Feeling too uncool to be at Arco Cafe, Seongsu-dong, Seoul

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 a 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!!)

 

 

How to Order Coffee in Korean

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Here is a little cheat sheet if you are coming to Korea and want to perfect your coffee ordering skills. This is great for those wanting to improve their skills here in Korea, or for travellers interested in the Korean language visiting Korea. 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—-

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.

An Afternoon Well Spent in Gangnam, South Korea

I had another social day today, this time we were in Gangnam. We started our adventure in a Vietnamese restaurant called ‘Tam Tam’, which had queues of people waiting to be seated. We enjoyed our soupy pho noodles up at a really high table – the waiter literally had to push our chairs in for us because the seats were so high! The food was delish, but we had to be very careful after eating not to roll our ankles whilst trying to come back down to earth. You can see in this pic, the chairs are at the waiter’s hipbone!

Our teacher fashioned some makeshift chopstick holders out of napkins! So gorgeous!

This is a hill that my friend kindly escorted me down. It was so steep and I was in heeled boots, not a great combo!!


After lunch, we moved onto a cafe nearby! Two of my friends had flavourless tea and had to send them back. I don’t remember the name of the cafe so I can’t tell you. Despite their drinks being a disappointment, we sat here for hours and had a good quality chat. The cafes in Gangnam are so cosy in the wintertime. You can sit there for hours without being guilted into leaving or buying another drink.

How To:

If you’re wanting to explore the cafes and restaurants in Gangnam, go to Gangnam station on line 2, take exit 11, kep walking straight and head right up the small alleyways! There are an endless range of food and shopping options!

A Thursday Night Drawing for the Artists

Here is an iPad drawing from me to you. I think I need to face the fact that I am not an illustrator and need to learn better techniques. I shall have to add ‘digital drawing’ to my long list of things to improve upon on!

This is a drawing from a picture my mum took at my uncle’s farm. Ooft, that was a mouthful! I love the colours from the original picture and the cat’s pose! Here’s to creative growth in 2020!

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I always seem to think that the work I do will miraculously get better overnight and I will suddenly be able to pay my rent as an artist! I know that art is a long game and isn’t something to rush. I’m still 23 years old and have a lot more improving to do. I guess the rapid pace of social media and artists online can make you feel like you’re falling behind before you’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning.

I need to remember that a lot of the people I admire have been crafting their work for years, possibly even before social media came around. I can’t be hard on myself because the things I am writing, drawing, photographing and thinking are all better versions of what I was doing 1 year ago and even 5 years ago. It can be a bit disconcerting when you see teenagers on YouTube buying houses while I struggle to even get a job as a designer, something I studied for 5 years! But, we won’t go down the rabbit hole of feeling like we’re lagging behind, it’s not a race!

To any artist’s reading this; your work is great because it is uniquely yours. Keep fine-tuning it, making mistakes, showing it to people, taking feedback and trying again. The important thing is to remember the feeling you have while doing that thing you love so much! Here’s to never losing that little light inside of you that allows you to create something without needing to eat or sleep – even if you end up hating it! Our work is always better in retrospect, just like our memories!

Have a great night/day/morning/workout/presentation/spelling test!

The cat in my drawing resembles ‘Cat’ from Breakfast at TIffany’s. Perhaps it’s just the ginger hair.

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Confucianism vs Korean Subway Etiquette

Hello, internet! I wrote this slightly aggressive post back when I was working as an English teacher here in Seoul. I have since left my job and have a lot less subway anger. Nevertheless, I shall share these words with you as an ode to my former subway taking self.

I grew up taking trains to kindergarten, to the cinema with my grandmother, and to and from high school for 6 years. We even brought our beloved pet rabbit, Maisy, home on the peak hour Melbourne train. I’ve managed to develop a level of train etiquette and surrounding passenger awareness that could take one a lifetime to obtain. Sadly, South Koreans did not go through this rigorous train-ing and have seemed to forget their Confucianist roots.

As an Australian living in Seoul, I think an appropriate amount of time has passed for me to start complaining about everyday mundane life things. My daily commute to work consists of 2 x 40-minute rides on the subway from the Yeongdeungpo area to the Gangnam area. The entirety of my journey is submerged underground; beneath a world of fried chicken, sidewalk fruit stands and political corruption. I am not able to see the light of day until I come up for air at my destination. During these 40 minute nightmares, I have become quite observant of South Korean subway manners, or the lack thereof.

For some reason, Korean people have collectively decided that if you walk into someone or forcibly push your way through a huddle of subway goers, apologies and niceties are superfluous. The same goes for accidental topples at the hands of a trigger happy train driver. The topples happen more often than not because most commuters are glued to their phone screens. I know that this is just a cultural difference, but it’s one that I just can’t seem to get on board with. In other words, it’s hard to be culturally sensitive when someone is pushing into you with all of their body weight on a busy train.

Last week, I managed to get a seat on my gruelling and crowded 40-minute journey to work; a luxury in some eyes. I was seated two seats away from the designated pink pregnant lady seat that was so rudely occupied by a non-pregnant woman. (In Seoul, you need to wear a badge that says your pregnant in order to sit in these pregnant lady seats. The only thing stopping you from sitting there are your morals).

As I sat down, my attention was immediately drawn to a woman amidst a bout of morning sickness who was practically stopping herself from throwing up on neighbouring passengers. She was standing close enough to the pink pregnant lady seat with her pregnant lady badge fully on display that any moderately aware human would see this and apologetically give up their seat. Alas, the occupant was fast asleep and blissfully unaware of the situation in front of her.

By the time I caught sight of the woman, I could see her face almost reduced to tears. This was due to the unfortunate battle she was undertaking with the human she was growing inside of her. The people around her looked around uncomfortably as she practically vomited in her mouth. The sounds were audibly unpleasant yet no one helped her. Before her face was fully flooded with tears and sweat, I reached out to her over a crowd of both seated and standing passengers and told her to take my seat in my best Korean. She looked extremely grateful for this simple, human gesture. She did have to squeeze past a lot of useless people to get to the seat.

Once seated, she continued to offer to hold my bags for me. I was like, ‘girl, I think I can deal with holding two bags, I’m not the one who is with child, holding back from vomiting all over a train full of strangers’. I, of course, didn’t say that and, even if I wanted to, I don’t yet have the Korean language skills to communicate such an observation.

I really feel saddened from this event and can only hope that other commuters on not only this woman’s daily commute but the people sharing a train with elderly citizens or differently-abled bodies will do their best to make people feel comfortable on trains. We don’t need to label seats for these people, they should be able to sit wherever. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, Seoul subway goers don’t want to stand out from the crowd. They don’t want to be the one to help a person in need, probably because they fear the person reacting badly? Which really doesn’t make any sense to me, again, cultural differences.

This isn’t an issue of feminism or politics or infrastructure or healthcare systems, it’s just plain and simple human kindness and having the ability to both be aware of your surroundings and your smartphone screen at the same time. Does it really take a barely literate in Korean foreign person sitting at least 3 metres from this poor woman to help out? I only wish society was accepting of women who stood up for themselves and felt comfortable asking for help.

If this happened in Melbourne, the pregnant woman would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman, a neighbouring passenger would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman and probably every person in the surrounding seats would have stood up at the same time to help her out. Simply ignoring her and pretending her crying and discomfort is her own fault is not the Melburnian way.

Wherever you go in the world, you will always encounter people who are in a bit of a hurry or are just having a bad day. The Subway in Seoul is the most convenient public transport I’ve ever experienced in my life and I hold nothing against it. If the reader should take anything from this, it’s that pregnant women need to sit the hell down sometimes and it doesn’t take much for us non-pregnant, fully-abled humans to stand up and offer our seat to someone who needs it. Even if you think you may offend someone, it’s better to clear up the awkwardness by just trying. This was not an isolated incident, I have seen this happen to pregnant women, children, elderly people etc. I wish I had only observed it on just this occasion.

Moral of the story: stand up, it will make you feel better and you can really change the course of a person’s day by doing this one small thing.

Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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Jo So Ko K-Drama Club – What to watch on Netflix (AU & KR)

So, you’ve heard through the Korean-grapevine that K-Dramas are all the rage. You want to get into some Korean shows or movies but you’re not quite sure where to start? Well, before you get K-razy and lose sleep to your fave Korean characters, let’s quickly discuss the terms and conditions of becoming a K-drama-watcher.

Rule #1

You can’t just “watch” a K-drama every now and then, go away, come back to it; dropping in and out as you please like its your neighbour’s lasagna night. This is less of a rule and more of a warning. K-dramas are so addictive, one simply cannot be half-heartedly committed. If you’ve succeeded otherwise, do share your tips.

Rule #2

The plot points, twists, unrequited relationships, political corruption, murder and every unrealistic aspect of a Korean drama is entirely exaggerated. People who watch K-dramas are very aware of this. If you find that you cannot be apart of the K-drama world, please do not criticise others for indulging in these fairytales. Don’t burst our K-bubbles.

Rule #3

That’s it! Now, let’s talk about where to begin. Also, I’m warning you that each time you see a character eating instant ramen, you too will want to eat instant ramen. Resist. It’s terrible for you.

Strong Woman Bong Soon

힘쎈여자 도봉순

Who is it for? Someone who appreciates a strong female lead even though because it’s a K-drama you know the strong female lead will ultimately be weakened by the love of her life, contradicting any superhuman strength she may have.

Why should I watch it? The characters are beautiful and hilarious with great chemistry. The kidnapping plot is really messed up and gives the lead character’s perfect romance a bit of balance. It can’t always be sunshine and mansions, we need a bit of a sinister hostage situation thrown in the mix to snap us back into the real world.

How long will it take me to watch? It will take over 16 hours to finish this one so buckle in and get your instant ramen ready!

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Stranger

비밀의 숲

Who is it for? Someone who loves waiting for 16 episodes to find out who is behind a string of murders. For those who are truly interested in South Korean government corruption (it’s exciting when it’s “fictitious”).

Why should I watch it? I mean, who am I to tell you what to watch. Figure this one out for yourself. It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s also highly addictive.

How long will it take me to watch? This one is also about 16 hours long (most K-dramas have 16 episodes). You may want to eat udon and drink soju while you watch? Maybe that’s just me?

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Hello, My Twenties

청춘시대

Who is it for? Anyone who loves Korean culture and is in the age range of 16 – 25. This show is about a group of girls at a Korean university just going through the motions of Korean life but there is a weird supernatural twist thrown in there that never really amounts to anything?? Also, one of the main characters changed at the beginning of Season 2 which is kind of odd.

Why should I watch it? Because you’re still reading this blog post which means you’re obviously trying to find the perfect K-drama to spend your weekend cosying up with.

How long will it take me to watch? This is a rare K-drama that has not 1, but 2 seasons. There are 12 episodes in season 1 and 14 episodes in season 2. At 60-65 minutes per episode, you can do the math on this one…

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My Love from the Star

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Who is it for? Hopeless romantics who also have a side interest in extraterrestrial activity on Earth. This is an older drama but it’s one that you have to see if you want to consider yourself a K-drama lover. Not really, nobody cares, just live your life.

Why should I watch it? Okay, I think at this point, I’m a terrible TV reviewer and you should just try these shows for yourself. If you’re at all interested in Korean culture or the Korean language, you should consider watching some of these shows!

How long will it take me to watch? Because it has taken me so long to write and publish this blog post, I don’t think this show is available in Korea anymore on Netflix. It should take you the usual 16, 1-hour episodes amount of time to finish this bad boy.

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Romance is a Bonus Book

로맨스는 별책부록

Who is it for? Book lovers, fashion lovers, Korean culture lovers, romance lovers and cheesy/predictable storylines.

Why should I watch it? For a PLETHORA of reasons, some of which include; because it’s adorable and you’ll feel like the characters are your own friends. While I personally thought this storyline was quite weak, I really loved the characters and the tone of the show. Also, this show has about 17,000 commercials embedded within it that are trying SO hard to look natural and relevant to the plot but they can often break up the flow of the story. I would love to see an edited version of the show that just tells a story without the unnecessary Subway and Samsung ads thrown in the middle.

How long will it take me to watch? Again, 16 episodes at 1 hour each will take you approximately all of your spare time to finish this one.

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Bonus Round: Korean Movies

The Beauty Inside

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Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

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Assassination

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