Friday, August 10, 2012

Expat Life: Readjusting After Home Leave

So, after 6 weeks Home Leave in the Land of the Fast Food Drive-through, MsCaroline is back in the Land of the Morning Calm. The jet lag seems to be letting up a bit, although she is still finding herself inexorably drawn to the couch around 4:30 each afternoon (where she ostensibly 'reads' but in reality, finds herself dozing off.)  This no doubt has to do with the fact that she find herself wide awake each morning between 3 and 4 am, mind racing, full of vim, vigor, and alternative furniture arrangements. This has not won her any popularity contests with MrL, who has already had 3 weeks to readjust and is, quite naturally, interested in sleeping during those hours.

Regular readers will be happy to know that MsCaroline is not having any major culture shock this time round, but she has been finding that extended time back home caused her to forget some of the things that had become second nature to her here in Korea, and there has been a slight period of readjustment.  For example:

  • Access Cards:  Getting on the elevator and realizing - belatedly - that she had forgotten her building access card, which enables residents to get into the building as well as operate the elevators.  After several fruitless button-pressing episodes - resulting only in a stationary elevator and an unintelligible (to her) message repeated in a soothing Korean voice - MsC finally realized that the voice was saying, "Hey, idiot:  you need an access card to operate the elevator in this building.  Scan your card already."  Oh, yeah. Right. 
  • How To Park:  After 6 weeks' worth of swinging blithely into American parking spots designed for vehicles with names like 'Invasion,' 'Godzilla,' and 'Behemoth,' MsCaroline has had to readjust to squeezing into spots more suited to cars with names like, '' 'Atomic Particle' and 'Speck.' It's taken her a couple days of making humiliating 15-point turns trying to maneuver into minuscule parking spaces (while the queue of cars entering the parking garage backs up behind her,) but she thinks she's finally got her groove back.
  • Korean 'air conditioning:'  Since MsCaroline arrived in Korea last summer, she has made great strides in acclimating herself to both the Korean climate and also the Korean attitude towards air conditioning.  So much so that, if left to her own devices, she is now perfectly happy to keep her apartment temperature at 26 or 27 (78 or 80F,) which is a significant improvement from last summer when she engaged in a constant, clandestine thermostat war with MrLogical kept the apartment slightly cooler.  However, 6 weeks of American air-conditioning levels - which apparently only have settings that range between 'arctic' and 'permafrost' - have definitely affected her sensibilities, which means that, now, upon entering any number of Korean public establishments, she now finds herself slowly and inexorably melting.  This is not actually a problem for anyone except MsCaroline, who finds it embarrassing to be walking around a mall with sweat running down her face or -even worse - onto the merchandise. 
  • Korean Restaurants:   It is worth remembering that, in traditional Korean restaurants, diners often sit cross-legged on cushions on the floor around a low table.  While this is very charming and authentic, it is an activity best undertaken by Westerners when one is mentally prepared for an authentic dining experience and - ideally- has also been engaging in a regular program of stretching. The least ideal time for this sort of traditional floor-sitting experience - and this is just MsCaroline's opinion - is a mere 3 days after having spent close to 24 hours in the confines of an airplane when that old disc injury has been acting up.  Unfortunately, once you walk into the restaurant and indicate your desire to eat there, you cannot ask for a do-over once you realize you will be sitting on the floor.  

5 comments:

Choco Pie said...

Uggh, the parking.

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

Love this! We had to use our room card key to operate the elevators in Stockholm. Knowing, as you now do, my husband's difficulties with technology, this took some getting used to. We spent many hours either forgetting or wafting the card around in front of magic eyes.

I think a teatime snooze is a habit worth holding onto.

BavarianSojourn said...

Make the most of those tea-time snoozes, I am jealous! As for parking. I can't manage it in one go usually despite the size of the space :D

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I would truly struggle with those temperatures! Melting just isn't in it.

MsCaroline said...

@CP: Only slightly less frustrating than the driving!

@Trish: Yes, after 6 weeks of using actual keys or garage door remotes (the US is, after all, the land of the car)I definitely needed some time to readjust.
The snooze has been nice, but I'm sure as soon as school starts it will be just a pleasant memory.

@Emma - As I said above - the snooze is not long for the world...so sad!

@Elizabeth - yes, it's been terrible - even the Koreans are commenting on it, which is unusual, since they seem to tolerate the most extreme weather - cold or hot or rainy or what have you - with stoic matter-of-factness. I am definitely ready for a break.