A day at the Lotte Aquarium in Seoul

Hello Jo So Ko readers! I hope you all are doing well and becoming the best version of yourselves and remembering that it’s okay that you don’t get along with everyone, we can’t all be the Paul Rudd’s of the world. I wanted to post some images from July’s Global Seoul Mate challenge now that I have a little pocket of time and energy for blogging.

In July, we were asked to explore the area of Songpa in Seoul which is located right next to Gangnam. If you’re not familiar with the Geography of Seoul, Gangnam and Songpa are both ‘gu’s’ which basically means they are boroughs or districts of Seoul. We were first asked to go to the Songpa Tourist Information Center which overlooks Seokchon lake and is right next to Lotte World Tower (South Korea’s tallest building…for now).

At the Tourist Center, you can get all of the information you need about the Songpa area (home of Lotte World, Lotte Tower, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Olympic Park and so many beautiful trails and open spaces). You can also take photos in front of a green screen and pretend you’ve travelled all over Korea in mere seconds. To print out the image, you can pay 1,000 won ($1) or just have the picture sent to you like we did.

For this month’s challenge, we could choose to explore the Lotte Aquarium or the Lotte Tower Sky Deck. They both seemed like great options but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see some otters and jellyfish. I wanted to take this time to thank the Seoul Tourism Organisation for being so kind and hospitable throughout this year’s challenges. I was reluctant to do this challenge at first because it seemed like a lot of effort, but I really challenged myself to complete all of the tasks and I was grateful to be able to enjoy this new experience in Seoul.

If you are interested in becoming a Global Seoul Mate in 2021, go to their website and keep on the lookout for any updates about applications. From my memory, I applied for the 2020 program in January. You can also follow me on instagram to see future GSM posts and updates about the program. Keep scrolling to watch my YouTube video of the entire experience…or don’t watch it. I’m okay either way! Stay safe, wear a mask and have a great week ahead!

I’m not cool enough to go to cafes in Seongsu-dong, Seoul

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…

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This is a mural that was featured in Goblin (the K-drama!!)

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

정지영커피: Cafe that overlooks the Suwon Fortress

If you’re located in the Suwon/Yongin area in Korea, visiting the Suwon Fortress is an alternative travel plan to braving the Seoul Subway system to explore Gyeongbokkung and the surrounding Hanok Village. The neighbourhoods surrounding the huge fortress, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are super trendy yet quiet. The combination of the early spring weather and the lack of customers due to coronavirus made us feel like we were on a mini-vacation. We had a hard time choosing which amazing cafe to go to, but 정지영커피 was our final choice! There were two other couples waiting to go inside when we arrived. The interiors were simple, yet industrial and modern. We had a delicious coffee each and enjoyed the view of the Suwon Fortress from the rooftop while soaking up the afternoon March sun. We were also able to plan our route along the fortress while enjoying our coffee.

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Jung Jiyoung Coffee Roasters

Follow me on Instagram to see more (edited) photos and story updates. I would also love to hear your Korean cafe recommendations, I am always on the lookout for new places to go but they usually just stay saved in my phone for several months before I get there. Wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

More Cafes

Aussie Brunch at Summer Lane, Hannam
Have you been wanting to explore new parts of Seoul? No? Oh, …
I’m not cool enough to go to cafes in Seongsu-dong, Seoul
Edit: Acro Cafe has since changed its name to 'Scene Coffee', you …

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!

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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!

Saying Annyeong to Melbourne

Last week, I had to say farewell to the people in my Melbourne life and prepare to welcome a new life in Seoul. We celebrated on a gorgeous (yet intermittently-rainy) Melbourne afternoon with a picnic in front of the Royal Exhibition Building (Victoria’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site). I am now in my new home in Seoul writing about this picnic and I am so glad that I was able to celebrate with a truly Australian-style picnic. Dips and crackers, vegemite cheesy scrolls (handmade), yo-yo biscuits, choc-chip cookies, fruits and delicious Pimms cocktails. My posts on this blog shall now be Koreany ones and I shall be chronicling my life as an English teacher in Seoul! Enjoy!

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