I’ve now spent almost a week in the country I’ve come to know and love. The country which for the next year will be my home – Korea.
But why do I love Korea? I often ask myself this question. Certainly not because it’s hard to find a reason to do so, but more because there are so many reasons to love this country and its people that simply I don’t know which ones to highlight. But I’ll try anyway.
I love that I can buy books, Korean fashion, and my favorite Korean cosmetics right outside my doorstep.
I love that I can eat any kind of Korean food I feel like whenever I want.
I love that Seoul never seems to sleep. I enjoy taking night time strolls around my neighborhood, where the narrow streets are still crowded with people.
I love that Korea is a society where I can walk around in pink skirts, disney t-shirts and wear red lipstick if I want to. I love all things cute, pretty and girly, and Korea has it all. Plus, all I can wear in this heat anyway is skirts and sundresses, so that fits perfectly with the girly image.
I love how Korean people can be the most generous and helpful people on earth. If a Korean considers you their friend they’d go to great lenghts to make sure that you are happy and comfortable.
I love how Korean guys are polite and well-mannered and the girls are pretty and cute. In fact the guys can look cute too, in a way you would never ever see anywhere in Europe or North America. Just yesterday, I was walking past a bunch of guys in their 20s. They were obviously trying to look cool, but one of them was blond, wearing his hat backwards and carried a pink toy bunny. Needless to say, they did not look as threatening as a similar bunch would anywhere else in the world. This makes me feel extremely safe, and I don’t mind walking around my neighborhood alone. Really, mom, it’s totally safe 🙂
I love how Koreans embrace their popular culture and use celebrities for EVERYTHING. If you like me are a huge fan of the Korean tv show “Descendants of the sun”, you’ll love being in Seoul right now. Not only do they play all the awesome songs from the soundtrack in every shop, bar, and restaurant. The actor Song Joong Ki, who swept most women off their feet playing the handsome Captain Yoo Si Jin in the series, is in cardboard on every street corner endorsing anything from the Hite beer brand, sporting gear, skin care, canned tuna, you name it. He must have made a TON of money of all these advertising deals! My personal favorite however is the signs in the subway, where a cartoon drawing of Captain Yoo Si Jin tells the passengers to exit before entering etc. in his characteristic military speech. Korean soldiers have a different way of speaking, since they are not allowed to use the otherwise polite sentence ending 요. This makes it difficult to say things like -지요/-죠, which is then altered to the quirky sounding -지 말입니다.
I love that everything is so accessible in Korea. I live in Mapo right between Sinchon and Ewha subway stations, and I realized yesterday that the super trendy Hongdae area is within walking distance from my apartment. Most stores are open whenever I need them, and the sales people are so nice! I have yet to buy anything without being given freebies. Just this morning I was buying fruit from a street vendor ajummah (ajummah means middle aged lady). I bought a lot, so after I had paid and picked up the bags, she threw in 4 huge plums for free! The same happened in the supermarket when I was buying some sidedishes. I got an extra one for free. In cosmetics stores they generously dole out samples with every purchase no matter how small, and even when I bought my new running shoes I got two pairs of running socks for free. I absolutely love these signs of Korean kindness.
I love how Koreans have so many ways of calling each other. So far I’ve been called 소희씨 (Ms Sofie), 학생 (student – technically wrong, but I take it as a sign that I look young and after all, I’m a student of life), 소희샘 (teacher Sofie), 교수님 (professor), 선생님 (teacher), and 소희누나 (“older sister” Sofie). Koreans tend to use family terms to non-relatives as well, and I admit that I love when they do so with me, since it makes me feel a part of Korean society. On the other hand I still feel awkward calling sales clerks or restaurant workers either 언니 or 이모 (sister or auntie). I guess I still need some adjustment time for that.
I love how I can speak Korean everyday. I went to see my office and meet a few of my colleagues this Wednesday before attending an information meeting for new employees. Everything was in Korean and it went fine. My brain was fried by the end of the day but it was fun to discover that I was able to manage without major difficulties.
I’ve included a few pictures from the last couple of days. I bought the pretty fan in Insadong the other day and I carry it with me whereever I go. The bookstore is right in front of my apartment building, so I’ll never run out of Korean books. The pink interior is not from my apartment (I wish) it’s from the Hello Kitty cafe in Hongdae. A must-visit for anyone who comes to Seoul. The white building in the bottom left corner shows my building from the outside. I live on the top floor and enjoy a gorgeous view over Sinchon.
I officially start work from next week, although there’s no teaching until the end of August. So excited. Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 불금~~