Aussie Brunch at Summer Lane, Hannam

Have you been wanting to explore new parts of Seoul? No? Oh, that’s cool! Oh, you don’t live in Seoul and this post is irrelevant to you? But you want to know anyway for when you inevitably travel here in a post-pandemic world where life is free and maskless? Okay, cool. Let’s see Hannam!

Hannam is a wealthy suburb in Seoul located next to Itaewon, conveniently situated in front of the Han River. It is a great place for shopping, cafe hunting, photo taking and it’s great for spying on some of the most expensive houses in Seoul. It also happens to be where our beloved BTS members live. I highly doubt they leave their house and I also highly doubt they spend a lot of time in their homes. So where do they go? Who knows. But I can guarantee if I ever saw a BTS member on the loose I wouldn’t recognise them without makeup and a Louis Vuitton ensemble.

My cafe recommendation for this area is Summer Lane Brunch. It is an Australian style brunch spot located in Hannam (or Itaewon, I’m not sure how Seoul geography works). If you are looking for some Aussie brunch and coffee, this HAS to be the next cafe you go to in Seoul. Here are the deets:

Summer Lane Brunch

49, Itaewon-ro 55ga-gil, Yongsan-gu Seoul, Korea

Opens 7:30 am to 18:00 pm every day

How to Get Lost in Hannam:

After you fill up on Aussie sausage rolls and Duke’s coffee, head in the direction of the ‘Nine One Hannam’ apartment complex. On your way down the stairs, you will find cafes, clothing stores, pubs, book stores and everything else you need to live a cultured and colourful Insta-worthy life.

First snow in Korea and staying inside away from covid

This morning in Gyeonggi-do, we woke up to a magical snow-covered view from our window. It felt like Christmas morning, and the excitement was enough to get me out of bed on a Sunday. I threw on my warmest clothes and the rain boots I purchased during this year’s monsoon season and raced outside to walk in the snow. Two young children had already beaten me to it and were collecting snowballs from the car windshields. For a brief moment, I regained some much-needed hope in 2020 and felt like a kid again myself.

In less sunny news, today South Korea reported over 1,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. This marks the highest number of new cases here since its outbreak at the beginning of the year. I am becoming increasingly worried about the virus here as we move into the holiday season. Koreans have had quite a successful year thanks to their cooperative citizens, avoiding any drastic lockdown measures. This has lulled us all into a false sense of security, allowing people to feel comfortable socializing and going out so long as they are donning a face mask.

These days, I have been staying home, cooking meals and finding small comforts in our cosy home. Today’s snow gave me all the more reason to have a quiet day in an attempt to finish off the pile of unfinished books next to my bed. The looming new year is a reminder that I have yet again failed as a reader!

I hope you are staying safe and taking care of your health. Today, I finished reading the book ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. It is about a cafe in Tokyo where you can travel back in time, but only to meet someone who has visited the cafe previously. The time traveller must return to the present before their cup of coffee gets cold, otherwise, an alternative fate awaits them. The book made me think about who I would go back and visit, if only for 10 minutes. It was beautiful how the characters were able to grow and learn about themselves from their short journey to the past. It was such a lovely story, and if you love Japan, you might enjoy it! Take care and follow me on YouTube or Instagram for more content.

Snow-covered post box outside my house
Snowy foot prints
Outside our home in Gyeonggi-do, covered in snow
Home cooking instead of eating in a restaurant due to covid

Here is my latest YouTube video of a day in my life working from home in South Korea. I hope you enjoy my attempt at making Korean subtitles! It has very snowy, cosy vibes so I hope you enjoy!

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Embroidering a face mask and talking about coronavirus in South Korea

Hey, internet! Hope you are healthy and cool. Last week, I decided to embroider a face mask while talking about coronavirus and upload it on the internet! Why do I do these things? We will never know. The video didn’t go as planned because I couldn’t quite figure out how to talk, think and embroider at the same time.

Nevertheless, I put a video together and uploaded it. I love the process of thinking of a video idea, filming, uploading footage, editing a video and uploading it. I like that the final product has an ending and it doesn’t sit in limbo forever like some of my other creative projects…

The purpose of this video was to put a positive spin on the worldwide health issue and talk about my perspective as a foreigner in South Korea. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires some positive thinking in your day! Thank you for stopping by and don’t forget to subscribe or follow my Instagram or blog!

You can download my pattern if you are feeling inspired and want to embroider your own mask. Click this link to get the PDF! Face Mask Pattern Jo So Ko

A day of my life in South Korea

Good morning! If you’re new here, welcome to my blog. My name is Johanna and I make blog posts and youtube videos about my life in South Korea! Lately, I have been making the most out of having a lovely new home to live in.  I have been more or less stuck here since the outbreak of coronavirus here in Korea. I am a complete homebody though, so I am not complaining about having to keep indoors! Here are some images of said homebody action, followed by a YouTube video I published last week.

If you are in Korea, feeling a little bit of cabin fever, please don’t forget to get out of the house for fresh air. There are plenty of places to explore that don’t involve being surrounded by lots of people. Parks, hiking trails, rivers and playgrounds are all very quiet at this time, make the most of it! Alternatively, you could take up a new hobby like I did last year. I decided to learn how to embroider and I have really been loving it. I bought a “starter kit” from Amazon last year, check it out!

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For my pattern, I used a beautiful book by Yumiko Higuchi called ‘Embroidered Botanicals’

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Eating beef BBQ at home. For some reason, home-cooked BBQ tastes so much better than BBQ in a restaurant. A controversial opinion I’m sure.

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A rainy day in “quarantine”

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I’ve had so much spare time to do annoying household jobs like cleaning the fridge!

Getting my creativity back

It’s amazing what more time and perspective can do for your creative brain! Now that I’m a jobless housewife (temporarily), I have so much spare time for drawings, filming things and concocting ideas (that will never amount to anything) in my brain!

As I’ve mentioned 12.5 billion times, I also recently started making YouTube videos at the start of the year because it was something I’d wanted to do for many a year. Now, I’ve found a way to combine my love of drawing and making videos! Here are some of the drawings I put in my most recent video about a day in my life in Korea. They kind of make sense out of context, so hopefully all the dots connects.

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A Korean House Tour in Seoul, South Korea

Hello, internet world! I recently moved house, but before I did that, I managed to film a very shaky and in-depth tour of our apartment in Seoul. It cost about $700 a month and was what is called a Villa. We now live in a more spacious and cheap situation a little outside of Seoul and couldn’t be happier. Here’s to an exciting 2020 full of blog posts, picture taking, Webtoons, and YouTube videos! Hooray.

I am new to YouTube, so I don’t have many options when it comes to choosing the thumbnail. This snapshot was the least terrifying of them all. I think the idea of sharing my life in video form on the internet is kind of weird but we humans are communication fiends. I really want to share my experiences and use my new hobby to force myself to be more social, explore Korea more, and find creative ways to edit videos!

Thank you for watching/reading/exiting immediately!

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.

9 Money-Saving Tips in South Korea

Let’s talk about MON-EY! This is something you may want to read if you are planning to move to South Korea or you are already here and want to know how to save a bit of money each month. If you’re here for any other reason, then welcome! Come along on this blog journey with me. I’m not the best money saver, but I know how to be frugal when I need to be. So, if you like money, let’s talk about how to keep more of it in your Korean bank account!

1. Drink Less Coffee

Coffee can really set you back here in Korea. A coffee from a major coffee chain can cost between 4,000 and 6,000 KRW. That might be half of your hourly wage, depending on where you work.

While I was working in a kindergarten, I felt too sleepy to care about the daily caffeine expense trickling out of my bank account. Eventually, I decided to deal with instant coffee in the mornings which led me to give up coffee altogether. I now only drink coffee when I’m at a cafe on the weekend.  I’ve learned that it’s better to save cafe trips for a special occasion, rather than forking out each day.

Coffee Tip: If you’re looking for a place to study or work, many cafes in Seoul are really happy for you to sit there for hours without ordering more drinks. I like to do this, that way when I buy a coffee for $6 or $7, I feel as though I am paying for a cosy place to sit in addition to the actual drink.

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2. Walk the extra distance to the supermarket and avoid the convenience stores

Convenience Stores are just that: convenient. They’re great if you’re on the go and you need a snack or a drink. Unfortunately, you do have to pay the price for the convenience as everything is pretty expensive. Popping out during work hours, or dashing to the convenience store late at night can end up being a bad money habit.

When you’re shopping for food at your grocery store, take into account the snacks you might be buying regularly from the convenience store and try buy them in bulk at the supermarket. Buying fruits for slicing, packs of yoghurt or boxes of muesli bars can really save you money. Plus, it’s a great way to stay on top of your healthy eating! Otherwise, just use Coupang or Market Kurly to buy yummy food for the week!

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3. Cook Large Portions / Eating In

This is obviously not exclusive to South Korean living, but just a reminder. Whether you’re cooking large batches of pasta sauce or vegetables you love to eat regularly, you will end up saving a lot of money. Also, your tired body will thank you when future-you doesn’t feel like cooking.

What I like to do is buy big veggies like pumpkins, broccoli and sweet potatoes, and cook them all at once. I then just store them in the fridge and add them to my plate throughout the week. It can be hard to get the right amount of vegetables into your daily diet here in Korea. Veggies are usually mixed in with sugary sauces or spicy side dishes. If you’re a simpleton like me, you may just want to eat a bowl of vegetables without the flavour explosions.

4. Invest in Vitamins

Koreans like to work hard which gives workers little time to rest their bodies. This might leave you in a battle with your immune system, especially if you are travelling here to teach English. Invest in vitamins you think you might need (I don’t want to give unsolicited vitamin advice) because they may be cheaper than prescriptions and trips to the doctor’s office in the long run. Although medicine is quite cheap here, I often found myself buying a lot more of it than I would in Australia. It all adds up.

Take care of your body, sleep well, and don’t be tempted by the cheap prices of alcohol. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

5. Exercise

Exercise is the last thing you’ll want to do if you’re working full time in Korea. It gets even harder to stay motivated when the temperature starts to drop. But hear me out, exercise and taking care of your health is a great investment and money saver. Here are my thoughts: when you exercise, you feel more energised, so you may not need to spend that $7 on coffee after all. When you feel good, you feel less inclined to eat Doritos between meals, so fewer trips to the convenience store. You won’t have to buy new clothes each season when you don’t feel good in your current wardrobe, which means fewer trips to the clothing stores. Win win win!

Not convinced? Well, if you live in Korea, you’re bound to end up on a hike at some point (Koreans really love to hike!) Otherwise, just try and find ways to keep your exercise fun! I personally love watching ‘Yoga with Adriene’ and ‘Chloe Ting’ on YouTube for my indoor workouts!

Hiking in Busan

6. Don’t Give in to Temptations

Any corner you turn in Seoul will lead to a strategically placed beauty store, jewellery shop or cheap clothing store. It’s hard to resist, especially if you’re having a low moment or the outfit you’re wearing isn’t as cute as the one in the store window. But, you must resist. Overtime, justifying these purchases can really add up. If there are things you actually need, plan what you will buy before you know you’re going to be running into these temptations!

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7. Plan Your Travel Properly

This is a tip that applies to any ex-pat, in any country, because travel is inevitable. If you’re planning a trip to the countryside or to the other side of the world, plan your dates, times, and bookings well. Cancelling plans, re-booking, and unexpected costs can end up costing a lot of money. I am going through a travel-related debacle as we speak, so I thought it necessary to add this into the mix!

8. Fast Fashion = Fast Way to Lose Money

We all know this. We’re smart people. Shopping at fast fashion stores is a fast way to lose money (as well as being a terrible waste of human rights laws and environmental standards). Yet, we still find ourselves justifying those one-off purchases because we really need them. However, as a person on a low income, it’s often not financially viable to ‘invest’ in better quality pieces. This is why second-hand stores like ‘Vin Prime’ are a great place to get long-lasting pieces at a lower cost.

In my opinion, being on a lower budget gives you the daily challenge of putting beautiful outfits together with things you have owned for a long time. My advice: unfollow anyone on Instagram who makes you want to buy new clothes. Don’t do it right now, just keep it in mind the next time you’re scrolling through mindlessly!

Johanna shared a sketch with you 14

9. Frozen fruits

This is a weird one, but hear me out. Fruit and veg are quite expensive in Korea, in my opinion. I think this comes down to the fact that most of it is imported. Or, if it’s cheap, you have to buy in large quantities. Either way, you can end up throwing out a lot of fresh produce. It is much better to do more frequent trips to the market than to buy a lot of produce once a week.

Frozen fruits are simple and widely available. Just chuck them in your morning porridge and you’re able to get your daily fruit intake without having to throw out mouldy fruits each week.

To read more about life in Seoul, here are some of my favourite articles from my blog:

Picnic with the Parks – My New Webtoon Series

Ten things to do on public transport instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media

What’s going on at the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture

It’s hard to be a travel blogger when you’re no longer a traveller

Fresh tips for moving overseas and how to avoid homesickness

Don’t forget to follow my blog and keep up with everything I do on Instagram!

Have a great day and stay warm!

Sunday Morning in Beijing or Seoul?

Here are some photographs from my Sunday morning in my neighbourhood. I loved waking up early, buying an okay-tasting coffee and walking around taking photographs. I later regretted buying the coffee because it’s not fun changing camera settings and fiddling around to pretend I know how to use a camera in the freezing cold with one hand. I live in a predominantly Chinese area so it’s confusing as to which city I am currently living in: Seoul or Beijing? It’s a great place to live for food and people watching. There’s not much point to this post, I just wanted to share some pictures. The process of walking around an area, taking photos, putting them onto my computer, editing them ever so slightly, organising them and writing silly words about them here is one I cherish dearly.

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