Next up, we have David who is currently living in South Korea. I don’t know David but he graciously agreed to be featured. As most of you know, I lived in South Korea for a year and a half and it has always held a special place in my heart since.
- 1.Where do you currently live?
Anyang, South Korea
2.How long have you lived there for?
3. Is this your first time living outside Ireland?
Yes. It started as a one year plan but I’m still here now
4. Why did you leave Ireland initially?
I initially came to Korea in 2013. Back then I had just graduated from college and was working part-time in Telfords in Portlaoise. This was around the same time that the second financial crisis wave was hitting Ireland, so obviously working in anything construction related was not ideal, but most other fields were feeling the pinch as well so full-time jobs were scarce. I decided I wanted to leave the country for a while to work and see the world. I tried to go to Canada first, they had high paying jobs for machine drivers, but I always missed out as they wanted older guys who were more likely to settle there long term. Around the same time a friend from college, who was living in Korea, hit me up and suggested I head over for a year. He gave me all the pros and cons and finally convinced me to go over later that year. After 1 year of teaching, I ended up buying my local pub as well as getting better teaching jobs, and because of that, I’m still here.
- What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about moving abroad (after the pandemic is over), but is nervous to do so?
Most of my advice will probably cater to people who want to teach abroad, as I’m more familiar with that, but it may be useful for people wanting to work in other fields. If people are nervous to move abroad it depends on what your worries are. Initially if you’re looking for a good job through a recruiter, never take the first job they give you. These guys work on commission so they will throw any job they have at you no matter what your preferences are, so you have to be patient and strict with them. If your worries are more job-related, ask the company can you speak to a current staff member, preferably someone working in a position similar to what you applied for. This can definitely help relieve a lot of stress you have about a new job. In terms of moving to a new country, nerves are expected, but the unknown can be the most enjoyable part of the whole experience. Looking up some cultural faux pas can be helpful, as well as a few useful phrases, but I’ve found that most people are very accepting of strangers abroad, especially if they’re open-minded and willing to learn. Irish communities abroad are also very close-knit and are always open to adding new members to their social groups. Getting involved with these Irish communities can provide lots of advice as well as a huge helping hand when you first arrive.
- What are some major differences you’ve noticed between your new homeplace and Ireland?
Food, language, and culture are obvious ones. But other things like very efficient public transport, inexpensive health systems, and lots of 24 hours businesses are some of the main reasons that keep me here. Schoolwise, the academic year is flipped, so they start school in the spring instead of the Autumn so the holiday periods are different
- What is the best thing about living in a new place, in your opinion?
Different food, meeting new people all the time from both Korea and other countries, making new social groups you never would have considered before, exploring new cultures
- How has coronavirus affected the city you currently live in? What measures have been brought in there?
Nothing has been locked down completely yet, but lots of social distancing is being encouraged. All schools and a lot of businesses are working remotely right now. The dates for reopening are being pushed back every week so everything here is still up in the air. Citizens are being reminded with signs all over the city, to wash their hands, cough into their arms and to wear masks at all times. Hotlines and drive in test centers for people who suspect they have the virus have been set up to make everything as efficient as possible. People are starting to get restless staying at home, but for the most part, everyone is doing a good job of staying away from public transport and crowds, as well as social distancing.
- Did you leave Ireland alone, or with a partner/friend? And do you currently live alone or with others?
I left Ireland on my own and I also currently live alone
- How has the coronavirus and what’s currently happening in the world affected you? Has it had a direct impact on any aspect of your life in particular?
It’s had a major effect on my 2 jobs in different ways. My university job has become crazy busy right now as all of our classes have gone online. I deal with a lot of online class organization and content production so my workload has all but tripled over the last month or so. The bar I own now is next to the larget US Military base outside of the USA. 90% of our customers are affiliated with the US army, but they have been on lockdown for over a month right now. The business has all but dried up, so we’ve had to take the drastic measure of closing the pub down for at least 2 months and temporarily laying off all the staff to hopefully be able to reopen the pub in the future.
- Have you thought about going back to Ireland in light of what’s happening?
With Korea’s cheap and efficient health system as well as how proactive the country is as a whole about the virus, I definitely feel safer here right now.
- How do you find living away from home in times like these? Are you worried about loved ones back in Ireland?
There’s always the worries in the back of your mind, especially about sick or elderly family members, but you always remind yourself that there is still only a limited amount you can do individually. Obviously you want to be there in case anything bad happens, but in a way, the family doesn’t need another person there who could be a vector for the virus, especially one that’s coming from abroad on a 12-hour plane journey. Safety and practicality have to take priority in the grand scheme
- Do you think that living away has better equipped you to deal with social distancing in any way? For example, most people are now keeping in touch via virtual means like Zoom/Google Hangouts, were you already doing this with your loved ones in Ireland?
It probably has. You become more used to communicating over technology or at different times of the day. I do a lot of online teaching as part of my job anyway so I’m constantly keeping in touch with students electronically anyway, so communicating like this is not completely unfamiliar
- Did the coronavirus affect any upcoming trips home that you had planned?
Some GAA trips abroad in the spring were canceled. We had plans to go to the Taiwan invitational tournament in April as well as the North Asian Gaelic Games in Hong Kong in June. As of now, all GAA in Asia has been canceled until further notice. We’re still hoping that the Asia Gaelic Games in Malaysia can go ahead in late October.
- What have you been doing to cope in this stressful time? Some people focus on being productive, others binge-watch Netflix, what is your coping mechanism?
With online teaching, I still have a lot of work to do. But after work, I’m definitely staying in much more. I’ve found myself doing research work for the bar, new recipes, etc, watching more TV or even playing PlayStation a bit more.
- Do you think there is any silver lining to what is currently happening in the world?
It’s definitely finding a lot of faults in almost every country’s government systems. Even things not directly related to Corona or medical issues are being found out. It could be the case of a lot of governments having to hit the reset button and having to start again and reevaluate everything properly before they do. Also, I think worldwide public hygiene has improved significantly. Hopefully, people can maintain some level of that after the Corona epidemic is over
- Do you have any plans to move back to Ireland at any point in the future?
I’ve been asking myself the same question for years. I’ve got no plans in the pipeline to move back right now, but obviously you can never say never
Disclaimer: All images in this post are David Dunne’s