Expat Adjustment Syndrome: How You Can Beat it With Little or No Style
If our recent interview with a Zen Master fails to help you adjust to life's little difficulties, London Scat Party bassist and Australian native Kim Walshe has some tips for living the good life in the ROK. If this doesn't work, you're on your own.
BUSAN, South Korea -- Having lived here long enough for it to be pathetic that the following ideas hadn’t occurred to me sooner, I’d like to share some tips on living peacefully in K-land.
Peacefully in mind, body and soul, and not turning into an angry, hate-filled man or woman who sits peering out through drawn blinds at the pedestrians below imagining they totally have an agenda against me.
If you’re anything like me, you live near a ball-shaking intersection with a ton of traffic all the time. Get earplugs. They’re like two bucks at the chemist’s. Not every chemist, mind you. Some places didn’t even know what I was talking about—granted, my Korean could use some work, but, “No, Mr. Chemist, I’m not here to buy headphones.”
Anyway, the Korean word for “ear” is gwi (귀) and they use the loanword “plug,” pronounced peur-ruh-geuh (플러그), so give it your best shot: Gwi peur-ruh-geuh. Just make sure you replace them regularly or at least semi-regularly if you’re thrifty of character. A sleeping mask is a good idea as well. Mine looks like a panda, but other animals are available too, I guess.
Most expats live in places smaller than they might be used to. If you have a huge place, all full of bedrooms and toilets and baths, then you can "take a flying f*** at a rolling donut," as they say in the classics.
On the other hand, some people who’ve been here for years are still living out of cardboard boxes. That’s fine, once again, if you’re thrifty of character, but when your apartment is small enough to urinate in the shower from your bed then there has to be a better way.
The point is, yes, there is one: Get your stuff arranged as vertically as you can. I have tables actually stacked on top of each other and it looks totally awesome, and totally not as tacky as it sounds. And there’s like a TV on the top table.
Toss it Out
If I didn’t do a bi-annual purge of my wardrobe, I’d have to put my desk on top of the other two tables, making some kind of TV ziggurat. I read somewhere that at the start of every season you should put all your coat hangers backwards, with the stabby end facing your eyes.
If you take something out, you put it back the normal way around and anything untouched at the end of the season gets brought down to the basement and crammed into the wheelie bins full of food waste because your neighbor is totally stealing your subscription to Jugs and Ammo.
A few years ago, a local mate turned me onto brainwave synchronization CDs, designed to stimulate neural pathways and entrain brainwaves using binaural beats; a kind of fast-track to meditation. I must say, after a while, I was seeing benefits.
Unfortunately, I went too far, and found this thing called iDoser, which is the iJunkie version of brainwave entrainment. You download the software and buy—or, if you’re already a criminal, get torrents of—various “doses”.
The website claims that it can, through specific audio frequencies, give the listener the impression that they’re “on” anything from adrenochrome to yaba, whatever the f*** that is.
For the past year or so, I’ve been totally hammering my glutes by taking the stairs, which I think you’ll agree has positive benefits, not only for avoiding the security guard at the front entrance when you are carrying nefarious sundries into your apartment, but also for dodging the cameras when you have to drag a sofa down to the basement that has for whatever reason been sawn in half.
Also, let's be honest; stairwells are a great place to hook up.
Living as I do in a sweet studio apartment that’s totally big enough for me and my kitchen/shower combo and my washing machine that totally works all the time, I’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort; “abject luxury”, as someone might have once described it.
The only gripe I have, while peering suspiciously through the curtains at pedestrians, is that I wish my apartment could smell like an Indian restaurant. Then I got some incense and now it does—kind of. Unfortunately, my TV ziggurat is covered in a fine layer of ash which is particularly bad because it’s also my kitchen table.
If Walshe's style of adjustment doesn't suit you, give our interview with the Zen Master Chong An Sunim a try.
Read more from Kim Walshe