Three months. We’ve been in South Korea now for three whole months. That’s three months since we’ve been away from the USA. Three months since we’ve been in similar time zones to our families. Three months since speaking English was the norm. There is so much about PCSing to South Korea that’s been beautiful and fun, but there is a lot that’s been completely overwhelming, too. I think it’s important to honor both sides of the coin, so I’m sharing the hard(er) realities today
What I Wish I’d Known About PCSing to South Korea
1 // The transition comes in waves
Some days are much harder than others. It’s absolutely wonderful here in South Korea. The people are phenomenal, the food is great, and we’re having the time of our lives. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a huge move though. It’s a complete 180 from our normal lives, and it’s normal to have both good and bad days. One doesn’t negate the other.
2 // Food at the commissary is awful – and poorly stocked
The commissaries on post in the US aren’t exactly known for being exemplary, but the commissary here at Camp Humphreys is pretty awful. I’ve heard it’s common though for OCONUS commissaries. US food is often expired or soon expiring, and it’s so pricey (that part we knew). Fruit goes bad within a matter of days, and the shelves are rarely stocked. For example, yesterday, there was no milk, no cheese, no butter, no chicken, no diapers. I’m grateful we live in town and can easily shop off post.
3 // Some shops off post will take American cards…others won’t
Ryan and I make a point of not having multiple credit cards, and Visa is usually accepted just about anywhere, but it’s worth noting that not every place accepts American cards. Our USAA Visa cards have been declined multiple times, and in cases like that, we either need Won on hand, or another card would come in handy. We’re working on our Alien Registration Cards (ARCs) though, which would allow us to obtain a Korean card.
4 // Certain sites won’t let you place online orders without resident numbers
Part of the reason we’re working towards getting our ARCs is so that we can order things online – like from IKEA. Our sweet friends ordered for us last time, but we still can’t order food from Coupang Eats, etc., until we get our ARCs.
5 // Hangeul is hard to learn, but it’s not impossible
Learning Korean has been one of the most important things to us, but it’s a hard language to learn. You not only have to learn how to read it, but then once you can read it, you need to translate it. Thankfully, we took a three-day online intensive and learned a good bit of the pronunciation, and now we’re working heavily towards learning what things actually mean. I am not at all proficient, but we’re able to understand a little more!
6 // We can still do the things we love here
I figured a lot of our time here would mean giving up the things we love, but it hasn’t. We’ve been hiking again which is helping us to feel sane again, and we’ve also had the opportunity to do some urban exploring like we did in Seattle at Pike’s Place Market. It’s different, but it’s just as fun.
7 // South Koreans are so generous and kind
From people kindly offering to purchase us things to people gifting Mieke bows from their daughters’ own collections, sweet Chuseok gifts of melons and dumplings to taking us to lunch, everyone is so welcoming and kind. Show them a bit of interest in their culture, too, and they are so happy! It’s such a generous, kind, and sweet culture of incredible people. We love it.
8 // US-sized ovens aren’t really a thing
You all know I love baking. Well, I learned the hard way that my fun little oven/microwave hybrid is only big enough to bake six cupcakes at a time or a small baking sheet. Deep breaths. I can do this.
9 // You’ll push a lot of cars if you live in the city
We moved to Sosabeol into a Korean apartment complex and, if they run out of parking in the underground lot, people double-park and leave their cars in neutral so you can push them out of the way when you need to leave. It’s honestly pretty funny, and the kids love watching Ryan and I move the cars.
10 // It’s okay to struggle
What we did in the past year – moving around the world in the middle of a pandemic – is not normal. It’s okay not to be okay on any given day. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. Most people don’t talk about it, and we wear it as a badge of honor to be okay, but I’ve cried a lot. I love it here, but it’s hard, and that’s okay. It will get better, and we will love it more and more each month.
PCSing to South Korea has been something we’ve wanted for a long time, but it’s not easy to pick up your world and move it somewhere new, far away from familiarity and family. South Korea is such a wonderful country, and the people are so welcoming. This adventure is something that we’re beyond blessed to be on, but I wish more information had been shared before we moved here so I felt a little more sane. I hope my blogs are able to do that for others!