Author’s note: full copyright credit for original text goes to Mary Schmich, an author for the Chicago Tribune in 1997. Find the original article here. Baz Luhrmann made it into a popular song in 1998. For the entire history of the song / text, Wikipedia has you covered.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Korean expats of 2010: Eat Kimchi.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, kimchi would be it.
The long term benefits of kimchi have been proved by Korean scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own Korean experience…I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the lifestyle and beauty of Korea; oh nevermind. You will not understand the lifestyle and beauty of Korea until you’ve left. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of your tiny apartment and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how many students lay before you and how fabulous it really was.Koreans are not as thin as you imagine.
Don’t worry about next month’s schedule, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to get your landlord to fix your broken sink by whispering Swahili. The real troubles you’ll experience are apt to be things that your boss springs on you; the kind that change your schedule at 4pm on some random Tuesday.
Do one thing everyday that scares you. Noraebang. Don’t be reckless with Korean’s hearts, don’t put up with Koreans who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on street DVD’s; sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad. The price may be good, but crap you buy still costs you money.
Remember the good students you teach. Forget the crazy bosses. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old blogposts, throw away your old pay stubs.
Stretch – or pound your legs.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your time in Korea. The most interesting expats I know didn’t know what they wanted to do when they first arrived. Some of the most interesting expats I know still don’t.
Drink plenty of beer.
Be kind to your T.A.’s, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry a Korean, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll qualify for an F-2, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll do a midnight run after 3 months, or maybe you’ll get buried at Seoul Foreigners Cemetery after 50 years in Korea. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but the local park. Read the directions, even if they’re in Korean. Do NOT read Korean beautiful magazines, they will only make you feel stupid.
Get to know fellow expats, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your boss; they are the best people to serve as references, and may be able to help you in the future.
Understand that drinking buddies come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and beverage selection because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were in Korea.
Live in Seoul once, but leave before it makes you hard; live on Gangwon-do once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain Korean truths – parents will be crazy, politicians will fight, you too will get burned out, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were a younger teacher, parents were reasonable, politicians were gentle people and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a savings account, maybe you have a Korean spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t spend too much on your clothes, or by the time you’re 30, you’ll have five suitcases.
Be careful which recruiter you use, but, be patient with those that are honest. Honesty is a form of caring, dispensing it is a way of making money, taking care of people, and getting referrals that are worth even more.
But trust me on the kimchi.