A guest post by Tali from taligoestravelling
Maybe it’s because I didn’t do a lot of research about this country (other than which area to live in), or maybe it’s just that Korea is so different to any other country I’ve visited or lived in, but I am constantly being surprised by the food, fashion and culture here. These are the top ten things I only found out about Korea after moving here.
1. Pork Spine Soup, or gamjatang, is awesome. It was just one of many things that even the sound of freaked me out when I arrived and made me wonder how I would survive with the food here. Now I wonder how I could ever survive without it.
2. The floor is where it’s at. In winter for survival (underfloor heating ahhhh), both outdoors and in restaurants for eating (you learn pretty quickly how to sit without getting pins and needles), and even at a party with about 30 people (Koreans and foreigners) and ample seating, we all ended up sitting on the floor.
3. I wear slippers to work. They’re called “indoor shoes” but I call them slippers. My contract states that I must wear business attire to work at all times, and sandals, flip-flops, jandals etc are a no-go. So you can imagine the first day I went to work and my school Director instructed me to take off my nice shoes and to put on a pair of communal “indoor shoes.” I still laugh every day I look at my outfit.
4. Cars park on the footpath and pedestrians walk on the street. It doesn’t make sense to me but that’s just how it is.
5. Everyday things are constantly lost in translation. From donuts being “Good for your health” (if only I knew that when I was a child trying to convince my parents I needed one), to Lip and Eye remover to take off my make up. I did hesitate before putting it on my face the first time.
6. Fashion sense. It’s offensive to show your shoulders or collarbones and even at the beach most Koreans go swimming with a t-shirt and shorts over their bikini. But it’s fine for my colleagues to wear shorts so short they hardly even cover their underwear to work. Go figure. I think the shorts are a trend I won’t be following.
7. Outdoor exercise equipment – it’s everywhere. Behind the subway station, in parks, opposite my house and even half way up a hill I hiked, far from civilisation. And yet I never really see it being used.
8. Food has not stopped surprising and astounding me.
Example 1: Salad topped with ice cream (and a side of chicken). I thought my colleague was joking when she said that would be on offer at the restaurant we were walking into. It sounded so great to my 5 year old self, but to my adult self it just tasted wrong.
Example 2: Watching your octopus trying to escape from the pot it’s being cooked in, on your table.
Example 3: Rice cakes. They surprise (or confuse) you with their bland glutenous texture. Then they delight (or disappoint) you with their red bean paste filling. They took me a while to get used to.
9. Couple-wear. It’s everywhere and it’s even encouraged (as opposed to every other country I’ve lived in where you would be laughed at for wearing clothes to match your partner). Sports couple-wear, beach couple-wear, everyday couple-wear, you just can’t escape it. In fact it’s even promoted through the 1+1 deals (buy one get one free) that are standard practice in many stores here.
10. “Ne” means “yes.” Growing up in a country where anything that sounds like that means no and having just lived for a year in Germany where the same sound means “nah” or “nope,” this sound is constantly tripping me up.
**This blog is a guest post by my fab blogger friend, Tali. Tali is a self-confessed travel addict and language geek. A fellow Aucklander – born and bred – she has spent one year living La Bella Vita in Italy, followed by another in Munich, trying to be punctual and precise. Now, she is in Korea, immersing herself in couple-wear, fascinating foods and all the other cultural quirks that come from living a life so vastly different from what you’re accustomed to. To find out more about Tali’s travels, check out her blog.