What to Wear in Seoul in December

Brrrr… it’s chilly in this city, I’m pretty sure I saw snow in my bathroom yesterday (not really). When I first came to Korea in 2017, I had no idea how cold things would get come December. This lead to me jumping on my bicycle, racing to the closest Uniqlo from my dormitory, and buying anything that looked like it would keep me warm. Two years later, and I am still wearing the items I bought that day.

I want to help you avoid this shock if you’re planning on coming to Seoul in the cold months of late November, December, and January. This could also be helpful if you’re planning to come to Korea to be an English teacher. Planning your wardrobe for four seasons is hard when you have airline luggage restrictions to consider.

On Looking Good in Winter

Let’s get one thing out of the way, looking cute and stylish is HARD in winter. Once you’ve layered your heat tech and jumpers, you look more like a marshmallow than a fashion icon. Accept it. Be warm. Keep your coat on even though you want to show off your outfit. And don’t let instagram likes dictate the way you dress.

Winter Formula for Getting Dressed:

(Thermal Leggings + Thermal Top + Socks) + Bottom Layer + Jumper + Coat + More Socks + Gloves + Beanie + Scarf – Inappropriate Summer Fabrics + Shoes = You MIGHT be warm today

Basics

Before we get into some the outfits I wore in December, let’s go through my Korean winter essentials. Because I am a foreigner living in Korea, I don’t have a huge wardrobe full of cute outfits. It’s hard to transport an entire wardrobe across the Pacific Ocean. These are the items I can’t live without, so you may be seeing these items recurring throughout the outfits!

1. Cashmere Jumper

2. Warm Scarf

3. Wool Coat / Padding Jacket

4. Knee High Boots / Leather Boots

5. Waterproof Sneakers

6. Heat Tech Leggings, Tops and Singlets

7. WARM Gloves

8. Wool Beanie / Beret

Pro Tip: if you’re planning to move to Korea or any colder climate, the best thing to do is look out for cashmere sales! I picked up my jumper at a huge sale at Vin Prime, a second hand clothing store here in Korea. The quality of your clothes really makes a difference when staying warm, and it doesn’t have to make you broke! My jumper was only $20 and it’s 100% Cashmere.

Outfit #1: Christmas Tree Chic

This first outfit was taken at the beginning of December, hence the bare ankles. I can get away without an extra layer under these pants because they are so WARM, which is why I spent money that was out of my budget to buy them… I paired the pants with some black boots, a cashmere jumper over a t-shirt and a coat. On warmer winter days, you can get away with not wearing any thermal or heat tech layers!

The best investment I made this winter was this pair of green wool structured trousers from COS. They fit me like a glove and are so warm and cosy. I wanted something that looked professional but at the same time would keep me warm. I made this investment back when I thought getting a non-teaching job in Korea was a piece of cake… Also, they look like grass but for your pant legs!

Outfit #2: Incognito Shopping Trip so People don’t Stare at my Foreign Face

I love these grey lambs wool leggings that I bought from the Australian brand Country Road FOUR years ago! They are still keeping me warm. The tote is from a Museum in Singapore, the beanie is from a flea market in Japan and I kind of look like I’m on my way to mug somebody.

This is often how I dress when walking to the supermarket – how MuNdAnee. In my old neighbourhood, I got stared at by every second person who walked past me. That’s excluding the shop sellers. To deter the gazers, I would wear a face mask and a beanie, I think it made people more curious because they would have to double take instead of blatantly stare at me. So perhaps the incognito look backfired, in the end! These are my Adidas sneakers that I bought in summer and they are the coolest sneakers I’ve ever owned.

Outift #3: Horse Rider Takes on Inner City Shopping Centre

This horse riding look is my favourite to wear because of these BOOTS. I got these brown leather boots in a Zara sale last year and I feel like a powerful yet bohemian lady. These are the shoes that make me want to get dressed on cold mornings. I love wearing them with tight jeans so I can show off the whole boot. When I cover them in pant or skirt fabric, the boots don’t get to shine! Again, here is my cashmere jumper that I wear basically everyday, cashmere scarf and my padding jacket. I know Koreans aren’t overly fond of Uniqlo these days but I couldn’t survive winter here without their clothes.

I planned on taking more awkward selfies but then we moved house and life did that thing that it does where you suddenly don’t have time to do things. However, most of my outfits look like the ones you saw above in various combinations. I unintentionally have a capsule wardrobe situation due to aforementioned lack of luggage allowance and general lack of money to buy clothes!

Bonus Outfits from December!

Let’s start with this navy moment I had when I went ice skating.

Here is a Christmas look – I love that I can wear my running shoes with jeans and a coat without looking like a business woman with a long commute??? When I know I’m going to be walking around a lot, I have to whisper ‘not today’ to my beloved brown boots and opt for these.

Hugging my bag in the middle of the street.

Road trip outfit in a highway rest stop bathroom

With my friend at Ader Error in Hongdae.

Who is that crazy lady taking self timer pics of her toilet paper outfit??? With her eyes closed?

I’m really sad looking at this photo because I have since lost this scarf. I was doing a very quick job situation in Gangnam, and I dropped it somewhere. It was my favourite Uniqlo cashmere scarf and I can’t seem to find a replacement as soft (and affordable) as this one. rip scarf 😦

I hope you enjoyed my foray into fashion blogging. The moral of the story is choose warmth over style and comfort over ‘but I want to look cute today’. Let me know what your winter staples are and where you like to shop. Have a great day!

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!)

I guess I like baseball now? Why you should go to a baseball game in Seoul

In May… oh dear, I’m writing about something that happened in May. This is off to a bad start. Well let’s turn this around, shall we? My PARENTS came to Seoul recently… er, this year. They came to have a long weekend getaway in the bustling city centre of Seoul after several months of being separated by the Pacific Ocean and a harrowing one hour time difference.

Without an itinerary or much in the way of a game plan, we somehow threw the topic of baseball into conversation. One minute we were reminiscing over our childhood pet rabbit and purchasing tickets to a baseball match the next? As a person who has neither watched a baseball game nor given much thought to its supposed existence, I was quite shocked by this ticket-purchasing event. It may (or may or not at all) help to mention that this discussion and subsequent ticket purchase occurred over a rather boozy middle eastern dinner after reuniting with my parents whom I hadn’t seen since Christmas 2018. What a time to be alive!

Back to the topic of this important blog post…

I had very low expectations of baseball because I had nothing to compare the experience to. I briefly remember my brother getting a baseball bat for Christmas once and that was about the only baseball-related event thus far in my baseball-less, sheltered life (barring High School Musical 2).  To add another life milestone into the mix, I’ve also never typed the word ‘baseball’ so many times in one day.

To, once again, cut to the chase…

The reason you should see a baseball game? match? session? in South Korea is because of the CHANTING. The two teams have a cheering section on opposite sides of the… pitch? diamond? baseball ring?… and they take turns singing just about every melody under the Korean sun until they respectfully halt when it’s the other side’s turn to sing their baseball-ised, Korean version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since you been gone’ at full volume. I’ve never been so entertained/confused about sports/drunk on cheap beer/sticky with chicken fingers/excited in general about anything. If you’re in Seoul, you should go and watch some baseball and enjoy the excitement. You should DEFINITELY go if you’re a baseball fan because I’m sure you’d have a blast. Boy, I bet I really sold you on this hot travel tip. This post was so descriptive that you’re probably purchasing your tickets to Seoul as we speak and planning your entire trip around multiple baseball matches? games? I still have no idea..

My lifelong dream of seeing a beer boy finally came true. It wasn’t so much a dream as it was a disbelief that such a boy/man child could exist.

How to get there

If this was a helpful blog, I would instruct you on how to purchase tickets, arrive at a baseball stadium near you and where to buy your game snacks. This is not the case. Please do NOT mistake this website for an informative blog, this is a blog where I write about my life in South Korea and nobody reads it and I go about my life being completely fine with it. Have a fab day/week/life/wedding/meeting at work.

It’s a date! 샤로수길에서는 데이트!

Over the weekend, we decided to go on a lavish date and live our lives as though we had all the time and money in the world. By that, I mean we ate three different meals within the space of about 3.5 hours with a heartfelt session of karaoke in between meals one and two to settle our appetites. The date location: Sharosugil (샤로수길) which is located near Seoul National University Entrance station on line 2. I just googled this neighbourhood to see how it was spelled in English and found out how trendy and new this it is. I am NEVER a cool and trendy person. I’m always miles behind the times but secretly think I am super trendy in my middle-age-woman-inside-a-twenty-two-year-old state of mind. This time, it’s no secret.

First order of date business: wandering the ‘hood to take mental notes for future date plans so we can come back here every single week for the foreseeable future. This is an important step when in Seoul because most eating establishments you visit are ones you only find out about from walking by and sneakily trying to see what people have on their plates through the window.

The name of this cafe we walked past translates to ‘Your small table’. How sweet is that? I love that they are so up front about the small table size. Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting a large table, I’d barely fit through the door.

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We were on the hunt for a burger restaurant named ‘9 Ounces’ only to find they had stopped selling burgers by the time we reached the restaurant. We weren’t about to sit in a burger restaurant and sip on cokes while our tummies grumbled, so we walked back to another ‘Burger Joint’ that we passed along the way. It was literally called ‘Burger Joint’ which was a weird name to read in a non-English speaking country. We ordered 2 cheese burgers and a side of tasty fries. The result… well, see for yourself below. I really enjoyed eating a burger that didn’t taste like it was made 4 weeks ago (*Lotteria*). Burger Joint Review: Good burgers, good vibes, good times. My feet were slightly cold but that was not the burger’s fault.

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Second order of business: Karoke. There’s no better way to clear space in your stomach for two post-lunch meals than singing a round of songs in a Korean coin karaoke room. My personal favourite noraebang tune for clearing space is Disney’s ‘Let it Go’. That wasn’t a pun, by the way, I just love Frozen. We then went to a dessert cafe which had a crucial typo in its name and ate strawberry cake and coffees. Be warned, instagram influencers and opportunistic photographers, cafes in Seoul are hella cute and serve up tasty spreads but they’re also hella expensive. Why I regularly pay 5,000 won for a latte is BEYOND me. Here is that cafe now.

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After gorging on a whole cake (which wasn’t really Ju’s style so he had extra room in his stomach) we stumbled upon possibly the best street food ‘pajeon’ ever. Pajeon or ‘Jeon’ are Korean pancakes and they’re often served with ‘Makkeoli’ which is Korean rice wine. We ordered the squid pancake and OH MA G it was hella tasty. We’re already planning to go back there this week for round 2. Lastly, to put into perspective just how expensive coffee is in Korea, this giant plate of squid pancake cost the same amount as my latte from the previous cafe. I’m still a young spring chicken so I should probably stop complaining about the cost of everyday, mundane things. I’ve got my golden years to do that.

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Korean squid pancake and pickled radish

What do you do for dates in Seoul? Let me know! Let’s Skype about it or get our nails done.

Lost in Fruit

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.

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Namsan Park, Seoul

I successfully climbed a mountain today and I’m not quite sure I even know who I am anymore. I’m glad this rare, energised, mountain climbing version of myself decided to climb out from its former trash can house. Boy, was it worth the effort. The sweat I felt dripping down my back and into my shoes was all the more satisfying at the top of Namsan mountain. The scene in Boys Over Flowers where Gu Jun Pyo and Geum Jandi have their date at the Seoul Tower isn’t the only reason I visited Namsan park (ok it definitely is because it’s the cutest episode). But it ALL makes sense as to why they had their date there, there are so many love-related activities (it’s almost sickening). From thousands of couple padlocks with names and dates immortalised onto the Seoul Tower forever, to an actual ‘love tunnel’: this country is drunk in love. Sorry to say it Jay and Bey, South Korea beat you at your own game. On the contrary, there was little old me, covered in a glistening concoction of sweat and sunscreen, buying a souvenir ‘Seoul Tower’ T Shirt all alone.

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Grassy gradients

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The Great Wall of South Korea

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On top of the South of Korea

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Shiny love is way better than regular matte, boring love (dah)

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Lock your love down because god knows we have nothing else to live for

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I love how this photo is jam-packed with bridge features and windows and the colour green and lines and, okay you’ve already scrolled down to the next image, never mind

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DDP, Dongdaemun, Seoul

This blog post is sponsored by this gorgeous sunset view from my apartment. Without this sponsorship, who knows when I would have found the time to write this!? I’ve spent the last week in a cosy little studio apartment overlooking the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). I held off from visiting the plaza until this glorious, miserable + rainy day came along. That was obviously the smartest possible thing to do as someone who loves taking photos, particularly of ZAHA HADID buildings. It’s a breathtaking blob of metal, every angle appears anatomical. From my apartment, it’s red blood cell form slowly morphs into a big, silver bum as you walk closer and closer toward it. I am so blown away by this peach/orb/bum/blood cell/muffin top piece of architecture and so fortunate that I got to see it every single day of my visit to Seoul. The Louis Vuitton exhibition, which is currently on, was as amazing as the building it was housed within. It was a free exhibition and I didn’t take any photographs because I was BUSY looking at LV trunks and bags and pretending I could afford them.

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Rain at the DDP i.e. Optimal time to use it’s shell as a water theme park and slip’n’slide all over it (based on my previous descriptions of the building, I regret saying this)

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This is my body’s exact reaction when people ask me ‘so what do you want to do when you graduate university?’

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Inside the DDP! Sometimes you forget that buildings have to look cool on the inside as well as the outside. I was just expecting it to look like a giant metal shed, alas the Zaha Hadid team had better intentions

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Spotted outside the DDP: Tandem cycling with tandem puppies (could only capture one pup in this pic, but the man had a pup with him too!)

Streets + Peeps (Anguk Edition)

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.

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Hanboks and mountains – they have more in common than you’d think

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Wineglass vases – so chic, so simple

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So what, I love pot plants on stairs, sue me?

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This lady was in my gosh darn way but she brought this nice pic together so thank you, lady, in the way.

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Cute hands/shuttlecocks/chicken feet/reindeer? The world is your oyster!

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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.

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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.