An intro to Antje and her previous work experience.
Mehtap’s story: her time as a student, her connection with language learning, and her life as an inspired travel content creator.
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Special thanks to the editors, writers, and DIOKOS team for making this interview possible. We grow together.
We had the chance to talk to Antje Hansow, a content creator from Germany living in South Korea since 2021. Antje came to Korea to take a break from her job as a marketing project manager and study Korean at Seogang University, but ended up staying here.
From her time as a student, to her time as a content creator, Antje describes her proclivities with Seoul life and travel of course.
Since she came to Korea she traveled around the country and is now an ambassador for various Tourism Organizations, sharing her experiences, tips, and guides with her followers as Nextstopkorea.
During her time with us, Antje describes how she ended up living in Korea, what she is doing here now, and what makes her happy and keeps her motivated.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I’m Antje from Germany, I am 30 years old now (for a few weeks). Most people probably know me as nextstopkorea on Instagram. When I came to Korea 2 years ago, I started sharing my experiences on Instagram and a bit on Youtube and I came here to take a break from work and study Korean at Sogang University for some time. Now I am a Working Holiday Traveler & Content creator if you’d like to call it that!
So what did you do in the past? I read a little bit about marketing. How’d you enjoy it?
Yeah, I was a project manager for 8 years and slipped into marketing the last 4 years of my career. I worked in the insurance company Allianz – if you are a soccer fan, you might know it. In general, my career was awesome, I loved it! I loved my team, my job was so fun and exciting every day, and working in such a big company in Germany is like heaven. You have all the freedoms you can imagine, get paid well, and have quite a lot of vacation.
Then why did you end up moving to Seoul?
Now, that I think about it, it sounds a little bit like a quarter-life crisis 😀
I loved my job, I had a relationship back then, I was close to my family, and my nephew was just born. In general, I was really, really happy. In 2020 I planned 4 trips: I wanted to go to Mexico, South Africa, Norway and Japan, and Korea. It was all booked and settled and then Covid started at the beginning of 2020 – so it was all canceled.
That was the moment I realized “Maybe I should move abroad, instead of just traveling around.” I always dreamed of moving abroad, but postponed it because of my career. But when everything got canceled and I was at home a lot, I decided to finally take that step and at least see what options I have.
So I started to save more money, do research and think about where to go once covid would calm down. I had friends in Canada so I thought about going there because of the awesome landscapes. But I thought “English? That’s a bit easy.” I do speak English quite well, not perfectly, but it wouldn’t be a big challenge. And the culture is quite similar to Europe too, I mean of course a bit different, but not as different as an Asian country for example.
The other option was to go to South America but as a single, female traveler, I had a few safety concerns. As it would’ve been my first solo trip, I don’t think my mother would’ve let me go there 😀
So in the end I thought about Korea. When I first heard about Korea, back in 2014, K-Pop or K-Drama was not a thing at all in Europe. I think people only knew about South Korea because of the conflict with North Korea or maybe heard of Psy… Gangnam Style, everyone knew that.
You’ve experienced your roaring 20s in Korea. Do you have any insight on that?
I love that you said roaring 20s, I was 28 when I came here!
Not that old, but still many people worry about their age actually. I get messages like “If I come to Korea being older than 25, what will people think about me?” but I think it doesn’t matter that much. Age is just a number 😉 There was someone in my class in her 50s and she did perfectly fine.
But to come back to your question: I have a great time here. There are endless possibilities and activities… I heard a lot of young people in their “roaring 20s” like to party in Seoul, but even for someone who’s not into that, there are so many fun options.
Is there a favorite place you visited in Seoul?
Yes, absolutely. So many actually!
In terms of a place to travel, I fell in love with Danyang & Jecheon. It’s not well known among foreign tourists and unfortunately, there are not many organized group tours, but if you’re willing to organize it yourself and maybe rent a car or find public transportation, that’s my top recommendation!
And in terms of a place I want to recommend within Seoul… There is one cafe close to my University called Shinchon Blues. It became a comfort place when I came to Korea. I met friends there, studied for my language class, and did my homework there. I think in the first 5 months, I spent 70% of my free time at that cafe. The owner greeted me so warmly every time I walked in… literally every single day he was so happy to see me. Every time I went there, I naturally became happy just by being there.
So talk to me a little more about the challenge. I love that mentality of wanting to go to Canada but it’s not challenging enough. What motivates you to push yourself?
I often asked myself the same question, when I had some tough times in Korea. “Why did I have to go the hard way?” 😀
I mean moving abroad is always challenging. New people, new surroundings, administrational stuff you have to take care of. But I think moving into a different culture that is so different from the one you grew up in, makes things a bit more difficult.
I chose that way mostly because of my character. I love to plan and organize things, I love to travel, and am naturally curious and eager to see new things but at the same time don’t like to “waste my time”. So using my so-called Sabbatical to study a new language and deep dive into a very different culture sounded perfect to me.
But in the end, the “challenge” wasn’t as frightening as many people might think. I was very well prepared, saved enough money to not stress about that part and most importantly have my family’s unconditional support.
You speak so highly of your family, you must miss them so much, how do you cope with the distance between you guys?
I love them so much, it’s the hardest part of living abroad. You constantly have the feeling of missing out and the fear that if something happens you can’t be there fast enough.
I think the most important thing is calling and messaging them often despite busy schedules or the time difference. Every time my mom is having a walk with my nephew, who is 4 years now, she calls me just randomly, sometimes even in the middle of the night because she is forgetting I’m so far away.
When I’m homesick a lot, I meet my German friends here, go to German cafes, and restaurants, or do things I relate to Germany. Riding a bike or having a picnic are somehow related to Europe to me.
Tell me about some of the cultural differences between Germany and Korea. It’s kind of interesting to hear!
I was quite well prepared before coming here because I had a Korean family who taught me a lot about the culture and a lot about Korean etiquette. So there haven’t been many things that shocked me.
As you already mentioned I love my family, it’s the most important thing in my life. I feel like this value is getting less important in Western countries these days. Everybody is just centered around themselves. So I love that in Korea, family is always the most important thing. On the other hand, it’s quite shocking to see that young people have to do everything for their elders, even if they’re absolutely disrespectful.
And I got this question mostly about cultural differences in my relationship with a Korean man. But if you like the person or you are interested in the culture a lot, you’re automatically more open to it. My partner and I are usually just curious to find out why we behave certain ways, instead of being angry or upset.
Do you have any advice for people who are struggling to connect or adjust to the culture?
Just be open-minded. Wherever you go, just be friendly, don’t overthink, and be welcoming to people and they will welcome you – most of the time. And if they don’t, just step away from people or things you don’t like or you have a weird gut feeling about. Not everyone will love you or be kind to you, unfortunately, there will always be people not supporting what you do or just being hateful for no reason. I learned to keep my distance from that negativity.
And if you’re lonely, try connecting with others more openly. Apps, Language Exchange, Courses, Meet Ups, and so on. It’s hard to make friends in a new city so you have to step out of your comfort zone and be consistent to make close relationships.
Also, try going on a solo trip! That helped me the most in hard situations. I learned so much about myself and how I cope with things. How I can overcome hardships by myself. Solo Travelling teaches you so much.
I saw you are a tourist ambassador! Tell me a little bit about that!
I never heard about something like that before I came here. The Korea Tourism Organization pays foreign creators to introduce their followers to new places or experiences around the country. I am now a proud ambassador for the Korea Tourism Organization, the city of Seoul, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and some other organizations. They invite me on trips or to experiences, classes, or guided tours – just yesterday I went on a hike to Inwangsan with one of those programs.
It’s great that you did all this while being a Language student or now on Working Holiday. How was the language course? And how did you get over your anxiety about speaking Korean?
I chose Sogang University for my language course, as they’re focusing on speaking in class. Most language classes in Seoul have the typical “Asian” language teaching system, focussing on memorizing vocabulary, writing, and reading. At Sogang University we spoke so much that we’ve been annoyed by it at some point. But now that I finished my studies there after 15 months, I am happy we did so. I am now not afraid to talk to Koreans at all anymore even though I still make many mistakes 😀
Overall I think those Language Courses are the best way to stay in Korea long-term. Speaking the language makes it so much easier to get through life and find a job and friends. I can not recommend the classes enough – it’s quite expensive, but I loved it. I would do it again and again if I could.
What inspires you?
What keeps me creative is traveling. I am a travel content creator, so naturally, as I travel, I see things I want to share with my followers. And, I also see it as a small diary I can look back at later or share with my family and friends at home.
What keeps me motivated are the messages and comments I get. There are times when I feel discouraged when trips get canceled or Instagram’s algorithm is not showing my content to anyone. In those moments it inspires me so much when I hear how much I inspired others. People message me about how much I have helped them to plan their trip, how much they loved the experience I recommended, or that I gave them the last necessary push to change their life after they thought about it for ages. They would tell me how much I motivated them to sit down, research, learn the language, or simply chase their dreams and explore somewhere new. That is the biggest motivation I can get, I love that
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