Tag Archives: house

Take a Peek Inside my Korean Home

Living abroad means I move every few years to a new country. Each of my homes has been different, each with their own unique aspects. My home in Korea has been the first place I’ve lived abroad that I didn’t choose. Some international schools provide housing and assign you to an apartment or house, while others give a housing stipend and you get to choose your own place.

In Jeju, I live in a townhouse near my school, about a 5-minute drive or 15-minute walk away. My house is two stories, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s cozy and small, but it’s enough room for me. I spend most of my time in the living room, surrounded by my plants and artwork I’ve collected while traveling. My kitchen is way too small for someone who loves to entertain, and it’s the thing I’d change the most if I could. I’d also love to build a deck in the backyard, but it’s really expensive to have one built ($4,000 USD for a deck that’s only 10 square meters!).

My bedroom has an en-suite with a small bathtub, which I enjoy soaking in when I’ve had a rough day or when my back’s giving me trouble. The theme of my bedroom is Moroccan, with a blue and white color palette, and I’ve decorated with photos I took on my trip to Morocco and the antique wedding blanket I bought.

The largest guest room’s theme is travel, specifically from my time in Myanmar, one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. I’ve decorated the room with photos taken in Inle Lake and a few other pieces I bought while in Mandalay. My map duvet cover completes the travel theme.

I’ve started converting the smallest guest room into my “Zen room,” but I’m not quite done. I’d like for the room to be a place to meditate, exercise, and chill.

I didn’t really have room anywhere for my desk that I brought from Indonesia, but I love it and didn’t want to get rid of it. I eventually settled on housing it in the hallway upstairs, where I can get some natural light.

My home isn’t perfect, and there are things I’d change if I could, but I’ve done my best to make it a home. That’s one thing I’ve learned while living abroad. If you treat your house like a temporary place and don’t add your personal touches to it, you never quite feel settled.

What do you love about your home?

Unique Things About Korean Housing

This afternoon as I was looking up possible housing options online for next year, I started thinking about all the differences between Korean housing (houses, townhouses, apartments) and those back home in the states. Quite frankly, some of these differences are also unlike other places I’ve lived (China, Albania, Thailand, and Indonesia).

First off, the rental pricing structure and high costs would put most Americans off. The prices are quoted in yearly rental prices, and must be paid in one-year increments before you move in. My budget, allocated by my school, is 18 million Korean won per year (~14,600 USD). Many places I found online today were in the 24 – 60 million range (19,400 – 48,500 USD). I wonder if there are other, more affordable options to be found. Navigating the site in Korean was really tricky, so hopefully I can get a Korean friend to help me. In addition to paying a year’s rent up front, you also have to pay a hefty deposit in advance. The deposit is at least the yearly rent, but many of the rentals I saw online had larger deposits. For example, a place I liked was 30 million won a year plus a 48 million won deposit. That means you’d be paying 63,000 USD up front!

All Korean houses are unlocked by a keypad on the front door rather than a key. My door also talks to me in a British accent, which cracks up everyone who comes over. I love not having to carry keys, but it’s a pain when I come home and the batteries on my door have run out. It’s only happened twice, but it’s weird that there’s no warning that the battery is low before it runs out. The only way to get back in is to “jump” the battery with a 9-volt. I’ve taken to carrying one around in my car just in case.

One of the nicest things about Korean houses is the under floor heating in the winter. Under floor heating is a radiant kind of heat, much different than the heating systems that blow out hot air. The only thing that’s tough is trying to find the right temperature at night, as your bed can get too hot from the floor heating.

As you may know, it’s customary to remove your shoes in Asian homes, a tradition I fully embrace now. The entryway is lower than the rest of the floor in the house and tiled in a different material. There are also cupboards in the entryway to store our shoes away, which is really convenient.

The windows are versatile. They are double-glazed and open two different ways. You can open them completely (inward like a door opens) or just a crack them a little at an angle (from the top) to let the breeze in and keep the rain mostly out. There are screens on each window that can be pulled up or down. With the spring and fall weather being so perfect, I utilize the angled windows often.

Lastly, due to the smaller size of the houses/apartments, there are a few appliances that do double-duty and save space. We have washer/dryer combos, which you can find in some smaller places in other countries too. The microwave and oven are one machine, which always confuses me since I can put metal in the microwave; it feels so wrong to do that. I sure wish we had dishwashers, because I despise doing dishes, but the large, deep sink with a removable drying rack is a compromise (I guess!).

Is there anything unique about homes where you live?

What I’m Going to Miss About Living in Indonesia

When I moved to Indonesia in July 2017, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d only been once before, and that was just for a few days when I was interviewing for the job earlier that year. While I wouldn’t say that I fell in love with living here, after 3 years, I will miss a few things when I move on in June of this year.

My House

Since moving abroad 10 years ago, I’ve solely lived in apartments until moving to Jakarta. Because I was so used to apartment living, I looked for one here, but ended up falling in love with my house, despite the fact that it’s entirely too large for me. What I love most about it is all the windows and the greenery outside. Most people who visit can’t believe this oasis is in Jakarta, a metropolis with a population of over 10 million. Another thing I love about it is that I’ve made it my own. Everywhere else I’ve lived has been fully furnished, which left me with limited options when decorating, and while I had to spend a lot more initially, I was able to pick out the furniture that matched my personal tastes. I just feel at home here.

My School

I’ve really grown attached to the students, families, and colleagues at my school, and I’m definitely going to miss them when I’m gone. I know all of the kids’ names in Primary school, and they are some of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. Becoming a teacher again a few months ago has allowed me to develop relationships with the Year 6 students and our class bond is very strong. I’m going to miss seeing them transition into Secondary school next year. I’ve also developed a few close friendships with colleagues that I’ll miss, but I’m not worried since we will definitely keep in touch!

My Live-in Pembantu (Maid)

As much as I am embarrassed to say it, I have a live-in maid. It’s pretty common to have a maid when you live in Asia, but it’s more common in Indonesia to have a live-in maid. At first, I was really put off my the idea, but once you get used to it, it is hard to give it up. Rohana is such a sweet lady and we have gotten to know each other over the years. When my friend Linner visited last month, she said Rohana and I had our own little language. I think she’s right. We speak in a mix of English and Bahasa, and most of the time, we know what the other one is saying. 🙂 She cleans, does my laundry, and helps with the cooking. I love that I have my breakfast and lunch ready each morning to take to work so I don’t have to worry about it. I also love cooking when I don’t have to worry about the prep or the clean up. I’m most definitely spoiled and will really miss having her around next year!

Deliveries

This is something that is growing in popularity around the world, but I have to say, being able to order up almost anything and have it delivered is an absolute luxury! There’s the obvious take-out and grocery shopping, but you can also have someone go buy you anything you would ever want (alcohol, movie tickets, random things from any store, etc.) and deliver it to you for a very small fee. In a way I will really miss this, but in a way I won’t, because it makes it way too easy to never have to leave your house!

Go-Jek

Going along with the deliveries is Go-Jek, a ride-sharing service with motorbikes and cars, a delivery service, and a services service, meaning I can Go-Jek a massage, a mani/pedi, a car wash or oil change (if I had a car), a cleaning lady, a hairstylist, or make-up artist to my house. This is so convenient when you live in the city with the worst traffic in the world, but again, it makes you so lazy. The fact that these services are dirt cheap makes it even better. I can Go-Jek to work for 10,000 IDR (about $0.75) or order a massage for an hour for 80,000 IDR (about $6.50). It’s heaven!

Bali

Being so close to Bali is a real treat! Who else can say they weekend in Bali?!? The fact that Bali is a quick plane ride away (about 1.5 hrs) and is so cheap (about $100 round-trip) makes it easy to get away. Bali is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s so unlike Jakarta. It’s quieter, has less traffic, has delicious, healthy food, is close to the beach, is walkable in many places, and is just so darn cute! I know that even when I move away, I’ll still come back to visit. Sadly, it just won’t be as often.

There are definitely things that I won’t miss about living here, but I’ll save those for another slice!

Not a Good Start

Feeling exhausted and sluggish this morning, and snoozing for as long as I possibly could in order to still have time to shower before work, it already wasn’t the best start to the day. Looking at the clock, I didn’t have much time before I needed to leave. I ordered a Go-Jek, but instead of the normal message saying someone would arrive in 1-2 minutes, I was met with a 10-minute wait. Noooo! I’m probably gonna be late now!

Grumbling to myself, I decided I might as well wait in the living room, since waiting outside in the humid stickiness that comes with living on the equator leaves me sweaty and makes my glasses fog up. As I aimlessly looked out the windows to the lush greenery, I did a double-take. What in the… No way!

One of my windows was completely shattered! And due to the wind outside, a large hole had begun to form near the top, as shards of glass had fallen down on the floor. Bewildered and wondering how this could have happened, I felt my heart beating faster, going into a bit of a panic. Right about this time, a light rain started. Fearing that another downpour would kick up any minute like it did yesterday (and the day before), I worried about my house getting water damage, as undoubtedly the hole would continue to get bigger, as the wind and rain pushed its way in.

I immediately called my boss, telling him I would be late, and cancelled my Go-Jek. I then called and called the property manager, but he didn’t pick up. Ringing security was an adventure in miscommunication, as I was passed from person to person, before someone said they would come. My level of Bahasa Indonesia does not include vocabulary such as broken, window, glass, shattered, or emergency. So heaven only knows what they thought was wrong with me or my house!

Once the security guard arrived and assessed the situation, he smiled and let out what I felt like was a laugh. In my not-so-nice voice, I told him that I don’t appreciate him laughing nor do I think this is a funny situation. This only made him do it more! Calling Veronica, my friend and neighbor who is Indonesian, I asked her to speak with him and ask him why he was laughing. She explained that it was more of a nervous laughter due to his inability to communicate in English and that all of the security guards basically drew straws to see who would have to come and deal with the bule who doesn’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. Calming down a bit, I understood his situation, having dealt with similar ones in China before. However, it infuriates me when someone laughs at me when I’m upset and dealing with an unpleasant situation, and I have a hard time understanding this cultural behavior. But I’m trying to accept it.

A few minutes later, a few more people were called in to assist. Soon my house looked like a tornado had hit it, as furniture was shoved to the other side of the room, carpets were rolled up, and the area was cleared to make way for the plastic sheeting that was laid on the floor. Conscious of the time and my 8:40 lesson observation, I called another Go-Jek. Although it was a bit unsettling to leave not knowing what was going to happen and what I would find when I came home tonight, and the fact that I had to leave my house unlocked with several strangers in it, I finally left for school.

For reference, this is what my living room normally looks like:

I received a message later this afternoon from the property manager with a photo of the wood that replaced the broken window. Apparently the glass takes about a week to come in, so for the time being, my lovely view is obstructed by this beautiful plywood. It was definitely not a good start to the day, but luckily it got better as it went on.