I’m currently sitting here reflecting on the fact that I’ve been living in this country for a year and the thought of leaving it is making me sad. There are so many things I’ve become accustomed to whilst living here and the thought of leaving it behind is causing me some internal turmoil.
Let me just start off by saying that the food here is AMAZING! I’ve gained at least 12 pounds during my year here and I’m not even ashamed of it. I ate GOOOOOD, you guys. I’ll just give you a list of food items that you’ll most likely consume if you are in Korea.
Kimchi Jjigae (김치 찌개) is a spicy Korean stew made with fermented kimchi, pork belly and tofu. This was my favourite thing during winter. It warmed my poor little, shrivelled heart.
Dak Galbi (닭갈비) is a spicy chicken stir fry and is by far my all time favourite Korean dish. I don’t’ know how to describe the savoury flavour of the chicken mixed with all the vegetable. Delicious (맛있어요)!!
Cheese tteokbokki (치즈떡볶이) is spicy rice cake with Cheese. This is chewy goodness!
Bingsu (핑수) is shaved ice with topping like condensed milk, fruit and sweets added to it. Perfect in the summer!
2. Cheap, Cheap, Cheap!
Other than electronics and “foreign items” the cost of everyday life is dirt cheap. This includes food, clothing, and transportation. To top it off there is no tipping in Korea! This a haven if your goal is to save money.
Korean fashion comes straight out of the 90’s. Picture the movie Clueless with the added touches of hip-hop. That’s Korean fashion. Little Cher’s, Dionne’s, and Murray’s everywhere. Everyone is always dressed to the nines here. Usually, in North America, people only dress up when they have a special event to go to and the rest of the time we are in sweat pants looking like bums, but in Korea, you look nice all the time.
The only problem with the fashion here is that the majority of the nice looking things are made for sizes 0 -4. There are some stores in Itaewon that have larger sizes and there are H&M’s and Forever21 stores but the street market things are so much cuter.
4. Night Life
Nothing compares to Korean night life. I don’t even know how to explain what goes on in the cloak of darkness in Korea. During the day everyone looks proper and the demeanour is befitting royalty, but at night it’s like a switch gets flipped and everyone becomes ratchet. People start partying from 9 P.M until the first subway at 6 A.M or till 12 noon the next day. It’s insane. And alcohol is a big part of the Korean culture so expect to see a few people passed out randomly on the street from drinking too much.
There are a few party places in Seoul (Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam) each one with its own vibe. In Hongdae, you’ll find a lot more young Koreans and the vibes are mostly hip-hop with a splash of electronic music. In Itaewon, you’ll find a lot more foreigners. The vibes there vary a lot depending on the time of night. A lot of military guys end up there so….ya. Gangnam is usually where the rich people party. Entrance to the majority of the clubs cost an arm and a leg and some of the clubs will only let in Korean people. Here is a list of Clubs to Visit in Hongdae
5. Convenient Stores
You will find a convenient store at every corner- usually a 7/11 or GS25. These stores are literally heaven to me. GS is open every hour on the hour and you can go and buy ramyeon anytime of day and just loiter there. Loitering is encouraged in Korea!!!
I know this one seems stupid seeing as there are convenient stores all over the world but I kid you not, these things are life savers…hence the convenience. They are such a social hangout and everything you need is already there! In Korea, there is always a new one being built at the same rate as there is one being torn down.
*Bonus* I know I could have just made the title of this post “6 Things I Love about Korea”, but six just seems like an odd number for a list. Which is ironic because 5 is actually the odd number.
The subway system here is impeccable. It’s organized and it can get you from one side of the city to the other with as little as $3. Seriously. Also, the exit system! So simple yet so convenient. You can meet anyone anywhere by telling them the subway station and the exit number. Easy peasy.