Negativity, Sensitivity, And Defending Your Country

I read an article recently discussing Korean sensitivity and explaining why Koreans are ‘hyper sensitive to criticisms from non-Koreans’. Before I even started reading, I felt that the answer was pretty obvious: surely Koreans don’t like it because the people complaining aren’t Korean themselves. In my eyes, it’s understandable why, as a native, you’d get annoyed by foreigners coming into your country, only to moan about the way the country is run.

Let’s be honest, every country has faults and things to complain about. Whether it be hating the entire Government, the ‘youths of today’, or simply the weather, you can always find things to moan about. And this is fine- in fact, it’s human nature. In England, I hate losing the majority of a pay cheque on taxes, bills, and my student loan. In Korea, I hate feeling unsafe whenever I’m on the roads. Yet while I would feel comfortable grumbling about England to English people, I wouldn’t be as comfortable doing the same about Korea to Koreans. Why? Because I’m a foreigner in Korea. It’s my choice to live here, to be in a different culture which I might not always understand or enjoy.

Sure, some things in Korea seem illogical, and there are flaws to the system (as you’d find in any country). And while I might moan to my nearest and dearest about these things, I’d never assume that it’s my place to criticise the country openly and publicly to Koreans. Firstly because it’s disrespectful. And secondly, because I know I’d get defensive if a foreigner berated England in front of me (and yes, even if I agreed with what they were saying).

What are some things which expats complain about in Korea? Xenophobia and driving. What do expats mock Koreans for loving? K Pop and Kimchi. I’m not going to lie and say that I never get angry about things in Korea, and I also don’t think Kimchi is the best food in the world, nor K Pop the best music. But that doesn’t mean I spend my time bitching to Koreans about their country, or laughing at their taste in food/music.

Imagine if someone came into your country, and slated something your nation is proud of. What if a foreigner came into the UK and ranted about how stupid British people are for loving tea, or how the BBC is a load of rubbish. I know it would get my back up. Or what if they complained about all the stupid drivers who are way over the speed limit, or the drunken violence and debauchery that takes place every weekend. I’d feel like it wasn’t their place to say. In fact, the most common phrase I hear people in England saying when they hear foreigners complaining is: ‘If you don’t like it, go back to your own country.’

I am aware that I’ve spoken negatively about the Korean education system before, but my feelings towards that come from sympathy towards my students, who I see suffering and stressed every day. And at the same time, I did acknowledge the merits of the system, which produces continually high grades. I wouldn’t voice my opinions so loudly about the other things in Korea which I am not so positive about.

So I feel the reason why Koreans don’t respond well to criticism from non-Koreans is quite straightforward: 99% of people feel loyalty for their country. Why would they enjoy seeing expats laughing at them and ridiculing them, hating on everything and everyone. While they might also dislike things about Korea, it is still their country and they will defend it to outsiders. And I know that I would defend my country in the same way.

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

Me-and-the-dogs

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

IMG-20130505-00443

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!

IMG-20130505-00441

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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trazy.com

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

seoulistic.com
jaehyns.weebly.com

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…

 

 

 

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

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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…

Healthy in Korea

cbs.nl
cbs.nl

Korea is known for having low obesity levels, with only an estimated 4% of people being obese, much lower than the 35% of Americans, or 25% of Brits. It’s true that the percentage of overweight Koreans is increasing, but nowhere near as drastically as other Western countries. And I don’t find the trend at all surprising; In fact, I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain a healthy-eating lifestyle since living in Korea.

While it may be true that if I lived in Seoul, I’d be a lot more tempted by unhealthy foods due to the abundance of Western cafes and restaurants, as it is where I live in Wonju, the majority of food places are Korean and therefore offer much healthier menus. Eating out at restaurants, which in England would lead to large calorie-and-fat laden meals, can be just as healthy an option as eating at home because there is always a healthy choice on the menu.

That’s not to say that the unhealthy alternatives aren’t there to choose from; you can still find fried chicken, huge fried donkas, or greasy fried rice, which obviously aren’t as good for your waistline. But, as a whole, Korean food is decidedly more guilt-free than Western food. And luckily, it also happens to be tasty and delicious!

Here are some of the reasons which it’s easier to stay safely on the healthy wagon in Korea:

Meals

644415_10200325594855428_557284242_nThe most obvious first- Korean meals. Compared to Western meals from around the world (pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fish-and-chips, pies, curries, mac-and-cheese…), Korean meals are decidedly healthy. Soups and stews filled with vegetables; low-fat noodle or rice based meals; barbecue with salad on the side instead of bread rolls, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup. Then there’s the fact that rice is always given as the carbohydrate component to the meal, in place of mashed potatoes, roast potatoes or chips.

Again, the unhealthy alternative is there if you want to find it, but the vast majority is healthy. Plus, when you eat out, you’re not tempted to order an additional calorific starter or dessert, simply because the option is rarely available. A definite positive if you’re trying to be good whilst dining out.

Vegetables

Boribap
en.wikipedia

A lot of the meals are packed-full of vegetables, and if they aren’t you have endless side-dishes: kimchi, radish, seaweed, mushrooms, spinach, bean-sprouts, the list goes on. And they’re varied, so you often get a few different veggies as side dishes; definitely helps you getting your 5-a-day.

Alternatively, choose a main meal packed with veggies: my all-time favourite bibimbap, shabu-shabu where you get a huge plate of greens to add to your soup… There’s no excuse not to eat your veg!

Bakery Items

IMG_7295I’ve found (to my annoyance at times when I crave a naughty treat) that even sweet bakery items aren’t as calorific, greasy, or fatty as their Western alternatives. Fillings such as red-bean, sweet potato, corn, and fig take the place of things like chocolate. Result? The food is more nutritious and you don’t have to feel guilty at the thought of what you’re eating.

In England, all of the options are buttery, greasy, and you’d be pushed to find something for under about 500 kcals (I know, I’ve tried). There pretty much isn’t a healthy-option. In Korea, I wouldn’t call bakery foods ‘healthy’, but I also wouldn’t call them ‘sinful’.

(Again, there are worse options to choose from: doughnuts, cream-filled pastries, fried things, but on the whole, they are nowhere near as bad as they could be).

Rice As A Side Dish

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Ok, it would be healthier if it was brown rice, but as side-dishes go, it’s definitely better than a load of buttered bread, chips, or fried potatoes. It’s a good, fat free carbohydrate to add to your meal, and far less calorific than the alternatives.

 

Lack Of Unhealthy Additions To Food

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s a definite lack of added sauces, dips, or spreads in Korea. Though you can still find them in foods, the use of things like cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or butter is a lot less.

You don’t find sandwiches dripping with butter and mayonnaise as you would in England, cheese is usually only found in Western meals like pizzas or burgers, and gochuchang is the most common sauce to be added to food, in place of ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.

In general, then, it’s not hard to see why the obesity levels are so much lower in Korea. Meals are more nutritious and packed with goodness, fatty-foods like butter, cheese, mayonnaise are used less, and even snacks are, by comparison to other countries, less detrimental to your diet. 

However, there are some mistakes you could make in Korea which could have a negative impact on your diet:

  • Fatty meats: Samgyeopsal is the worst offender here. Barbecue is so popular in Korea, and can be so healthy if you eat it right- what can be better than lean, grilled meat alongside some salad? But, if you choose the fatty meats, it is obviously far worse for you. And Samgyeopsal, with more fat than meat, is the worst option you could choose.
  • Fast food: A bit of a no-brainer, but true nonetheless. There is so much fast-food on offer in Korea, not only the Western burger chains and pizza places, but the Korean favourite of fried chicken. I know people who eat a lot of this, so much so that my students call chicken an ‘unhealthy’ food, because they’ve only eaten it after it’s been deep fried. Um…
  • Instant food (especially ramen): Something which all my students are guilty of, snacking on microwave burgers or instant ramen pots (and for breakfast too, which is just gross). These foods are everywhere and it couldn’t be easier to pop into CU and buy a quick-fix if you’re hungry. But really, these instant meals are unhealthy and completely lacking in nutrients. Not a good option!
  • Eating too much (especially rice): Again, fairly obvious, but it’s easy to do. Especially when rice is added as a side to the majority of main meals, even when your main meal is carbohydrate-based. I’ve eaten a ton of noodles before, only to be offered rice as well. Is there any need for the rice? No. Do you eat it anyway? Well, if it’s there… An easy way to add un-needed calories to your meal. The same can be said for asking for more and more side-dishes to go with your meal, Well, if it’s free…

So, if you choose to eat at places like Pizza School, Lotteria, and Baskin-Robbins, buy instant snacks from CU and eat extra rice with every meal, you might not realise how healthily you can eat in Korea, But, I think it’s fair to say that if you avoid the pitfalls, it’s quite easy to eat guilt-free. And if that involves being able to eat out and enjoy delicious meals, that’s definitely a good thing in my opinion.

Comfort Food Around The World

Everyone loves a good comforting meal, especially at this time of year when every day it’s getting colder and darker outside; what better thing is there to do than settle down in a cosy room with some delicious comfort food. In Korea, my favourite comfort food is my beloved Dolsot Bibimbap, a steaming-hot bowl of veggies, rice, egg and spicy pepper paste, perfect for warming you up on a cold autumn night. So imagine my pride when I found Bibimbap here on a list of ‘The World’s Best Hearty Food’, proof that people outside of Korea are beginning to realise how amazing it is! 946025_10201378028685616_9070226_n

Reading the article made me think about comfort food around the world; people in different countries envisage different things when they think of comfort, from gooey pizza to succulent steak to dumpling soup. Here is my selection of the best hearty comfort food from around the globe:

Britain

Javier Leiva via Wikimedia Commons
Javier Leiva via Wikimedia Commons
avlxyz via Wikimedia Commons
avlxyz via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

There are a lot of comforting meals which I could rave about from back home, but I’ll note just a few favourites instead:

Full English Breakfast complete with sausage, bacon, beans, eggs, toast, tomatoes, hash browns… Sausage, mashed potato and gravy… Roast Dinner…Fish and Chips… Pies… Just delicious food.

America

Rick Audet via Wikimedia Commons
Rick Audet via Wikimedia Commons

Mac and Cheese looks like the most appetising food ever, and must be heaven for cheese lovers.

And of course there’s American pancakes, biscuits and gravy, southern-fried chicken… The list could go on.

 

 

Canada

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Chips, gravy and cheese? This is the best combination of foods I can imagine. I need to go to Canada now…

 

 

 

Spain

flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/
flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/

A delicious dish of rice mixed with seafood or chicken and vegetables which is seasoned, steaming and sizzling to perfection. No wonder it’s the most popular Spanish dish!

 

 

 

France

Flickr_-_cyclonebill_-_Bøf_med_pommes_frites_(1)
cyclonebill via Wikimedia Commons

Where better to go for the best steak and frites than France. And how about a side of French onion soup to go with your steak… that’s one comforting meal…

 

 

 

Greece

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

The Greeks have done well with this meal: layers of aubergine, meat, potatoes, and topped with a rich bechamel sauce. It’s kind of like a lasagne, although, dare I say it, even better.

 

 

Italy

Various via Wikimedia Commons

Is there a place in the world with better comfort food than Italy? Pizza, pasta, rich, tomatoey sauces (and let’s not forget amazing gelato for dessert). Basically anything full of carbs in Italy can probably constitute comfort food…

 

 

Germany

de.wikipedia
de.wikipedia

Tender meat coated with breadcrumbs and eggs and then fried, Schnitzel (or Schnitzel equivalents) is popular all over the world, but especially in Germany. Have this alongside some chips and you’ll have one seriously satisfying meal.

 

 

China

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Chinese Wanton (dumpling) soup is as good as soup gets. Amazingly delicious dumplings in a tasty broth, with some noodles added in for that extra yumminess… What could be better to warm you up during the cold months?

 

 

Japan

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Instant ramen? Not that great. Proper Japanese ramen? Amazing. Tender noodles in soup along with meat, veggies, or whatever else you fancy, a good bowl of ramen is  comfort in a bowl.

 

 

Phillipines

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Adobo is one of the best meat dishes I’ve tried in a long time: rich, filling and so yummy. Meat marinated in soy sauce and garlic and then served, coated in the thick, almost gravy-like sauce. Flavourful, filling, and just perfect.

 

 

Thailand

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

For many people, there is nothing more comforting than a curry, and this popular Thai curry will certainly heat you up on a chilly evening. Creamy, rich, spicy, it’s no wonder that Thailand is famous for this delightful meal.

 

 

India

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Talking of curries, we can’t forget Indian curries. Nothing beats a good curry, with some naan bread, bhajis, samosas and poppadoms. You’ll probably end up eating too much, but it’s so amazing, who cares?

 

 

Anywhere with Skiing

ja.wikipedia.org
ja.wikipedia.org

How better to warm up on a snowy mountain than by treating yourself to a fondue. Warm, melted cheese and fresh bread…A match made in heaven.

 

 

You can go around the world and find so many different hearty comfort foods. And whether it’s Korean Bibimbap, American Mac and Cheese or Indian Curry, they all have one thing in common: they make you happy. And that’s true with comfort foods the world over…

 

 

 

Spending and Saving in South Korea

One of the (many) reasons I love living in Korea is the lower cost of many things which are ridiculously overpriced in the UK. The best example is probably eating meals out; when I’m in England, going out for a meal is a treat and an expensive one at that. Meals themselves are so much more expensive, plus the drinks (water not included in England, and even worse, no free coffee at the end), and 12.5% service charge on top of that… it adds up to a costly evening out, rather than a convenient meal as it has become in Korea. 

And meals are just one thing which is cheaper in Korea. Here are some of the best deals, which we’ve taken full advantage of whilst living here…

Eating Out 

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As mentioned, eating is so much cheaper. A cheap meal in England would be, at the least around £10 (18,000 won) and that’s without side dishes, starter or dessert, or service charge. If you were also paying for drinks and a starter/ dessert, you’d end up easily spending £20 (36,000 won)… and that’s at a cheap restaurant.

Comparing that to Korea: my favourite luxury buffet costs £19 (33,000 won), for all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood. £19 in a sushi restaurant in England wouldn’t get you very far at all… In other ‘expensive’ restaurants, meals can cost around £9 (16,000 won), and we feel like we’re splashing out. We’re in for a shock when we get home; I’m going to miss being able to eat out regularly without going bankrupt.

Public Transport

£11 (20,000 won) for a 3 hour journey in a luxury coach? Yes please. Getting a 1 and 1/2 hour train journey into the capital city for about £5 (8,000 won)? Amazing. That would cost you about 5 times as much if you were travelling to London, and that’s if you paid in advance and at off-peak times. Otherwise the prices are even more extortionate.

Taxis

The ease and comfort of travelling around in taxis is something that will be sorely missed. It’s actually as cheap (if not cheaper if there are a couple of you) than taking the bus. A 20-minute taxi ride in Seoul only costs about £10 (18,000 won). I dread to think how much that would cost in London.

Hairdressers

One of my favourite cheap things! I avoid having my hair cut in England because I don’t want to spend £25 (over 40,000 won) on a 10-minute trim. Then I found out that in Korea, you only have to pay £7 (12,000 won) for this treatment. They even style it for free for you. It’s no wonder why I’ve kept up-to-date with hair appointments since I’ve been here…

Bills

Extremely cheap council tax, and monthly bills which are about a tenth of the price back in England. Our electricity bill is about £10 (18,000 won) a month… the first time I saw it, I genuinely thought they’d made a mistake. It’s great not wanting to cry when you receive a bill.

Cinema

I love going to the cinema, and was so excited to see that it’s about half the price in Korea. Even at peak times, it’s only £6 (10,000 won), and that’s without the half-price vouchers you get given pretty much every time you go to the cinema. Needless to say we’ve seen about 10 times the amount of films that we normally would go to watch at the cinema.

Sushi

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I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so good it deserves to be mentioned again. Being able to buy rolls of Gimbap (the equivalent of Futomaki) for less than £1 (2,000 won) is just the best thing ever. Plus, the pick-and-mix nigri which is less than 50p (600 won) a piece is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Good Cosmetics

 I was a little wary of buying make-up in Korea, simply because it was so cheap I thought it must be pretty rubbish. Then I bought an eyeliner for about £4 (7,000 won) and I was an instant convert, realising that the makeup is actually pretty amazing; the eyeliner was definitely better than the £20 I used to buy in England. I’m going to have to get stuff imported when I leave…

 It’s fair to say that there is also a fair amount of expensive things in Korea, such as imported foods (cereals, sweets, certain fruits, teas), underwear (clothes are relatively cheap, but underwear is strangely pricey here), deodorants (seriously expensive), and pretty much most things Western. If you eat at a lot of Western restaurants and shop at places like H&M or Forever 21, you’ll find yourself spending a lot more money.  

But honestly, being in Korea has been pretty good for my bank account. The best part? If you do end up treating yourself and spending a lot of money on something, it’s likely to be something you enjoy, rather than on a bill/ an expensive train journey. And don’t even get me started on the fact that you don’t lose half your paycheck paying taxes, or I might cry thinking about the fact that at some point I’ll go home and have to start suffering that loss again…

Happy Pepero Day & A Look at Korea’s Special Days

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Happy Pepero Day from Korea! If you’re not familiar with this special day, it’s one in which people exchange Peperos (chocolate sticks) with their loved ones, kind of like Easter without the religion. According to reports, the celebration started because people believed if you partook in the Pepero celebration, you would become taller and thinner, especially if you ate your Peperos at exactly 11:11 on November 11th- 11:11, on the 11th day of the 11th month. And if you’re really superstitious, you should make sure you eat the Peperos 11 seconds after 11:11, for the ultimate thinning/ heightening effect. Eating loads of chocolate to make you taller and thinner? I like that kind of logic!

uneanneeaseoul.blogspot.kr
uneanneeaseoul.blogspot.kr

Last year, our first year here, the holidays took us by surprise in Korea: why were we given tons of Peperos on one day? Why apples another? Why is there loads of Valentine’s-looking stuff in the shops in March? Now it’s our second year, we know what to expect, and what holidays we can look forward to. Here are some of the special days celebrated in Korea (take note Westerners, we should make these catch on back home…)

White Day

A second Valentine’s Day, kind of. On Valentine’s Day, it is traditional in Korea for women to give men a gift. Then, one month later on White Day (March 14th), it is the man’s turn to give a gift. If you’re a romantic, you’d see this as a lovely way to prolong the holiday and increase celebrations. If you’re a cynic, you’d see it as even more of a commercial gimmick than Valentine’s Day already is…

Black Day 

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

A day for single people, on the 14th April, one month after Valentine’s-type celebrations have finished. Single people celebrate by eating a black-coloured meal of Jajangmyeon (noodles with black soybean sauce). A good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious meal, at any rate.

Teacher’s Day

A personal favourite, obviously! It was a nice surprise when we came in one day to have children giving us gifts and kind notes. Oh, and the song they had prepared to perform for the teachers. A well-deserved celebration of teachers, and one I think teachers all over the world should be able to enjoy!

Apple Day

207639_10151468380019305_2102018967_nA slightly random, but nonetheless enjoyable day: give an apple to people you want to apologize to. The Korea word for ‘apple’ is ‘사과’ which also means to apologize, hence giving an apple as a token.

 

Children’s Day

There’s still a Parent’s Day in Korea, the equivalent of Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day. But in Korea, there is also a day to show appreciation for your children! Children are given gifts and taken to exciting places like the zoo, or a theme park. I would have loved such a day when I was young; it would be like an extra Christmas Day- what could be better?

Korean New Year

New Year’s Day is usually a pretty rubbish day in England: Christmas is officially over, people are tired/ hungover, and worse, feel like they have to start their New Year’s Resolutions, which generally leaves everyone feeling grumpy. In Korea, it’s a pretty good time- three days of festivities in fact. The best part for children? Sebeh: when children wish older people ‘Happy New Year’ by bowing to them, and in return are given money. Imagine how much you could make if you bowed to every older person on that day… sounds like the children get a good deal, that’s for sure!

koreataste.org
koreataste.org

I think that Korea have got it right with their holidays, and England could do with a few more random gift-giving days. What brightens up your day like getting a few apples or some chocolate sticks? And nothing would improve a gloomy January 1st more than getting some money. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that England catches on to these ideas soon…

Expat Living- The Highs, The Lows, And Is It Worth It?

If someone had told me 5 years ago, even 2 years ago, that I’d move to Korea, I’d have thought they were joking: I’m  a homebody with a close family and friends, and have never really had the ‘travelling bug’ tempting me to go out and explore the world. The thought of leaving everything behind would have seemed absurd, something only someone way more adventurous than me would do. Even when I did a TESOL course with the intention of going abroad, I always imagined going to Europe and making frequent trips home.

Then, when job hunting for ESL jobs we saw how good the deal was in Korea (flights paid, rent paid, cheap bills? Yes please!), we changed our plans immediately, and 2 months later moved to Korea. Quite an impulsive move. I don’t know if other people thought we’d stick it out for the year, I didn’t even know myself. I definitely never thought that once the year was up I’d extend my contract.

We’ve experienced a whole lot since being here: the honeymoon period when everything in and about the country is perfect, the scared feeling of being in a completely foreign country where you can’t communicate and just want to see something in English, the homesick feeling when it’s a holiday or birthday of a loved one.

Over time we’ve realised that there are a lot of highs and lows of being an expat, especially in a country so foreign that you can’t even read the language, let alone begin to understand it. Here are some of the good and bad things about Expat Living:

♥ Exploring and Adventure

Let’s start with the most obvious: moving to another country is the best way to experience new places, to have adventures and experiences that you’d never have otherwise. And not just in the country you’re living in, but surrounding ones. If I wasn’t living in Korea, would I have visited Japan, Singapore, Malaysia or The Philippines? Most probably not.

× Missing Holidays

Even when you’re older, there’s something special about holidays: Christmas, Bonfire Night, Easter. It is, I have to admit, quite rubbish being away from friends, family, and festivities at these times. Sure, you can go to a delicious overpriced buffet for your Christmas lunch, but it doesn’t compare to a home-cooked meal.

♥ New Culture

It may be an adjustment, but being exposed to a new culture is not only interesting, but eye-opening. It opens your eyes to a world outside your own. Not only that, but it makes you appreciate things which you never thought twice about before: England may have many faults, but thank goodness I had a fun school-life without incredible pressure and insanely long hours studying.

×Being Ill

That horrible feeling of being ill and having no idea what any medicine is, where your nearest doctor is, or even if they speak English? It’s likely to happen at some point, and it’s one of those times you just want to be at home, in bed, being looked after by your mum (yes, even if you’re 24).

♥ New Friends

Meeting people from all over the world is one of the great things about being an expat. I’ve made friends with Americans, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and of course, Koreans. Similarly to being in a different culture, making friends with people from backgrounds different to your own opens the doors to a whole new world.

The one negative to new friends? Having to ultimately say goodbye to these people, knowing there’s very little chance you’ll see them again. Unless you happen to be flying a few thousand miles across the world, it’s hard to just pop by for a chat and cup of tea.

× Paperwork and Errands

Banks. Bills. Setting up the internet. Tasks can suddenly become a lot harder when you don’t speak the language. Like trying decipher a bill in Hangul. Or telling a plumber what is wrong with your hot-water tap. The smallest things can turn into a mission, which isn’t always fun…

♥ Food

Here I go again with my love of Korean food, but it is a definite positive to being an expat. Going to a restaurant is all the more exciting and way more of a novelty than at home. Plus, the lower prices means it’s something you can enjoy far more often.

× Food

No matter how much you love foreign food, there will be times (as I mentioned here) that you long for the comfort of home cooking: that sandwich from your favourite cafe or your favourite chocolate bar. This craving can lead to you spending a small fortune on getting your favourite things delivered. £50 on Maltesers chocolate? Guilty.

♥Less Judgement

It’s weird, but I love the fact that you care less in a different country; people stare more because you’re foreign, but I find that you feel less judged on many levels. You don’t have to worry about the latest fashion, whether your haircut is trendy, because you’ll never blend in anyway! And when you’ll always be the outsider, you don’t really care about trying to fit in. Roll on wearing a baggy man’s jumper to the gym and sporting your welly boots with pride…

× Xenophobia

So you always stand out if you’re an expat of a different race. And while the vast majority of people are friendly, there is always a small minority of xenophobic people who glare at you, disliking your presence in their country.

My most memorable experience? A little boy tugging on my coat in the supermarket, only to scream and cry (actual proper tears) when I turned around and he saw my face. Did his mother apologize or look embarrassed by his reaction? Not at all- she laughed.

♥ Lack of Responsibility

There’s a certain lack of responsibility when you’re an expat, things that you can’t take care of which are consequently taken care of for you: getting your internet set up, setting up a bank account. Instead, there is someone who speaks the language to take care of these things; after all, you can’t call up a company to complain when you don’t speak the language, can you? It’s kind of nice, like going back to a time when your parents doing things for you. Quite a relief sometimes.

× Not Knowing the Language

A pretty obvious one- the language barrier. Of course, you can learn select words and useful phrases, you’d be stupid not to. But unless you’re a genius (or know the language before you move), you’re going to find that a lot of the time, you’re clueless. It can lead to some pretty tough situations: being stranded without a clue which bus to take and no one who can help you, or paying someone else’s bill by accident because you couldn’t read it properly. True stories.

♥Independence

Nothing will help you become more independent than moving away and leaving the people you depended on in the past to move to another country. There’s suddenly a lot less people around to influence or direct you as you make a new life for yourself; it’s suddenly up to you.

× Online Access

This might be a petty one, but how annoying is it when you go to use a website (usually to watch something online) and you can’t because the website ‘isn’t allowed in your country’. Bye Bye BBC, MTV and ITV. Now I’ll just have to stream things elsewhere…

♥ Technology

10 years ago, even 5 years ago, being away from family and friends would be pretty horrible: having to spend a ton of money texting and calling people. Now, there’s so much social media to immediately share information, updates, and pictures so you feel closer to people… and it’s free. And, of course, the saviour that is Skype, allowing you free conversations and actually seeing your loved-ones too. The pain of missing people is far easier to deal with due to technology, thankfully.

× Missing People

Probably the most obvious one. Even with Skype, of course you miss people. Saying goodbye is the biggest sacrifice when leaving home. And do you ever find that you sometimes miss your pet more than you miss people? Just seeing them on Skype makes you want to be at home giving them a big cuddle.

♥ New Appreciation For Things

The last and most important thing. Being away from your home country makes you appreciate the little things: the ease of going into a shop and asking for help without any complications, only having to take a 2 hour train journey to visit a friend. You have a new-found sense of gratitude for the weirdest things, which is pretty great.

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So, with all the positives and negatives weighed out, is being an expat worth the downfalls? 100%, yes. It’s never been easier to keep in contact with people from home, unless you’re unlucky you’ll be looked after and have amazing new experiences, and if you’re a native English speaker, you’re lucky because wherever you go, there’ll always be at least a minimal understanding of your language. I would bet that everyone can understand the word ‘Hello’. Would everyone understand ‘안녕하세요’ or ‘привет’? Probably not. So if you’re an English-speaking expat, you’re in a favourable position.

And as far as expats go in Korea, I think the fact that the majority of people end up staying for longer than their planned year proves that the difficulties can’t be too bad…

Expat Longings

No matter how much you love a country, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was right when she said “There’s no place like home”. When you move away, you find new things you love, you make replacements and adjustments. But sometimes, you just want the real thing: a Mars Bar, some Nando’s chicken, your favourite magazine. And, most importantly, real English tea.

Then, there are the things you don’t even realise you like about home, until you’re not there and can’t have them anymore: the smell of going to a petrol station, turning on the radio and actually understanding what the people are talking about.

Here’s a (rather nostalgic) list of those things that, dare I say it, even a bowl of the best Bibimbap in Korea won’t cure. The little things from home that I miss…

Tea

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Let’s start with the most important thing, and it’s a pretty predictable one- tea. It’s a mystery to me that even when you buy English Breakfast Tea, it never quite tastes the same as when you’re at home. Why is that? Is it because the milk is different? Well, that leads me onto my next point…

 

Milk 

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

That horrible feeling you get when you go on holiday and the milk just doesn’t quite taste right? Imagine having that every day…do you get used to it? No, not really.

 

 

Supermarkets 

simple.wikipedia
simple.wikipedia

Tesco. Sainsburys. Waitrose. Having that comforting feeling of walking into a supermarket and knowing where everything is, what everything is, what brands are the best tasting, and more importantly, which to avoid.

Imagine our delight when we found Tesco Homeplus in Korea: packages that we recognise! Best thing ever.

Reserved People

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

I never thought of myself as particularly reserved, but it’s fair to say that since being out of England, I’ve probably lived up to the famous stereotype of ‘The Great British Reserve’. I like socialising, sure, but sometimes I miss the English way; polite small-talk is fine with people you’ve just met, thanks! There is definitely such a thing as too much information, as I’ve recently found out…

Queues

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s nothing like a nice orderly queue, whether it’s standing in line at the bank, a supermarket, or to buy food at a football match. It just makes sense.

And also, queue-jumpers definitely deserve to be regarded as the lowest of the low.

 

Confectionary

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Cadbury’s. Maltesers. Walkers Crisps. Magnums. The list could go on forever really.

Treat snacks from home cannot be beaten and we miss it a lot. And no, Hershey’s is in no way a suitable replacement.

 

 

Comfort Food

de.wikipedia
de.wikipedia

There’s nothing better than a hearty, warming, filling meal. Sunday pub lunches with roast potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing. It pretty much cures anything.

What I’d give sometimes for a fish pie with mushy peas, or a good roast chicken with chips. Well, a girl can dream…

English Weather

Sini Merikallio Flickr,Wikimedia Commons
Sini Merikallio Flickr,Wikimedia Commons

Ok, so we all moan about the weather, but you have to admit there’s something comforting about sitting by a roaring fire with the rain pounding down outside.

It’s not great of course when you’re caught in the middle of a rain storm with no umbrella, but still… it’s weird but true that you do end up missing it.

 

Sheep and Cows In Fields

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

This one might sound silly, but it’s true that going for drives just isn’t the same without endless fields full of animals.

Believe it or not, the highlight of going to a Beef Festival recently was to see some cows- I was honestly excited by the thought of it… Weird.

 

TV

Asenine, Wikimedia Commons
Asenine, Wikimedia Commons

Hearing the familiar tunes, recognising the faces and actually understanding what’s on the screen; it’s definitely something you start to miss.

Oh, and don’t underestimate the pride you feel when foreigners tell you how much they love the BBC…

Money

pixabay.com
pixabay.com

Something that you take for granted- walking into a shop and actually knowing how much something costs, without having to do quick multiplications in your head.

‘So wait… 10,000 won is $10… which is £6?’ Pretty much guesswork. Let’s just hope I’ve been over-estimating my spending for the past 18 months…

 

Tea. 

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

And again, just because nothing says ‘home’ more than a cup of tea, does it? I know what the first thing I do when I get home will be: straight over to the kettle…

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Ok, so it’s fair to say that there are also things which I definitely don’t miss: stupidly expensive transport, self-service machines which never work, having to pay 12% service charge in restaurants even if the service is bad… I could go on. And I know that when I’m back in England I’ll be moaning about the things which I miss from Korea.

I guess the saying in this case is true: ‘The grass is always greener’… in the other country.