Carlie: Hey there. It’s Carlie with the Expat Focus podcast.
I’m an Australian living in France, and on today’s show I’m talking expat life in South Korea with someone who surprised me, actually, with her honesty about how she’s finding her experience. My guest is Jasmine Turner, an American YouTuber who you can check out at Jasminettv. She’s got a great sense of humor, and her videos are really funny, covering everything from getting naked in public in a Korean bathhouse …
Jasmine: I didn’t even have time to question my decisions. I was just looking around and I’m like, “She naked. She naked. She ain’t got no ass. We can do this! Yes, we can do this!”
Carlie: … to trying out the local dating scene. Jasmine is an English teacher living in the city of Daegu. Oh, and she’s a self-confessed germaphobe. Jasmine’s not having your typical expat experience in South Korea, and she’s going to explain why. Jasmine, thanks so much for joining me.
Jasmine: Thank you guys for reaching out.
Carlie: To start with, can you tell me, how did you end up in South Korea?
Jasmine: That’s probably a question that I ask myself everyday – how did I end up here? [laughter] I was looking for something different. I was stuck in my millennial life back home in the States. And why I chose South Korea was purely based on … I don’t know if you’ve heard of International TEFL Academy, but they have a country chart, a country comparison chart on their website, and it breaks down countries by their ESL requirements, their –
Carlie: So TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language?
Jasmine: Yeah, so it breaks down your contract terms, your educational requirements, how much the jobs typically pay, the average cost of living, and I looked at this chart, and at the time I was looking, South Korea basically paid the most for the least amount of experience. And I don’t have a background in education. My degree is actually in real estate and business management. So I said, “Okay, South Korea I guess it is!” I wish I could say I came to Korea for the culture, the food, the temples, [laughter] but I pretty much came because they paid the most.
They gave me a job, they paid for housing, all my bills are paid for. I think I pay for – as far as living expenses, I should say – I pay for a Wi-Fi egg and that’s it.
Carlie: Wow. And I guess that’s something that I didn’t actually realize, is that just because you get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification, which is what I assume you did, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily go anywhere to teach.
Jasmine: Well, you may not be able to … your CELTA or your TEFL, whatever you get, may not be enough to go to places like the UAE because it’s so competitive there, you need the background in teaching or in education, and most people with master’s degrees, I’ve heard, end up going there.
Carlie: So South Korea, for you, just opened that amazing opportunity of most expenses paid and we’ll give you that experience you need.
Jasmine: Yeah. South Korea provided a way for me to get out of America.[laughter]
Carlie: That too.
Jasmine: …the teaching experience, the kids are cool, I do my job. But yeah, it was more about … at the time I was just so focused on, “Okay, I just quit my job, I have my CELTA certification. Now I need to put this to work.”
Carlie: So what’s it like living in South Korea?
Jasmine: Okay! So I don’t know how I thought it would be. This is my first time out of the US. Of course I didn’t think it would be this utopia, but I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the change, especially if it’s your first time out of your home, out of your comfort zone. You will cry. [laughter] There will definitely be tears.
I guess if I could give anybody a tip, it would be: be prepared to be mentally unprepared. It’s like the first week, everything is just so new, you’re just taking it all in. And then the second and third week, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m still here. This is real.” And reality sets in. I just gave up my entire life back home, and for me, I couldn’t go back. Because the people at work told me I couldn’t come back. [laughs]
Carlie: So it’s like South Korea or bust, basically.
Jasmine: Yeah. It was like okay, do I follow my heart? Do I follow what I feel that I’m supposed to be doing with my life or do I just stay in my comfort zone and know that there’s no turning back to what I knew?
Carlie: Those first weeks must have been such an adrenaline rush. As you said, you’ve basically just leapt without a safety net into this new life in South Korea.
Jasmine: I guess I would compare it to – imagine if you go to an amusement park, and the first couple of hours you’re there, you’re like, “Yes! I want to ride everything! I want to eat everything!” And then, hours go by, and you’re ready to go home – but you can’t go home!
So yeah, I am trying to … I don’t want to fall in the trap of … when you are in something new, you have different cultures, and people do things differently, and I don’t want to say that anything that I see in Korea is wrong. It’s just different. And I’m trying to embrace that idea. So if I go into a restroom and I see bar soap, [laughs] me as a germaphobe, and seeing the way certain things are done, I just tell myself, “Okay, this is different.”
So you will have a lot of conversations with yourself. If you thought you talked to yourself before coming to a new country, you really talk to yourself, you have a lot of conversations with yourself when you get to someplace new. And I was just telling myself, “Okay, you have to do this. You have to take advantage of this moment, because back home, you would not get this level of seclusion, of this alone time, to be with yourself, to learn about yourself, to work on things that you always wanted to work on.”
And I use the term ‘distractions’ a lot in my YouTube videos, because if I was home on Sundays, maybe I would be out having mimosas with a friend. Or Friday night I go to a bar or something like that. Here, I’m kind of living on a mountain, and transportation is not really the easiest off this mountain. I’m kind of … have to rely on a shuttle. So Friday nights I’m just either sitting, having to work on my own stuff, and the same with Sunday. So I’m kind of forced to be with myself.
Carlie: Was that something that you were expecting when you moved? Because you have all your accommodation and everything paid for, so you’re living on campus I suppose, where you’re teaching or …?
Carlie: So did you expect that sort of personal isolation?
Jasmine: Where I work is a bit different from I guess your normal … I don’t work at a private school, or … they call it hogwan … and I don’t work at a public school. It’s called … well, it’s an English village, and there are about 40 other foreign teachers here. So I’m not as alone as I would be if I worked out in the countryside in a hogwan or something. But they probably aren’t people I would talk to back home. [laughs] So there’s still that loneliness effect, or … you also don’t have your independence. You can’t call an Uber, and we’re so far out that calling a taxi costs a good bit, because you have to pay for the taxi to come and then go back. Yeah, we’re just kind of secluded a bit.
And I didn’t think it would be this way, because Daegu is the third largest city, and I thought that there would be a bigger foreigner population.
Okay, I did not answer that question the way that I wanted to.
Carlie: [laughs] But that’s actually one of the things I really enjoy about your YouTube videos, Jasmine, is that you’re really candid and you’re really honest about the experiences that you’re having, and you’re not sugar-coating it with some crazy adventuring shots and amazing music and telling people you’re having the time of your life. You’re being really raw about what your expat experience is in South Korea. You must be having some good times though, because you’re still there.
Jasmine: Yeah. I’m here because I have personal goals that I need to achieve. Basically, when I get a paycheck, I’m putting that into a project. And also, when I leave Korea, I don’t want to work for anyone, so I need savings. For certain countries, if you want a freelance visa, you have to show that you can sustain yourself without a job.
Carlie: There’s a higher goal for you.
Jasmine: Yeah, there’s a higher goal, which is why I’m still here. It’s not, “Oh, my gosh, Korea!” [laughs]
And honestly, I get comments that say, “Go home. Why don’t you just leave?” Because of that higher goal is why I don’t leave. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this back in the US, and I’m realizing this opportunity and I’m taking advantage of it.
Carlie: Is there anything that has surprised you about South Korea or that you’ve enjoyed more than you thought you would?
Jasmine: Things that surprise me … okay. Because I’m thinking about some things right now, and I’m just trying to figure out how to put them in a certain way.
I’ll say the amount of plastic surgery surprised me. The way, even when you walk into a classroom, maybe your lesson plan wouldn’t work because you didn’t know that boys and girls won’t sit next to each other. Like I didn’t know that. [laughs] Or how …
I’m trying to highlight some positive things, but there were some things where I was just like, “Oh my gosh!” What I don’t want to do is talk so bad about the country, but when I tell you that bullying is a thing here … bullying, plastic surgery, abuse is a thing here …
Jasmine: Yeah. [laughs] It’s the stuff that surprised me. But other things – when I did watch YouTube videos about how, maybe like the … I don’t know. People’s negative experiences, maybe with … older people have actually had some nice encounters.
Okay, I’m sorry. I’m trying to figure out how to word this. I want to give you a positive message … but there is some stuff that is genuinely messed up [laughs] here. And my, looking through American eyes, that makes you very thankful for the way that you were brought up and the society that you grew up in. Because there are some times when I see a student, and most of the time, a little girl, who has such individuality, but I know that when she gets older, somebody is going to snuff out her individuality. Some media … something is going to happen. And it sucks that she’s going to be brought up in that.
So that’s the kind of stuff that I think about when I’m here and when I’m teaching students, when I’m walking around and I see all these advertisements … you’re on the Metro and you see advertisements for plastic surgery or like skin whitening and stuff like that. And because it’s such a homogenous society, yeah, you see Korean people in advertisements, but you also see white people. [laughs] You don’t really see black people but you see white people, because I think that’s who they’re trying to imitate.
So there are actually a few other black teachers. There are misconceptions that they have of black people. I’ve had my skin rubbed [laughs] because they don’t know … they may think that the black comes off.
Carlie: [laughs] Oh, gosh.
Jasmine: And another teacher, she was going by to check papers, and the kid – because you know, the top of your hand is darker than the palm of your hand – he could not grasp why [laughs] the top of her hand was so … she had to stop class, and she wanted everybody to look at where the palm of their hand and like the top starts, and show them their faint line. And they were all amazed that they had a small differentiation between the palm and the top of their hand.
Carlie: It must be really satisfying in some way – as bizarre as those experiences sound – to kind of be educating these students at the same time.
Jasmine: Yeah, it is in a way … because we may be the first black person that they’ve seen, depending on where they’re coming from.
Carlie: In their lives.
Jasmine: Maybe the first time they’ve seen someone with braids. So it does get a little annoying if a child grabs your braids and they didn’t ask. You know? [laughs]
Jasmine: So yeah, I would say … so there’s things like that, as a black person in Korea, having to try to educate people about you [laughs] that you would think some things are common sense, but if they don’t know then I guess they just don’t know. But also, if you are wanting to date, that is … [laughs] it’s going to be difficult. And I would say it’s going to be difficult for foreign women in general. Because you know, when I first got here, I was excited about dating. And then I was talking to one of the male teachers. He says that the foreign women are on the bottom of the dating pole here, because Korean men, they want Korean women. And there are success stories – don’t get me wrong – but generally. [laughs]
And then foreign men, they get the picks of the foreign women and the Korean women. [laughs] And the foreign women are just sitting here like, “What do we do?” [laughs] I don’t know what we do.
Carlie: Your dating adventures are one of my favorite topics that you YouTube about. And you’ve had quite a few. But does this mean that you’ve experienced enough?
Jasmine: As far as Korea, I am done with the dating apps here, for sure. I also think that god put me in Korea so I would focus on myself. [laughs]
Carlie: It seems like your expat experience in Korea, that’s given you a really good life detox on so many levels.
Jasmine: [laughs] What I need to do is get out of my city. I actually have planned trips. I haven’t really traveled that much since I’ve been here, which is something I would definitely recommend that you do, because you do need to have certain getaways. But because I have certain goals that I’m trying to reach, I’m not spending all my money on traveling.
Carlie: So you haven’t prioritized hopping to other Asian countries while you’re there.
Jasmine: Not at this moment. There are other answers that I truly wanted to give. [laughs] Oh my gosh.
Carlie: But the truth comes tumbling out. [laughs]
Jasmine: Yeah, it does! But this is what I don’t want … I wanted to give … because there are positive things to Korea. I mean, people live here for years. But I don’t know. It’s just not for everybody.
Carlie: And you know, everyone’s experience overseas is unique, and this is your unique experience, working a job where you’re a little bit isolated. And as you said, you could be traveling, you could be exploring more of Korea. You know what you’re not doing that could potentially change your perspective. And they say that being aware of that is step one, right?
Jasmine: Yeah, being aware of it …
Carlie: So we could speak at the end of your contract, after you’ve taken in more of Korea, been traveling a bit more, had a few other experiences, and your attitude towards Korea could have completely changed.[silence]
Carlie: Maybe not completely.[laughter]
Jasmine: Some aspects of Korea could change. Now, how certain aspects of the society is, that won’t change. I don’t see that changing.
Carlie: You’re having these experiences in Korea. How do you think they’re actually changing you as a person?
Jasmine: I am … well, this is what I hope. [laughs] That I’m gaining more confidence. I see myself, “Well, what if this doesn’t work out? Maybe I should tweak it like this.” And now I’m in Korea, and I’m just going to go for it. So I kind of stopped telling myself, “Hmm, no, maybe this won’t work out.” Let’s just do it and see if it works out. And if I fail, hell, at least now I know. So yeah, I think I’m building more confidence, which is something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a long time.
Carlie: So what have you started doing to work towards your ultimate goal. What can you tell me about at this point?
Jasmine: Well, of course, the YouTube channel, I did that before I left, and honestly, I was never the type to put myself on social media like that. Which kind of makes you stronger, because you’re going to get comments and stuff like that basically trying to tear you down.
I’ve also started a new channel called Air Republic Theater. It’s basically an online talent competition. It’s a platform for singers, comedians, rappers to showcase their talents and give off a positive message. Because especially in America … even though people from all over can submit, a lot of our music, our entertainment does not have a positive message, especially in the black community. I realized this, and I’m thinking to myself, “What’s stopping me from trying to create something that can somewhat change it? Or allow viewers to come and get a positive message.” There will be a winner, and that winner receives prize money.
And then, the other project is actually an online store that I’m putting together. I can’t go into too much detail, but anything that I do, it has to have some type of giving back factor to it. So this product, a percentage of the proceeds will go towards an organization that has not been chosen yet. [laughs] Because like I say, I’m still working on it.
While I’m here, I guess I’m, in a way, sacrificing some of my personal time in things that I could be doing, but I feel it’s worth it because the end goal will help others.
Carlie: Jasmine, that’s a really honorable thing to do, and more than other people might do overseas while they’re experiencing expat life.
Jasmine: I realize it may be unique, so if you come to Korea and you say, “Well, yeah, she seems miserable! She’s in her room!” But I …
Carlie: There’s a reason for it. [laughs]
Jasmine: Yeah, [laughs] I’m in my room for a reason. There’s a bigger picture. I’m setting a foundation so that I can experience more and have fuller experiences, and when it blossoms, then I can sit back and know that I’ve fulfilled something. Now let me go see this temple. Or something. [laughs] I don’t know.
Carlie: Then I’ll have some fun. [laughs]
Jasmine: Yeah. Now let’s have a little bit more fun.
Carlie: Thank you so much for taking the time today to share your very unique expat perspective with Expat Focus.
Jasmine: Yeah, no problem.
Carlie: I’m wishing you so much luck for the rest of your contract and all those amazing projects that you’ve got and that you’re knuckling down and really focusing on while you’re there.
Jasmine: I definitely do appreciate that. Thank you.
Carlie: Well, that’s it for today. If you’d like to discuss this episode, ask questions, or share your own experiences about living in South Korea, be sure to head to expatfocus.com, follow the links to our forums or Facebook groups. Remember, you can check out our previous episodes – they’re at expatfocus.com/podcast. You’ll also find them on iTunes.
And I’ll catch you next time.