The Life of a Military Ex-pat in South Korea

The Life of a Military Ex-pat

The Life of a Military Ex-pat in South Korea

I am a military ex-pat. However, I am starting to doubt my ex-pat status during a recent dinner party. We welcomed some teacher ex-pats to a long-promised and much-appreciated home-cooked meal. I have a new respect for my friends who have come to South Korea on their own. They’ve come without the support network or safety net that the military community is afforded.

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Seeking a Comfortable Expat Lifestyle

What is a military ex-pat?

During dinner and over a bottle of Cab, I realized Americans who come to Korea alone are brave. They are on their own, without the support of the military or Federal Government backing them up. And although I am an ex-pat, I have a support network that does much of the heavy lifting. Most of my teacher friends are outside this category. They are living a more “native” lifestyle. Although I live in South Korea, I live a more comfortable ex-pat lifestyle. I am a military ex-pat. I get all the benefits of my American citizenship while experiencing the culture, food, and customs of South Korea.

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When are they coming to move you? My husband asked one of our guest about to move to Europe. Who are they, she laughed. And can you tell them to hurry up? Because I”m not looking forward to packing up my apartment by myself.

More than likely there are no “them” for ex-pats unless they (the ex-pats) pay for it. And as a result, come Monday morning, whatever she doesn’t sell or take with her will be on the curb.

As military ex-pats, we have access to the housing office, transportation, and an army of support personnel to help us acclimate to our Korean lifestyle.

Enjoying Italian Opera in Daegu, South Korea— It’s something to experience.

Modern Luxuries

Most Korean apartments are small and don’t have eat-in kitchens. And they need to be equipped with modern appliances. My guest walked into my master bedroom, looked around, and said this is about the size of his two-bedroom apartment.

We originally thought our cable which is included with the rent sucked. But now we realize it’s pretty darn good and while my guests loved the spaghetti I made, they’ll be back for the cable. They also appreciated Channel 622 or Black Music Station, as it’s called. And as military ex-pats, my real estate agent is the one I call when the cable goes out. Not the cable company.

Post and Commissary Privileges

One of my guests confided that he befriended service members on purpose when he first got here. Because of that friendship, he accessed the Post for a good haircut and a sandwich from Subway. That’s deep… uh, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was just the latest military ex-pat friend.

Korean Language Not Necessary

I may never NEED to know Korean, but total cultural immersion helps. As a military ex-pat, I don’t have to learn Korean. One of my teacher’s friends speaks Korean every single day and does not just say hello and goodbye. It’s necessary for survival in the country. Being on your own makes it more of a necessity. It only took him a few years to become conversational. He is as close to fluent as any American without formal training. And now he wants to move again and tackle Chinese. And because of this, he has an equal mix of Korean and American friends.

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