Inspired by Cindy Zimmer’s “Life’s an Adventure” Top 10 blog post- http://tinyurl.com/4y6k5ty, I have consolidated all that I love about Korea (and believe me, that list would be endless) into a list of 10 absolute faves:
There’s no way that I could leave this off of the list, as it was my first ever introduction to Korean culture. At the age of 7, whilst my friends attended their ballet and gymnastics lessons, I would go to taekwon-do with my sister and dad. The South Korean flag hung on the wall, and our Kentish sabonim (instructor) would give orders in Korean.
I learnt the pure Korean numbers and some random phrases from this class little to know that I would later visit, live in, and fall in love with its country of origin. I love the fact that taewkon-do is an official olympic sport, that I attained green belt and won numerous medals, and that I know that “taekwon-do” translates to “the art of the hand and foot”.
Korea loves festivals! In my year living there, I went to Pucheon International Film Festival, Pentaport rock music festival, Seoul lantern festival and Buryeong mud festival to name but a few. You could very easily go to a Korean festival every weekend if you wanted to, and every town has a vast number of their own (for Chuncheon, these included art, theatre, mime, puppet, dak galbi and makgooksu, amongst others). My K-festival wish-list comprises Busan Film Festival (which I am dying to go to), as well as the following, as accounted by other K-bloggers:
- Taebaeksang Snow Festival: http://teflorbust.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/snowfestival/
- Andong Mask Festival:
- Yesan Applewood Winery Apple festival: http://teflorbust.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/pepero-day-apple-festival-baking-class-more/
8 ) Safeness
Korea is by no means crime-free, but does have an extremely low crime rate, and compared to somewhere like London seems like a safe haven. With the culture of apartment-living, accommodation is almost always guarded. I would lock my door, but would never worry about the possibility of being burgled. Furthermore, I felt completely safe walking home in the dark in Chuncheon. In fact, the Chuncheon river was bustling with life at night: families playing tennis together, friends taking a stroll, as well as walkers and runners. It is also so refreshing to see children walking to school with their classmates, rather than having to be accompanied by an adult.
7) Cute stuff
It’s the little things in life that bring delight, and Korea is full of them! These include: couples wearing matching t-shirts, an eraser shaped like a cake, cool teenagers sporting teddy bear t-shirts, school-uniform-style fashions, and adorable stickers. I ❤ my cute piggy socks!
As original as Let the Right One In, as gorey as Saw and as stylish as Breakfast at Tiffany’s- to me, there is no cinema like Korean cinema. Although my experience of this is rather limited to horrors and thrillers (my genres of choice), I am beginning to realise that there is just as much substance, style and in Korean dramas, romances and comedies. The more K-films I see, the more there is to like. I intend to watch and review many more, and to delve deeper than K-horror. The film nights held by London’s Korean Cultural Centre are a great place to start: http://london.korean-culture.org.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity of being to able to live and work in a new, interesting, and beautiful country; and to be given the chance to experience Korea first hand. Without my year in Korea, my life would be so different. There are many close friends I would never have met, things I would never have seen and hobbies I would never have taken up (take this blog as an example!)
For someone really interested in teaching, this was also a great way to be introduced to the profession, and to gain some invaluable work experience. The cost of living compared to living somewhere like London allowed me to save money, whilst still living a full and fun life. If anyone is considering spending a year or longer in Korea, I suggest you go for it! Feel free to “comment” below with any questions.
I cannot get enough of norebang! I loved karaoke anyway, but norebang is so much more than that. It is a friendly gathering, night out, talent contest, comedy show, and music club rolled into one. Being already obsessed with karaoke, this was a natural transition for me, but norebang also attracts new fans: those who get stage fright, who don’t want to sing in front of complete strangers, but are fine to have a good old sing-song with friends. In Korean society, it can provide the platform for business meet-ups, family outings, and school trips, as well as a lunchtime / evening / entire night out.
I love the sound and rhythm of Korean language. When I speak it my mouth makes different shapes and moves in a different way to when I’m speaking English, which I find fascinating. I really enjoy slang and everyday sayings like “진짜” (“chinja”= “really?”) and even “ㅋㅋㅋㅋ” (“kekekeke”= Korean equivalent of “LOL”).
Reading Hangul is satisfying, and easily attained. King Sejong the Great is reported to have invented the alphabet based on the movements of the tongue when speaking the different sounds, and aimed to create a system that anyone would be able to learn in one day. Admittedly, it took me slightly longer than this, but I’m glad that I put the time in.
I hope and aim to be fluent in Korean someday.
2) Food and drink
Kimchi is as good for breakfast as it is as a post-drinks snack, plus its helathy- you can’t get much better than that! I love the flavours that Korean food incorporate, and the fact that ingredients and dishes have different meanings, and should be eaten at certain times. For example, you should eat seaweed soup on your birthday, and rice cakes on harvest festival.
Restaurants are vibrant, affordable and fun. Although as a vegetarian I will never taste the delights of samgyop sal or dak galbi, I am still able to experience the setting and interaction that these foods bring with them.
As with everywhere you go, the people you meet make the biggest impact on how much you enjoy your time there. I found Korean people to be some of the loveliest I have ever met. Everyone was a friend to me, made me feel welcome, and helped me wherever they could; from my boss, to students, to random ajumma working in shops and restaurants. I still keep in touch with my ex-students and other dear friends that I made. Thanks so much to everyone in Chuncheon, and Korea as a whole, for making it such a wonderful place to visit!
What’s your top 10? Let us know! 🙂