My Last Day Living in Seoul, South Korea

새해 복 많이 받으세요.

Hello, 2020! Thank you for reading my blog in 2019, I hope you will continue to read my sporadic posts about Korea in the new year. Today, I wanted to share some images I took on my last day of being a Seoul resident a few weeks ago. I think I mentioned in previous posts that I have recently moved to Yongin, is a little further south of Seoul. I wanted to make the most of my last day, and I had lots of things on my to-do list. My friend and I explored Hongdae together and embarked on the wonderment that is Ader Error.

Something I really wanted to do in 2019 was start a YouTube channel. I am not sure how it is going to go but I thought I would share my first ever video here on my blog! If you would like to keep up with my travels and how I live in South Korea, you can subscribe to my channel! Who knows what 2020 will bring! Scroll through the images to watch my first, and very awkward, YouTube video!

20191218_16191820191218_16162320191218_16124320191218_16091120191218_16060020191218_16051620191218_16150120191218_16404120191218_13173020191218_13172720191218_11420620191218_114045

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!)

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.

20191211_1156051438551472396755504.jpg

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!

Christmas Has Come to 별마당도서관 (Starfield Library at COEX Mall)

I quickly snapped these images to send to my mum yesterday. We both have a vested interest in any form of ephemeral public art. If I’m ever wondering through Coex, I keep her updated on the changing sculptures at the centre of the amazing library.

I wanted to keep up my blogging streak despite the fact that I’m not in love with these images. This morning we went apartment hunting and signed a new lease so I haven’t had a lot of time. I’m very excited to move to a different area that is a little bit outside of Seoul. As much as I love Seoul, I did start to wish we were more connected to nature. Our new neighbourhood will be perfect! I even saw a great running path along the stream near our new house. Oooh la la.

Back to the photos… be sure to check out the christmas display at the Coex Starfield Library. I might try and go back there at a time when there are less people around! I hope you’re enjoying your christmas festivities and preparations.

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.

Ten things to do on public transport instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media

I consider myself to be a seasoned public transport taker here in Seoul, South Korea. Since moving to Seoul, I’ve noticed that the general Korean population are rather fond of their smartphone screens. This doesn’t just apply to the people on the subway as the title of this post may suggest. It applies to people on the streets, in cafes, restaurants, schools, gyms, and everywhere else humans gravitate. It doesn’t help that two huge conglomerate smartphone companies, Samsung and LG, are highly celebrated by the Korean people.

So, because I never use my phone and am a fully-fledged self-help guru, I’ve taken it upon myself to help everyone out with more ~mindful~ smartphone usage. Firstly, I hate the word mindful and I also disagree with the generation of self help influencers. Secondly, I have been living in Seoul for 1 year now and I, too, have a bit of a screen addiction going on. I was being completely facetious.

Here are some ways that we can better serve our brains on the subway to promote a clear mind and help validate our smartphone addictions.

1. Make a to-do list

Do you have more than two things to do after your commute? Well, that, my friend, is the beginning of a juicy list. Let’s face it, you probably won’t do all of the things on your list but it will motivate you to do the things you actually need to do.

2. Podcasts

Listen to a podcast instead of the music you constantly consume in your ear holes. You can learn something, feel like you’re having a private lecture and be that annoying person who brings up facts all the time for no apparent reason.

3. Read a book

Woah, an actual physical book? Okay, this one is for more advanced subway takers and requires a great level of concentration. I know that not everybody can get their bodies to balance on a moving train and read without getting dizzy, we are humans, not mountain goats. However, if your body can handle all of the extra stimuli, you can assert your dominance as the ‘smart’ one on the subway carriage. I read so many books this year just because of my extremely long commute to work.

4. Write a novel

I can’t offer further advice with this one. It just seems like something a person who wakes up at 4am every day would do as a way to be productive. Give it a try? Your novel can’t suck until you finish it. Then, you can make it better.

5. Start a blog

Did you know that I’m currently writing this blog post on the subway? How could you have known that? What a silly question. If you don’t think you have the time to write a blog or a diary, you’re lying to yourself and to your whole family. They will never forgive you for those lies. I have the same philosophy Re: write a novel. Your blog won’t suck unless you have questionable opinions or zero blog posts.

6. Learn a language

Duolingo is a thing and it’s there to be used, so use it. Otherwise, go back to point two, Podcasts, and combine this with language learning. If, for some reason, you decided to learn Korean like me, Talk to Me in Korean have a great podcast.

7. Do a phone spring clean

Organise your photos, emails, contacts, apps, alarms, calendars, texts, ringtones, Instagram bios etc. I’m a true believer that a clean home equals a clean mind. I also apply this philosophy to the digital living space. Think about how much time you spend on your devices and it may help you understand why it’s important to keep your digital chaos clean and tidy.

8. Unfollow people who don’t align with your future

Go onto your socials and remove all the people who aren’t on board your train to self-improvement and general happiness. This includes people you are only friends with because you feel like you have to be. Delete them all. But, as you cull your friend lists, whisper ‘thank you’ ever so quietly to make it more Marie Kondo and less Georgina from Gossip Girl.

9. Go on a Wikipedia black hole search

This is my favourite thing to do at 4am while on a Netflix binge but there is never a bad time to go on a Wikipedia binge. It will help you learn things like Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are related and other things like how long Nelson Mandella spent in prison. These are all very useful things, do not deny yourself this information. As I am editing this, I am realising that I didn’t draw this point in my hilarious cartoon version of this blog post. I will forever regret this.

10. Respond respond respond

Now, this is the thing that I am worst at in life. I don’t know how many times I have written in my diary ‘ahh I really need to stay on top of my message and email responses’ to no avail. I don’t know what it is but I’m working on it, and the subway is a great place to get it done. As I type, I am vehemently aware of all of my unread messages.

I hope this was more comical than helpful. I really don’t care how you spend your time on your commute. I don’t know what kind of day you’re having. We all need to unwind with YouTube videos to clear our cloudy brains. This is more of a cultural observation combined with a pretty useless solution to something that may not even be perceived as a problem. But, if you’re feeling guilty about your phone usage, just know that the world will continue to be flat and have zero gravitational pull, regardless of how many memes you watch on a continuous loop.

‘Well, that was an unexpected ending? I want to read more of this blog! But HOW?’ Please do, I upload when I feel like it about topics relating to Korean culture. Feel free to leave a comment, I always respond. Have a very Korean day!

A Day of Books in Seoul, South Korea

Here are a selection of images from my humble, but forever runing out of power, smartphone. I’ve been wandering around bookstores and the Seoul Metropolitan Library in the City Hall area of Seoul.

After multiple unanswered phone calls with an airline that shall remain nameless, I needed to get outside into the fresh air. Although my fingers are numb, fresh cold air is better than the music you have to listen to when you’re on hold.

I hope my 2-3 regular readers are having a great week! I would love to hear about what you get up to in the wintertime in Seoul. Stay WARM! The bookstore in this post is called ‘Arc’n’Book’.

If you’re interested, the area in the map below is a great place to walk around and find things to do in Seoul! You can kind of just wander and end up in a cool, photogenic location!