My time as a JET is shortly coming to an end. I have decided to extend putting my time left at seven months. Now, it seems like a long time, but the way I see it, it’s really not. I will be preparing for my next adventure… Korea.
I visited Korea during Golden Week in May and I fell head over heals in love with the culture. Korea excited me as I toured the palaces and wandered around the Secret Garden. I loved the spicy food, the couple shops, the way people showed affection for one another. In Seoul, I could find clothes and shoes that fit finally making me a normal size! In addition, hangul is very easy to read. Goodbye, illiteracy.
The cost of living is actually cheaper in Korea. Food, clothes, and good public transport are fantastic. I can take a train anywhere for cheap. Seoul versus Okinawa, I deal with overcrowded traffic, bad drivers, and paying for all the necessities of my car.
If I succeed into getting into GEPIK or EPIK, my housing will be paid for. (What a relief!)
How I’m preparing
1. Studying the language
I made a lot of mistakes before coming to Japan and my biggest mistake entailed not studying the language. You think it would be common sense, right? But, no, like the wide eyed ignoramus I was, I didn’t study, with the mindset of, “I’ll learn Japanese when I’m in Japan. I’ll be fully immersed, right?”
I actually had to study hiragana, katakana, and ask about kanji. I felt lost because I couldn’t understand a damn thing. I was as helpless as a newborn baby and I couldn’t deal with that, bolting me into culture shock early on. Now, I found a tutor to help me learn Korean and will begin learning the language.
2. Getting my funds in check
Moving countries takes a lot of money. You need money for rent, deposits, phone bills, food, and even a car (maybe). When I first moved to Japan, I didn’t even realize I would be spending as much money as I was. It was crazy how much I needed just to survive in my new country. By saving and setting funds aside, I can move to Korea comfortably.
3. Thinking about all the people I have to say goodbye to
I could not have survived without the kindness of so many Japanese. In times of need, there was also a very kind person to help me. I have to find a way to tie loose ends whether it be giving presents or having one last dinner with those I’m close to. I know I will be able to move forward into the next chapter of my life after properly saying goodbye.
4. Doing research
The internet is a powerful tool I should have utilized before I came. I should have found YouTubers living in Japan and listened to what they had to say. I didn’t look into the good, the bad, or the ugly. I didn’t properly research Okinawa and what it had to offer.
Now, I have found other YouTubers who live in Korea and am listening to their different viewpoints and perspectives on living in Korea as a foreigner. I know exactly what I’m getting into and how to deal with it. For me, that’s a relief rather than going in blind.
Why I’m choosing to leave
As much as I loved the culture here, it’s time to leave. I will be sad to leave behind one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived. I will miss the colorful fish, the coral reef, and the burning orange of the sunset reflected on the water. I’ll miss Japanese curry and good sushi. I will miss Eisa and walking around in my yukata at summer matsuri.
I’m leaving because it’s time to move on. I need a new adventure. What excited me before doesn’t excite me much anymore. I still love my sanshin. I still love Cross Fit. I enjoy learning about the Ryukyu culture. I know what life here is really like and the euphoria has faded. I need to stretch my wings and expand my horizons once again.
Another reason I’m leaving is because Okinawa is a dating wasteland. I have two options: military or Okinawans. With the military, I don’t have much in common, if at all anything. As I mentioned before in Dating Military on Okinawa, I feel separated because they see Okinawa differently than I do. The metal fence does more than separate us physically, it separates our worlds.
Okinawans also tend to be more conservative than mainland Japanese. I can’t even find an Okinawan guy to look twice at me, and it’s really sad. Okinawans are also shorter than mainland Japanese. Hello, Gina the Giant!
I realize I came to Japan to teach English and learn about a new culture, but that isn’t enough for me.
I need to go to a place where I can easily connect with people. I found Korean culture (especially Seoul) is very Westernized and open to different influences. I found people are more understanding of foreigners because of the open exposure to movies and imports.
Korea is the right fit for me because of my personality. I found more things that suited me in Korea in 5 days than I have in Okinawa in two and a half years.
Of course, I will still blog with utmost respect to the place that has housed me. I will still tell stories fondly, through my blog, but my interests now lie in Korea.