One For The Girls- The Miracle ‘Magic Straight’ Hair Treatment

I have always loved hairdressers in Korea- I can get a cut and style for about 15,000 won (approximately £8) which is just amazing, and about a quarter of the price I’d pay back in England. What’s even better is that the hairdresser always does a good job, even when I can only mime what I want done- a massive relief, especially the first time I went, having no idea what to expect and scared that miss-communication would lead to an awful cut.

Then I discovered ‘Magic Straight’, which brought my love of Korean hairdressing to new heights. I’ve always suffered from unruly curly hair which is prone to frizzing. So during our first humid Korean summer, I had a permanently electrocuted look about me, static frizz which I just couldn’t tame. Needless to say I hated it.

I’ve always been pretty wary about getting ‘extreme’ hair treatments, in case they forever ruin my hair. But when I heard about Magic Straight, I was immediately tempted- a way to permanently calm my hair, I could forget about the annoyance of humidity and I wouldn’t have to bother with the hair straighteners every day. And so this April, in preparation for the upcoming summer months, I booked an appointment to get Magic Straight.

Here are some thing you should know about the treatment:

  • It takes a good 3/4 hours to complete. It’s a long process which includes the hairdresser having to painstakingly straighten every single section of your hair. Plus, I had to have a ‘tester’ before I started, to make sure it would work, having much finer hair than many Koreans.
  • It can lighten your hair colour slightly. I dye my hair quite frequently, and the shade was noticeable lighter when I had finished. But, within a few weeks you can dye your hair again.
  • You cannot wash your hair for a specific period of time- this is usually between 24 hours and 3 days, depending on where you go and what advice you are given.
  • You have to wear your hair loose for the next week. This can be quite annoying- you even have to be careful about putting your hair behind your ears in case of creating kinks. A little inconvenient, but not the end of the world.
  • At the start, your hair is very straight. If you have thin hair like me, it can feel a little bit too flat. But this gets better after a couple of weeks- the straightness stays, but the volume comes back.
  • It lasts longer than 3 months- my hair will still blow-dry straight after 9 months, and if I leave it to dry naturally, will only have a slight kink.
  • You can still curl your hair if you want- I wanted Magic Straight more for convenience than for dead-straight hair. I wanted to be able to leave my hair to dry naturally without turning into a frizzy mess or to be able to dry it quickly, but nicely. If you’re like me and still want to curl a little volume into your hair, you still can.
  • It’s a good price! My treatment cost about 110,000 won (about £65), which considering the length of treatment and long-lasting results, I think is pretty amazing.
  • It doesn’t ruin your hair. I was slightly worried I’d come out with frazzled ends or worse, but there were no negative effects of the treatment.

I’d recommend Magic Straight simply for the fact it makes managing your hair so much easier. My hair is actually in better condition now because I don’t straighten it or blow-dry it nearly as much. And the best part? I don’t have to waste time in the morning with the straighteners. Best treatment ever.

A Message To Korea From A Student

In light of my recent post on exam stress, I thought it was quite fitting to share a video I saw on YouTube today. The video was made by a Korean middle-school student called Jason, and it shows his message to Korea: a depressing discussion of the Korean education system. 

The video pretty much speaks for itself, but a few phrases particularly stand out for me. Firstly, when Jason sarcastically (but fairly accurately) describes a student’s academic life: “You will study for 10 hours a day until your college entrance exam. You will go to college and study more. But if you are not going to a good college, do not expect your parents to love you.”

Ok, perhaps the last sentence is exaggerated, but it isn’t entirely untrue. As is his comparison between Korean education and ‘child abuse’.

Jason continues to give an example of an 11-year-old student who has to attend 12 after-school  programmes, and has so much work that she stays up until 3 am to finish it. Oh, and she has to get up at 7.15 for school the next morning. Healthy balance? I think not. 

The most disturbing part for me is Jason’s closing remark, which compares the Korean education system to the Sewol Ferry Disaster: like the ferry, “it’s holding a lot of great people […] but all of a sudden it’s going to go down.” It’s a bold statement, but the mere fact that Jason compares education to such a horrific tragedy speaks for itself; if Jason, with his negative feelings, represent the average Korean student, then surely, something needs to change.

Education is important, success is important, but at what price? I predict that Jason’s video will have an impact on those who see it, but whether it will have any effect on a larger level is questionable. All I know is that it’s pretty horrible to watch such an obviously intelligent student with so much anger. And I hope for his sake, that things improve in the (very) near future.

Stress, Tears, and Tantrums… It’s Exam Time.

reactiongifs.com
reactiongifs.com

There’s been a pretty negative atmosphere at school during the last week, and there’s one reason why: exam week. It’s the students’ final exams before the end of semester, a time when stress levels peak for pupils and teachers alike. Luckily for us foreign teachers, we are only in charge of one written exam. Apart from that, we’re not too involved in the tests, even the English one. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely removed from the drama when it’s exam season. During our time at the school we’ve seen students crying, parents crying, arguments, breakdowns and complaints.

I’ve written about education in Korea before: that while there is no arguing with the high academic achievements of Korean students, there is just far too much pressure placed upon students which leads to intense stress and misery. And the exam period just reinforces all my beliefs about the faults of the Korean education system.

studentbeans.com
studentbeans.com

First and foremost is obviously the absurd amount of pressure placed upon the students to perform well. My parents always used to say to me ‘as long as you do your best, that’s all you can do’- this is a sentiment which I think all students should be told. Sure, it’s foolish to not work your hardest when you have important tests, but if you try your absolute best and still only manage to gain a low/average mark, then you’ve done all you could do. And in my eyes, punishing a child who has worked to the best of their ability is belittling and harsh. Some people aren’t as academically gifted as others: this is a fact which should be understood and accepted.

But from what I’ve seen in 99% of students, this isn’t the case. Even if they try their hardest, if they study from 8 am to 12 am, if they don’t score well they will suffer the wrath, and even worse, shame, of their parents. And it seems that it is only a very high score which is acceptable; I’ve spoken to students who’ve been distraught about how ‘badly’ they’ve done, when in fact they’ve scored in the 80%  bracket. In my eyes, that’s a pretty admirable result. It’s one thing to be pressured to do well, but it’s another when ‘to do well’ means getting a close to perfect score.

Another thing which I believe has detrimental consequences is the fact that students keep their exam papers afterwards, and are allowed to ask the teachers the correct answers. Why is this a problem? Because it doesn’t allow students to relax after an exam, to actually feel relieved that they’ve finished. Instead, it causes even more stress and worry as they endlessly debate with their friends whether the answer ‘to number 2 was A or B’, and then go to argue with a teacher about the correct answer. I’ve seen it happen so many times- the second the bell goes, the English office is invaded by hyped-up students demanding the correct answers and either cheering or crying when they hear it. They then go home and study the exam paper again, anxiously working out how they performed. When an exam is over, it should be over. Keeping the papers just prolongs and intensifies stress.

sodahead.com
sodahead.com

Something I find very strange, and contradictory to everything else exam-related is the attitude of students when they’re actually taking the exam. I have invigilated numerous tests- multiple choice tests, writing tests, less-important 1st/2nd grade tests, and extremely important 3rd grade tests which determine which high school students are accepted into. And one thing I have seen in every case? Students finishing the test in half (or less) of the allowed time and then going to sleep. This behaviour totally goes against all of the stress in the lead up to and aftermath of exams, and I don’t understand it.

When I had tests in school, I would never have dreamed of going to sleep- if you finished early, then you’d check your answers again and again, to make sure you hadn’t made any silly mistakes. In Korea, I invigilated one exam in which after only 5 minutes, 50% of students had finished and gone to sleep. The first time I saw this, I walked round waking up the students, not understanding what was happening and wondering why the teacher in charge wasn’t taking control, and ensuring they were trying their best and checking their answers. Now, I’ve learnt not to bother. But I find it utterly absurd behaviour, especially in a country where there is such importance placed on the exams. How would the parents react if they saw their child give up and go to sleep 10 minutes into an exam? The only way I can understand it is to assume that the students are so tired and stressed from revising, that the minute they consider themselves finished, they can’t bear to go back over the exam, and sleep instead. If this is true, it shows even more how the extremity of exam pressure actually has a negative impact on their performance.

learnenglish.britishcouncil.org
learnenglish.britishcouncil.org

Finally, I wonder whether the ‘multiple-choice’ style of exams is the best choice. When I first realised that all exams are in this format, I admit that I thought the students had it easy. I would have loved multiple choice, instead of long 3-hour essay-style exams. But now, I’ve read numerous English exams… and in each one, I couldn’t answer some of the questions. The choices are always so ambiguous that there are often a couple of acceptable answers. And what are the consequences? Official complaints from parents when their child doesn’t get a mark which perhaps they deserved. Again, this is something I’ve witnessed again and again. And if foreign teachers find it hard to answer an English multiple-choice question, what chance do the students have?

After the past week, after seeing what chaos the exam season causes in Korea, I just feel sympathy towards the students. I’ve seen one girl crying for 2 hours over 1 mark which she lost, I’ve seen a parent come into school and do the same. My co-teachers have received phone calls on their personal numbers until 11 pm from irate parents who want to discuss their child’s test. It’s too much. Exams are important, yes. Other countries envy Korea’s academic results, yes. But where do we draw a line between enough and too much? How many students will have to suffer depression, anxiety, or in extreme cases even commit suicide before things change?

There has to be balance and perspective. I hope that my students perform well after their tests this week. But I also hope that if they don’t get that top grade they wished for, they don’t spend their evenings berating themselves and in tears. And more importantly, I hope other people around them don’t criticise them either.

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Themes, Hello Kitty Themes… And Study Themes- Cafes in Korea

Shake-on-it

Last week I was reading about a new cafe which is opening in London- a ‘cereal cafe’, with hundreds of flavours of cereal, many of which have been discontinued or are foreign imports. Lucky Charms, Barbie Cereal, Star Wars Cereal- you name it, they’ve got it. They’ve even got cereal cakes, cereal memorabilia (yes, I would like a Kellogg’s Frosties lip-balm), and cereal artwork on the walls. As a cereal lover, it sounds like my dream cafe. Needless to say I was pretty jealous I wouldn’t be able to visit.

Then, I began to think about Korean cafes, and I began to feel a little better. Because if there’s one thing which Korea does well, it’s a cafe. First of all, they’re everywhere. You never need to worry about getting your coffee-fix, that’s for sure. And even better, there are just so many cool cafes. You can forget about boring old Starbucks or Caffe Bene, and go to one of the many exciting cafes instead. Here are just a few of the cafes in Korea that are worth a visit:

Dog Cafes

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Never a more fun, or crazy, cafe will you find. Happy, excitable dogs ready and eager to play and entertain you whilst you drink your drink.

They’re chaotic, loud, and sometimes, you might have to watch dogs ‘do their business’ in the middle of the cafe. But, you will also be able to enjoy the company of many lovable dogs.

It might not be the most dignified cafe in the world, but it’s a happy one. (Just beware of dogs dribbling all over you…)

Slimey-hand!

Cat Cafes

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For a more peaceful animal cafe, cat cafes are the best option. A lot calmer, but you still get to play with loads of cute animals. Cats in these cafes might be slightly less sociable than dogs (we’ve been to a couple where the cats prefer to sleep than play), but they’re still happy for your attention.

Plus, your clothes aren’t as much at risk from paw prints and dribble, which is always a positive.

Sheep Cafe

Thanks Nature Cafe, Facebook
Thanks Nature Cafe, Facebook

If dogs and cats aren’t exciting enough for you, check out a sheep cafe instead. ‘Thanks Nature Cafe’ in Hongdae lets you enjoy your drinks in the company of sheep. The sheep might not be as playful as dogs or cats (and you definitely wouldn’t want them to try and sit on your lap), but it’s pretty cool to be able to pet sheep whilst drinking your coffee. Top marks for originality.

Hello Kitty Cafe

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We always thought the Koreans were pretty obsessed with Hello Kitty, something which was proved when we saw that they have actual Hello Kitty Cafes. Girly-girls and Hello Kitty fans will be in heaven in these totally cute, totally pink cafes. And luckily, the drinks are quite good too!

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Charlie Brown Cafe

www.gynews.ne
http://www.gynews.ne

The more masculine alternative to a Hello Kitty Cafe. Nice models of Charlie Brown and Snoopy decorate the cafes dedicated to the popular cartoon. If you’re a fan of Charlie, where better to reminisce and buy a cup of coffee in a special Charlie Brown mug, or to buy lots of Charlie merchandise?

Princess Diary Cafe 

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This isn’t a cafe named after the movie, it’s a dress-up cafe in Seoul, perfect for anyone who loves trying on outfits and posing. Go along and choose from a variety of outfits- fancy wedding dresses, traditional Korean clothes, mini-dresses, and more. Then, you can pose to your hearts content with many different props. It’s cheesy, girly, unique and fun. In fact, you’ll probably be so distracted by taking photos you’ll forget to drink your drink.

(Near Ewha Women’s University, 26 Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea)

Book Study Cafe

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This is taking studying to a new extreme- having a cafe actually dedicated to it. Still, this cafe definitely has a better atmosphere than a library, and you can enjoy nice drinks at the same time! Let’s just hope people abide by the rules and stay quiet, or you won’t be able to get any work done…

(In Gangnam, Yeoksam-dong 816-6, Yongin Building)

Photography Cafe

visitkorea.com
visitkorea.com

Photography lovers will love this cafe in Incheon. You can either take along your own DSLR camera and choose a lens from the cafe to use, or you can rent both camera and lens. Then, enjoy playing with different lenses to your heart’s content (while enjoying your drink of course).

(Incheon-si, Yeonsu-gu, Songdo-dong 18-1)

There are so many more cafes around Korea- cute cafes, theme cafes, and many cafes which just sell delicious food and drinks. My favourite have to be the animal cafes, where I would happily go every day. But whether you simply want a cup of coffee, to eat some cake, or to try on wedding dresses, there is probably a cafe for you. 

But if anyone would like to open a cereal cafe too, that would be totally amazing…

 

 

 

A Korean Winter Mystery

The past couple of weeks have seen the temperature drastically drop to below freezing- winter, along with a hefty lot of snow, has officially arrived. As such, the coats are back out, everyone is dressed up in their warming, winter gear. But there is one big difference between Koreans and foreigners and how they wear their winter clothes, and it’s something which puzzled me last year and has remained a mystery until now: why do (99% 0f) Koreans wear their coats inside?

It might seem like a trivial matter, but it really confuses me. It’s freezing in the corridors of most buildings, sure, but once you’re inside a warm room, why not remove your huge jacket? In our school, the corridors are usually colder than outside, but the classrooms (mine especially as I hate the cold with a passion) are nice and toasty warm. So why don’t my students take off their coat? I own a Korean winter coat, and I know how deliciously warm they are. In fact, I can get too warm when I’m outside and wearing mine. So how are the kids not sweltering? (And it’s by no means just the kids which follow this tradition- most adults also remain attached to their coat throughout the day too).

There’s a few reasons why I find it strange:

1) The obvious- they must be boiling hot.

2) They have nothing to put on when they go outside into the freezing cold- most people would at this point put on a coat to make them warmer, and so ready to face the cold outside, but if you’re already wearing one, you have no layers to add to make you warmer when you venture into lower temperatures. 

3)Quite simply, coats are for wearing outside. Especially the heavy-duty coats which most Koreans wear in winter. They’re designed for freezing temperatures, not a heated classroom. It can’t be healthy…

Believe me, I’ve asked many of my students why they insist on wearing their coats- especially when they complain of being ‘too hot’ or turning off the heating. (Umm, maybe you’re hot because you’re wearing a quilted, fur-lined puffer jacket? On top of your thick winter blazer, no less.) I never get a proper answer. In fact, the most common answer is ‘My mum thinks I’ll lose it if I take it off’. Well, that’s not a great reason. Firstly, you’d have to be pretty forgetful (and blind) to leave a huge, bright red coat on your chair without noticing, and secondly, if you have that attitude, you’d never put anything down for fear of losing it. Imagine never being allowed to let go of your bag, or purse, or never taking off your gloves in case you forget to pick them up.

Apart from that, I never really hear a real reason why people wear their coats inside. It remains a mystery to me. So please, if you can enlighten me, if there is some myth or superstition about why you shouldn’t take your coat off inside, let me know. Or else I’ll remain clueless for another winter…

Happy Christmas From Pizza Hut Korea

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It’s December, it’s snowy and it’s time to start feeling Christmassy (and to give yourself an excuse to watch Home Alone and Elf in class). And while Christmas might not be the biggest holiday in Korea, Pizza Hut has still decided to celebrate in style…

With a limited edition, special, three- layered Christmas Tree Box. What better way to get into the festive spirit than to order a takeaway in a tiered box made to look like a Christmas Tree?! 

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After closer inspection, it looks like you choose your pizza to make the bottom layer, some chicken for the middle, and finish you meal with a salad- the star at the top of the ‘tree’.

I’ve spoken before about the creativity of pizza in Korea- cranberry crusts, cheesecake crusts, heart-shape designs, to name a few inventive ideas-  and this Christmas-edition from Pizza Hut just confirms that Korea is the country for weird, wacky, and wonderful pizza.

Will I get a Christmas-Tree Box  Delivery on Christmas Day? Who knows… But I do know that Pizza Hut have invented a Christmas Tree far more delicious than I’ve ever seen before.

(And thanks to Evan and Rachel for telling me about this festive treat!)

 

My Winter Survival Kit

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I was pretty excited for December, to officially get into the Christmas Spirit, and even more to be able to start on the Malteser Chocolate Advent Calendar sent to me from home. And rather fittingly, the 1st December brought with it winter weather. Proper, bitterly cold winter with face-numbing winds and an actual snowstorm too. Cue us walking home from work completely unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature, with numb hands and feet and frozen faces.

So that evening it was time to get my winter gear out of the wardrobe. All of the things I bought last year to help me survive the freezing temperatures of Korea. Here is a list of my winter survival gear:

Huge Winter Coat

It might sound silly, but I never really realised how important a coat was until last year, when I bought a proper coat for the first time in my life, and it was so worth it. It comes past my knees, has a thick, padded interior and a fur-lined padded hood which covers my whole face. It might make me look like I’m wearing a man’s coat which is several sizes too big (my sister’s words, not mine) but it does the job and keeps me warm. In fact, by the time I’ve walked the 10 minute to school, my head is usually too hot. Best investment ever.

 Gloves (x 2 pairs)

Again, the first time I’ve bought proper gloves (rather than pretty ones). One thin Lycra pair for underneath, and a thick padded pair to wear on top. I can literally not move my fingers once I have both pairs on- it makes entering the code to get into the apartment quite difficult- but it does stop my fingers going completely numb. Which I see as a positive.

Snood

I knew my normal thin scarves/pashminas wouldn’t do the trick in Korea, so I bought a huge, woolly snood to keep my neck warm. Turns out that it barely fits underneath my coat because it’s so thick, but it’s nice for wearing once I’m at school.

Fur-Lined Leggings

I can thank Lotte Mart for this purchase. Not just normal leggings, but thick leggings lined on the inside with soft, warm fur. A definite treat for your legs. I wear them with dresses, underneath trousers, underneath my pajamas…basically I alternate between different pairs all winter. And, in Korea they come in men’s sizes too; leggings are no longer a female-fashion-item as they are in England, but a useful piece of clothing to help you against the cold weather. And I love them.

Fluffy Slipper-Socks

Uniqlo was where I found these life-saving slipper-socks. As we have to take off our shoes inside, I needed something warm for my feet, something better than the sandals given by the school (if I wore them, my feet would be frost-bitten by the end of the day).

These slippers are lined with fur and super-snug, keeping my feet nice and toasty all day. The students with their freezing feet are pretty envious.

Furry Welly-Boots

1382417_10201627246675910_1275793581_nAnother amazing purchase was my furry welly-boots which are the comfiest, coziest shoes I’ve ever owned. They’re soft and snug and it’s like having your feet in a cotton-wool cushion. Before I bought these, my toes would be numb by the time I was halfway to school, but now they’re actually warm, even when walking through snow.

Again, I may not look too cool, sporting thick, un-elegant wellies (especially next to my Korean co-teacher, who wears high-heels even in the snow and ice), but I feel good. Which is way more important in the freezing weather!

Hot Water Bottle

To be honest, the minute I get home I’ll make a boiling-hot water bottle, and keep it next to me all evening. I would tie one to myself all day at school if it wouldn’t be so hard to carry around everywhere.

Heat Pads

This is a good alternative to a hot water bottle, and is easier to keep with you all day. The best version I’ve tried is a sticky hot-pad which you stick to your clothing and which keeps warm for hours. In fact, it gets so hot that my co-teacher warned me not to stick it straight onto my skin, or I’d actually get burnt. Now that’s a good heat-pad.

Endless Cups Of Tea

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Any excuse to drink more tea is fine with me, and the winter is definitely a good excuse. I pretty much chain-drink tea during the cold months, and keep a kettle by my desk at school. It’s a little expensive when you get through an average of 10 mugs a day, but it’s worth it.

Fluffy Pajamas

The pajamas in Korea are so cute, and so soft and fluffy, that I’m glad of the excuse to buy myself numerous pairs. The best part is they’re so much warmer than a lot of pajamas. And when you wear them over the top of fluffy leggings too? Your legs will never go cold.

 

Of course there are obviously other things to do to keep warm; electric blankets and central heating, to name a couple. But, I find that if you don’t want your bills to sky-rocket by having your heating on 24/7, you can survive without it, as long as you take other precautions. And if you don’t want to cry every time you step outside and are hit by icy-cold air, you definitely need to buy some proper winter-gear. 

 The best part of having a proper cold-survival-kit? You can actually (kind-0f) enjoy winter, going outside to take pretty walks in the snow or alternatively, play in it. Happy winter, and here’s hoping for a White Christmas…

Keeping Fit In Korea

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I’ve spoken before about healthy eating in Korea and explained why I find it easier to follow a healthy diet here than at home in England. The other part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is obviously to exercise. Before coming to Korea I’d switch between using the gym and going for runs outside. Since moving, I’ve found some aspects of keeping fit easier, others more difficult.

Here are what I consider the pros and cons of exercise in Korea:

♥ Hiking

There are hiking trails everywhere. From the numerous mountains for keen hikers, to the smaller trails hidden inside cities. Whether you want want to go for an intense 3-hour long trek, or for a gentle hour-long hike, there’s an option for you.

In Wonju where I live, there are not only two mountains just outside the city, but numerous trails within the city, so there’s plenty of choice should I wish to get some exercise, without having to head to the gym or go for a run. Plus, with the beautiful scenery of the trails, it’s a much more pleasant way to get some exercise, especially for nature lovers.

♥ Fitness Equipment

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You see these blue things a lot- up hiking trails, in parks everywhere. Ok, it might not in any way rival fitness equipment that you’d find at the gym, but it is fine to use for a few stretches. I’ve used the machines a couple of times and yes, they’re usually rickety, squeaky and shaky, but I’ve also found that they’re perfectly alright if you just want to stretch/ warm up/down during a hike or a run.

♥ Walking

I find that I walk a lot more in Korea, especially if I visit Seoul for the weekend- if I can, I avoid the subway because of the crowds, and choose to walk instead. I imagine that if you live in Seoul, walking could easily be the easiest way to incorporate exercise into your daily life.

As it is, even in Wonju, I walk more simply because most things are within walking distance. And that’s one advantage of living in Korea- the vast majority of people live in cities, so you are able to walk 20-minutes or half an hour to get somewhere, rather than drive. In England, if you live in the suburbs, walking isn’t an option.

(That’s not to say a lot of people will still opt to drive for convenience, but it’s a definite positive that walking is an option. If you’re feeling saintly, you can choose to get an hour of exercise just by walking to the shops and back, instead of grabbing a taxi. It couldn’t be easier).

♥ Cycling

The pavements always have a cycle-lane, making Korea a lot more bicycle-friendly than England for sure! In the UK, you aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement, meaning you have to go on the road with cars, and as a result a lot of novice cyclists (like me) would feel nervous cycling around a city. But you can cycle pretty much anywhere in Korea, because you can go on the pavements.

Perhaps there are cycle paths because of the driving in Korea; I doubt many cyclists would want to cycle on the roads lest for fear of being knocked off their bike by crazy drivers. Either way, I know that cycling is a lot more convenient in Korea, making it another option for easy exercise.

♥ ⊗ Gyms

I can never decide whether gyms are better or worse in Korea; they have both their good and their bad points. The good: in my experience, the gyms have good equipment, are clean, and there are usually a lot of gyms in a city, so it’s more than likely you’ll be able to find one close to your home (nothing worse than having to drive 20 minutes to a gym- it de-motivates you before you even get there).

On the other hand, there are negatives. I’ve found the average gym to cost around 50,000 won per month, or 150,000 won for 3 months. While this isn’t extortionate, it is expensive, especially in a country where a lot of other things are so cheap. Especially because in a lot of gyms, this price doesn’t include use of a sauna or swimming pool. You can easily find cheaper monthly fees in England, and there’s not a lot which I’d say is cheaper in England than in Korea.

Plus, the main downfall, in my opinion, is the fact that most gyms are closed on Sundays. It might be the ‘day of rest’, but it’s also a day off work; for me, that’s a day I want to be able to visit the gym, and it’s so annoying that the majority are closed.

⊗ Weather Extremes

Weather is the main reason why I find it hard to exercise outside for a large part of the year. Autumn and Spring are fine, in fact, they’re beautiful times to go exercise outside; the weather is perfect, not too hot or cold. But in winter or summer, the weather is far too extreme.

In summer, you break out in a sweat just by stepping outside, let alone once you’ve got your heart rate up. In winter, your hands and face are numb within minutes. Even if you can ignore that, there’s also usually ice or snow which prevents you from exercising outside, unless you want to risk slipping over and injuring yourself. I’ve tried exercising outside during these two months, and it was just horrible. As a result, there are periods of time when I can’t choose to go out for a run, which is something I am able to do back in the UK.

⊗ Exercise Classes

I know that this isn’t a negative of Korea, but it’s a negative of being an expat- not understanding or being able to follow fitness classes. It’s a shame, especially when you see good classes which you’d love to take part in. I was going to attempt yoga class once, but my Korean friend told me that without being able to understand Korean, you’d find it extremely difficult. So if you’re a fan of group exercise classes, like me, you will probably be sad to know that they aren’t really a logical choice in Korea.

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In general, I manage to incorporate exercise pretty easily into my lifestyle, similarly to back in England. However, I know that if I didn’t have a gym nearby, I might find it more difficult to keep fit. As mentioned, exercising outside isn’t always the best option due to extreme heat/cold. And while in England I’d work-out at home if I couldn’t outside, I find this hard in Korea. Living in a flat with people below me, I’m well aware that the neighbours might get tired of hearing me thump around the flat to an exercise DVD. 

On the other hand, there is a huge positive in Korea, which is hiking. I was so happy to introduce hiking as a new way to exercise; it’s probably my favourite way to keep fit, and something I’ll definitely miss back in England. 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Ways That Korea Is Winning

All countries have good and bad points, things which we can either complain about or praise. And while Korea has it’s faults, today I’m going to focus on the good things: 10 things which give Korea definite cool points.

Oreo Cereal

alibaba.com

To the misery of Oreo-lovers everywhere, this cereal has been discontinued in every country…apart from South Korea. I regularly see it featured on lists along the lines of ‘foods we miss which no longer exist’. Well, come to Korea and stock up…

 

 

 

Umbrella Plastic Protectors

aliexpress.com

Ever had the problem of your umbrella dripping everywhere while you carry it awkwardly around a shop? Not a problem in Korea- stick your umbrella into the stand, pull it out and it’s in a perfectly shaped umbrella-plastic-bag. Finally, an easy way to hold your umbrella, without leaving large puddles wherever you walk. This is an invention which England could do with copying…

 

 

 

Bubble Tea

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Sure, you can get Bubble Tea in other countries. In fact, it’s a new and ‘trendy’ thing in the UK- for an extortionate price, that is.

In Korea, there are Bubble Tea cafes around every corner (not just a restricted number of exclusive cafes like in the UK), and most importantly, they’re cheap.  Cheaper than a cup of coffee, in fact.

Ahead of the trends, lower on the prices. Go Korea.

 

Socks

images.1223.tw
images.1223.tw

Can we just talk about the variety/ cheapness of socks in Korea? I could literally buy a pair every day and not run out of designs. Plus there’s the choice: trainer socks, fluffy socks, socks with animal ears on. Socks have never been so exciting. (Ditto smartphone covers- endless designs and cheap. It’s tempting to buy a different cover for every day of the week).

 

Pizza Take-Out Tray

metro.co.uk
metro.co.uk

Papa John’s has just made pizza delivery more exciting- a three-layered pizza box, with one layer for pizza, another for sides & dip, and a final layer for a cookie pizza dessert. A 3-course meal in one takeout box = one pretty impressive invention.

And, it’s only available in Korea.

 

Subways

http2007,Wikimedia Commons
http2007,Wikimedia Commons

Clean, with working Wi-Fi, coffee and vending machines, and actual shops everywhere. In Korea, walking around subway stations is definitely more fun (and more likely to make you spend unnecessary money).

And let’s not forget the screens where you can find out information, or even better, play games and watch sports.

 

24 Hour Convenience Stores

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

The practicality of having a 24-hour store on pretty much every corner can’t be beaten. And they aren’t only good for buying emergency milk for breakfast. They have everything: food, drinks, medicines, alcohol, first-aid stuff, even emergency underwear.

On top of this, they have a hot-water stations and microwaves, so you can make hot food/drinks. Instant meals and coffee at 3 in the morning? No problem. That’s convenience on a whole new level…

 

Food Courts

WiNG, Wikimedia Commons
WiNG, Wikimedia Commons

If you get hungry when you shop, it’s no problem in Korea. You don’t have to buy an overpriced meal from a small cafe with minimal choice. No, there’s an entire food court with so many options it’s usually hard to decide what to buy.

What a way to make a trip to the supermarket more enjoyable!

 

Animal Cafes

IMG_1961

The most fun you’ll ever have in a cafe. Again, Korea is ahead of the trend with these cafes- in London, a cat cafe has recently opened and is such a phenomenon that there’s long waiting list to be able to visit. Imagine the excitement if someone opened a dog cafe…

In Korea, you simply pop to your local cafe any day of the week. Another win for Korea.

 

Free Coffee

k-ntertainments.blogspot
k-ntertainments.blogspot

It might be sweet, artificial coffee, but in my opinion, getting free coffee at the end of a meal is pretty great. Even better are the places where you can get an ice lolly at the end of your meal.

A definite way to ensure my return to a restaurant…

 

 

I think it’s fair to say that these are 10 things which Korea definitely does well. I would have mentioned 50 pence sushi, but I know I’ve raved about that before…

So, if you’re having a bad day full of negative feelings towards Korea, go out, buy yourself some nice socks and visit an animal cafe to cheer you up… That will definitely soften the blow of any negative feelings…