Korean Expat Adjustment Syndrome: How You Can Beat it With Little or No Style
Having lived here long enough for it to be pathetic that the following ideas hadnât occurred to me sooner, Iâd 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 youâre anything like me, you live near a ball-shaking intersection with a ton of traffic all the time. Get earplugs. Theyâre like two bucks at the chemistâs. Not every chemist, mind you. Some places didnât even know what I was talking aboutâgranted, my Korean could use some work, but, âNo, Mr. Chemist, Iâm not here to buy headphones.
Anyway, the Korean word for âear is gwi (?) and they use the loanword âplug, pronounced peur-ruh-geuh (???), so give it your best shot: Gwi peur-ruh-geuh. Just make sure you replace them regularly or at least semi-regularly if youâre 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 whoâve been here for years are still living out of cardboard boxes. Thatâs fine, once again, if youâre 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 thereâs like a TV on the top table.
Toss it Out
If I didnât do a bi-annual purge of my wardrobe, Iâd 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 buyâor, if youâre already a criminal, get torrents ofâvarious âdoses.
The website claims that it can, through specific audio frequencies, give the listener the impression that theyâre âon anything from adrenochrome to yaba, whatever the f*** that is.
For the past year or so, Iâve been totally hammering my glutes by taking the stairs, which I think youâll 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 thatâs totally big enough for me and my kitchen/shower combo and my washing machine that totally works all the time, Iâve grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort; âabject 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 doesâkind of. Unfortunately, my TV ziggurat is covered in a fine layer of ash which is particularly bad because itâs 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.