How do you live in London? Part 3 | Mother & Bride

Joo Yeoun Yoo

May 23rd, 2023 4:41 min read 1289 words

I have various ages. You might be wondering what it means but listen first. In Korea and Britain, I am now officially in my 30s. It’s an age when we are under social pressure to be more decent, have plans, and be a little more severe than in our 20s. But I feel I’m still young because I’m a student. And I want to do many things, and it is too reckless to think about the distant future. However, as soon as I set foot on Korean soil, my existence became that of an immature being, where my parents spent the money earned from their blood and sweat on my life abroad, without me fulfilling the obligations to marry and have a baby in an era of low birth rates and non-marriage.

I saw more and more friends around me, even younger friends than me, starting to get married and have children and naturally settling down and building a foundation in Korea. Seeing such friends, I also think, “Am I immature?” That’s because when I meet them, the topic of conversation is mainly about their husbands/wives, and their families rather than studying, travelling, researching, and daily stories. I choose silence.

Since I graduated from a women’s university, I have overwhelmingly female friends around me. It is safe to say my friends are almost all women. Most of them got a job in Korea and settled down, but some friends settled abroad with their husbands after marriage. Some study in graduate school, and some are helping their husbands without or with academic plans. Looking at such friends’ lives, they look great. I struggle with my little problems right now, but their lives look stable and they are responsible for their family. Wouldn’t it be a big problem for them to settle down abroad? This time, I decided to ask about experiences I had never had before, that of Korean mothers and brides in Britain

It’s incredible that you settled in Britain. How did you end up in London?
-A: I worked in Korea but switched my job to the UK a few years ago. Then I met my current husband, married, and settled here naturally.
-B: My husband moved from Korea to Britain, and I moved with him. I quit working in Korea and live with my husband here.
-C: I’d been dating my husband since college, but when the story of marriage and living together came out, I concluded that I, who had lived abroad a lot since I was young, had better settle in Britain. I had a long-distance relationship in the middle, but after I got a job offer in Britain, I settled in London.
-D: After graduating from university in Britain, I naturally settled down while working here.
-E: I graduated from postgraduate school in London and met my husband while looking for a job. As I got a job and my life stabilised, I wanted to settle down, and my boyfriend talked about marriage.

It was nice to meet people who settled in Britain for various reasons. I was surprised that people who are older than me, as I came to London as a late student, settled here by having a new family. There was also someone of the same age as me, but I felt she was a little older than myself because she was married and had children.

I returned to Korea on vacation for about six weeks after last semester. During that short time, my family asked me for numerous blind dates. As I said, I am in my 30s, and in Korea, I am already at the age when I must get married and have children. I refused constantly, but I always find a sad wish in my parents’ eyes “I hope my daughter gets married soon.” Perhaps that’s why there is vague anxiety that I, a student, may be falling behind socially from the end of my 20s to my early 30s. I can’t continue to live as a student permanently. I ask those who are closer to the adult world than I am.

What are you doing now? Have you changed your life or job since you moved to London?
-A: I’m doing what I’ve been doing in Korea. But not exactly doing the same thing. I worked as a professional in Korea, but the licence is unavailable in London, so I’m working as an assistant. When working in Korea, I commuted to work and worked overtime often because it was before COVID-19. Here I work flexibly, and overtime is significantly less than before. In that respect, work-life balance has improved a lot. I realised that having dinner with my family was a great thing.
-B: I quit my job in Korea and am a full-time housewife here. Since I lived alone in Korea, nothing has changed in terms of living, but I feel a little strange when I stay still during the day without working. Now I have my time while my children are attending school, I’m thinking about getting a job here while taking classes. At first, I liked the idea of resting without working, but I want to work so much these days. I feel like I’m losing my existence.
-C: There was a time when my career was cut off for a while after I moved. However, I have work experience in Korea and part-time work in Britain, so I quickly found a job again. I was lucky. Because I lived in various countries, my daily life kept changing. After living in London, the most significant change in my life was that I got used to waiting a little longer. I’m used to fasting during administrative processing because I’m Korean, but it’s not like that here.
-D: I’ve been working part-time since college, and I don’t have any visa problems, so that I could get a job here naturally. I can’t remember clearly because I lived in Korea a long time ago. However, when I listen to my friends who returned to Korea after graduating from college, they prefer a stable life from an early age, whether getting a job, getting married, or raising children.
-E: I studied what I was studying in Korea, like in Britain. Of course, the details have changed a little, but I learned the same thing in context. It’s my first time getting a job in Britain, so comparing my work life to Korea is complicated. But I’m relatively lucky because my friends in Korea had a much harder time finding a job.

According to the 2017 OECD survey, Koreans’ satisfaction with life is 29th out of 38 countries, ranking at the bottom. Many dream of moving abroad for more opportunities or because of so-called “꼰대이즘 kkondaeism,” which is too hard to be recognized because of age. 꼰대 Kkondae is a so-called boss or older person who forces others to think of their old ways. It’s close to the meaning of “condescending,” but in a more sarcastic way.

People who immigrated to foreign countries are said to have entered a “land of opportunity.” But many immigrants think there is no land of unconditional opportunity. Even if you are fully prepared, you will have difficulties when you come abroad. Moving abroad simply because it’s “romantic” is foolish because all countries have their own shortcomings. Immigration and living abroad are both complicated realities.

Then, what were the difficulties they faced while living in Britain or London? What was incredibly different from Korea?

Is there anything you should pay more attention to or be careful about when living in London compared to Korea?
-A: There’s a vast difference in language. Some words change the meaning slightly in English, and grammar and sentences must be written according to the situation, so you must use proper English according to the TPO(Time, Place, Occasion). No matter how good I am at English, sometimes the other person can’t understand and sometimes misunderstand, so I try to communicate accurately to reduce that.
-B: Regarding life, I have to bare something in my mind here that I no longer care about in Korea. Like bed bugs and rats. People are still moving their homes because of bedbugs, and I still get surprised when I see mice on the tube. So I pay more attention to hygiene. And because I have a child, I’m more concerned about security and safety. A few days ago, a burglar broke into my neighbour’s house, and the car disappeared. That doesn’t happen in Korea, but many things still bother me about my daily life, just as many car owners still wear their car steering wheel locks every time.
I relate to this. When I was passing by, I saw something yellow on the steering wheel, so I wondered what it was, and it was a lock. My friend said it was to prevent the car thief from taking it, but I said, “Then the thief can’t steal it,” Another friend laughed and joked that most of the cars were not locked, so they could still steal it.
-C: It is much more racially diverse, so I take care not to cause racial discrimination. I’m always alert that there might be a discriminatory expression among what I commonly say.
-D: It’s probably the most common answer, but I’m careful when I talk. Anyway, I am used to using English while living here for a long time, but there is also a difference in the use of language between generations. “Can I tell this to this person?” I think of this question all the time.
-E: As a woman living abroad, I always think I should protect my body. In Korea, many family members can help me, but my husband is the only one here. So for my safety, I carry self-defence supplies and get home as early as possible.

If you are a Korean, you may have heard the word “tal-joseon” at least once. It is a self-sarcastic new term meaning leaving Korea, and according to a 2018 study, 36% of the respondents said they had considered moving abroad, and the main reason was “for a happy life.” And the next most popular response was, “I want to challenge myself in a new society.” Those who responded were 15 to 39 years old, either depressed by their repetitive daily work, or wanted to leave because they were tired of the harsh Korean lifestyle.

However, they could be happier or much more miserable here. As I said, every country has its problems,this is not a utopia for us either.

A few months ago, I went to Boots to buy shampoo. I was choosing what to buy for a long time, and two teenage boys came to me and asked, “Hey, I’m sorry, but can you tell me which one is bigger?” It was a condom box when I glanced at it. I thought it’s discriminatory to ask me that. Because there were many people in the aisle other than me, and the size of the condom was written on the box clearly. But I didn’t dare to ask, “What are you doing?” this time. I was embarrassed and replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t know,” and they disappeared from my eyes with a chuckle and a simple apology.

Maybe it’s because I’m Asian and a woman, but that experience didn’t leave my head. Do you have a similar experience to me? Have you ever had unpleasant or absurd experiences as a woman compared to Korea?
-A: I don’t think there’s a lot if you limit it to being a woman. I’ve seen some perverts on my way to work in Korea, had a friend who was stalked at school, and heard rumors of sexual harassment at work, but I haven’t had that experience while living in London yet. Of course, in London, because I am an Asian woman, some groups play pranks on the streets because I look easy, which is very rare.
-B: I live in an area a little way from London. There are probably very few Asians in the neighbourhood, and when I go to the market with my husband, I feel a little bit of a gaze. Some neighbourhood kids tear their eyes or shout “Nihao” without realising it’s racist behaviour. But I wasn’t attacked or criticised for being a woman because I am usually accompanied my husband.
-C: Well, there was nothing uncomfortable about being a woman. Of course, it’s a little scarier when I go home late at night because I work overtime sometimes. My husband is the only one who can help me, but he’s busy too. And it’s very bright at night in Korea, but it’s dark here at 10 o’clock. So it’s a little scarier.
-D: There’s not much compared to Korea. It may be just a superficial kindness, but they often try to help women who accompany their children.
-E: Other than being cat-called for being a woman in public, I haven’t had any unpleasant experiences.

There were two emotions at the same time. I thought, “Then I was unlucky?” I thought it was fortunate that they did not have a case like mine. But indeed, I was alone at the time, and the interviewers have a family here, so there’s a little more protection. It is difficult to compare with Korea because I witnessed sexual harassment on the street, and of course, I have some bad experiences in Korea too. Do women become easy targets everywhere? It’s sad, but I think it’s true.

Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to living here. What are they for women living abroad?
-A: The good thing about here is that basic manners are excellent. They hold the door, let you in the lift first, or middle-aged women call you by familiar names such as Darling and My Love. And if I make eye contact and laugh, the other person makes eye contact and laughs. In Korea, you might get treated like a weird person. But I always wanted to work at the same level as I did in Korea. I was a person who could work as a senior position, not as an assistant, but here I feel like I’m an unqualified person, so it’s unfair.
-B: In London, I feel a little freer to live. Of course, I quit my job and followed my husband, but most Korean friends have lost their careers and live as full-time housewives. But I’m trying to find a job here, and I’ve had a few interviews. I have a chance to get a job. The difficulty is that this place differs from Korea, so I must adapt from the beginning. It’s hard because what you eat, what you buy, what you say, what you meet, and what you can do are different. I’ve lived in Korea all my life, but I was at a loss for how to change all of those.
I know it is frustrating. It’s a funny thing to say, but I’ve improved my cooking since I’ve been here. Anyway, I need help to get used to it. But at the same time, the good thing about this place is that it’s a little more accessible, as you said.
-C: Isn’t the most significant advantage being able to live according to my ability? Korea is a system where so-called “background” is very important, such as school, family, hometown, kinship relation, and cronyism. But here, I have a chance to succeed if I can. Of course, there will be fewer opportunities for me than for British people, but “he/she’s got a connection” recruitment must be clarified. But as an Asian woman, it feels like a barrier that I can’t belong to the mainstream. Rather than mainstream, I mean a high society. Class society remains in the UK. And Asians have a clear-cut glass ceiling. Also, if I want to work, I have to have the upper hand in competition with British people, so I try to work harder.

Last time, I interviewed my friends who are working here, and they were similar. They told me that if I want to get a job compared to British people who don’t have visa problems, I must try harder because I need to prove that I am better than them.
-D: No social pressure to follow the timeline of life. When I look at my Korean friends, they are already susceptible to having two children and buying a house. And I think there is a culture that considers failure if you don’t keep to the timeline. We tend to leave it all up to ourselves here. I think the social pressure is less. But the problem of racism is something that you can’t experience in Korea. There are occasional comments like Nihao and Ching-Chang-Chong, but they curse in a low voice or get such racist behaviour. I wouldn’t say I like that.
-E: In Korea, I felt like I was building various personas to be reasonable in multiple relationships, but I can live as myself here. Everyone is different, and I respect them all. However, the difficulty is, by hearing from international couples around me, that I am worried about national identity as my child grows up. If you think about where to raise your child and how to raise it, you fight a lot with your husband because of cultural differences. I like living as myself, but I’m already afraid I’ll ruin it even though my child has his own life. I also feel cultural differences, but it’s ironic that I don’t want my child to suffer from cultural differences.

It’s a philosophical question, but what is a country? Being in a home country that exists as a love-hate relationship sometimes gives me a sense of stability, but it can also be a reason to leave. In some ways, it’s a bad thing to compare, but let’s compare a little more.

At first, I felt secure when I thought about my home country. If you live abroad a little, you will experience the presence of homesickness flooding in. People sometimes feel homesick when they want some food but can never get it abroad. Or when all their families are together during holidays but alone in other countries, or when there are international events such as the Olympics. Funny how I have that experience.

Last year, during the World Cup, I participated in the Christmas fete at college, and there was a match between Portugal and Korea that day. Portugal was such a powerful team that even Koreans predicted “how disastrously we would lose.” With half curiosity and half vague expectations, I turned on the game broadcast on my small mobile phone and secretly watched the game with a friend who was sharing a table with me. Like a miracle, Korea won the game, and when we were clearing the table, other Korean friends came to us with flushed faces, saying, “Did you watch the game?” At the same time, we were happy every time we scored a goal, but we couldn’t bear to scream, so we found we cheered quietly in our respective seats. Isn’t that the time when you miss your hometown abroad? I felt that way at the time.

Did you guys ever have that moment? Have you ever felt that it would have been better if you lived in Korea? Would it have been more comfortable?
-A: Sometimes I feel lonely. Of course, I have a husband and a new family here, but all my friends and family are in Korea. Living apart from the people I used to meet often is tough. Also, the medical system is so different from Korea that I’ve been wandering around often. In Korea, if you are sick, you can go to a specialised hospital for medical treatment right away, but not in the UK. In addition, medical insurance itself is different, so in that aspect of life, there is a regret that “If you lived in Korea, you would get better in one shot if you took that medicine.” Oh, and it’s childish, but the water is so different. You can’t even dream of taking a nice bath here. I suffered greatly when I first came to Britain because of the lime. My skin turned inside out, my hair and skin got super dry, that was hard. Sometimes I want to go into the hot water in Korea.
That’s right. Especially when I’m sick and alone abroad, I feel so sad and lonely. I have to take care of myself, but I have no energy and a lot of work to do, and I can’t contact my family in Korea because I’m afraid they’ll worry. I caught a cold once, and my mom called me and I just said, “Hello.” She immediately noticed I had caught a cold and asked if I was okay, and I cried for no reason.
-B: It was tough when I got pregnant. It differs from Korea, from sickness to regular check-ups to postpartum care. But I’m not saying it was uncomfortable, but I was embarrassed because of cultural differences. There’s no such thing as postpartum care here. In Korea, there is a separate postpartum care centre with premium grades, and you can meet friends there. But here, the midwife takes care of you for a few days after giving birth, but I need to take care of myself afterward. If you were in Korea, you could share a little because you have your mother or family, but I’m sorry to ask because there’s only a working husband here. It’s embarrassing to ask my husband to massage my breasts. Thinking about it like that, I felt uncomfortable that there weren’t many people here to help me.
-C: Isn’t it racism? I don’t face racism in Korea. I’m used to it now that passers-by tear their eyes, pretend not to understand my name, say my name with a wrong pronunciation, or our table food comes out late and the waiter gives me the receipt late. Once, I went to the mart to buy vegetables and wore a mask because I had a cold. Then, an old lady shouted, “go away!” and waved her arms. Even when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I wore a mask to avoid harming others. Once, I took an online class to get a new job and was the only Asian. But the assistant instructor looked at me and said, “It must be hard because you have to wake up at dawn to take classes in that country.” I was living in London and could see bright daylight out of the window. At that time, I couldn’t say it because I was embarrassed, but it was like a microaggression that she might think, “Oh, this lady is Asian, so, of course, she will live in her own country.” It’s widespread that way of doing things. Sometimes I feel like I came to Britain and became a “ssamdak(fighting rooster),” which is the only way to protect myself—not holding back. But you didn’t have to do this in Korea. I don’t think I cared about this when I lived in Korea.
There’s a separate word for micro-aggregation! I didn’t know that!
-D: Networking is a must. I don’t leave the house often, but if I do that here, I can’t make friends and naturally get away from the group. Even in college, I could only join the group if I actively presented something first, suggested it, and hung out with them. Same after marriage. I participate even a little in networking time with my husband’s company people or my company people regularly. Finding someone who can hang out with me here takes a lot of work. I left Korea a long time ago, but I’m still familiar with the culture of “정 Jeong” as I have a friend who has kept in touch with me for a long time.
-E: A few days ago, a friend in Korea had a child. But that friend came to my wedding and helped me a lot, but I’m sorry because I can only send a message from a faraway country when something good happens to her. It’s a bit painful that I can’t take care of my family when they are sick because I’m suddenly distant from the people who used to be nice to me. I don’t believe it’s my fault that I left all my background there, but I’m unintentionally living a very lonely life.

Naturally, debt builds up in the mind while living in a foreign country. It is so lonely and exhausting to live alone with all of my closest friends and family in Korea, and I am also tired because I need to take full responsibility for myself here. Of course, I can’t get along with my friends and family. In the process, you can feel like you are committing a disrespectful deed.

Even I, who have not fully settled in Britain, could not attend friends’ weddings or children’s first birthday parties, nor could I visit Korea when my grandfather collapsed, when my mother was quarantined because of COVID-19, or when my friend was diagnosed with a severe illness. To make matters worse, some people rush back to their home country after hearing the death of their grandparents or parents abroad. But if I live here a little longer, I can’t take care of the big stories of the people around me, and I have no choice but to step away from them.

In this regard, some families suggest their relatives return. And many people also feel nostalgia and choose to return to their homeland. It’s tough to get a foothold in any country.

And yet we still live here. What are the advantages of this place? Have you ever felt that there is better living in Britain?
-A: It’s much easier to live in Britain. Compared to Korea, there is less pressure on appearance. There is a prejudice that Asian people have strict stereotypes about appearance, but it’s true. In Korea, insulting words such as “I think you’ve gained weight” and “I think you’ll be much prettier if you get plastic surgery here” are like greetings. But I get the feeling that no one here makes such a comment, and no one cares about me. They treat me the same whether I dress up or not. And the lack of nosy culture. I realised this while reading the children’s fairy tale. You know the donkey story, right? Everyone was going to teach or take control of me in Korea, but I can do things more freely here. It’s a culture where you get some comments when things go perfectly wrong.
-B: I felt that Britain was much better when I gave birth, but in Korea, if the focus was a little more on the convenience of children and medical staff, Britain felt that mothers were much more important. For example, even though I am not good at English, they ask me questions with an interpreter. My husband could answer for me, but he wasn’t allowed because there was a possibility of domestic violence. In that regard, the mother’s decision is much more critical than in Korea. And it’s an excellent environment to raise a child. There’s no fine dust, so you can see the clear sky when it’s not raining. There are many places to go, and I’m so thankful that everyone is considerate when I try to go to the street or bus. Have you been to the department store in Korea on the weekend? It’s a war to take the lift with a pushchair. At least five cars can barely be crumpled up after being sent, but when I see a pushchair in London, people get down and beckon me to get in first. It’s a country that’s slightly more tolerant of children and mothers, especially women.
-C: People are kind? Is the environment so lovely? I’ve barely travelled domestically to Korea. While here, I go to places full of beautiful natural scenery in every corner of Britain. And it may be an advantage, but it’s very close to Europe, so I can travel to Europe as much as I want. The vacation policy itself is so different from Korea that you can apply for a vacation more freely. And there are a lot of unconditionally kind people. Of course, you may be kind only on the outside, but why don’t you like it when you’re kind to me? I like it when middle-aged women call me Darling, My Love, and treat me kindly and like a daughter. If it feels like nagging in Korea, it feels kinder here. Oh, and grocery prices are lower than in Korea. Every time I go grocery shopping, I’m happy buying fruits. How much was one orange in Korea? That’s what I think.
-D: I lived in Korea until high school. What I felt as soon as I came to Britain from a competitive society where one should die if I want to survive and vice versa, was that this place was free. As a joke, Koreans are used to the “quickly quickly” culture, but it’s an effort to keep up with the competition. There’s no such thing here. I can live more relaxed and like myself. Another good thing is that the way you see the world changes. I can develop a broader perspective on environmental issues and international events. Since I’m on the European continent, I run into people from many countries, and I need a little knowledge about those countries. Then you’ll see a lot of news and learn more.
-E: There is a much more horizontal culture in company life. Of course, there are many things to fix here, but even a junior can express their opinions more freely. And I respect them all and listen to them. They don’t force company dinners, and people are recognised according to their skills and abilities. It’s a much better environment to be a working mother. It’s way easier to share my opinions with my boss. And since it is a city, more multinational people live together, and many people are familiar with the food of other countries. Even though I cooked Korean food for my husband, he liked it, and he already knew the menu. I only knew fish and chips when it came to British cuisine. That may be why it’s an excellent environment to live in as an international couple.

Surprisingly, everyone answered that living in Britain was more comfortable. Britain is a country where you don’t have to put makeup on, that doesn’t care about others’ opinions, and you don’t get nagged if you’re not like others. The problem is that Korea has an exceptional but strange and stringent standard of appearance. For them, different skin, eye, and hair colours are subject to evaluation.

One British community member posted that her daughter was teased at a Korean school for her difference in appearance. At the same time, comforting comments followed about educating children about national identity, race awareness, and differences. Is being “different” everywhere always a problem?

In Korea, we are discriminated against in terms of being “women,” but abroad, we are often discriminated against with more complex and diverse constructs of “foreigners, Asian, and women.” Do you have any experience or feelings about this?
-A: The racism as a foreigner and an Asian may have been felt at least once by an Asian living in Britain, big or small. But I don’t think I’ve experienced any discrimination as a woman yet.
-B: While raising my child, I was cautious about safety and security, but I have never felt discriminated against because I am a woman living abroad. Of course, I’ve been subjected to racism a few times. But I think some people here don’t know some behaviours are perceived as racism by Asian people. When I politely tell them about it or ask them to fix it, they apologise. But there are too many cases of young people making racist comments as they pass by. I still don’t remember being discriminated against as an Asian woman, even though I can remember some discriminative situations as an Asian.
-C: There’s a strange thing: British people only gather with themselves. It doesn’t feel like discrimination, but if there’s an opportunity to get together in the company, British people get information first, or they already have a group on their own.
-D: As I said, I need to do networking. I’ve seen something that only Brits share, from school to work and even mothers’ gatherings. The British probably want to hang out with the people of their own country who are good at talking. No matter how hard I try networking, joining the group is hard, but I can’t eliminate such discrimination anyway.
-E: Well, I remember being discriminated against as a foreigner, but I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against as a foreign woman. Of course, I heard cases where crazy people in the neighbourhood do nonsense things because they think Asian women are easy. But I don’t know if this is discrimination or just bullying. You know, singing loudly in front of me on the bus, or asking me even though I entered the store and I’m not an employee. We’re second-class citizens to them anyway.

It’s a joke I often hear as an Asian, France is China in Europe, Italy is Korea in Europe, and Britain is Japan in Europe. It’s a joke that means that people from two countries or the characteristics are similar, but it’s somewhat true. Do you know the expression “Honne/Tatemae” in Japanese? It means real inner feelings and outer faces, and the Japanese only show their “Honne” to those close to them. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve lived in Britain, but I still don’t have any English friends to show my “Honne.” Nor do I have a British friend who has shown me “Honne.”

There was a post in a community that said the excessive praise of the British people is awkward. It made me think of an interesting comment in the book that the level of formality and jokes varies depending on the level of familiarity. Of course, it’s not just the UK; giving more compliments and good words to strangers is a universal characteristic of the British. Conflicts or concerns arising from this also occur a lot among migrants. Most of the advice is “Don’t listen to it right away”, and we know that we can’t change these English-speaking characteristics. However, it may seem pretentious to those who approach others honestly and with an open , or they may think they draw an invisible line. It may be a cultural difference, but many people misunderstand and get hurt because of such cultural differences.

There is of course a culture shock while living abroad. However, when I face the problem, I feel a little strange. It’s because it’s a problem I don’t have a way to solve, and it’s another annoying issue. And I’m not the only one who’s shocked by the culture. It can be a problem because it is a factor that my partner, husband, wife, or family can all experience.

Once I got asked why when I brush my teeth, I rinse my mouth several times, rather than spitting out the toothpaste, and finishing brushing my teeth. That’s because each country has different cultures, and if you take your own as a standard of “evaluation,” the problem begins. Even the most minor things can be different.

What is the most problematic aspect of being someone’s wife or mother in Britain?
-A: It’s probably a cultural difference. It happened once. I eat with my in-laws, and my father-in-law and husband always start eating before my mother-in-law finishes cooking. Once, I was preparing food, and my in-laws had already started eating before I could serve them all. So I asked my husband if it’s good manners for him to start eating only when everyone sits at the table later, and he said it’s a matter of family by family. In Korea, it’s not a family culture but a basic courtesy. Children can eat the foods after adults eat first. But there’s a little more individualism here, so there’s this family and that family. Sometimes I think I’m too old-fashioned and patriarchal, but when I feel cultural differences, I realise that I don’t live in Korea. That’s when the time of enlightenment comes.
-B: I’m not worried because I moved to Britain after I grew up, but I’m most concerned about my children’s national identity. I told my oldest son we would go to Korea this summer, so he asked if he could stay here. He says he likes Britain much better. So I said I was going on vacation for a while, and he said that Korea is too busy and there are many people, and he doesn’t want to go. He got used to life in Britain while attending school here and made English friends. Of course, I can live here for the rest of my life, but my children are the most worried if I think I must return to Korea someday.
-C: There’s no one to help. You know that, right? Words circulating among Koreans, be somewhat careful of Koreans when you go abroad. I cared for some people more because they were Korean; they took advantage of it and used me on their back. I’ve been through that a few times. So even though I’m Korean, I thought, “Why do they live like that?” However, British people are so kind on the outside and laugh every time, but some turn around, talk behind your back. So anyway, as person-by-person, my family is the only thing I can trust. My husband is the only one on my side in Britain. All my sides are in Korea. So it’s lonely and hard to ask for help or to have fewer people to share concerns with.
-D: Now that I’ve lived half my life in Britain, it is not complicated. It’s only after a short visit to Korea that I miss something in particular. Even when I go to Korea, I miss cheap British fruits. But sometimes, I feel a little sad when I have to hang up quickly after talking to my mom and dad. I feel like I’m living away from my family. But now I’m a foreigner to them…Ha ha.
-E: That you have to live harder. Since my native language is from a country other than England, I have to be good at English and work as a foreigner, so I have to work hard to get an extension for my visa and live my life well. It is tough. I had a hard time during the first week of graduate school. I was tired of doing everything in English. I fell asleep when I got home right away. After school, I had to find a job, but even if I get a job, I am a foreigner and have a visa problem, so who would hire me? I’ll hire an English speaker if I’m British. So, I had to try a few times harder to catch their eye. Unknowingly, I’m under pressure from that. Korea is also said to be a society where you can’t enjoy relaxation, but here, you can’t take peace in a different sense.

It’s finally time for the last question. What is living as a Korean woman who settled abroad like?
-A: It’s like a double-edged sword. There are good times but sad times. It has the advantage of having a free atmosphere and living independently, but the loneliness still needs to be solved. But I’m trying to eliminate such negative thoughts with positive thinking.
-B: It’s 50:50. It’s great when you’re considered, but sometimes you need a place to rely on. I’m satisfied but I need to figure out what the future holds.
-C: Sadly, I find a good reason to settle in Britain while making comparisons. If I had lived in Korea, wouldn’t I have lived as a “kyungdannyeo” (nickname for women who have given up their careers for childcare)? That’s the question. But I’m enjoying my life while working here. However, as I tried twice and thrice to settle down here, it feels like if I lived in a well-built brick house in Korea, I would make cement myself and build a brick house here. I live here with the mindset that I need to work harder.
-D: Korea is just the home of our hearts, for me. I’ve lived here for about half my life, so Korea and Britain now come to me with the same weight. But it’s always called nostalgia, right? It’s Korea. Also, I miss Britain when I go to Korea.
-E: I don’t think there’s a country without difficulties. So even if you’re satisfied and happy with your life here, this place has problems, and I’m trying to solve the issues I’m experiencing here. If I were in Korea, I would have been trying to solve problems I only experience in Korea, right? It’s the same struggles to live in any country..

I didn’t just dream of a beautiful life and settling here. Everyone knows there are challenging parts when you go abroad. I respect the interviewers who have already paid down here and started a new life, even if they have experienced or felt various difficulties. And I give unlimited support to Korean women living all over the UK.

How are you living in London? I’m about to wrap up the series. The first series was about friends who go to school with me, the second series was about friends who work here„ and the last series was about Korean wives and mothers. It was a small series but contained a short story about a Korean woman living in London. I want to thank everyone who listened to my story for over a year.

I want to express my gratitude to all the interviewers who took their precious time despite being tired from work, childcare, and family work.

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