Road to Korea: Rebel Smith

Rebel Smith

This time, I found an interesting Instagram account @rebelannie, run by Rebel Smith. She sometimes posts videos of her daily life as an ESL teacher, while also posting pictures of beautiful scenery all across Korea. She also shares her own fashion styles. It looks like she is enjoying her stay in Seoul to the fullest. Yes. She is definitely a must-not-miss interviewee for the Road to Korea series.

Reason

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination and inclination towards different walks of life. As the product of a military family it was rare that I would find myself in one place for long. I found that I thrived off the discomfort that accompanies new environments and acquaintances. When I entered my early twenties it felt like I set an expectation for myself to settle down in one place, but I could never ignore the feeling that there was still more to see and do. Eventually this nagging feeling became impossible to dismiss. I was working a good job and enjoyed many of the comforts that one experiences from the normal 9-5 career. When I found out a friend of mine was going to Korea to teach straight out of university, it piqued my interest. I followed her journey vicariously for some time before deciding it was something I wanted to try for myself.

As most ex-pats will tell you, Korea offers a variety of benefits to someone who wants to kick off their life abroad. Demand for teachers is high, and it’s a country that holds some reverence for Western culture, making it, in my opinion, easier to acclimate to the day to day routine and the stresses and anxieties that one will inevitably feel when leaving the familiar 12,000 miles away. I had done some teaching in the States, though admittedly it was mostly informal, but I found it to be a fun and rewarding way to support myself. I’ve always been enamored with young kids, and the fact that I would have the opportunity to work with them while embarking on the unique life path I was looking for was the perfect combination of fun and responsibility.  

When I arrived in Korea, Instagram was the perfect vehicle for friends, family, and strangers from all walks of life to get a glimpse at what my life has evolved into. It’s the most convenient way to share your passion, whatever that may be, with the people who matter to you. While fashion continues to be an important priority of mine, the great thing about insta-vlogging and vlogging from Korea is that it lends an additional perspective that I feel makes for a fun and unique account for my followers.

One and only in Korea

If I had to designate the One and Only defining characteristic of Korea, my submission would be Manners and Etiquette. One of the most compelling differences for me between life in the U.S. and life here in Korea is the way in which society is so reliant on its hierarchy. To be fair, at home we use platitudes like “Respect your elders” but the way it is put into practice in Korea is unlike anything I’ve seen. This paradigm manifests itself in a number of ways, not the least of which is the way we are treated as teachers. As educators in Korea, we are elevated to a status that I’ve not personally witnessed in St. Louis, or any of the other towns and cities I lived in growing up. Acknowledgment for us as educators is especially apparent when we are frequently gifted with tokens of appreciation like candy, chocolates, beauty products, fruit, and gift cards by the parents, usually in person.

Activities

One of the best parts about Korea is the endless leisure activities there are to pursue. Highlights for me include hiking Bukhansan, the Ultra Music Festival, snowboarding in Hongcheon, Seoul Fashion Week, traveling to the famous Jeju-do, the Boryeong Mud Festival, and the infamous and incomparable Seoul nightlife.

Snowboarding

Different

The first thought I had when I first began exploring Seoul was that I had been transported to the set of a John Hughes movie. It doesn’t seem to matter what age someone is or what style they subscribe to, everyone is dressed to the nines. They all look like they’re on their way to meet their in-laws for the first time, crush a job interview, or model in a photo shoot. It is both exciting and intimidating. The standards for beauty are high here, and it seems like everyone you come across is meeting those standards. It’s a far cry from the Midwest American city that I’m from.

Tuesday night outfit

To

I honestly just wander around and try to find unique shops around Dongdaemun, Bupyeong, Hongdae, Ewha, and Myeongdong. It’s the best way to find hidden gems.

Friday night in Itaewon

Others

There are a number of potential paths I may take from here. Seoul is a city of infinite possibilities and I want to explore them all! I’ve been very fortunate that the vlogging community here is tightly knit and supportive. I’m excited to say that I’ve been tapped to be the Life/Style contributor for Hidden Korea, a new website launching in January focused on all things Korea started by some reputable friends of mine. I look forward to meeting more people and exploring more of Korea in 2017.

Just the facts: social media edition

Anyway, if you are curious about her daily life in Seoul as I was, please check out below.

Final Thoughts

Rebel shared her unique views about Korea throughout the interview. As she said, the “Respect your elders” culture in Korea may be stricter than any other culture. It is common that young people give up their seats for elders if elders are standing on the subway. I have been used to this paradigm for my whole life, but now I see it can be unlike anything people from other cultures may have experienced. She also says that the standards for beauty are high in Korea. To be honest, I am the only employee of our company who does not wear makeup at all.

*****

It’s been almost a year since I kicked off my “Road To Korea” series. While interviewing expats, I started to understand what guided them to move here, what cultural shocks those foreigners had, and how they spend their free time. Now, I would like to share people’s words about Korea under my Twitter account and let others see articles, videos, and images of how foreigners view Korea. I hope all of my work may be enlightening for Koreans who want deeper communication with foreigners, for people who are thinking of moving to Korea, and the newbies. ~Jasmine

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