We’re not in Paris anymore, Monsieur Toto

Now that we are officially in South Korea, it was time to jump back into Army life. Although Tim and I spent the last 3 years living abroad, this felt like our first time living abroad as a military family. The contrast between our first month in France to our first week in South Korea couldn’t have been more apparent. In France, we had to find our own taxi from the airport and our own hotel when we arrived, and it was only after a tip from someone at the Embassy that we found a much better hotel. Upon arriving in South Korea, a bus ushered us from the airport to the Army base in Seoul where we then checked in at the resort-style hotel, which had its own cafés (Starbucks and non-Starbucks), a phone center to buy phones and sim cards, a convenience store, clothing store, luggage store, furniture store, pool, sauna, gym, laundry, bar, a seafood restaurant, Italian restaurant, Mexican restaurant, Subway, Pizza Hut, a deli, a casino, a massage center, a bank, oh and someone playing the piano on the weekends. Um, can we just live here?

In France, the process of finding an apartment was painfully slow. You couldn’t talk to realtors until you had not only a bank account but proof that you had money, which didn’t mean flashing euros in their face, but getting your job to write you an attestation. But how to get a bank account when you didn’t have an address? Resolving this process and finding an apartment took us an entire month. It was only after that, that we got cell phones, cable, and internet (although looking back we could have just gotten tourist-subscription sim cards in the beginning).  Moreover, in France, we were completely on our own as we weren’t there on Army business and the Embassy wanted nothing to do with us. This meant no help with things like housing or visas.

By contrast, within our first ten days of arriving, we were staying in a beautiful hotel, had phones up and running, I had secured a reservation to be bused to the visa office where I would receive help with the application process, had found an apartment on the 7th, moved in and received furniture on the 10th, and bought a car. As far as the apartment search went, it was a little difficult. I think we looked at 14 places, and when you just lived in a virtual dream apartment Paris’ left-bank, it is hard not to have high expectations. I did my best, but it was nearly impossible not to prevent myself from subconsciously comparing everything to our Paris apartment.

From one apartment to the next, we kept ruling them out for various reasons including the following: the building smelled liked smoke and kimchi,  barking dogs, ancient oven, no elevator, master bedroom directly looked over a children’s playground, signs about noise complaints, construction ongoing on two sides of building, no dishwasher or stove, bathroom is a shower-toilet. Here are some of highlights (or low-lights) of the apartments.

It is amazing how blazing fast things can move when you have the resources of the government at your disposal.  Between how easy it has been and our access to American goods on post, it almost doesn’t feel like we are living in a foreign country…ALMOST.

So what apartment did we actually move into? Well, none of those as you probably figured- we’ll save that for the next post.


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