Glamping in South Korea at ‘On the Rock’

Hello Jo So Ko readers, old and new! It has been a while since I have sat down to type the words in my brain onto my blog. I am currently uploading a video I made last week of our glamping anniversary trip. Recently, I have become excited about YouTube and blogging again. I have my cup of tea by my side and I am watching the fourth season of The Crown because I am a 45 year old woman.

I had such high hopes for both this camping trip and this youtube video because my husband and I were celebrating one year of marriage… to each other. BUT, we are not outdoorsy types and we were extremely cold. In hindsight, we probably should have made sure we were using the heating system correctly. Brrrr.

The site itself was full of spaceship-like glamping pods. They overlooked the picturesque mountains of the Korean countryside. Each pod had a patio for BBQing and bush dancing. The site was also featured on Arch Daily, so I was excited to stay somewhere that was approved by the architecture and design community.

Glamping has become a big trend in South Korea and there are many locations around the country. If you are living here, or planning to come in the future, I highly recommend grabbing a group of friends, buying every piece of meat at the grocery store, and having a glamping experience for yourself.

Please scroll to the end to watch my YouTube video! PLEASE! I beg of you. Not really, it’s totally up to you. But please watch it. And subscribe. And also like the video… but no pressure.

On the Rock Glamping

Website: http://ontherock.kr/

Writing my first magazine article – Visiting 5 cafes in Seoul, South Korea

I am so excited to finally be putting this all out into the world. About 2 months ago, I was asked by Coffee t&i Magazine if I could write about some speciality coffee cafes here in Seoul, South Korea. I of course jumped at the opportunity and got to work straight away… without realising just how difficult it would be to visit 5 cafes, take photographs, film clips for my YouTube channel, write the article and then gather all of the information for each cafe squeezed in over one weekend whilst working full time… But I have lived to tell the tale and I am so excited to be sharing it all with you today. If there was one thing I learned through all of this, it’s that bloggers, vloggers, writers and travel influencers definitely don’t have an easy job, they’re just great at making their craft look so simple.

Although this wasn’t a paid opportunity, writing and taking photos is something that I have always enjoyed for myself. My philosophy as a foreigner living in South Korea is that I should take any opportunities that come my way because it can only help me learn and grow. I have been accumulating skills in so many different areas because I have allowed myself to take on so many exciting projects this year and I know that someday my hard work will reward me… somehow… who knows!

The issue of the magazine was launched a few weeks ago but sadly, the online version is not currently available. I will insert all of the information about the cafes that I went to here as well as some images that I took on the day and images from the magazine! I hope that in the future I can write some more articles… or not. I can always just stick to my day job which is also pretty fun.

Cafe #1 Duke’s Coffee Showroom 

10 Eoulmadang-ro 2-gil, Dangin-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 – 18:00 / Weekend 11:00 – 19:00

Cafe #2 Perception Coffee

16 Eoulmadang-ro 1-gil, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: 9:00 – 24:00 (Closed Tuesdays)

Cafe #3 Motif Coffee

46 Poeun-ro, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Subway Station: Hapjeong (Line 2)

Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (Closed Mondays)

Cafe #4 Scene Coffee

20 Yeonmujang 5(o)-gil, Seongsu 2(i)-ga 3(sam)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Seongsu (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Thursday and Sunday 8:00 – 23:00

Friday – Saturday 10:00 – 23:00

Cafe #5 Raw Coffee Stand

28-2 Wangsimniro 4(sa)-gil, Seongsu 1(il)-ga 2(i)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Ttukseom (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 – 18:00

Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 (Sunday closed)

The Magazine Issue!

Not enough content for your eyeballs? Well, it’s a good thing I filmed the whole experience and put it on the internet! You can watch my vlog down below. For all media inquiries, please visit the work with me page here on my blog or get in touch via Instagram.

Korean Skincare Review: VT Cosmetics Super Hyalon Range | Jo in South Korea

Hello Jo So Ko Reader, today I am happy to be sharing my first ever Korean skincare review! I was very kindly sent some products from the Super Hyalon range by VT Cosmetics and I have been asked to review them. Please enjoy my photos and words and, if you have some time, enjoy my latest YouTube video. I also filmed a daily makeup routine. I was completely honest about my first impressions and I hope you enjoy! Stay safe, stay inside and stay hydrated.

The Products I Tried

Step 1: Super Hyalon Booster – Helps with skin texture

Step 2: Super Hyalon Eye Mask – Adhesive sheet that gives hydration and moisture around the eyes

Step 3: Super Hyalon Emulsion – Gives the skin moisture moisture moisture

Step 4: Super Hyalon Ampoule – Highly concentrated serum that hydrates and is good for dry skin

Step 4: Super Hyalon Cream – Gel formula with blue capsules packed full of moisture

To hear my full review of the products, watch my latest YouTube video at the end of this blog post. I am still using the Booster, Cream and Eye Masks on a daily basis and absolutely love these products. I loved all of the products but my sensitive skin is not a huge fan of long skincare routines and changes to my daily routine!

What is G:H8?

For the purpose of this collaboration, I wanted to make sure that I knew a bit more about the products I was putting on my face. All of the products I tried had the ingredient G:H8 which sounded a little bit like a chemistry experiment. According to the VT Cosmetics website, the ‘G’ stands for ‘Polyglutamic Acid’ which is a ‘water soluble peptide derived from soybeans’ that can ‘retain five times the amount of moisture than hyaluronic acid’ (Reference).

The ‘H8’ stands for 8 different types of Hyaluronic Acid (I wasn’t aware there was more than one type). Hyaluronic acid supports healthy and supple skin by holding in moisture. This ingredient is found in a lot of skincare products on the market as it is good for a wide range of skin types and problems. For more information, I used this reference to learn more.

Everyday Makeup

At the end of the video, I did a short daily makeup look. Here are the products I use on a daily basis! (From Left to Right)

Nars Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette Mini, Hourglass Ambient Light Blush Luminous Flush, Morphe M139 Brush, Eco Tools Powder Brush, Ink Velvet 15 Lip Tint, Missha Over Lengthening Mascara, Klairs Illuminating Supple Blemish Cream SPF 40 PA ++

Hidden spots to see in Seoul

Hello Internet! This month’s Global Seoul Mate Challenge was based on three different categories: Colourful Seoul, Retro Seoul and 24 Hour Activities in Seoul. Here are my recommendations for this month’s challenges. Don’t forget to follow my Instagram and YouTube to keep up with my future GSM posts!

Colourful Seoul – The Cafes of Seongsu

Seongsu was one of the first places I went to in Seoul that felt grungy and dirty enough to almost be Melbourne. With so many cafes to explore, graffiti to be seen and shoes to be.. worn(?) – Seongsu is famous for shoes.

Retro Seoul – Style Nanda and Retail Interiors

Style Nanda is one of the many brands in South Korea that take Visual Merchandising to the level a little higher than extra. This flagship store in Myeongdong is the lovechild of Wes Anderson and Andy Warhol.

Other Korean brands that love their retro inspired VMing include Åland, Ader Error, Gentle Monster and Chuu. Can you think of more!?

24 Hour Activities in Seoul – Seoullo 7017

The Seoullo 7017 bridge at exit 2 of Seoul Station is a great spot to go any hour of the day or night! Have you seen this spot before? I hope Seoul continues to become greener and greener as it continues to grow and develop into the future city that we know and love.

360°VR Seoul with Cha Eun-woo

To see more of Seoul, enjoy these 360°VR Videos with Cha Eun-woo. For English subtitles, just click on the Closed Captions icon.

A day at the Lotte Aquarium, Seoul, South Korea

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!

When the Customer Experience Gets Lost in Translation

IMG_9618

To treat myself in Seoul, I love going to different coffee shops and sitting there for hours on end. I love getting lost in my writing or drawing among crowds of people studying or catching up with friends old and new. I usually try to save my trips to cafes for the weekends as a way of saving money on coffee during the week.

Because of my infatuation with Korean coffee shops, I managed to perfect my Korean coffee-ordering skills and can now waltz into any cafe with ease. My heart no longer beats uncontrollably when it’s almost my turn to order and I’m not scared of making mistakes. These ordering interactions are also a way to improve my language skills should our coffee-ordering dialogue go off-kilter.

20200313_134326

‘So what does this have to do with customer experiences and translations?’ What a great question! Let’s discuss…

Occasionally, my Korean cafe trance is interrupted when a sales assistant at the other end of my aforementioned coffee-ordering dialogue responds to me… in English. Meaning: I’ve said ‘Korean Korean Korean’, only to then receive a response in English. ‘So’, I hear you ask, ‘what is so bad about this and why is it so concerning to you that you’ve written an entire dissertation (this blog post) about it?’

Living in a foreign country and sticking out like a sore Australian thumb has many challenges. I know that having people speak to me in English is a gesture of goodwill. I personally think that it is amazing that so many Korean people can speak English and are very willing to make foreigners feel at ease. However, pouring my heart out to someone by ordering a coffee in my very best Korean feels a little bit embarrassing when I am met with a response in English. This fuels the daily anxiety I feel as someone who has been living in Korea for over a year and has a rather long, never-ending way to go with their Korean language skills.

‘Okay, but where does the customer experience part come in? So what if you feel inadequate and angsty, we all do?’

As someone who slaved her university days as a customer service worker in both hospitality and retail, I am all too familiar with the language of good service. How to greet people, how to make people feel like they’re the most important customer in the world etc. It wasn’t a skill I was very good at, to begin with, but over time I improved my communication skills and my confidence in interacting with customers from all walks of life.

After several years of working jobs that I hated, I, in turn, became highly sensitive to customer service everywhere I went. Having experienced it myself, I became more aware of the struggles customer service workers face and gained a newfound respect for dish hands, Uber drivers, bartenders and everyone else in between. I started to show increasing respect to the workers who were kind and welcoming to me which made me want to be a regular customer.

With a bad experience, on the other hand, I would usually try and avoid ever going there again. That may sound petty, but living in Melbourne, there were plenty of places for me to buy a coffee, sandwich or a pair of shoes. Once you’ve worked the Christmas shifts in a retail shopping centre, you learn how to be polite to people with literally zero effort. It becomes a role that you must play to survive. It’s not that hard to be polite to someone who just wants a pair of jeans that won’t sag around her butt.

So, again… what does language have to do with your customer experience? Well, it’s not so much the use of English that I have a problem with, it’s the way the English is used that can dampen the experience.

Let’s say I ask for a hot latte in Korean (you always have to specify if you want a hot or cold drink in Korea which is a whole other blog post right there, the ‘assume hot unless otherwise stated’ rule doesn’t apply here). I’m standing there in front of the cash register, thinking my Korean skills are award-winning and I await a response from the sales assistant. If they then reply with a ‘hot?’, or a ‘take out?’, in English, this is where my fury ignites. Not only have I just spoken to them in Korean, and they have understood me, they feel it necessary to confirm my order in a different language. A language that they assume I speak because of the way I look.

I would be grateful for this as a traveller, but as somebody who now calls Korea their home, it feels disheartening. Furthermore, the English being used is usually formed as one or two-worded sentences. This can really negatively impact the customer experience, especially if you are like me and you are eagerly trying to improve your language skills. Let’s compare the English dialogue of a one to two worded sentence with a sentence used by customer service workers in a native English speaking country:

‘Hot?’ vs ‘Would you like that hot or cold?’

‘Take out?’ vs ‘Did you want that for here or to go?’

‘Membership?’ vs ‘Are you a member with us? Would you like to sign up?’

‘For here?’ vs ‘Whereabouts are you sitting? Did you want to have that here?’

‘Bag?’ vs ‘Do you need a bag? Will you be needing a bag?’

Korean is a complex language with many forms of honorifics, it is relatively easy to offend someone by accidentally talking down to them in casual form. As a language learner, I am taught to speak Korean politely in any given context. It’s the best way to avoid offending somebody because ‘when in doubt, be polite’.

English, on the other hand, does not have these same language rules. The nuances of being polite in English is something that can’t be taught easily with formulas or sentence patterns. When students learn English, they don’t learn levels of politeness the way learners of honorific languages such as Korean and Japanese do. Your teacher might correct you by simply saying ‘this way might sound a bit more polite’ or ‘that is considered rude in English’.

For example, when I was working as an English here in South Korea, I corrected my students any time they used words like ‘wanna’ and ‘gonna’. I told them they are not real words and they are only used by lazy people (I know, I’m literally the worst person but I wanted my students to annunciate, sue me). With younger students who simply yelled ‘teacher, bathroom’, I never let them go to the bathroom until the practiced saying ‘Teacher, may I go to the bathroom’. If you don’t try and break a student’s habit then and there, their cute language faux pas might stick around for the long run.

Considering this, imagine a Korean sales assistant simply saying ‘Hot?’ in Korean to a Korean customer. That customer would most likely be offended. This brash language translates as rude in English. If somebody simply said ‘hot?’ to me at a Melbourne cafe, I would probably respond with an affirmative grunt rather than give them a spoken response. Using single word responses is quite abrupt in any language. The language of customer service is very important in making the customer feel welcomed and valued for spending their $5 on a cup of hot milk.

This unnecessarily long blog post was inspired by an observation a friend and I made here in Seoul at a cafe. When she ordered her drink, they responded to her in English with one or two-word responses. When I ordered, they responded to me in Korean, which my friend overheard. She made the comment ‘wow, when they speak to you in Korean, it sounds so much more polite than when they speak to you in English’. She’s right, Korean customer service workers employ a very polite form of language because they must show respect to everybody. They wouldn’t even speak that politely to their own parents. My friend and I both shared very different experiences because of this one small language difference.

While I do appreciate people trying to speak to me in English, I always make a somewhat arrogant effort to respond in Korean. I am trying to integrate myself into this culture by speaking as much Korean as I can. I could simply respond to everyone in English because as a native speaker, it is the easier option. However, I would never improve my skills that way. I don’t want to become dependent on English and look back and wonder why I haven’t improved my language skills. I guess making such a conscious choice is the reason I am so passionate about this topic!

Furthermore, just because I am foreign, there really is no way of knowing if I speak English. South Korea attracts visitors and ex-pats from all over the world. Russia, France, Spain, Uzbekistan and America – nobody is immune to Korea fever. Are these scenarios I am describing any different from me trying to speak Chinese to an Asian-looking person in Melbourne as a cafe worker? If I did that in Melbourne, the customer would feel terrible, especially if it turned out that their mother tongue was Korean, Japanese or something not remotely similar to Chinese.

So I beg of you, if somebody, in any language or country, is trying their best to communicate with you in your native tongue, take it as an opportunity to help them, not belittle them. I have made so many mistakes from using only Korean, but those mistakes always help me grow and give me a funny story to tell my husband when I get home. Interacting in one or two words of English with somebody who is trying to learn Korean is not going to improve your English, nor will it improve their Korean. If you do want to speak English to your foreign customers, do the extra homework and improve your sentence structures. It doesn’t hurt to be too polite.

The places I do feel very grateful for English are places like immigration, hospitals, and sometimes banks. However, I recently successfully acquired a new credit card without using any English. Even if there is an opportunity to use English, I will always do my best to use Korean. I may stumble through conversations and get lost listening to native Korean, but I am always better off having tried. Having been put in that difficult position in the first place is a great way to learn, much like any other learning opportunity in life.

What do you think about this? Do you feel a little dead inside when somebody responds to your Korean in English? Or is it just me? I understand that this is quite a negative post, but I do acknowledge that many Koreans in customer service are able to communicate in English very politely. The fact that so many Koreans want to learn English and improve their skills is also somewhat miraculous. Australians should really follow suit. This was merely my observation as someone trying to call a different country their home and often feeling more and more like an alien than a local.

IMG_9602

48 hours in Jeju Island, South Korea

A few weeks ago, we took a short trip to Jeju Island, located at the south of the Korean Peninsula. While it is controversial to travel during this current pandemic, it was also crucial that we had a change of scenery from the routine of our 9-5’s. We were very safe while we travelled and always wore masks and washed our hands everywhere we went. The only dangerous part of the journey was the plane ride but the airport was well equipped with temperature monitoring and mask safety.
This trip was a quick glimpse at what life could be like in the near future. Hopefully that future includes people travelling and exploring more of the countries they inhabit rather than feeling the need to jet off far away each chance they get. Keep scrolling to the end to watch a video of our travels! I hoe you are staying safe and well. Feel free to follow my Instagram @jo_so_ko to keep up with all things life in South Korea.

If your cafe isn’t on Naver, is it really a cafe? An important essay by Jo So Ko

Hello world, welcome to this important essay titled ‘Never not gonna Naver’. I actually just made that up and it kind of almost doesn’t make any sense. I’m currently getting my sweat on at the gym and thought ‘hmmm…perhaps I should write an important blog post about the positive correlation between a Korean cafe’s Naver presence and its interior design/aesthetic value’. The person who sweat all over this germ-infested bike before me really gave me that extra push of inspiration that I needed tonight.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s 8am, you’ve just awoken from a night of soju drinking in a new place and you realise that you’ve overpayed on your hotel based on the kink the $10 sandbox pilow has left in your neck. You’re disoriented, dehydrated and in desperate need of caffeine. Alas, the last thing you need is one of Korea’s chain coffee stores to so much as toy with the idea of trying cure your current discombobulated state. No no no. You need a real cafe. With real chairs. With a unique cafe concept. That’s what you need.

This is where the Naver part comes in (thank you for bearing with me on this strange journey, my bike has just ticked over the 15 minute mark and I have useless essay ideas aplenty right now). Naver, for you monolingual troglodytes out there, is Koreans answer to Google. Why did Korea need an answer to a question nobody else dare ask? Homogeneity. That’s why. (Naver have a search engine, a maps service, a WebToon website, they own ‘Line’ which is a messaging platform more commonly used in Japan as well as ‘Snow’ which is a popular camera app here in Korea (along with many other services)).

Anyway… so, my husband and I both embarked on the 30-second long task to try and find a cafe to schlep ourselves to. We searched ‘cafe’ in Korean and both decided that the best place for us to go was one with a beautiful range of pastries and bread. Not 20 minutes later were we ready and out the door, without a shadow of doubt blocking our decision’s limelight. Despite having to drive 20 minutes to the cafe, our 30 second decision did not alter along the way. 

20200708_0902042487422522738455675.jpg
Here is the first page of a Naver search for ‘Jeju cafe’. I will note that this search is based on your location, so this is a search I did today in Seoul. Wherever you are, if you type ‘카페’ into Naver, it will show the closest cafes to you.

Note the hierarchy of information: Naver puts a big emphasis on the image size and quality. Giving each search result a lettered label makes it much easier to see where the cafe is and remember which search result you liked the most. Next to the letter for each cafe is the name of the cafe, followed by a short description such as ‘A beautiful dessert cafe with a view of the sea in Jeju’ and then the number of reviews customers have left on their Naver Blog.

The information Google favours is a star rating out of 5 and a price range. The photos are slightly smaller with only 1.5 images showing up in the search result. This Naver comparison with a Google search result really shows just how much Koreans value beautiful images and customer reviews.

How beautiful your cafe is and the presentation of your food and coffee is the difference between someone making a 30 second decision to visit your cafe and somebody scrolling right past, without considering your cafe as a worthy contender for their business.

Well, that was an overly complicated way of explaining something quite simple. All you need to do to figure this trend out is to search the hashtag ‘카페스크그렘’ (cafestagram) on Instagram and see for your own eyeballs just how serious this cafe interior trend is among Koreans!

Here are some images of the aforementioned cafe and, really, the protagonist of this essay. It is located in Jeju Island and I have, contrary to the objective of this entire post, not linked it’s Naver details. Here is the Instagram page.

Happy cafe hopping, friends! Does anyone else sweat between their forearms and biceps when writing compelling phone essays while exercising? Food for thought xx

 

Öpuff x Pizplz, 오퍼프 x 피플 

Jeju Island, South Korea

 

Osulloc Tea Museum, Jeju Island

IMG_0852

Hello internet, it’s Jo So Ko here, your friendly neighbourhood Korea travel blogger, ready to give you all of the scoops on travel in Korea. Not really. I actually always leave it up to my husband to organise things when we travel. I’m just happy to walk around a new place, take photos and eat yummy food.

We recently travelled over an actual sea to go to Jeju Island! It was crazy to fly over an ocean, during these strange and uncertain times. In this post, I wanted to highlight one of the spots we went to on our trip which was the Osulloc Tea Museum!

Osulloc is a big tea company in South Korea owned by the Amore Pacific group, who have a  monopoly on the health and beauty industry in Korea. You might have heard of some of their previous Kbeauty films such as Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige and Primera.

The tea museum in Jeju consists of a large building with some tea history and a tea store, as well as the famous Osulloc Cafe. There are two cafes outside, one of which houses an Innisfree store. There are a lot of other things that I could tell you about if I was a better travel blog. Outside is the main star of the show: the beautiful green tea fields. You can frolic about and pretend to be a green tea farmer, but in reality, there are so many bugs that it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Just look at the pictures, I’m no good with words these days.

IMG_0815IMG_0861IMG_0808IMG_0856IMG_0875

Directions

The museum is open from 9am – 7pm every day and has no entry fee