Sometimes I Miss Korea…

There are days when I catch a glimpse of photos from Korea – my former students doing their kimchi smiles, lanterns dangling in the streets of Seoul in anticipation for the Lotus Lantern festival, or someone instagramming a bowl of sundubu jjigae – and it makes me miss Korea a little bit.

Korea will always be a special place for me. This is the country where I:

– moved overseas on my own for the first time
– got my own apartment
– met a special boy who is now my travel partner in crime
– was entrusted with a class full of students
– sang in front of people because noraebang makes you do strange things
– had to learn to read a new alphabet
– explored a mega-city on my own
– and ate strange creatures for the sake of trying new cuisine

In many ways, Korea feels like the country where I ‘grew up’, and I feel more attached to it than I anticipated.

I didn’t think I’d miss Korea very much once I left; at the time one year in the outskirts of Seoul seemed like enough, and it probably didn’t help that my last few months in the country were spent enduring the coldest winter of my entire life (yes, worse than Toronto and worse than Montreal!), however, now that I look back on my time there I can appreciate some of the smaller things that I took for granted.

Since I’m feeling kind of sentimental about Korea today, here are a few photos to reminisce:

Reloading my T-money card in Seoul

{Figuring out the metro. One of these four does not belong.}

Pyeongtaek, Korea

{A summer walk through the rice fields of Pyeongtaek.}

Fish market in Busan, Korea

{Visiting the fish markets in Busan.}

Traditional performances in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do

{A traditional performance taking place in Suwon.}

Noraebang: Singing Room in Korea

{Noraebang: Korea’s infamous singing rooms. Tambourines included.}

Hannam - Itaewon - Seoul, Korea

{Strolling unfamiliar neighbourhoods in Seoul.}

Eating a traditional Korean feast at a sit down on the floor restaurant in Insadong

{A meal for 3 people. This is how we do things.}

Sam feeding cats at a cat cafe in Seoul

{Visiting a cat cafe in Seoul. Sam has very attentive pupils.}

Dog and duck play together in a Korean backyard

{The land where dogs and ducks are best friends. Could be an isolated event…}

Playing with puppies

{Playing with puppies on a chilly autumn morning.}

Eating jeon, a savoury Korean pancake

{Eating jeon – a savoury Korean pancake – and you bet it was good.}

View of N Seoul Tower atop Namsan

{N Seoul Tower seen from the base of Namsan.}

Visitng the Korean Folk Village in Yongin

{Visiting the Korean Folk Village in autumn.}

Eating Korean barbecue (galbi - marinated short ribs) on the grill

{Showing us the proper way to eat Korean barbecue. Look like a caveman.}

Giant bouncy bear toy inside a Korean department store

{A giant bouncy bear in the department store. Where was this when I was a kid?}

Ice storm in Pyeongtaek

{When winter arrived and Sam was happy but I wanted to cry…}

Eating lunch at a local Korean restaurant

{A little soup with ox blood never hurt anyone.}

I can’t quite pinpoint what it is I miss about this country. Maybe it’s the tasty food served in hot pot dishes, the random cultural performances that would take place around the city every weekend, or the sound of Big Bang or PSY’s latest hit playing in the streets.

Or it could be the country’s strange quirks like robot mannequins bowing to customers in the shopping district of Myeongdong, the abundance of cat and dog cafes in Hongdae, or the men in business suits swaying down the streets after imbibing in a little too much soju.

For that brief year I was there, Korea felt like home.

I’m not saying I’m ready to move back to Korea quite yet. This current adventure around Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand has been great so far, and I still have a whole lot of ground left to cover around Southeast Asia as well as over in the Indian subcontinent. However, a little trip to Korea to reminisce and see it with fresh eyes would certainly not be out of the question.

Have you ever lived abroad for a period of time?
Do you still miss the place?


49 Comments

  • Jessica says:

    We lived in Thailand for 8 months and I definitely miss it. I was so ready to go when we left, but now that I have some distance from it, I appreciate our time there all the more. Mostly the wonderful, ridiculous laissez-faire-ness of everyone and everything (especially compared to Japan, where we are now). You definitely don’t see scooters driving the wrong way down the highway, people lying around taking a nap during the middle of the workday, or buildings held up with bamboo and rope in Japan.
    Jessica recently posted..Sunday Snapshot: Kanazawa Hyakumangoku FestivalMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      It’s funny how that happens and you don’t realize how attached you have become to a place until it’s time to move on. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way about Japan at the end of your year there. πŸ˜‰

  • Carmel says:

    I lived in Spain for 6 months. That was 13 years ago and I still miss it. Still plenty of good times to be had but that chapter is over and I’m glad I experienced it.

    • Audrey says:

      Oh, Spain! What a beautiful country to get to live in. I only spent a few short days around Barcelona and Sitges, but it’s the kind of place where I could see myself lingering for months on end. πŸ™‚

  • I can understand that you miss Korea. I lived in England for 8 years and now live in Cambodia. I know I have to leave at some stage, but I am a bit scared as well, as I know that I will be missing lots of people, food, the biggest smiles in the world and the “Hellos” of children.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Behind the Berlin Wall – Life in Communist GermanyMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I think the longer you stay in a place, the more difficult it is to say goodbye – there are just so many connections and reasons to stay there. Enjoy Cambodia as long as you can, and know that you can always visit again. πŸ™‚

  • I hear you, Audrey! Had a very similar experience in Singapore – moved there alone when I was 16 and spent the next 8 years of my life there – the formative years of my life, I believe. I do miss Singapore, especially when the weather is gloomy here in London πŸ™‚ I definitely miss the local cuisine and the street side food courts in Singapore.

    Whatever happens in the future, Singapore will always have a very special place in my heart !
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  • Maria says:

    Bitter-sweet. Isn’t it interesting Audrey, how a place slips in under your skin without you realizing it until you’ve moved on? It’s a depth issue, I never realize how deep my connection is till I’ve moved again. Love how candidly you express what you’re experiencing. Kudos!
    Maria recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – BangkokMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      You said it. I didn’t realize how connected I felt to the place until I moved on. I’m sure I’ll be feeling the same way about Thailand when I leave in a few months.

  • Hey, I saw your photo of you walking through rice fields in Pyeongtaek … did you live around there when you were in Korea? I am stationed a little further down Seoul Subway Line 1, in the Samsung factory town of Baebang, between Cheonan and Asan cities.

    In short, I love it! Being surrounded by mountains, amazing restaurants in a smaller center because of the high concentration of well-paid Samsung workers, and hot springs makes me feel so lucky!

    Hope Chiang Mai is treating you well so far! πŸ™‚
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    • Audrey says:

      I was actually living in Yongin, but my boyfriend was working in Pyeongtaek so I got to spend quite a bit of time exploring the area. It was certainly a lot more rural than my neighbourhood. πŸ˜‰ I hope you’re enjoying your time over there. Chiang Mai is good – still getting used to the heat and humidity, but the city really growing on me.

  • Heather says:

    It’s only natural to miss a place where you had so many formative experiences. For me that place is New York City. I moved there from small-town Virginia after college because I was desperate to experience big city life. I didn’t know a soul there and my parents were terrified! But just like Frank says, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere! NYC is where I started my career, made life-long friends and met my now husband. Even though I’m currently living halfway around the world in Shanghai, a part of my heart is in NYC and I still consider it “home.”
    Heather recently posted..Once Upon a Tea at the Langham, Hong KongMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Wow, small town to the the Big Apple! That would have been a massive change. You certainly chose a good place to experience city life. πŸ˜‰ Keep enjoying Shanghai.

  • Chilli or chilly? πŸ˜‰ hehehe
    LOVE that photo of you at noraebang – so cute!
    Thanks for sharing so many photos. They are all brilliant… and yes, there is something very special about the Korean dining experience. I miss it too sometimes and didn’t have the experience you did, living there.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..The Stories You TellMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Ah, lol, thanks for catching that! I’ve been out of an English speaking country far too long. πŸ˜‰ I’m glad I learned about japchae from you – it ended up becoming one of my favourite Korean dishes.

  • Kerri says:

    Great post Audrey and some lovely photos! The puppies look so cute and the meal for three looks amazing πŸ™‚
    Kerri recently posted..10 of the Most Impressive Waterfalls in the WorldMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      It was a great meal and I’m pretty sure we asked for seconds – some of those dishes were just so good! πŸ˜‰

  • I can totally relate to this post right now. In April, I moved to Warsaw after living in Istanbul for three years. I fell completely in love with this city that straddles both Europe and Asia and was devastated to leave it. This past week, I’ve watched the Turkish protests happening in Istanbul & across the country and I wish I were there to support my friends. I want to march with them and wave the Turkish flag, but I don’t want to get sprayed with tear gas. πŸ™
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    • Audrey says:

      That’s a long time to call a place home. I can imagine it would be difficult to watch the current situation unfolding and not being able to be do much from so far away. I’ve also been watching along and I really hope things get resolved there soon.

  • Kalli says:

    I love reading reasons why someone loved or didn’t love a certain place. For my husband and I, the place we get the most homesick for is Mexico. It’s the longest we’ve ever spent in one place (in order to have our baby) and the people, food, weather and culture all make it something I miss on a regular basis. Can’t wait to go to Korea one day!
    Kalli recently posted..Why I Don’t Care if My Child Remembers Our TravelsMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I’ve heard so many good things about Mexico. I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but I know a few people who have extended their stays there and it’s almost become like their home. I think the Mexican food would easily win me over. πŸ˜‰

  • Beth says:

    A CAT CAFE?! Oh, I am SO going there! Beautiful photos πŸ™‚ I also sometimes miss Peru where I taught for a year and a few months. Go back when you can! πŸ™‚
    Beth recently posted..why i travelMy Profile

  • Agness says:

    I remember how much I missed China when we moved to Cambodia so I totally get ya! Can’t wait to make it to Korea, maybe this summer :-).
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    • Audrey says:

      I hope you make it to Korea. It’s a fun place to visit, though I have to warn you, summer in Seoul is probably worse than SE Asia!

  • Zhu says:

    I sometime miss China, for the same kind of reasons: my first time far far away from home alone, a formative experience, a unique place, etc.
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  • memographer says:

    Love the first/top photo. So much in it!
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  • i can relate to you..been to Korea once, it was just a two-night trip. and it was absolutely fun that i tend to miss it sometimes.
    john@discoverydiscovery recently posted..Things you can get up to in MarrakechMy Profile

  • Helen says:

    Hey Audrey,

    I know EXACTLY how you feel. Every day of my life I miss Africa, for so many reasons. It too feels like the place I grew up. Or at least got to know myself a bit better. It helps me when I write about it though. All of a sudden I’m back there, if only in my imagination.

    You’ll be back before you know it I’m sure!

    Helen
    Helen recently posted..When Two Worlds Collide: Confessions of a Thirty Something WandererMy Profile

  • Callie says:

    The more I travel, the more items I add to my “places I miss” list. I miss Buenos Aires every day! Nice pics – Korea looks so quirky and great!
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    • Audrey says:

      Oh, Buenos Aires! That’s another place I miss and I didn’t even live there. Sometimes a few days in a city is enough to know if it’s a match or not. πŸ˜‰

  • Alex @ ifs ands & butts says:

    Love all the photos! I will definitely miss Germany more than I can even think about grasping when I leave. It will always be so special to me and it kills me to think that one day I won’t have constant access to things like fresh bread, but more importantly the people I’ve met here.

    • Audrey says:

      Ahh, Germany and its breads and pastries. I visited my friend there a few summers ago and every morning we would go pick up fresh bread from the bakery. SO good! Germany has the best breakfasts!

  • Great destination places in Seoul city says:

    I really enjoyed in the city of Seoul, Korea. One of the great city in Korea, i wanted to share some of the my travel thoughts and ideas on this city.

  • Apol of Wanderful Together says:

    awww… I wonder when I can go to Korea.

    I taught English to Koreans for more than a year…after university they were my friends and what they need to learn was my job. I got so attached and still am….and I still keep in touch with them. I was the only tutor who could speak Korean so they wanted to study with me more than any other tutor…they taught me their language and I really appreciated that.

    Feels good to reminisce ha!
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  • Julio Moreno says:

    I am completing my 4th year here, and probably my last. But I know Korea will always be my second home. I think it is reflected in the things we do.
    While I started my own blog to kind of break that mold and expand what I talk about to other places in the world, I often just write about Korea :).

    Here are some videos to cheer you up since you mentioned the lantern festival. I was a cool parade with (no joke) fire-breathing dragons!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDre0IqHq3U
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    • Audrey says:

      Wow, four years! That’s a long time to call a place home. It sounds like you’ve really enjoyed your time teaching there. Wishing you the best wherever is next. πŸ™‚

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    I miss Buenos Aires.
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  • Chloe says:

    I typed in “I miss Korea” into google and this post was the first thing to come up! I felt like I was reading something I could have written myself. I lived there for a year and didn’t realize how much of an effect it had on me until I left. I’m happy to be home but miss it everyday. I feel like a piece of me will always be there and it’s sad that its so faraway and I can’t just pop over for a weekend visit.

  • Rike says:

    2 months ago I came back from my exchange year in Thailand and I have exactly the same feelings as you have. I’m still missing so much, not only things or people, but my whole Thai way of life since I had the best year one could possibly imagine and it’s pretty hard to re-adapt to the life back home.
    I wish you all the very best, keep on traveling and memorize every second of it! πŸ™‚

  • Christie says:

    I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog and found this post. I too miss Korea. I lived there for a whirlwind quarter of a year. I miss noraebang as well! I also miss Daegu and those fancy tiny birthday cakes and poorly written English slogans (I had a T-shirt that read “Everything you have heart about california is probably tree”) and soju (well maybe “miss” is the wrong word for soju). Anyways, I’m following your blog now

    Christie
    Christie recently posted..My sleep is like wineMy Profile

  • Nobbie Q says:

    Was in Korea last year for a year long teaching gig. Yeah I miss it as well, for many of the same reasons you listed, including living away from my house for the first time for the longest and farthest time away ever. Although it wasn’t all hunky dorey at my school, it was definitely a unique experience that I was glad to embark on, because I don’t think I would be able to do it later in life. Miss some of my students and of course the crazy fast transportation system.

  • Pamella says:

    Living in a foreign country is such a liberating experience. It’s scary at first – leaving your comfort zone to explore the unknown – but in the end, everything is just worth it. It enables one to experience and do things for the first time, especially things they never thought they’d do in their entire life. I have lived in Korea (Daegu specifically) for two years for my Master’s degree. And now that I’m back in the Philippines, I can’t help but miss Korea and the friends I’ve made there. That lovely place will always my home away from home.

  • I totally understand what you mean. I lived in Chiang Rai, Thailand, for 15 months, and moving there (even though I knew a couple of the people there already) took so much courage. I really think moving to a foreign country – particularly one with a different language and alphabet – is one of the hardest things to ever do. It makes you grow up in ways you didn’t think you needed to.
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  • Nelson Mochilero says:

    I live almost two years in Argentina and other two in Uruguay.
    I know that feeling. It seems like travel makes you left pieces of yourself around the world.
    Great post Audrey, inspires me to talk about the same topic someday.

  • Justin says:

    I definitely miss Korea… I lived there for SIX years, came home twice for some months, and now have just come home permanently a month ago. Yeah, I have a car and am finally free of catching taxis after 12… yeah, I have cable and can finally watch all the shows I had to wait weeks to download… and yeah, I have met some wonderful, open-minded people even in my small hometown. But something about how spectacular and overdone everything seemed in the capital calls me back every day. Reverse culture shock is over, so I know it’s not that. It’s how deep I went into the culture and how much I miss something that was every day for me. Sigh.

  • Prianka says:

    This post definitely resonates with me. I lived in Daejeon for almost 4 years and I loved it. I feel the same way as you about growing up there, since was there from 23-27, it really was the home of my formative years. I am in Singapore right now for another year, and then who knows where next? Great blog, by the way!
    Prianka recently posted..5 Marvelous Things to do in MadridMy Profile

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