Moving To Korea: Top Tips I Wish I’d Known…

Coming to Korea was a huge, daunting move, and needless to say I did a lot of research beforehand; finding out about the culture and customs (bowing your head and removing your shoes inside), weather (yes, there definitely are 4 distinct seasons), and shopping (being told that buying clothes/shoes/underwear was pretty much impossible). 

The information I found was helpful, but ultimately it’s living here which gives you the best knowledge. So here, in hindsight, is what advice I’d give myself, and anyone else about to move to Korea.

  • Learn Hangul before you arrive

I had a quick look at some ‘learn to read Hangul’ guides before coming, but not in much detail, and I wish that I had. Once you’ve arrived, there’s so much else to sort out and distract you that you might not have the time to focus on learning to read in Korean- this happened to me, and in the end it was a while before I properly taught myself Hangul.

Don’t be put off by thinking it’s too difficult, because it’s much simpler than you’d imagine (everyone else I know agrees that it’s surprisingly easy to get a grip of). Being able to read it upon your arrival makes things much less daunting, even being able to read the city names and find your correct destination when you arrive at the airport.

I used the infamous Ryan Estrada method which can be found here, which I found pleasantly straightforward, and would definitely recommend.

  • Phones are generally on contracts

I imagined that I’d be able to get a simple pay-as-you-go phone in Korea and that I wouldn’t use it too often, but that’s a pretty difficult thing to do. I was told by co-workers to set up a contract, as it would be hard to find somewhere to find a pay-as-you-go option.

Everyone I know has ended up setting a phone contract and getting a Korean phone as part of that contract- so if you’re coming out with your own phone, it could be that you’ll end up getting a new one instead.

  •  Deodorant does exist-for women

I was pretty worried when I read that deodorant isn’t really used by Koreans, and came out with about 10 sprays in my luggage. Luckily for women, you can find deodorant now in most marts, even if it is the roll-on kind and more expensive than you’d expect.

But for men it’s more difficult. My male friends tell me it’s pretty much impossible to find stuff in a standard supermarket. So for them, they fill their cases with extra deodorant… or resort to buying the female version if they run out.

  • Underwear is expensive

On the whole, the cost of living is so much cheaper in Korea, apart from where underwear is concerned. The price of underwear is pretty similar to the price of proper clothes, which I found pretty shocking. Plus, the selection isn’t the best to say the least… If I were packing to move out here, I’d cram my suitcase with extra items.

Oh, apart from socks, which are sold everywhere, are extremely cheap, and also amazing. In fact, I wouldn’t bother to pack any socks and buy them all when you arrive!

  • Cosmetics are good

I didn’t have a clue what to expect from Korean cosmetics, so packed double the amount I needed: two makeup bags, extra face creams and wipes, just so many products. But luckily, there was no need as there are so many options in Korea, ranging from the very-cheap to the luxury, expensive items.

I’d guess there are even more options than you’d have back home. You only have to walk into a cosmetic shop to be faced with so many face creams, lotions, cleaners, toners, and goodness-knows what else, that you’ll be in the shop for hours, confused over what to buy.

  •  G Market is the new Amazon

Amazon ships some stuff to Korea, but not everything. And so the other option is G Market. There’s an English website which is convenient, and you can find most things you’d need on there.

  • Buy your winter gear in Korea

Winter is hideously cold, but it’s alright as long as you have proper winter clothes. I came out with a winter coat, gloves, hat, scarves etc., but when the colder months arrived I realised that they weren’t enough, and that I needed proper winter clothes which are actually designed for the freezing temperatures.

They have everything you could ever need in Korea: thermal vests, leggings, hats, gloves, fluffy socks, pajamas, snoods, the list goes on. And while a lot of the winter coats are insanely expensive, there are cheaper options which are still perfect for facing the cold. My coat is my saviour during winter, it isn’t a huge puffer-jacket, and it cost a fraction of the price of the majority of coats.

  • There are more and more Western food products

Another thing I read online about Korea was the lack of certain foods, cereal being one of the main things which people claimed you couldn’t find. However I think that now, the majority of things can be found in marts. In fact, there is quite a large selection of cereals in all 3 of our local marts, even if it is slightly more expensive than you’d pay back home.

In the past few months I’ve even seen things like quinoa and oats (yay) appear on the shelves, which weren’t here 18 months ago. The only thing I find I miss are confectionery goods and bread (it does exist but the selection isn’t great, and the taste isn’t as good). And for things which you can’t find in the shops, I Herb is amazing.

  • Daiso is amazing

One of the first shops you venture into should be Daiso. It is just the best, selling everything from tableware to shampoo to shower gel to headphones to slippers to towels to decorations for your home. It’s so cheap, but it isn’t rubbish either. Daiso is my go-to shop for most things other than food.

  •  You can find clothes and shoes

I’d read a lot about the lack of clothes/shoes to fit Westerners, but there are options out there, even if they’re limited/in Seoul. It’s true that a lot of the clothes are tiny, but there are larger shops which have a bigger selection, UniQlo being a good example. My boyfriend is much bigger than the average Korean male at over 6 foot, but he has found plenty of things to fit him here, as have I. And as for shoes, ABC Mart sells bigger sizes, and their biggest size was fine for my boyfriend.

If you’re finding it really hard to find clothes, there’s always Seoul which has a lot of Western shops, so you should be able to find something suitable, if you look hard enough!

  • Lastly (and most importantly, the food is good

I obviously had to mention the food in Korea, which I love. But it is something I worried about before coming to Korea, as hating the food would be pretty bad. And there are some strange meals which most Westerners would shy away from (raw seafood and animal innards spring to mind), but there is plenty of normal, delicious food. And it isn’t all spicy, as some people warn you. There’s a list of 20 Korean meals here, to give you an idea of what to expect.

If you really hate the food, there are Western restaurants even in smaller cities. And there’s guaranteed to be some of the Koreans’ favourite: fried-chicken. Although it might not be the healthiest choice to eat this too often.

I could start raving about food here, but that would be a whole new post…

 

 

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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

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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!

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…

 

 

 

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

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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…

Sin-Free Stewed Apples

When it’s cold in the evening, there’s nothing better than a warming dessert. Well, actually, perhaps the best thing is a guilt-free warming dessert. I’m a huge fan of apple pie, apple crumble, apple strudel, basically anything apple-flavoured. But, it wouldn’t be too healthy to eat these every night. And let’s face it- the best part of these puddings is the sweet apple filling. So I decided to recreate my favourite apple desserts, minus the unhealthy pastry part.

What was I left with? A completely innocent apple treat, which you can enjoy any night of the week. After all, according to that famous saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away…

Here is the recipe for my sin-free stewed apples. Simple, quick and delicious (I apologize for the lack of photos, I got too excited whilst cooking/ eating to remember to take any).

Ingredients (for 2 or 3 servings):

Apples- 4 large

Water- 150 ml

Cinnamon- 2 large tablespoons

Brown sugar/ Honey/ Sweetener- 2 large tablespoons.

Directions

1) Peel the apples and chop them into small chunks

2) Put them in a large pan, and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar/ sweetener/ honey.

3) Pour on the water- it doesn’t look like a lot, but it is enough once it has started cooking. If you need, you can always add more later.

4) Turn the heat on high until the water is boiling high up the pan and covering the apples.

5) Turn down the heat slightly, but make sure the water is still bubbling enough to cook all of the apples. Cook at this temperature for about 15 minutes, or until your apples are soft.

6) Take the apples off the heat. You can serve as they are, or if you prefer a softer texture (as I do), mash with a fork or potato masher, until they are at the consistency you desire.

7) Enjoy!

If you want to make the dessert a little naughtier, add a topping like custard, ice cream, peanut butter, whatever you desire! Or, eat alone for the perfect, warming, healthy dessert. It couldn’t be easier. 

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.