The View from Outside

I’m an American living in South Korea. There are lots of us here: soldiers, businesspeople, teachers and others. Some of us call this place home, whether home for now, home for good, or home for lack of a better word. I’ve been out of the U.S. long enough that my family and friends long ago stopped asking me when I intend to “come home”, meaning, the place where I was born. South Korea is my home, for better or worse.

Maybe it’s because I live in Asia, but I’ve always felt like an outsider, even though I’ve lived here longer than many of the people who refer to me as a foreigner have been alive. I’m married to a Korean, have kids in school, Korean friends, in-laws, neighbors, etc. but I understand that no matter how long I stay or how much I assimilate, I’ll always be a waygookin (literally “outside country person”). That’s natural; I’m not lamenting it, and it isn’t unique to South Korea. I’m not even talking about discrimination. I am discriminated against, but I am also discriminated for, which evens the balance. I’m not a citizen of Korea, and I don’t intend to be. I don’t expect any special rights or privileges, only those to which fairness entitles me, which, for the most part, is what I get.

I don’t want to blog about Korea or America per se. I’d like to blog about the spaces in between, the space I inhabit with other expatriates, in which we strive to make sense of both countries to which we partially belong and our place among them. This blog is founded on the assumption that expats of all nations have a unique cultural vantage point and something to add to both conversations. In a world that requires and increasingly values cross-cultural understanding and exchange, expats have always been on the frontier. They are the pioneers of the cultural borderlands, the tinkerers of new cultural forms, and the messengers of human possibility.

This is not necessarily a blog for American expats in Korea, though of course you are welcome. I happen to be American and live in Korea, but I’d like to welcome anyone who is living in the cultural space between the motherland and some other place. My goal here is to create a space for thoughtful global citizens to meet, have a laugh, and reflect on life on the outside looking in.

Welcome.

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18 comments

    1. Sure thing. I’m totally new to the blogging world, so I’m not completely sure what you mean. By “sharing links” do you mean linking to other blogs, or reblogging posts I like? I know you’ve been at this for a while, no? Any tips or advice on connecting with readers/bloggers would be appreciated. And thanks for dropping by.

      1. Yeah.

        There does tend to be different ideological habits in the blogosphere. Libs share links; cons support only themselves. It’s a marketing decision you need to make.

  1. John,
    I thought I posted a response through my phone but I don’t think it took.

    Cuz, I share your sentiments. When I moved away from South Florida back in 2005 to start life anew a mere 8 hours away (and within the same state mind you), my family thought I was crazy. I fully understand your sentiments and empathize with you. Although I had move a mere 565 miles away, I had established myself with a career, a wife (at the time and step daughter) and began life anew. At first, I struggled with the changes and had often second guessed myself for making the move. The transition wasn’t simple and after awhile I began to feel comfortable —-settled even. By year 4, NW Florida was my home and was often peppered with the same question from family and friends: “When are you coming home?” Well, I knew where my home was and I was perfectly comfortable and content in my abode in my new location with my new life. It was my home. Once I lost my job, I was pressed to make a decision and abandoned everything I had worked so hard for. Now that I’m back in SoFla (and living with my Robin and her husband + 2 kids), I am desperately seeking my new ‘home’. Although I’m back where I was born and raised — it no longer is home and am desperately trying to find out where my next home will be. Good to hear from you again and hopefully, once my finances get settled with obtaining full time work, I’d love to come for a visit.

    Happy New year to you cuz, have fun!
    Chris Harding.

    1. Hey Chris,

      Your post was received. The reason you didn’t see it is because I have it set so that I approve posts before they go up (to keep the spam and the trolls at bay). I’ve been looking in every day and trying to get posts up as quickly as I can, but if you don’t see it right away, that’s why.

      I replied to your other post at length (it’s in the “Home is where the _____ is” thread), but I also want to say Happy New Year, and that I hope you find home in 2013, wherever it turns out to be. We would love to have you here – you’re welcome any time. Best of luck and thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the invitation! I´ll read your blog – and I´ll let you know my thoughts about it 😉 at the latest in summer with some beer in Busan

    Take care and give my regards to your wife
    Malte

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