I never thought coming home would feel uncomfortable or strange. It turns out I was wrong. Maybe it’s the jetlag. Maybe it’s the lack of anything specific to do when I’m used to being so busy. Maybe it’s even the overly comfortable beds and water you can drink straight from the tap. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something feels very, very odd.
The world seems to have slowed down. Even central London somehow seemed devoid of life. Where are the endless lines of skyscrapers? Where are the street stalls, the lively night markets, the late night shopping centres and the endless, endless lines of neon? What happened to the cheap healthy meals, efficient and affordable public transport and nightlife that never ends?
I know this is just a phase that I’m going through. Logic tells me that the carefully crafted Victorian buildings – each one unique – that grace central London are far more aesthetically pleasing than Seoul’s rent-a-scrapers. My brain also tells me that neon is an advertising eyesore, and shopping until 11pm is only necessary because Seoulites work until 10. Right now, however, emotion overwhelms that logic, and everything seems so dull and lacking in life.
Don’t get me wrong, in some ways it’s great to be home. Seeing my family again – even through the jetlag haze – is something I’ve been excitedly anticipating for some time. My mum’s home cooking is adding to the tire round the stomach developed during the BBQ and beer fuelled excesses of Seoul’s final few weeks. Being able to sleep in until the late morning is a luxury strictly limited to Sunday mornings before now; even then it was usually only because I didn’t get in until 4am.
Life, however, is very, very different all of a sudden. I have the same feeling I have every time I come back from traveling: I’ve changed, but the world has stayed the same. My sister’s got engaged, my brother is in his second year at University and my dad’s a little closer to buying that yacht he’s always wanted. Pretty major changes, I admit, but the difference I always expect is on the inside. I feel like my very make up has been altered by the experience I’ve just had, and I find one of the hardest things to take is everyone else seems to be essentially the same. Whilst I feel like my life’s been charging along at a 1000 miles an hour – every day a new, profound experience – life back home seems to have been drifting slowly along just the same. No doubt I seem the same on the surface too.
Korea is part of me now. It wont take long for me to stop offering cash with two hands, ordering beer in stunted Hangul and finding a knife and fork an oddly alien concept, and no doubt the sense of loss will follow on not long after, and everything will seem normal again.
Until then I’ll be drifting in a ‘home country’ that somehow doesn’t seem to fit quite right anymore, and dreaming of the Far East. If I’m gazing into space, seemingly drifting on a slow moving cloud towards nowhere, well by body’s returned but my mind hasn’t quite made it yet. For the next few weeks, if I accidentally slip into ‘amusing’ Konglish, or mumble words ending in ‘-yo’, humour me, I’ll grow out of it!