How to arrive in a country you’re planning to leave

Tell friends you’re leaving. Tell them you’re leaving early. If you know a general time frame of when you’re leaving, tell your friends the earliest possibility.

When I arrived in Korea and people asked how long I planned to stay, I usually gave a cryptic answer. “Well, my contract is for a year. We’ll see,” I’d say. Toward the end even, even when I knew pretty well when I would leave, I continued telling friends I didn’t know exactly.

I avoided flat out lying – it’s true I didn’t know exactly. At the same time, though, I certainly didn’t tell as much as I knew, particularly if it meant telling them I was leaving earlier than they thought.

I did this for two reasons, I think.

  1. I didn’t want to make it seem like I hated the country or my experience there. I loved the country, especially the people there. Telling friends when I planned to leave, to me, kind of signaled that I wasn’t committed to the country or the people. I didn’t want to signal that.
  2. I wanted to keep people close. This seems like a paradox looking back, trying to keep people close by not telling them everything, but at the time it seemed like the best option. Telling people I was leaving in a few months or a few weeks automatically made them keep their distance more. “Oh, he’s not really staying,” they’d think. And they wouldn’t want to develop a deeper friendship. This wasn’t just an assumption on my part. It happened.

So I’d say I didn’t know. And that was a mistake.

I should have told my friends my plans more openly. I should have trusted them with the decision of how they wanted to continue interacting with me, even if I didn’t like their decision. I should have tried to get close dispite my plans to leave instead of hiding the plans altogether.

That, and I should have told my friends earlier dates. That way, if I ended up staying longer, they’d feel happy, instead of disappointing them if I ended up leaving sooner.

“Live and learn,” my mom says. And change next time.

This next time.