Thanks for sparing ten minutes of your time to read this blog post. If you have been following my blog posts (and possibly my life) you may have well realised that I have left Korea. I wanted to blog more about the things I loved about Korea and I decided to start with the positive first. (I thought I would start with the positive, as I am expecting a little backlash from the ten things I didn’t like so much) so here goes.
Number 10: Korean Food
Korean food, is definitely an acquired taste, especially for a pallet that has not been exposed to the combination of flavors. However, there were many dishes that I tried and liked. I liked the fact that I got to experience new tastes and flavors over a period of one year. Here are some of my favorite Korean foods.
- Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)a spicy stir-fried rice cake dish, very popular in Korea and quite tasty. Can be eaten with Korean styled fish cakes and boiled eggs.
- Korean pancakes (savoury) (Pajeon)
- Korean pancakes (sweet) Hotteok
- Mandu Dumplings
- Seaweed and seaweed soups
- Various types of Kimchi – These are very healthy and great for your overall health.
Number 9: Coffee
I am an absolute lover of coffee and cannot do without drinking coffee at least 3 times a day. Korea has a very strong coffee culture. Coffee was first introduced to Korea in 1896 when King Gojong took refuge in a Russian legation in Seoul while fleeing Japanese soldiers. However, it only became popularized after the Korean war. Coffee shops can virtually be found on every second street. There are many different kinds of franchises (both local and international) however, I definitely think that Starbucks rules the pack. If you don’t manage to find a coffee shop, you can be sure to find convenience stores that sell both sachet and machine coffee in Korea. Which brings me to number 8….
Number 8: Convenience stores
Convenience stores are one of Korea’s fastest growing industries and are all-in-one stopovers for foods, goods and services tailored to modern needs. The convenience stores are open 24 hours and you can find an array of cooked food and sandwiches as well as other things that can come in handy when you can’t find a regular store that is open from 9-5. The convenience stores are also located on the first floor of apartment buildings, so whenever you feel a bit hungry or need some sugar or even some tape you can likely find it at a convenience store. Truth be told I basically bought most of my food items from the convenience store. It made life easy to “just go downstairs and grab a bite to eat” I also found some delicious chilli chicken at the Mini-Stop (a chain of convenience stores)
Number 7: An efficient public transport system
Korea has a highly efficient public transport system from air to rail, road and sea. It makes it very easy to travel around and get to places with these kinds of transport systems in place as they are both timely and efficient. The language barrier may be a problem initially but you can definitely work your way around this with either an app or some help from service staff or strangers. Initially, it was not easy for me getting to places using the bus system (however, I think I was just lazier than others to actually learn) You can read more about Korean transport systems here.
Number 6: Mountains, hiking and nature
Mountains make up more than 70 percent of Korea’s total land area. Therefore, for this reason, you can find that hiking is one of the most popular recreational activities for Koreans. On the occasion that I did go hiking, I found that the age demographic of hikers were quite vast. From the very young to the quite elderly, you can find Koreans of all ages engaging in the pastime. I really enjoyed the workout and the scenery was fantastic, especially in the Autumn when the leaves were changing. The mountain ranges that can be hiked also have many seating areas, mountain water which is safe to drink as well as bathrooms at certain stops where you can relieve yourself. You can find out more about the list of mountains in Korea here.
Number 5: A strong focus on education and the value of teachers
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 70 percent of 24- to 35-year-olds in South Korea ( 51.5 million) people have completed some form of tertiary education—the highest percentage worldwide and more than 20 percentage points above comparable attainment rates in the United States. Korea also values the education system and teachers. You find, for this reason, that many native English speakers apply for English teaching jobs abroad, which pay very well. (not less than $1500) and usually, come with a range of benefits. (free housing, end of contract bonus etc.)
Number 4: Internet services and wifi
Contemporary Korea is an advanced high-tech nation with one of the highest Internet penetration rates on the globe. Also, free wifi is easily accessible. Even with no cell-phone contract I still managed to go online in Korea because of the ease of connecting to free wifi connections. There are many gaming rooms in Korea and foreigners are allowed to use the internet free of charge here. (That was a BIG highlight for me when I had first arrived.)
Number 3: Korean beauty
Each country has its own beauty standards and Korea is no exception. Korea places a very high value on the way things look and this is no exception when it comes to beauty. Despite the negative impact this may have (more about this in my next post) for many expats it can be beneficial to be surrounded by an array of different kinds of beauty treatments, makeup, cheap plastic surgery and procedures than back home. Koreans also believe in the “10 step skin care regime” and you can find many of them with dewy, glowing looking skin. Tied with Korean beauty, you can also find a range of different low cal diet drinks that claim to help weight loss (not really sure if it’s fat loss but yeah, it is available)
Number 2: Shopping and fashion
If I didn’t live in an unsafe country as much as South Africa, this would probably be number 1 🙂 I absolutely loved shopping in Korea. As Korea values the “face value” of many things, Korean fashion is super trendy and stylish. Korea imports all kinds of brand name clothing from all over the world and you can find almost everything in the latest style. I bought sneakers, coats, dresses, jeans (some at a fraction of the price even with conversion rates than I would have paid for it in South Africa.) Korea has many different kinds of department stores such as Shinsegae, Lotte and Hyundai Department Stores. They also have places to go shopping in all of the cities and I visited many places to shop both in Gwangju as well as Seoul. In Seoul, you can go to places like Myeondong, Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Gangnam and many others. There are also many underground shopping centres in Korea, which could potentially be cheaper to shop at. The shopping experiences are great because you also get to experience a lot of the Korean culture. Korean street food is easily and readily found, K-pop can be heard through the streets (depending on where you go also Korean traditional music) and there are a lot of places to eat and buy essentially Korean things. Also, one of my favorite places to shop was at Daiso. Daiso is comparable to “a dollar store” where items are relatively cheap, and as I found out of very good quality. You can find many useful items at Daiso including food, crockery, some clothing items etc.
Number 1: Safety
This probably ranks very highly on the list because I was born and raised in South Africa where the crime statistics are shocking. More so with regards to violent crime. However, let’s get one thing straight. Every country has crime and I am certainly sure that Korea is no exception. We should always exercise precaution when we are in a new or different environment. However, the rate of violent crime is significantly lower than in South Africa. I was never afraid to walk alone at night or go out by myself. I was never overly obsessed about my possessions whilst in crowded places and to be honest thinking of being murdered for a cellphone or laptop was the last thing on my mind. Also, one of the great things about Korea is that the possession of firearms is generally forbidden in South Korea. You can read more about Korean gun laws and statistics here. However, that being said I would just like to mention that there has been an increase in the rates of sexual assault as well as cyber crimes in South Korea. A detailed report concerning crime and safety in South Korea can be found here.
So, those were my top ten things that I loved about Korea. Did you resonate with any of my points? Feel free to let me know your top ten in the comments below!
Till next time,