Today was a day of sushi and cherry blossoms. The flowers are a’blooming and the birds are a’chirping because spring is a’coming people. The cherry blossoms are nature’s way of saying, ‘hey guys, everything will be okay’.
Cherry blossoms are like the training wheels of nature, they make us feel safe and sound before we summon the confidence to do life with only 2 wheels. After they’re gone, we forget they were even there! Before you know, we’ve smoothly made the winter to summer, heatech to humidity transition.
WHAT AM I SAYING? It was my first back working every day this week and my brain is a little soggy. All of this quarantine has made me lose the humorous edge that helped crown Jo So Ko as the internet’s best travel blog 12 years running.
Time to get some rest, but first, here is a video I made about my work life in Seoul! Check it out if you have nothing better to do 🙂
Edit: Acro Cafe has since changed its name to ‘Scene Coffee’, you can see more images in this post.
If you’ve been feeling a little bit too cool with all of this staying home in your pyjamas business, then head to Seongsu to level out your ego a little bit. The customers at this new cafe, ‘Arco’, looked like they were stopping by for coffee on their way to far cooler, far more important fashion-related things. It was such a lovely cafe with a gallery/concept store on the second floor and a cafe on the ground floor. I really enjoyed our apple crumble and delicious strawberry croissant situation.
I’ve made it my goal for 2020 to make more of an effort to get some friends in this crazy city we live in. Being a foreigner in South Korea, or in any country, can get a little bit overwhelming. Besides, everyone needs to have good old gossip over a $6 flat white from time to time. I have been so inspired and amazed by the internet community I have found here in South Korea and I hope to meet each and every human I have had an interaction with on Instagram, YouTube and here on my blog!
If you are living in a foreign country, what are some ways you like to meet new friends? Also, if you live in Seoul, and you’re reading these words, I would love to explore an area of Seoul with you? I could honestly have a meaningful conversation with a forest, so don’t worry if you’re a shy/introverted human! I don’t discriminate. Also, upon reflection, maybe telling people I want to meet up with them on the internet is a bit creepy and I totally understand if nobody ever responds to this post…
This is a mural that was featured in Goblin (the K-drama!!)
Hello, internet! I wrote this slightly aggressive post back when I was working as an English teacher here in Seoul. I have since left my job and have a lot less subway anger. Nevertheless, I shall share these words with you as an ode to my former subway taking self.
I grew up taking trains to kindergarten, to the cinema with my grandmother, and to and from high school for 6 years. We even brought our beloved pet rabbit, Maisy, home on the peak hour Melbourne train. I’ve managed to develop a level of train etiquette and surrounding passenger awareness that could take one a lifetime to obtain. Sadly, South Koreans did not go through this rigorous train-ing and have seemed to forget their Confucianist roots.
As an Australian living in Seoul, I think an appropriate amount of time has passed for me to start complaining about everyday mundane life things. My daily commute to work consists of 2 x 40-minute rides on the subway from the Yeongdeungpo area to the Gangnam area. The entirety of my journey is submerged underground; beneath a world of fried chicken, sidewalk fruit stands and political corruption. I am not able to see the light of day until I come up for air at my destination. During these 40 minute nightmares, I have become quite observant of South Korean subway manners, or the lack thereof.
For some reason, Korean people have collectively decided that if you walk into someone or forcibly push your way through a huddle of subway goers, apologies and niceties are superfluous. The same goes for accidental topples at the hands of a trigger happy train driver. The topples happen more often than not because most commuters are glued to their phone screens. I know that this is just a cultural difference, but it’s one that I just can’t seem to get on board with. In other words, it’s hard to be culturally sensitive when someone is pushing into you with all of their body weight on a busy train.
Last week, I managed to get a seat on my gruelling and crowded 40-minute journey to work; a luxury in some eyes. I was seated two seats away from the designated pink pregnant lady seat that was so rudely occupied by a non-pregnant woman. (In Seoul, you need to wear a badge that says your pregnant in order to sit in these pregnant lady seats. The only thing stopping you from sitting there are your morals).
As I sat down, my attention was immediately drawn to a woman amidst a bout of morning sickness who was practically stopping herself from throwing up on neighbouring passengers. She was standing close enough to the pink pregnant lady seat with her pregnant lady badge fully on display that any moderately aware human would see this and apologetically give up their seat. Alas, the occupant was fast asleep and blissfully unaware of the situation in front of her.
By the time I caught sight of the woman, I could see her face almost reduced to tears. This was due to the unfortunate battle she was undertaking with the human she was growing inside of her. The people around her looked around uncomfortably as she practically vomited in her mouth. The sounds were audibly unpleasant yet no one helped her. Before her face was fully flooded with tears and sweat, I reached out to her over a crowd of both seated and standing passengers and told her to take my seat in my best Korean. She looked extremely grateful for this simple, human gesture. She did have to squeeze past a lot of useless people to get to the seat.
Once seated, she continued to offer to hold my bags for me. I was like, ‘girl, I think I can deal with holding two bags, I’m not the one who is with child, holding back from vomiting all over a train full of strangers’. I, of course, didn’t say that and, even if I wanted to, I don’t yet have the Korean language skills to communicate such an observation.
I really feel saddened from this event and can only hope that other commuters on not only this woman’s daily commute but the people sharing a train with elderly citizens or differently-abled bodies will do their best to make people feel comfortable on trains. We don’t need to label seats for these people, they should be able to sit wherever. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, Seoul subway goers don’t want to stand out from the crowd. They don’t want to be the one to help a person in need, probably because they fear the person reacting badly? Which really doesn’t make any sense to me, again, cultural differences.
This isn’t an issue of feminism or politics or infrastructure or healthcare systems, it’s just plain and simple human kindness and having the ability to both be aware of your surroundings and your smartphone screen at the same time. Does it really take a barely literate in Korean foreign person sitting at least 3 metres from this poor woman to help out? I only wish society was accepting of women who stood up for themselves and felt comfortable asking for help.
If this happened in Melbourne, the pregnant woman would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman, a neighbouring passenger would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman and probably every person in the surrounding seats would have stood up at the same time to help her out. Simply ignoring her and pretending her crying and discomfort is her own fault is not the Melburnian way.
Wherever you go in the world, you will always encounter people who are in a bit of a hurry or are just having a bad day. The Subway in Seoul is the most convenient public transport I’ve ever experienced in my life and I hold nothing against it. If the reader should take anything from this, it’s that pregnant women need to sit the hell down sometimes and it doesn’t take much for us non-pregnant, fully-abled humans to stand up and offer our seat to someone who needs it. Even if you think you may offend someone, it’s better to clear up the awkwardness by just trying. This was not an isolated incident, I have seen this happen to pregnant women, children, elderly people etc. I wish I had only observed it on just this occasion.
Moral of the story: stand up, it will make you feel better and you can really change the course of a person’s day by doing this one small thing.
I consider myself to be a seasoned public transport taker here in Seoul, South Korea. Since moving to Seoul, I’ve noticed that the general Korean population are rather fond of their smartphone screens. This doesn’t just apply to the people on the subway as the title of this post may suggest. It applies to people on the streets, in cafes, restaurants, schools, gyms, and everywhere else humans gravitate. It doesn’t help that two huge conglomerate smartphone companies, Samsung and LG, are highly celebrated by the Korean people.
So, because I never use my phone and am a fully-fledged self-help guru, I’ve taken it upon myself to help everyone out with more ~mindful~ smartphone usage. Firstly, I hate the word mindful and I also disagree with the generation of self help influencers. Secondly, I have been living in Seoul for 1 year now and I, too, have a bit of a screen addiction going on. I was being completely facetious.
Here are some ways that we can better serve our brains on the subway to promote a clear mind and help validate our smartphone addictions.
1. Make a to-do list
Do you have more than two things to do after your commute? Well, that, my friend, is the beginning of a juicy list. Let’s face it, you probably won’t do all of the things on your list but it will motivate you to do the things you actually need to do.
Listen to a podcast instead of the music you constantly consume in your ear holes. You can learn something, feel like you’re having a private lecture and be that annoying person who brings up facts all the time for no apparent reason.
3. Read a book
Woah, an actual physical book? Okay, this one is for more advanced subway takers and requires a great level of concentration. I know that not everybody can get their bodies to balance on a moving train and read without getting dizzy, we are humans, not mountain goats. However, if your body can handle all of the extra stimuli, you can assert your dominance as the ‘smart’ one on the subway carriage. I read so many books this year just because of my extremely long commute to work.
4. Write a novel
I can’t offer further advice with this one. It just seems like something a person who wakes up at 4am every day would do as a way to be productive. Give it a try? Your novel can’t suck until you finish it. Then, you can make it better.
5. Start a blog
Did you know that I’m currently writing this blog post on the subway? How could you have known that? What a silly question. If you don’t think you have the time to write a blog or a diary, you’re lying to yourself and to your whole family. They will never forgive you for those lies. I have the same philosophy Re: write a novel. Your blog won’t suck unless you have questionable opinions or zero blog posts.
6. Learn a language
Duolingo is a thing and it’s there to be used, so use it. Otherwise, go back to point two, Podcasts, and combine this with language learning. If, for some reason, you decided to learn Korean like me, Talk to Me in Korean have a great podcast.
7. Do a phone spring clean
Organise your photos, emails, contacts, apps, alarms, calendars, texts, ringtones, Instagram bios etc. I’m a true believer that a clean home equals a clean mind. I also apply this philosophy to the digital living space. Think about how much time you spend on your devices and it may help you understand why it’s important to keep your digital chaos clean and tidy.
8. Unfollow people who don’t align with your future
Go onto your socials and remove all the people who aren’t on board your train to self-improvement and general happiness. This includes people you are only friends with because you feel like you have to be. Delete them all. But, as you cull your friend lists, whisper ‘thank you’ ever so quietly to make it more Marie Kondo and less Georgina from Gossip Girl.
9. Go on a Wikipedia black hole search
This is my favourite thing to do at 4am while on a Netflix binge but there is never a bad time to go on a Wikipedia binge. It will help you learn things like Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are related and other things like how long Nelson Mandella spent in prison. These are all very useful things, do not deny yourself this information. As I am editing this, I am realising that I didn’t draw this point in my hilarious cartoon version of this blog post. I will forever regret this.
10. Respond respond respond
Now, this is the thing that I am worst at in life. I don’t know how many times I have written in my diary ‘ahh I really need to stay on top of my message and email responses’ to no avail. I don’t know what it is but I’m working on it, and the subway is a great place to get it done. As I type, I am vehemently aware of all of my unread messages.
I hope this was more comical than helpful. I really don’t care how you spend your time on your commute. I don’t know what kind of day you’re having. We all need to unwind with YouTube videos to clear our cloudy brains. This is more of a cultural observation combined with a pretty useless solution to something that may not even be perceived as a problem. But, if you’re feeling guilty about your phone usage, just know that the world will continue to be flat and have zero gravitational pull, regardless of how many memes you watch on a continuous loop.
‘Well, that was an unexpected ending? I want to read more of this blog! But HOW?’ Please do, I upload when I feel like it about topics relating to Korean culture. Feel free to leave a comment, I always respond. Have a very Korean day!
Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!
I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).
I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.
Today, I forced my couch potato oaf of a body out to Dongdaemun to investigate the famous fabric market. I recently (two months ago) purchased an embroidery starter kit with every intention of learning how to punch needle (seriously, what the hell is punch needling?). After a night of failed punch needling and red wine drinking, I decided that I wanted to stick with good old Sansa Stark needle and thread embroidery. However, I lacked the main ingredient for this ancient handicraft: a needle.
The fabric market in Dongdaemun is a mammoth of a building and would be the perfect place to hide if you were running from the law. They would never find you. I am, in fact, introducing the market as a huge, labyrinth-like fabric mecca in order to get to the punchline ‘there I was, searching for an embroidery needle in a haystack’. Which is exactly what I did. I wandered up to the fifth floor, found my needle and proceeded to have a fluent conversation with the lovely old lady in the stall. Crafts and language learning at the same time? Whoa. Who needs sports when you have low-impact hobbies like mine?
Sadly, I didn’t take pictures inside the market. I was actually extremely busy losing my mind looking at all of the shiny things. I spent 50% of my time losing my mind, 5% of my time looking for a needle in a haystack, and 45% of my time trying to get the hell out of there. I do plan on going back very soon in a more prepared state of mind. So, I will be making a concise post about how to get there and what the deal is (as per usual I got very lost because I’m stubborn and think I can go places without maps). Instead, as promised in the title, here are some of the things my eyeballs witnessed today on my journey! Enjoy your life!
Hello, intrepid traveller, today I’m coming at you with some fresh tips on how to move countries and live like an anxiety-free human person. These tips are super fresh so make sure you consume them before their use-by date. Fruits and veg in South Korea have a tendency to go from crispy fresh to dead and wrinkled in a Pyeongchang-minute.
In December 2018, I moved from cushy, livable Melbourne, Australia to very foreign and very Korean Seoul, South Korea. I did this in the name of love and to put an end to one year of loving another human from a long distance. I had been to Korea before, dabbled in studying the language and had eaten my fair share of Kimchi. This made the culture shock relatively smooth… wait what am I saying? No amount of kimchi could have prepared me for the ensuing culture shock. The culture shock ricocheted off of every crevice and subway passageway in Seoul. Aftershocks of my culture shock are still being felt throughout the city. Alas, I am here to help you!
What the fork is Culture Shock?
So, let’s talk about culture shock. It’s real. It’s messy and it can also happen in reverse. Yeah, that’s something they don’t tell you on Buzzfeed. Culture shock, to me, is dealing with all of the new things around you in a new place that makes living a little bit uncomfortable. Kind of like when you sit on a wet patch of grass and have to walk around in discomfort for a bit, but then you’re fine because it’s only wet grass. Here’s some culture shock that you may experience in a place like South Korea:
The language can be a bit of a culture shock because you thought that watching a few K-dramas would be enough to get by (I’m partly joking).
It might be hard to have a successful shopping trip to the supermarket because the things you would normally buy are either not there, or are five hundred per cent more expensive than back home.
If you’re in a new place where you don’t look like everybody else, people might stare at you constantly and try to talk to you and objectify you as a token foreigner. This is very uncomfortable and makes people feel stupid, do not do this to foreign-looking people. Shockingly, they’re actually people.
People might do everyday things like taking the subway very differently to people in your home country. For example, people in South Korea love to PUSH you until they’re off the train without any ‘excuse me’s’ or ‘coming through’s’. Also, people here don’t give up their subway seats for the elderly and that’s a culture shock!
Boy, I could write a whole POST about culture shock! I kind of did write some back when I first came to Korea and you can read it here! Okay, let’s begin all the ways to help your sorry self mitigate these culture shocks and how to prepare your life for emigration (aka the point of this blog post).
Let’s get some fresh tips on how to Taylor Swiftly emigrate!
1. Bring all of the things you rely on in your home country. They may be available in the country you’re moving to, but may be hard to find and super expensive. Besides, you’re going to need time to figure out where to buy things, where not to buy things etc. Just equip yourself with enough to last 6 months. For example, I brought Vegemite, skincare, Colgate toothpaste, shoes for my clown feet and more bras than a human could possibly need. I wasn’t sure how readily available these things would be. I’ve been in Korea for 10 months and I still haven’t managed to find shoes that fit me properly.
2. Take photos of all of your pals, places and things that feel like home. Sometimes, you just want to be reminded that you have stuff that makes you who you are. You can also find new things in your new country to add to that list, but it’s nice to be able to remember who you are. It can be hard to remember that when you’re in a completely new environment with minimal friends and you’re referred to as a ‘foreigner’ on a daily basis.
4. Bring oodles of passport photos and documents and photocopies and digital copies and a portable scanning app and a pocket-sized accountant and an on-standby lawyer and you get the gist. Trust me, you don’t want to go to a Japanese convenience store at 3am to print out a passport photo because you have to be at the Korean embassy at 9am to get your Visa. It’s just the type of stress one does not need in their life. Bring copies of everything important, back them up on your digital world and give some copies to a loved one in case you somehow lose all of those.
5. Don’t overpack. You think you’ll need stuff but you know you won’t and you know you’re going to want to buy all the things in your new environment. Just bring the things that will give you the most comfort in your life. For example, I knew that I didn’t need to pack my own Marimekko plates but I also knew that mealtimes might be a shade duller without them.
6. Make sure you will be financially set up to visit your home every once in a while. Family is important. Don’t move overseas if you don’t think you’ll be able to make the money/time to come home every once in a while unless you’re only going for a hot minute.
Get all of your shots
See your dentist
Pop into grandma’s
Stock up on pain killers and cold medicine
Hit the books – learn about the language, culture, manners and all that shiz before you move countries
Tell your government how you’ll vote in elections
Organise your digital living space (computers, iPads, hard drives etc)
Tell your bank you’ll be out of town so they don’t lock you out of your account
Clean out your bedroom and turn it into a place your parents can rent on Airbnb
Cancel your gym membership, phone plan, library card etc.
Make sure your passport is good for a while
If you’re Australian, let Smart Traveller know where you’re going and check their information about your destination
Have a party for your friends even if nobody shows up (it’s the thought that counts)
Make a budget spreadsheet and pretend you’ll stick to it
If you’re moving to Asia, say goodbye to clean air
Write down important addresses where you won’t lose them
Savour your last sip of coffee from your fave cafe, it may be your last
Kill all of your indoor plants or give them to green thumbs
Take out about 5 things from your suitcase at the last minute because you know you’re kidding yourself
Set some goals for yourself so you’re not running around without direction
Take note of where embassies are and how to get there
Make sure your life is sorted on the other side (house, job, school)
You can sort out phones, banks and other life admin at the other end
Last but not least, get ready to get a bit emotionally messed up while you adapt to your new country
Whether your moving for six months or for eternity, no amount of blog post writing and list-making will really prepare you for moving your life to another country. Just make sure that you remember every awkward encounter and savour it as a memory of that time you moved country and everything was hard. For me, it has been almost a year since I left home. My language skills are getting better each day and I no longer feel like a tourist. I still have moments that make me want to cry and curl up into a ball because of something awkward that happened with a shop assistant or a stranger who has stalked me off the subway to ask if I have a boyfriend. You know, stuff that happens in any country. Culture shock is a given and emotions fluctuate. Don’t you think experiencing a new culture like a local in a new place is worth all of the awkward encounters in the world?
Let me know what you’d like to see on my blog. I am working hard to write more and more, so stay tuned for regular posts. I would love to hear your feedback, so leave a comment below or let me know about your experience moving overseas. Have a great week, internet world!
Hello, followers of the most sporadically updated blog in the history of WordPress. I have been working on this post since August 2017 when I spent my first week in Seoul. I’m hyper-aware of everything in my surroundings, even the things that aren’t there. I’m definitely not crazy but we’re working on figuring it all out. I wanted to compile a list of observations I made about South Korea while I was living there last year. Some of them may be common knowledge, some of them may be random, once off encounters. These are the observations of a young and energetic Australian human lady so I hope you enjoy learning more about Korea as you read!!!
1. Oh, you want to walk through a door? Well, don’t expect anyone to hold it open for you
When it comes to door time, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. Also, don’t expect people to applaud you or give you a fist bump for holding the door open for them. I’ve found that holding doors open for people is actually MORE annoying than the alternative and you tend to get in the way. Just worry about your own entrances and exits, folks. Eyes on the handle, not the crowds.
This is a tricky situation for a western person to navigate because I’m one of those people who will see a complete stranger 10m away and stand and wait to hold the door while they awkwardly shuffle inside and mumble a thank you. It’s because I just don’t know what else to do. Maybe that person was having a bad day, I don’t want to ruin it by slamming the door in front of them and completely ignoring the world around me. But in Korea, it’s just kind of expected that nobody will hold the door for you so there are no door opening expectations to be met. I really need to CALM DOWN with all of the door opening manners.
2. So, you want to take a 30kg suitcase on the Seoul Metro system?
That’s fine, just don’t expect any elevators to be hanging around. Your broken rib cage will NOT be thanking you later. PACK light, pack like those people you see eating baked beans out of their Vibram FiveFingers sock shoes on the side of the street while wearing their 5kg hiking backpacks and 1okg dreadlocks. It’s not that there aren’t any elevators and escalators, it’s just that they’re quite tricky to find.
Sometimes you tap your train card to get into a station and realise the elevator is 500m in the other direction and you can’t figure out how to get there. It’s also super busy on the Seoul metro so your suitcase is going to really be a point of contention between you and the other commuters. I did have one experience in Dongdaemun where a man hauled my 30kg suitcase up a broken escalator on the first day that I ever went to Korea. I hope that guy is doing well and eating all of the kimchi and drinking all of the soju.
3. Found a person you love more than you love yourself?
Well, firstly, that’s really sad, self-love is super important. Secondly, go to town on those milestones. Wear matching outfits, buy matching underwear sets or even purchase a 2 pack T Money train cards designed for couples (which I made the devastating mistake of doing). Korean couples won’t really gross you out with public kissing ordeals and excessive touching, but they’ll dress identically to show you that they’re exponentially happier than you will ever be. (Edit: I wrote this before I fell in love with a Korean man and ironically did all of the couple things with, so take Number 5 with a grain of saltiness).
4. Helmets? Safety? Who needs them?
I know this is not unique to Korea, but people really don’t want to get helmet hair. It’s understandable that you don’t really need to wear a helmet on a university campus while peddling around, but being on a motorcycle on a busy road in Seoul, sans helmet!!!?? That makes me feel uneasy n queazy quite frankly.
5. Sorry, SORRY, sorry, I’m so sorry, oh I’m sorry, hey there I’m sorry
Do you often find yourself using the word ‘sorry’ excessively? Well, perhaps you should take a trip to South Korea and learn how to get your ‘sorry’ usage down to an appropriate amount. It’s not that people in South Korea aren’t sorry that they’ve just walked directly into you or shoved past you on a train, it’s just that they aren’t sorry enough to say sorry. This is my personal favourite because it’s really teaching me how to control my sorry’s. Sorry if this offended you.
6. People in Korea brush their teeth anywhere at any time of the day
I have actually adopted this habit since starting this blog post. Maybe it’s because I experienced living at a university and people study really hard and rarely sleep, but people were just brushing their teeth all over the shop. Walk into a classroom, BAM, you’ll hear the “ch ch ch” of a set of pearly-Korean-whites being scrubbed. I love this. Koreans eat a lot of garlic and kimchi so #8 is admirable. It’s also a sign that people in this country actually take care of themselves and employ impeccable hygiene strategies just about anywhere they go.
7. The Hiking get-ups are no joke
If you fall over in a Korean forest, and nobody can hear you, did you really fall? YES! You did. The combination of leopard print, fluoro yellow, pink and orange will be audible from SPACE. I LOVE Korean hiking fashion. Please refer to my personal fave snap from our Gyeongju trip last October!
8. Korean people are nocturnal
Ew, did you wake up before 10am and leave the house? Okay, you need to work harder. Okay, so this one might just be applicable to university students. If I went for a run on a Saturday morning, the streets were as quiet as dead moose. Silent. No people. Meanwhile, standing at 2am at the ramen vending machine was like being on a crowded train carriage during peak hour. Damn, do they know how to STUDY. It’s just so safe in this country! The image above is Seoul at night: couples, beers, a river you’re not allowed to swim in which is a law people actually obey and smooth live music from various buskers. What a life! You just couldn’t have a place like Cheonggyecheon in Australia. People would completely disobey the no swimming rule, there would be public urination, people would throw shopping trolleys in there, there would be graffiti everywhere and silly drunk people would be a danger to themselves.
9. People are chilled out
Probably due to their Jimjilbang (sauna) culture and readily available Soju.
10. Korean spicy does not feel like other spicy
We’re talking 1 minute of ‘Oh yeah, this isn’t too bad, omg this is not spicy at ALL ahahah are you joking omg you’re crazy, you completely underestima…..’ to an entire night of ‘WATER. MILK. CTRL + Z. Please knock me out cold so I don’t have to be conscious for this ‘. (I’m not a spice lass so please acknowledge the exaggeratedness of this).
Image Above: It may not look like it but this was the spiciest meal of my life. 감자탕 (gamja-tang) is a Korean pork bone soup and it is normally one of my fave meals but this bad boy you see here was like eating a small chilli farm.
11. Learning Korean is hard
It’s a language. It’s hard. This is not a revelation. Fortunately there are many amazing resources that can help us in our struggle to learn Korean. I love Talk To Me In Korean, watching YouTubers who speak Korean and also, Netflix. I have a blog post coming up about my favourite Korean things on Netflix that you must watch!
12. Singing is a completely normal thing to do
So it should be? Korean Noraebangs (translates to ‘song rooms’) are ubiquitous on the streets of Korea and are also part of people’s lives. You will often see a group of friends or even a solo song lover wander into a Karaoke room like it ain’t no thang. This is not a thang in Australia but it SHOULD be.
13. Google maps and the whole Google family is redundant in Korea
Use Naver. Don’t bother with Google. You’ll get lost. However, Google works wonders in Japan.
14. Appearances are everything
You can’t stereotype a country and all of its citizens by generalising that every human in that country cares collectively about ONE thing, that’s just not a thing you can do. Not everyone cares about their appearance in Korea. However, from what I have observed and may be well known to the outside world is that skincare, beauty, fashion, cleanliness, politeness and respect are all important aspects of Korean life. The way Korean people value their appearance and allow their external and internal selves to look respectful and put together is a great thing. It’s something I am sure Koreans are very proud of.
Appearances aren’t always just about how beautiful you are or about trying to make yourself aspire to a certain beauty standard. There is more to appearance than just aesthetics and I think western culture could possibly learn a thing or two from this Korean philosophy. Be the best version of yourself. Be polite. Make an effort. Be proud of yourself. These are not bad things.
Yes, South Korea is known for its plastic surgery and its extreme beauty standards but, HELLO, have you seen an old person in Hollywood? Korea just decided that if they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it really well and be renowned worldwide for it. In Western culture, plastic surgery is seen as this secret little demon that must never be mentioned in the light of day. To keep this sort of physical body change a secret is to deny that you are trying to feel better about yourself. It instead teaches young women that they can be beautiful and skinny and sexy with minimal effort.
We may not be as vocal about it as Korea but we all have unattainable beauty standards embedded within our cultures. Even people who say they don’t care about the way they look are putting effort into making it known that they don’t in fact care about how they look. That seems like a lot more effort in my opinion. Either way, you’re giving a fork about some kind of appearance philosophy and I am so fascinated by Koreas openness about this. However, it can be disheartening to hear people say that the more attractive you are, the easier your job and life prospects will become. It is also rather disturbing to see perfect K-Drama stars attain the lives of their dreams effortlessly and without much of an inner struggle. I think in the future, Korea will figure out how to balance this incredible ideology with the way it is portrayed to the masses. In the meantime, I shall continue to take care of myself and my appearance and not give a shiz about who knows it.
15. Koreans don’t do drugs (This is a great thing). It’s incredibly illegal and frowned upon
Instead, they do K-DRAMAS. K-DRAMAS may as well be drugs, people! Those shows are more addictive than any street drug I’ve heard about on Vice. K-Dramas will make you want to stay at home, order-in, sit in your pyjamas and completely immerse yourself in a fictitious Korean political scandal or impossible unrequited love situation (that 9/10 times has a happy ending).
16. South Korea is gosh darn COLD in winter
I was not aware of this last fact. They get this bone-chilling wind known as the Siberian Anticyclone and it is particularly problematic in December and January. Be warned, intrepid travellers.
Do you have any more observations you’ve made about Korea? Let’s discuss below!
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