Happy Korean New Year: My First ‘설날’ (New Year) as a ‘며느리’ (Daughter-in-law)

Hello internet world, let’s talk about the fact that the moon calendar makes no sense to us Gregorians! Haha maybe another time, for now let’s just discuss Korean Lunar New Year. Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year in a celebration called Seollal (설날). This was my first Seollal as a 며느리 (daughter-in-law) so everyone made a big fuss. Traditionally, 며느리’s are supposed to wait on each man’s beckon call and prepare copious amounts of food for the family, as well as clean everything. Fortunately, this was my first time as a daughter-in-law so I just sat there and smiled and made my husband help the women in the kitchen. It’s 2020, damn it!

On New Year’s day (Sat 25th Jan 2020), we ate rice cake soup (떡국) and a yummy eggy pancake. We also had lots of crustaceans and a variety of rural style side dishes. I celebrated Seollal in Yeosu, my husband’s hometown. The food and flavours in Yeosu are different to other parts of Korea. They like very salty side dishes and consume a lot of seafood. Some flavours are too strong for my weak little Australian palate, so I just shamelessly pick at the dishes with the most sugar.

We also ate steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and sweet potato noodles (잡재) on New Year’s Day! We paid visits to both grandparents and did our New Year’s bows for good luck and great health. This was my first time bowing in Korea! When you bow on New Year’s Day, you have to say ‘새해 복 많이 받으세요’, which is like saying ‘I hope you receive lots of luck in the new year’.

This holiday went by so quickly but here are some pictures that I managed to snap. Whenever I pull out my phone to take pictures of food, I look so silly! I’m still such a tourist in this country despite living here for over a year. I hope you had a great new year, how did you spend yours? Does your country celebrate the lunar new year?

Sweet potato noodles (잡재), Steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and Kimchi (feat. Danbi the puppy)
Fresh kimchi, samjang sauce, garlic and a vinegary soup moment.
Close up of the steamed pork ribs (갈비찜)
A beautiful door
No strawberry can out-strawberry a Korean strawberry
A spotty train while we waited for our ride to Yeosu. The New Year’s festivities were happening during the start of the corona virus outbreak, so masks were necessary!
Korean New Year Pancakes with crab, spinach and other yummy things.
My stomach gets angry at me if I eat too much Korean food. It’s like ‘yo, why haven’t you been eating any cake or complex carbohydrates?’

Working at an English Winter Camp in South Korea

2020 started on a productive note for Jo So Ko because she was out in the middle of nowhere, teaching English to primary school students. Okay, I can’t continue with the third person tense because it will get confusing. I just spent over 3 weeks working at my first ever English camp and had such a great experience.

I had heard through the teaching-English-in-Korea-grapevine that these camps are rather difficult. Which made me want to do it even more! Woo, hard work! While it was difficult in terms of workload, it wasn’t any more difficult than a normal full-time English teaching job in Korea. If you can manage your time and you like teaching, it won’t be too challenging.

The teachers were so kind, the Korean staff were amazing and hardworking and everything ran like a well-oiled machine.

Any teaching job in Korea comes with an expectation that teachers will complete their books, send their reports in on time and not cause any trouble with coworkers. Camps are no exception, so I guess if you’re not familiar with these expectations, an intense camp might be difficult.

If you’re considering giving either a winter or summer camp a go in your holiday time, it’s definitely a great experience. If you have any questions about teaching ESL in Korea, let me know! I am more than happy to help you. Good luck.

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Did I mention that the food was amazing? I saved a lot of money from these delicious meals!