As I sat down reminiscing about the early days of my life abroad, I smiled to myself and feeling grateful and proud of how far we have come. Later I will tell you why I used we and not I.
I remember back in the days, a fresh young Legon (UG) graduate after leaving school some few months decided to seek greener pastures and further education elsewhere apart from UG mainly because of the worry of burdening my parents and also trying to avoid certain lecturers who have grown to be monarchs in some of our departments.
I went through all my options and finally settled with what I will term “The Asia adventure”. I had two reasons for my choice, one was because the fees were very reasonable (almost same fees as Legon) and the latter being that instead of me waiting for my “burger” parents to file documents and wait in line for embassies to scrutinize, investigate and torture me mentally for years to get the so called heaven ticket (visa), I had an option of starting a new life elsewhere (out of sight…).
I went through all the process of getting my visa and set off on this adventure to a place I literally had no idea of. Most of my family and friends typically of Ghanaians started saying so many things—its hell, terrible food, over populated, useless and needless journey.
I remember I was told to be ready to eat vultures, mouse….very funny if I think about it today. I think I wouldn’t blame Ghanaians for such thoughts, its just that most of us have less contact with the Asian continent as a whole.It is really important for people to really learn about other cultures.
The first time I arrived in South Korea, unfortunately for me it was winter, by then the only country I had been to was South Africa (even there it was summer). I hilariously remember running back into the airport as the cold was something I had never witnessed before. I told my friends later on that; I talked and saw smoke coming from my mouth—natural cigarette. You shouldn’t blame me, it was minus 15 degrees that day.
For a freshman coming all the way from Africa (Ojakrom) you could understand my frustration. Apart from the cold, I was like dumbfounded. Everything looked practically beautiful and weird. I didn’t see English anywhere it was all a foreign language like ‘drawing’.
The airport was super big and I was so confused as to what to do. I tried to talk to the workers at the airport for assistance but nobody could understand my scholastic Ghanaian english. That was the first time I felt like I was really in someone else’s country (obi mayin so).
I was so lucky to find another African who has been living here to help me find my way out. My first 3 days was like Alice in wonderland. In my city and university to be precise we were only 3 Africans (black people). I can recall people will stop and watch you sometimes very uncomfortable on the street.I remember during my first week I went to the bank, then this old Korean man walked to me, touched my face, skin and hair and asked whether it was real?
I was actually irritated but my teachers always tried to psych me up and tell me the gaps between our two continents and people still learning about the African continent. I was told by by teachers that we were ambassadors for the African continent and as such we should be more tolerant.
My only Happiness during my early days came when I met other 2 Ghanaian students who had also just arrived and faced similar problems.We bonded so quick and cooked Ghanaian food, it was for me the warmest time in my life. I never knew I will miss my homeland that much.
Subsequent months followed and things started getting better and we also started adjusting. But the problem we later encountered had to do with finding part time jobs—first was with the language; it was so different from English and French and the writing the less said about it the better.
Also another problem was with the kind of jobs available—most of the jobs not only in Korea with my experience in other Asian countries was teaching. Either you teach English or French. Even with the teaching came with words I had never heard of in my life. I initially thought my English was original( Legon) and having been a linguistics student I should qualify anywhere in the world, sorry but no.
I did not know about words like ‘Obama black’, meaning if you are light skinned and not dark like I am. Haha I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Wherever you go to find a job the above were the requirements apart from the number of years experience and whether you can speak Korean.
I knew I didn’t meet all the 3 requirements. With all the hopes and aspirations I had in mind before coming, thinking I will subsidize with some part time jobs here and there to make my folks free a bit, what was I going to do? I will deal with this part of the hustle in a part 2 article.
I am not a very religious person like most Ghanaians are but my life in Asia brought me closer to God. During my time in Asia I got to understand the word “favor of God”. The early days were tough, in terms of everything. I can remember waking up early morning and asking myself where I was.
Everything looked practically different, people, school( winter classes) and work. Interestingly I only changed job thrice and they were all from good to better to best. I am not saying everyone coming here will have it that way, you should have a plan.
Life in Asia in terms of pace is very fast and the conditions I will say is subjective, meaning it depends on the country you find yourself in, the major you are studying and your mentality. Before I came here I did a political science major with the dream of following my ancestors to be a lawyer, as we all know in Ghana most Akyem (Okyeman) folks are jovially known to be pocket lawyers…but after getting to Asia and watching closely I chose the other direction (business).
In Asia I usually advice the younger ones to go for science or business majors since it has more structures, opportunities around here than elsewhere.
About the positives of living in Asia, I think I will say; it’s the learning of new languages like in my case I can now practically say I speak fluent Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin and a little Japanese all due to the fact that I travel around and have interest in them.
This language experience is so valuable money can’t buy. When I travel to other continents people find it very hard to believe. It really opened doors and made me a first class citizen in this global community. Experience we say is the best teacher.
Living here has been a whole experience, I have lived in over 5 countries in the space of 8 years. I’ve learnt their cultures….
About the negatives I will say nostalgia. I miss my friends, family and everything back home. I have to travel by plane to eat my favorite fufu. I also miss the Ghanaian weather.
Generally my advice to other young ones wanting to come to Asia is plan well, be psychologically ready for a new life and system…Stay out of trouble, most Asian countries have strict laws especially when it comes to drugs so this will be the last place you should dream of doing drugs. I have seen to many people sentenced to death for drug. If you into drugs you better stay home.
3 thoughts on “A Ghana Man’s Experience of Living in South Korea | The First Time I Spoke & Smoke Came Out of My Mouth”
Nice article,you made me remember my first time abroad as well.Hope most of our pals back home could read and know the realities out there.
Job well done
Beautifully written article.