that is a different story.)

It was a shame to leave the group but there was talk of a women of colour sub-group which I felt was even more divisive and against the spirit of the group as it was intended. Gone was the safe space, as well as the source of valuable travel information, but perhaps my newsfeed just needed a springtime de-clutter too…