What happens in Korea literally only happens in Korea

IMG_1721

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!!!

IMG_0330

 

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.

IMG_0089

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.

IMG_0666

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).

IMG_1166

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.

IMG_0584

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!

DSC03070

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.

DSC03284

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.

DSC00223JOSNOW

Do you have any more observations you’ve made about Korea? Let’s discuss below!

Don’t forget to follow my instagram for more snaps and drawings!

I went back to Korea a few weeks ago and didn’t blog about it… Hongdae + Lotte World

I am currently in my final year of university and squeezing in trips to South Korea here and there has been my number one motivation to work harder! Although the workload is challenging, what is important to me is this new life I’ve discovered in Korea. About three weeks ago, I slipped away to Seoul for a week right before my final honours presentation for the semester. We stayed in Hongdae and Jamsil and managed to cram a whole lot into a very short space of time! Here is a collection of really random photos taken on my phone and my small tiny point and shoot that doesn’t take very good photos despite being less than a year old and not very cheap…yay cameras.

Hongdae streets at night!

IMG_20180525_195405

Naengmyeon (vinegary noodles), BBQ, Kimchi Fried Rice and other yummy things that I don’t know the names of!

IMG_20180525_181025

In Korea, fans pay to celebrate the birthdays of their “idols”. It’s like a Kickstarter but for birthday advertisements. I’m still trying to grasp Korean Idol culture…will keep you posted (will literally keep you posted in a blog post…)

DSC03113

Yellow stairs and mirror situation. Seoul is a giant city but everyone is so chilled out (in my opinion..)

DSC03115

Lotte World Yes, we wore a couple outfit and I bought bunny ears that I will never get rid of (I’m not putting these pictures on the internet, I like to keep SOME of my pictures private…).

DSC03169DSC03209DSC03217DSC03262

After exploring Lotte World and becoming delirious with motion sickness and the realisation that we are adult-sized children, we ate potentially the spiciest gamjatang (pork-bone soup) of my entire life. We had to constantly pour water into the pot and look around the room to make sure people couldn’t see us being spice-wusses.

DSC03284

Our Seoul trip was short and very sweet. We managed to go to an amusement park, a water park, eat a 4-million course Royal Food degustation, go clubbing in Hongdae, eat every tasty Korean dish available, visit our Kakao friends in Hongdae and have an amazing dream-like experience (in 3.5 days). For any long-distance lovers out there, you must know the thrills and joys of being able to spend even just a silent moment together. Time is precious and we certainly don’t have time to waste on super spicy pork soup or bad sushi!!!

So Long, KAIST + South Korea

Even though I have been in Japan for over a week and I left Daejeon 2 weeks ago, I’m still very sensitive about this whole “leaving Korea” nonsense. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to show my parents around KAIST in Daejeon. While I’m more sad about leaving the people than the dorm room I shared with 3 years worth of dust and hair, it was still hard to close my dorm room for the last time and not have to think about whether I remembered my card key or not. My mum being my mum made me stand in front of my bike and insisted on taking photos of everything from bird nests to street signs. I’m glad she did because now I think we have enough photos of KAIST to throw together a VR walking tour for future exchange students.

Goodbye, terrible bike I used 6 times and left unlocked outside W6 for any unfortunate thief to steal.

Goodbye, the adorable sign that makes no sense because why wouldn’t you want the cat to come in?

Goodbye, bike racks and all of my memories of running late to class

Goodbye, steps we used to get ramen at 1:30 am

Goodbye, birds nest I saw for the first time on my last day at KAIST. It’s the circle of life really.

Goodbye, window drawing I did in the summer and forgot about

Snow in Seoul / Gyeongbokgung + MMCA

DSC00178 2

Mama Quinn looking very cold and VERY excited to look at some Korean Palaces

DSC00198DSC00212

This dude looks so sad. I hope they’re paying you right and giving you regular breaks my good sir. I’m sorry to post you looking like this on my blog but I’m really digging all of the action going on in the photo. Best wishes xx

DSC00223

Yah, there is a mountain under all of that fog. Pretty cool how you can’t see it.

DSC00379DSC00448DSC00502DSC00361DSC00437

So this was my first time being in snow thick enough to create snow life. I’ll be honest, I attempted to make a snowman before this and I got VERY frustrated that it was looking more like a snow pancake than a man and I kicked and stomped all over it in a fuss like a literal toddler. However, I calmed down, devised a strategy of attack and gave it another go. I can’t describe to you how happy building this snowman made me. Running around to collect the sticks and leaf eyes and rolling around in snow made me forget just how freezing cold it was outside. I hope my snow dude is coping and that…ah right he probably melted. I saw Frozen like 12…120 times. I know how science works. Ha.

DSC00452

Here we see snowmen who were built 12,000 years ago and have now fossilised into stone sculptures with their features perfectly intact.

JOSNOWDSC00476DSC00480.jpgDSC00473

We got over the novelty of the snow pretty quickly and took shelter in the Museum of Modern and Conte…Modern Museum of Contemp.. we took shelter in the MMCA and looked at a wall of Olympic posters and ate overpriced salads. What a perfect DAY!

Enjoy your stay at the Style Nanda Pink Hotel

Visiting the Style Nanda Pink Hotel in Myeongdong was like entering the magical Barbie dream house that I never owned as a child. Perhaps this was more like the Barbie dream house Wes Anderson might give to his children. Unlike regular hotels, this Style Nanda store was warm, bright PINK and inviting. The attention to detail here was phenomenal from room keys hanging up in every corner to gorgeous golden room numbers, faucets and lighting and we won’t even get started on the laundry level. It was like Andy Warhol’s ghost was hovering over the interior designers as they were creating it. Despite being too overwhelmed to absorb the clothing and the products that were for sale, I highly recommend checking out this store in Seoul if you happen to be frolicking in that neighbourhood!

Address: 37-8 Myeongdong 8-gil, Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

DSC00569DSC00558DSC00545DSC00547DSC00542DSC00537DSC00533DSC00529DSC00532DSC00526DSC00523DSC00509DSC00516DSC00527