One of my prayer concerns I had before I left the U.S.A. was to have a smooth transition in dealing with reverse culture shock. I have lived in the US for about 10 years before I moved to Korea. I was having a hard time adjusting to US culture at the beginning; however, I got used to living there and even felt comfortable living in the US. Spending time in another country for 10 years certainly changed me in terms of how I think, what I like, and what I dislike, etc. When we made the decision to come to Korea as mission co-workers, I was excited about the great opportunity at first, but I began to worry about how I am going to deal with the reverse culture shock.
When we arrived in Korea in May 28, 2013, we had spent a few days with my family in Ulsan city which is 3 and a half hours away from Daejeon city where we are living right now. I did not feel much different since I was with familiar people in a familiar place. However, once we moved to Daejeon, the challenges began. Even though Daejeon is in Korea, it is a new territory for me because I have never been to this city, and I do not know anyone here. Furthermore, I am not a single person any more. I’m with my foreigner husband and 3-month old baby. Both of them do not have a clue what is going on here yet. With these challenges, we had to take care of many things settling in to Daejeon city. There are many things to be done in order to settle into a new place. Those range from the very simple, such as cleaning the house, finding grocery stores, and opening a bank account, to the very complicated, such as registering ourselves with the Korean government, applying for credit cards, getting a driver’s license, opening phone lines, setting up internet in the house, and many more. Some of those things sound simple, but it became a several days project because we did not bring enough documents or simple miscommunication. In the midst of taking care of all this business, I felt like I’m a foreigner who speaks very good Korean because many things are new for me. Or it used to be very simple for me before, but I forgot how to do it.
(Picture of friends who helped us to get around Daejeon City)
I had to take baby steps in order to get it done. I had to rely on other people and ask lots of questions in order to finish what needed to be done. It is because not only I have changed, but also the country, Korea, has changed a lot. In the midst of navigating our lives here I also have encountered many people who are willing to lend their hands and help us to understand what’s going on. I might have forgotten many things or I might be unfamiliar with many things, however, one thing that I have not forgotten was the “Jung” (hospitality) of the Korean people. For example, there are many times at restaurants when the staff person has offered to take care of Sahn while we are eating, so that we can finish our meal comfortably. I was a little uncomfortable at first because I did not know the person, but quickly I realized that it is the way to show kindness in Korea, and there is no harm attach to it. After we learned this, our meals became much easier.
I am still settling down in this, my home country, from where I have been away for 10 years. Now that I’m back with a completely new set of eyes, I am excited about getting to know my country from my new perspectives. There are many things about this country I do not know, and I did not care about 10 years ago. I give thanks to God for giving me this great opportunity to learn about my own country, and to serve her with humility. I’m ready for more challenges, which I believe will turn into new opportunities for me and my family with the help of people around us and with God’s grace. Let the adventure begin.