How Korea Has Changed Me

Fourteen months have passed since I came to Korea. Initially I planned to only stay for six months. Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching, and so is my homecoming, as I am planning to be home at that time. Thinking about going home has filled me with eagerness but also with some trepidation. I have changed a lot since coming here. Perhaps I won't fit in quite the same mold when I come back, but I don't necessarily need to, do I? I have also adapted to Korean culture and become comfortable with it....and with rarely hearing my own language spoken fluently. You know, I didn't really experience much culture shock in coming here, but I'm thinking that I might have a significant amount of reverse culture shock upon my return. We shall see.....

With these thoughts in mind, I decided it might be wise to compile a list of ways that I have changed since coming here for those who will interact with me upon my return. Please don't be offended if I do or say something you do not expect when we meet again. I will likely be oblivious to the fact. Just know that I have grown to love Korea and Koreans who are in many ways very different from Americans, and I will have to re-adapt to my own culture and societal norms. Still, I feel like Korea has not seen the last of me...... :)


  • My taste in food has changed. At first, I couldn't stand Korean food. Now I can eat it every day...granted, I am a bit picky about it. But, I'm no longer sensitive to hot and spicy foods. I can eat a plate of vegetarian tteokbokki just as well as any other Korean. :) While I still enjoy some Western foods, others have lost their appeal.
  • My language has been saturated with every kind of English imaginable....South African, New Zealander, Australian, Canadian, Korean, Vietnamese, Philippino, Indian. I might've acquired a few characteristics from some of them....
  • I have grown accustomed to not speaking to strangers and to being very quiet in public places....and to showing respect to older people and being respected by younger people.
  • I bow my head to greet someone older than me. I hand things to someone with two hands or with one hand touching my elbow. I think these habits will take some time to break. 
  • My personal space block has been reduced, so if I get too close to you when we're talking, I'm probably not aware of it. 
  • Giving and receiving hugs is not common here, but I've at least got the English Club used to doing it now....and they rather like it. :) But you won't catch them doing it with each other. Hugging a foreign friend is more comfortable. hehe.
  • I haven't used an oven in a year....
  • I haven't driven a car in over a year, and I'm a bit afraid to do so now. Driving in Korea is terrifying! Glad I don't have an international license. :P
  • I've learned how to sleep just about anywhere, as long as I can stretch out. I've pretty much been a nomad since August and living out of a suitcase since then, so I'm more flexible than ever before. I've also been spoiled by the Korean floor heating system. It's going to be soooo cold in America. :P
  • Sharing food has become a part of my everyday life. In Korea, our own plate is not our own plate. We eat off of each other's or out of a center plate/bowl. It's going to take a while to get used to the "My food is my food only" mentality again....that and using knives and forks.
  • Korea doesn't charge extra for tip and taxes. The price you see advertised is the final price. Why does America have to be so complicated?? Korea's system is so much better!!

Physically, I have:

  • become comfortable in my skin. Throughout my life, people have always told me I am too small and need to eat more to put on more weight. I have had trouble finding clothes to fit me and always have had to shop in the teenage section to find something, but usually the style is provocative or unattractive. In Korea, I fit in. I can shop anywhere and everywhere and find nice, cheap clothes that fit me without having to try them on. No one ever says I'm too small, but occasionally I'll be told that I need to lose some belly fat, which I totally disregard. kk. 
  • adopted chopsticks as the best eating utensils in the world, even for cake. As a result, I struggle to use a fork and knife comfortably when the opportunity presents itself
  • learned how to walk and stand for hours without thinking about it to the point where sitting still for two consecutive hours generally feels tedious and uncomfortable
  • come to prefer Korean food over Western food!! I know. I can't believe it either
  • lost the muscles I had for playing volleyball, but gained muscles for hiking
  • acquired some gray hairs (immediately plucked), a small scar on my left arm from an iron, dark circles under my eyes and a few wrinkles there, and freckles on my face from the sun
  • traveled and explored the grand majority of this country

Mentally, I have:

  • become a responsible adult
  • gained confidence in the talents and abilities that God has given me to teach English to speakers of other languages
  • learned much from the wisdom of those dear people surrounding me
  • acquired patience for almost any situation and the ability to be flexible and adapt at a moment's notice. As a result of the situations I am used to, I have become a more spontaneous person than before.
  • learned that people's behavior is always an expression of what lies underneath and, therefore, to especially pray for those who hurt me because they are in a place where they reallllly need God.
  • come to consider a lodging place as a lodging place and not a home, as I have relocated 11 times within 5 cities throughout the past 14 months. As a result, I have learned to be thankful for a bed, blankets, heat and air conditioning, a shower, and a kitchen. I have also learned the importance of frugality and simplicity in life and am content and rather pleased with that. The nomadic lifestyle is a good way to remember that my home is not here, but rather I am waiting to dwell in the home God has prepared for me in heaven,
  • enjoyed a year's respite from the commercialism of Western holidays
  • decided that if I ever get married, I want to marry a missionary

Emotionally, I have:

  • had more highs and lows than ever before in a single year
  • been drained to the very core
  • felt loved, honored, respected, appreciated, admired, hated (by a select few and not as an individual, but for the nation I represent), stressed, and more
  • become stronger and learned more and more how to depend on God, particularly in times of need, but not limited to them
  • seen the value of true friendship in hard times

Socially, I have:

  • become very active
  • nearly become an extrovert
  • learned how to interact and enjoy time with people of almost any age and social standing in almost any atmosphere
  • learned how to grade my language to match the level of those with whom I am speaking and consequently make learners/friends comfortable
  • obtained a fair amount of cultural awareness and required responses to various situations
  • established life-long friendships with some amazing people, regardless of cultural and language barriers and religious differences
  • become friends with almost every English-speaking nation's people and been blessed to enjoy and understand their different accents :)

Spiritually, I have:

  • learned that sometimes God's greatest enemy is in the church, but that is no reason to leave it or give up on it
  • learned that we must remain faithful where we are and in what we are doing until God calls us to move on
  • learned more about forgiveness, mercy, and repentance
  • learned the beauties of friendship evangelism and the joys of teaching the Bible to students who have never heard the Word of Life before
  • learned the dangers of compromise and fear of offending others with truth
  • learned the vital importance of fellowship with other like-minded believers, particularly in a church setting
  • been in the process of learning how to trust God like Abraham, Moses, and Joseph
  • learned the impact that various friendships can have on our spiritual lives and, therefore, that we need to choose our closest friends wisely and never place any of them above God
  • learned that when people know I am a Christian, particularly a missionary, all eyes will be on me. As a result, I must ever cling to my Savior to make me the example I ought to be to those He sent me to reach. I can't do it on my own.
  • learned that personal devotions are of the utmost importance to maintaining my walk with God and a positive relationship with others
  • learned that God's ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. He is wiser and greater than I and worthy of my trust and my life
  • learned that faith and trust are hard to come by, but God can give them to me if I surrender my life to Him.....every day
  • seen the power of genuine prayer focused on another's life
  • seen that providence is real and amazing
  • learned that ultimately God is in control, and He can turn any of Satan's evil attempts into good outcomes
  • witnessed and experienced Laodicea
  • thirsted and fainted for God as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1)
  • prayed for personal revival and revival within the church because of the many non-Christians I've met who are better Christians than those who claim to be Christians and there is no one to receive them once they accept Christ as their own
  • witnessed and experienced the love of Christ through those who do not yet know Him more than through many of those who claim to, including myself
  • seen my many faults and cried out to God to change me. May I be a true follower of Christ!