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?
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.
B: 맛있게 드세요.
—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-
S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer
S: Hello. Are you ready to order? Or What can I get you?
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!)
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.
On a lukewarm Friday evening in May, I summoned enough brain and leg power to wander beyond my daily work route of train station to work, work back to train station, and went to Bongeunsa Temple. This miraculous venture just so happened to be around the time of Buddha’s sweet sixteen, so there were lanterns, confused tourists and colours a-plenty. How fortunate and rare that I managed to have this combination of energy, awake-ness and a desire for socialising all at the same time?
I’m currently writing this very important blog post in mid-June and have been sitting on these images and aforementioned boring story without having any clue about Buddha’s Birthday and what it means to the Korean people. After three and a half minutes of strenuous research, I now know that Buddha’s birthday is a celebration for the founder of Buddhism and is celebrated with lantern festivals and lotus flower displays all over the country. It is a long standing tradition in Korea and is a great time for the nation’s Buddhist folk to brush up on their virtues and values and other Buddhism-related jargon. The thousands of meticulously hung lanterns and lotus flowers is a way for Korean Buddhists to light up the sky from their hearts and spread love from South Korea to the rest of the world. What a nice tradition!
If you’re planning on travelling to South Korea in the April/May period within the next thousand years, make sure to mentally bookmark this auspicious occasion in your brain diary. I read that Buddha’s big b-day bash is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar. Between you and I, fellow blog reader, I could not even attempt to try and figure out when that date occurs in earth-calendar times. I trust you to figure that one out on your own. Lunar calendar are riddles that I’ll never be able to solve. Here are the pictures I snapped on my phone after a long day of wrangling 5 year old Korean children and force feeding them a vast and articulate English vocabulary. Everyday is an adventure if you want it to be. Have a great day, friends!
Photos taken on my super Korean Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro 2.58^4 Genius Tennis champion smartphone.
Yesterday, as a gust of clean Seoul air swam its way through the dusty cocktail Saturday left behind, I meandered through the back streets of my neighbourhood to go to the local fruit and veg market. To set the scene, let me just say that the back streets near my house would be the perfect place to film an (on-foot) small scale burglary chase or, I don’t know, shoot a catalogue for an elderly women’s fashion movement. It just has that kind of edgy but practical kind of feel to it. Anyway. So, off I trot to the market feeling all empowered and not at all anxious about being the only western person within a 200km radius. I wander up to the bright fruit stall opposite the equally bright fruit stall I usually go to because I thought it would be nice to shake things up a bit. I point to what looks like a basket of juicy mandarins and say (in my best Korean) ‘please give me these mandarins’. The vendor did not correct my attempt to order what was in fact not a basket of mandarins. As she piled the unfamiliar looking mandarins into a black plastic bag, I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. Much to my not at all surprise, I did not protest the above average ($10) price tag for so few “mandarins” (for that matter, I would never protest anything in a second language unless encouraged by alcohol). Instead, I held my head high, faking the aura a person who just purchased exactly what they wanted might possess. I strolled on home, back through the narrow grandma/gangster back streets, past the old men smoking in their pyjama pants outside their homes and into the safety of my home that does not speak to me in Korean. The way I feel when attempting to do anything in a foreign language by myself is crippling and liberating, making any situation where speaking is required quite awkward. My brain wants to shout out random phrases I’ve memorised like ‘happy new year’ or ‘thank you for the food’, but my body just wants to pretend I’m travelling on business and therefore far too important to learn the local language. The result of these conflicting feelings is me just kind of making weird grunting noises with robot arms while I somehow simultaneously nod and shake my head when given any opportunity to speak another language. It’s very sexy.
After one month of living in Seoul, I’m hoping that from here it will get easier. I hope to come home with the right fruit next weekend feeling accomplished and slightly less like an alien. To be fair to myself, the fruits did all look the same, hence this illustration that I decided to draw and share with you all. I hope you enjoyed this anecdote. If you didn’t enjoy it, that’s okay too. It wasn’t meant to change your life or challenge your understanding of fruit and the earth. Have a great day and don’t forget to ‘eat your fruits and juice your vegetables’ according to that annoying guy in the movie ‘Her’. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? I guess I lost you long before that reference and needn’t worry. Annyeong!
Illustration and words by Johanna Quinn. All rights reserved. Image must not be distributed or used without artist’s consent. 2019.
If you’re reading this and are planning a solo trip to Seoul (a Seoulo trip) within the next 14 years, then come and have a sit and let’s look at your potential sightseeing opportunities. This post is more of a nice summary of my visit to Seoul and less of a helpful how-to guide. However, I do really want to help the three people that read my blog in the hopes that it will change their lives forever.
Now, the natural reaction to being alone in Seoul is to cry and curl up into a ball when you realise that couples and lovers are going to rub their happiness in your lonely little face. You must fight this urge, crying will get you nowhere (except everywhere because who doesn’t feel good after a good weep). Their adorable matching couple outfits and their bizarre public displays of gently hitting each other will really get to you after a while. Never fear, I’ve made this list of five things to do to keep busy and help you enjoy this delicious city as a lone soldier in Seoul (lone Seouldier – okay, now I’m done with the Seoul portmanteaus).
1. Walk to the top of Namsan Park
There is a cable car that will take you to the top of this mountain where the N Seoul Tower is located, but physically exerting yourself will drown out the lovey-dovey nonsense that’s taking place at the top. We don’t need to talk about the Love Locks and the Love Tunnel. Just take in the fresh air, the picturesque views and talk to some squirrel friends on the walk up. Once you’ve finished being sad and lonely at the top of the mountain, walk down to Namsan Market and fill up on cheap street food and fake designer bags. You’ll feel cleansed and wholesome.
2. Go to all of the art galleries. Every last one of them.
Art helps you think about all of the skills you don’t have and your shallow understanding of the world around you. However, it’s fun to look at and affordable (the entry fees, not the art). These are the galleries I personally had the least amount of anxiety in:
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
Located in Dongdaemun (obviously). Something is always happening around this part of town. Markets, traffic, people walking! The fun is endless!! Just ask this man with the umbrella!
Seoul Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Located in Anguk (Not so obvious) They have a student discount!!
Kumho Museum of Art
Located in Anguk (I’m not too sure where Anguk begins and ends but just walk around and you’ll know what’s what)
I thought I had more to add to this list of must-visit galleries but I actually didn’t go to that many. I think I was mistaking the large amount of street art, fashion and stylish pedestrians for art galleries. Sorry to disappoint you, my loyal followers. Just walk the streets, you’ll see plenty of arty business.
3. Go to this Sky Garden near Seoul Station
So look, you don’t HAVE to go here, but it’s a fun thing to do when you’re alone at night and is an alternative to eating Pocky in your Pyjamas like a comPlete Plebeian.
4. Just go to Anguk
It’s really great you won’t regret it and you’ll see lots of things that will make you think you’re in Yosemite when in you are in fact in Anguk (which is in South Korea).
5. Cosy up in your accomodation and learn Korean
This is not really a tourist attraction per se, but learning a bit of Korean might make your trip a bit more easy breezy. You can absolutely get by with ZERO knowledge of the language but it’s super endearing to throw a few ‘Anyonghaseyo’s and ‘Kamsamnida’s’ around. Who knows, you might enjoy it! Learning two different numbering systems is a truly humbling experience, highly recommend.
*BONUS ROUND* Alternatively, you could go and make some friends. I’m a bit of a lonely tomato and I wanted to use my trip to Seoul as a mini holiday before beginning my semester at KAIST next week. Hongdae is the best place to go with your pals, it’s super youthful and Korean BBQ-y. You’ll have a jolly good time I tell you.
So that’s my poorly thought out guide to Seoul as a solo traveller. I’m making loneliness jokes at my own expense because I think it’s funny and if you didn’t interpret it that way then perhaps we should tweet each other and discuss it further. I have had such a lovely time in Seoul and I highly recommend experiencing it as a lone wolf. Having the freedom to veer off and meander about added so many surprises to my trip. Even though I got lost everyday and had too much confidence in my human brain compass, I enjoyed every minute of it and who doesn’t want to get a little more sweaty than they should have? If you found this interesting, please read my other posts to read more about each destination. Goodbye for now, Seoul, my sweet, sweaty friend. I will be back to snap you in a few months.
ANGUK, SEOUL 18 AUGUST 2017 – Mark that as the date and location of my head over heels in love falling for South Korea. Also, file that sentence under the ‘my ever-growing evidence of my terrible English language skills’ in Jo’s brain filing cabinet. Anguk felt so right it was almost wrong. I went there for the sole purpose of visiting Gallery Hyundai but my goodness was I in for a treat. You know what, actually, I don’t want to write anything. I know this is a blog but I don’t think typing out a half arse attempt at an “Anguk Review” would do the place justice. Let’s just do some good old fashioned picture captioning.
Hanboks and mountains – they have more in common than you’d think
Wineglass vases – so chic, so simple
So what, I love pot plants on stairs, sue me?
This lady was in my gosh darn way but she brought this nice pic together so thank you, lady, in the way.
Cute hands/shuttlecocks/chicken feet/reindeer? The world is your oyster!
Korean fashion in one photo: linen, modest, bright, comfy fresh, leather accessories, a good sale, dead plant, cute hat. I know, I have been considering becoming a fashion commentator but I think I might be too observant.
They seem to have a cool bottle recycling scheme going on this country. But what would I know, I can’t understand a damn thing!! I communicate solely through the universal language of colour and composition and good timing.
Let’s do a recap of the day where I ordered enough fried chicken to feed a small family and took creepy photos on the subway in Seoul. I’ve been having a minor breakdown in Seoul and I’ve realised that six weeks of Korean lessons prior to arriving here was in fact, not enough. Seoul also appears (to me) to be a very social city and so it feels quite isolating to wander around on your lonesome, eating fried chicken by yourself and getting sauce all over your face without having anyone there to tell you. However, I’ve discovered that the cure for said lonely feelings is to sit in a cafe surrounded by other lonely people. As we speak, the people around me are all studiously tapping and writing away, reading furiously and I even saw a group of people downstairs coding in a big nerdy huddle. The future of this country is literally being developed in this very Starbucks, it feels so exciting. Here are some photos snapped on my journey of doing nothing but everything at the same time.
Streets of shops and restaurants go on for days in Myeongdong. Phone case frenzyIt started raining lightly and everyone went into full panic mode, people were practically throwing money at umbrella vendors and taking shelter.Cleaning supplies so colourful that it would almost make me want to clean. Almost.Here is an entire chicken I ordered and a giant bottle of beer. I wanted to try the real deal here in Korea considering I regularly eat Korean Fried Chicken in Melbourne. I successfully ordered in broken Korean and even asked for a bag so I could take away the other three quarters of the chicken that I couldn’t eat. Hello, left over fried chicken for dinner, anyone? I think I might sit in the shower and eat it so I don’t leave sticky-handprint-chicken-crumb marks all over my apartment. A sea of fried chicken restaurants in Myeongdong.From one train, looking out to the other platforms.City Hall Station.I accidentally bought the T Money card bundle that is meant for couples. I now have an awkward matching train card for the oppa that I don’t have, so sad. I can’t imagine Myki coming out with a couples range. (Update: Shortly after I posted this, I fell in love with my now-Oppa!)ReflectionSeoul Station