This is What Summer Looks Like in South Korea

Walking through my neighbourhood this week, I captured the essence of what summer looks like in South Korea. Empty coffee cups everywhere. Empty packets of cigarettes. This area has a lot of office buildings and it is not uncommon to see office workers standing around smoking and drinking a LOT of ice coffee. Yes, even during this pandemic.

I don’t know what Korea’s obsession with iced drinks is, but it is obviously making sense during this heat wave here in Seoul. However, it is pretty common to see people drinking these in the winter. Any office I have worked in has had a pretty consistent background noise of someone fetching ice from a fridge or dispenser of some kind. People need their beverages iced and they need them now.

With the window illustration in the background of this image, I thought this moment was so quintessentially Korean. It’s as though the two characters are admiring all of the coffee cups that have helped fuel workers throughout their day. Like, ‘good job you guys, you’re doing good work here’.

Of course, the bigger question that this photo alludes to is a nation’s obsession with plastic. I haven’t really spoken about it on my blog but Korea is plastic-obsessed. Things are wrapped up in plastic, bagged in plastic and served in plastic. The problem is not the plastic, it’s that people don’t seem to care.

The day I see a majority of Koreans using reusable bags for shopping and reusable cubs for their coffee order will be a miraculous milestone. But spoiler alert, I don’t see it happening any time soon. As long as the consumers continue to demand highly efficient products and services, without any consideration for plastic consumption, the big conglomerates will continue to provide. It’s that simple.

A real change needs to happen on a day to day behavioural level and I honestly think it’s going to have to come from K-dramas, K-pop stars or some kind of social media movement. That’s a long way off in my mind considering that people are still trying to figure out that feminism isn’t about hating men.

A photo of empty coffee cups and empty cigarette packets on the streets of Seoul, South Korea
Summer summed up in Seoul, South Korea

Korean word of the week: ‘방콕’

Korean word of the week ‘방콕’ or ‘집콕’ ~ it means to stay in your house/room and do nothing. It is also spelled the same way as ‘Bangkok’, so if someone asks you where will go on holiday, you can either say ‘나는 방콕 갈거에요 = I’m going to Bangkok’, or ‘나는 방콕 할거에요 = I’m going to stay at home and do nothing all day’. 그래서, 오늘은 제가 하루종일 방콕 할거에요! 여러분들도 집에 계속 있으면 좋겠어요.

Last week, I posted this word on my instagram and thought I would put it up here for my 3 readers! This word has a new meaning now that most of us are staying inside, away from public spaces and keeping our distance. I thought I would share it here! Have a Merry Christmas and I hope you are staying safe and sound.

Here are some of my recent ‘방콕’ style videos from my channel! Enjoy.

My Korean husband cooks Jjapaguri from the movie ‘Parasite’

parasite-jjapaguri-sceneIf you fell in love with Bong Joon Ho’s latest film ‘Parasite’, you might be curious about some of the food that was featured in the Oscar-winning movie. At a very tense moment in the movie, the newly appointed maid to the Park family is asked to make a dish called ‘Jjapaguri’. The English translation is ‘Ram-don’ but the Korean name comes from the two different types of instant noodles that are used in the dish. To make Jjapaguri, you need these two types of instant noodles that you can buy from your local Korean supermarket:

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Jjapaghetti and Neoguri

I was curious to try the dish for myself and I’m lucky enough to have a Korean husband who knew exactly how to make it! We live in Korea so these ingredients are readily available. We wanted to keep the recipe as similar to the dish made in the film so we even added beef! (Beef is a very expensive ingredient here in South Korea! Pork is usually the favoured meat). Here is how our meal turned out, it was surprisingly delicious and I think I may even like it more than I like Jjapaghetti by itself:

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The soju is optional!

How to Order Coffee in Korean

If you ever travel to South Korea, or you’re already here, you will most likely spend a lot of your time in cafes, ordering coffee and then drinking said coffee. Coffee is a big part of Korea’s culture, and is viewed as more of a social drink rather than a ‘if I don’t have a coffee before this meeting, my brain might explode’ kind of drink/fuel.

So, here is a little cheat sheet if you are coming to Korea and want to perfect your coffee ordering skills. For help with reading and listening, copy and paste any new words into Papago to listen. Keep scrolling for an English translation.

S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer ( You!)

S: 안녕하세요. 주문하시겠어요? Or 뭐 드릴까요?

C: 따뜻한 카페라떼 한 잔 주세요.

S: 사이즈는 어떻게 해 드릴까요?

C: 톨 사이즈로 해 주세요.

S: 드시고 가세요?

C: 네, 맞아요.

S: 따뜻한 카페라떼 톨 사이즈 한 잔 맞으세요?

C: 네.

S: 네, 4,500 원 입니다.

—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-

S: 영수증 드릴까요?

C: 괜찮아요. 버려주세요.

S: 옆에서 잠시만 기다려주세요.

C: 네, 감사합니다.

—–coffee machine sound—-

Barista: 36번 고객님, 따뜻한 카페라떼 나왔습니다.

C: 감사합니다.

B: 맛있게 드세요.

—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-

English Translation

S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer

S: Hello. Are you ready to order? Or What can I get you?

C: One cup of hot cafe latte, please.

S: What size would you like?

C: Tall size, please.

S: Is that for here?

C: Yes, that’s right.

S: So, that’s one tall hot cafe latte?

C: Yes.

S: Okay, that’s 4,500 won, please.

—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-

S: Do you want a receipt?

C: It’s okay. Please throw it away.

S: Please wait over there for a moment.

C: Yes, thank you.

—–coffee machine sound—-

Barista: Customer 36, your cafe latte is ready.

C: Thank you.

B: Enjoy

—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-

Korean Skincare and Daily Makeup

Hello, welcome to my freezing cold bathroom! In my latest YouTube video, I take you through my 3-step Korean skincare routine. I also threw in a little makeup routine at the end because my skincare routine is very simple.

I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin, so I like to keep my products to a minimum! If you’re curious to snoop around my bathroom/living room, take a look!

I am very new to YouTube but I LOVE making videos! They’re such a great addition to my blogging hobby. Do you like Korean skincare? Let me know if you have a YouTube Channel, we can be YouTube friends!

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Happy Korean New Year: My First ‘설날’ (New Year) as a ‘며느리’ (Daughter-in-law)

Hello internet, let’s talk about the fact that the moon calendar makes no sense to us Gregorians! Haha maybe another time, for now let’s just discuss Korean Lunar New Year. Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year in a celebration called Seollal (설날). This was my first Seollal as a 며느리 (daughter-in-law) so everyone made a big fuss, or maybe I was just imagining things. Traditionally, 며느리’s are supposed to wait on each man’s beckon call and prepare copious amounts of food for the family, as well as clean everything. Fortunately, this was my first time as a daughter-in-law so I just sat there and smiled and made my husband help the women in the kitchen. It’s 2020, y’all!

On New Year’s day (Sat 25th Jan 2020), we ate rice cake soup (떡국) and a yummy eggy pancake. We also had lots of crustaceans and a variety of rural style side dishes. I celebrated Seollal in Yeosu, my husband’s hometown. The food and flavours in Yeosu are different to other parts of Korea. They like very salty side dishes and consume a lot of seafood. Some flavours are too strong for my weak little Australian palate, so I just shamelessly pick at the dishes with the most sugar.

We also ate steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and sweet potato noodles (잡재) on New Year’s Day! We paid visits to all grandparents and did our New Year’s bows for good luck and great health. This was my first time bowing in Korea! When you bow on New Year’s Day, you have to say ‘새해 복 많이 받으세요’, which is like saying ‘I hope you receive lots of luck in the new year’.

This holiday went by so quickly but here are some pictures that I managed to snap. Whenever I pull out my phone to take pictures of food, I still feel like such a tourist in this country. I hope you had a great new year, how did you spend yours? Does your country celebrate the lunar new year?

Sweet potato noodles (잡재), Steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and Kimchi (feat. Danbi the puppy)

Fresh kimchi, samjang sauce, garlic and a vinegary soup moment.

Close up of the steamed pork ribs (갈비찜)

A beautiful door

No strawberry can out-strawberry a Korean strawberry

A spotty train while we waited for our ride to Yeosu. The New Year’s festivities were happening during the start of the corona virus outbreak, so masks were necessary!

Korean New Year Pancakes with crab, spinach and other yummy things.

My stomach gets angry at me if I eat too much Korean food. It’s like ‘ummm, why haven’t you been eating any cake or complex carbohydrates?’ Go to a cafe immediately and give us the sugar and caffeine we deserve.

What to Wear in Seoul in December

Brrrr… it’s chilly in this city. I’m pretty sure I just saw snow in my bathroom (not really). When I first came to Korea in 2017, I had no idea how cold things would get come December. This lead to me jumping on my bicycle, racing to the closest Uniqlo from my dormitory, and buying anything that looked like it would keep me warm. Two years later, and I am still wearing the items I bought that day.

I want to help you avoid this shock if you’re planning on coming to Seoul in the cold months of late November, December, and January. This could also be helpful if you’re planning to come to Korea to be an English teacher. Planning your wardrobe for four seasons is hard when you have airline luggage restrictions to consider.

On Looking Good in Winter

Let’s get one thing out of the way, looking cute and stylish is HARD in winter. Once you’ve layered your heat tech and jumpers, you look more like a marshmallow than a fashion icon. Accept it. Be warm. Keep your coat on even though you want to show off your outfit. And don’t let instagram likes dictate the way you dress.

Winter Formula for Getting Dressed:

(Thermal Leggings + Thermal Top + Socks) + Bottom Layer + Jumper + Coat + More Socks + Gloves + Beanie + Scarf – Inappropriate Summer Fabrics + Shoes = You MIGHT be warm today

Basics

Before we get into some the outfits I wore in December, let’s go through my Korean winter essentials. Because I am a foreigner living in Korea, I don’t have a huge wardrobe full of cute outfits. It’s hard to transport an entire wardrobe across the Pacific Ocean. These are the items I can’t live without, so you may be seeing these items recurring throughout the outfits!

1. Cashmere Jumper

2. Warm Scarf

3. Wool Coat / Long Padding Jacket

4. Knee High Boots / Leather Boots

5. Waterproof Sneakers

6. Heat Tech Leggings and Turtle Necks

7. WARM Gloves

8. Wool Beanie / Beret / Ear Muffs

Pro Tip: if you’re planning to move to Korea or any colder climate, the best thing to do is look out for cashmere sales! I picked up my jumper at a huge sale at Vin Prime, a second hand clothing store here in Korea. The quality of your clothes really makes a difference when staying warm, and it doesn’t have to make you broke! My jumper was only $20 and it’s 100% Cashmere.

Outfit #1: Christmas Tree Chic

This first outfit was taken at the beginning of December, hence the bare ankles. I can get away without an extra layer under these pants because they are so WARM, which is why I spent money that was out of my budget to buy them… I paired the pants with some black boots, a cashmere jumper over a t-shirt and a coat. On warmer winter days, you can get away with not wearing any thermal or heat tech layers!

The best investment I made this winter was this pair of green wool structured trousers from COS. They fit me like a glove and are so warm and cosy. I wanted something that looked professional but at the same time would keep me warm. I made this investment back when I thought getting a non-teaching job in Korea was a piece of cake… Also, they look like grass but for your pant legs!

Outfit #2: Incognito Shopping Trip

I love these grey lambs wool leggings that I bought from the Australian brand Country Road FOUR years ago! They are still keeping me warm. The tote is from a Museum in Singapore and the beanie is from a flea market in Japan. I kind of look like I’m on my way to rob a bank, and I’m okay with that.

This is often how I dress when walking to the supermarket – how exciting. These are my Adidas sneakers that I bought in summer and they are the coolest sneakers I’ve ever owned.

Outift #3: Horse Rider Takes on Inner City Shopping Centre

This horse riding look is my favourite to wear because of these BOOTS. I got these brown leather boots in a Zara sale last year and they make me feel like a powerful yet bohemian lady. These are the shoes that make me want to get dressed on cold mornings. I love wearing them with tight jeans so I can show off the whole boot. When I cover them in pant or skirt fabric, the boots don’t get to shine! Again, here is my cashmere jumper that I wear basically everyday, cashmere scarf and my padding jacket. I know Koreans aren’t overly fond of Uniqlo, but I couldn’t survive winter here without their clothes.

I planned on taking more awkward selfies but then we moved house and life did that thing that it does where you suddenly don’t have time to do things. However, most of my outfits look like the ones you saw above in various combinations. I unintentionally have a capsule wardrobe situation due to aforementioned lack of luggage allowance and general lack of money to buy clothes!

Bonus Outfits from December!

Let’s start with this navy moment I had when I went ice skating.

Here is a Christmas look – I love that I can wear my running shoes with jeans and a coat without looking like a business woman on a long commute? When I know I’m going to be walking around a lot, I have to whisper ‘not today’ to my beloved brown boots and opt for these.

Hugging my bag in the middle of the street.

Road trip outfit in a highway rest stop bathroom

With my friend at Ader Error in Hongdae.

Who is that crazy lady taking self timer pics of her toilet paper outfit??? With her eyes closed?

I’m really sad looking at this photo because I have since lost this scarf. I was doing a very quick job situation in Gangnam, and I dropped it somewhere. It was my favourite Uniqlo cashmere scarf and I can’t seem to find a replacement as soft (and affordable) as this one. Edit: I found the exact same scarf in pink, but I still mourn the loss of this one 🙁

I hope you enjoyed my foray into fashion blogging. The moral of the story is choose warmth over style and comfort over ‘but I want to look cute today’. Let me know what your winter staples are and where you like to shop. Have a great day!

Ice Skating at City Hall in Seoul, South Korea

Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…

Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.

There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?

In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!

How to Ice Skate in Seoul:

If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)

Apgujeong’s Elite Keeping Korean Architects in Business

Apgujeong is one of Seoul’s more affluent neighbourhoods. There is no shortage of designer clothes, expensive schools and plastic surgeons. Today, I spent the morning walking around Apgujeong Rodeo Street (not to go shopping because I’m not a bajillionaire). Instead, I admired all of the amazing buildings in the area that house some of the world’s most expensive designer brands.

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As a designer, I looked at these creations in awe. The craftsmanship, the beauty, and the detail were spectacular. With the facades on these buildings, they were worthy of being in every design magazine.

However, when I looked at them as a human, I couldn’t help but feel it was all a bit too… too much. It almost seems like a waste to have all of this design reserved for the filthy rich. It would be great to see more of this incredible creativity distributed around other parts of Seoul. Should this all be centred around one neighbourhood of Seoul? One street for that matter.

City Hall, Lotte Tower, and the DDP are all places that people can enjoy together. They are examples of architecture that enable all walks of life to share the design. Shouldn’t we save our creative energy for everyone to enjoy? I guess not… otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this. One or two amazing buildings in a street, yes, but for every designer brand to have its own unique facade? Come on, guys! It’s too much! But I did appreciate the cool petrol station.

A ‘Summer in Busan’ Post

Good morning, Korean Picnic fan(s)! For today’s post, I thought I would post pictures from our family trip to Busan this past August. Looking at these photos is bringing me a bit of warmth on this cold winter’s day!

This was a special trip for us despite it being a quick weekend getaway (we declared that we were getting married to my now in-laws). The weather was incredible, the food was fresh and I loved driving around Busan. Well, I loved being a passenger, I don’t think I would have liked being the one behind the wheel in Busan. The roads there are more like slippery waterslides without rules.

I was a happy passenger looking at the amazing bridges from the back seat!

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I fell in love with this house that was next to our accommodation. Although I think it’s just because I love emerald green!

Waveon Coffee

This was a great cafe and I highly recommend it if you’re a chill traveller like us and just want to sit down for a few hours by the ocean. The coffee was delish and we were able to take our orders into our own little hut and isolate ourselves from the other chill travellers. There was also a hammock which smelled rather sweaty but I wasn’t about to say no to a hammock party in the sun. Oh, and isn’t my husband so cute? He was my boyfriend when we took these pictures!

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After lazing in the sun, we ended up at a beach (of course I don’t remember the name). It was so weird being restricted to such a small swimming section. As an Australian, it was kind of a novelty.

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Let’s look at some foooood!

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Agui-zzim(아귀찜, steamed monkfish smothered in spicy sauce)

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Makchang(막창구이, Entrail or Intestine BBQ)

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Mul-hoe(물회, Cold raw fish soup)

This was my second visit to Busan and it was great to see even more of such a beautiful city. I hope next time we can spend more than a weekend there. If you have written a post about Busan, let me know so I can bookmark ideas for our next trip!

This is my eighth day of posting a daily blog and I am loving it. I feel like I finally have the creative juice to write the things I wanted to when I was working full time!

Have a great day and come back tomorrow for another post!