Korea. Hmmm… where to begin. So the last time I visited Korea was about two years ago and a lot has already changed. It has become even more modernized and westernized since the last time I came here. For example, all the GPS’s here have TV on them, all of the subway tickets are automated into rechargeable cards that is all automated, and you can find a McDonalds anywhere you go.
Seoul as a metropolis has become even more bustling. During rush hour, I can barely breathe or even more in the subway as everyone gets squashed together like anchovies. In the area where my Aunt lives (thirty minutes south of Seoul) used to be pretty undeveloped in terms of housing, but now you can see 20-floor apartment buildings even at the far outskirts where there used to just be mountains.
However it seems that the characteristics that have made Korea special to me even the first time I came is still present.
The people in Korea are as kind and cordial as I remember them, always being helpful to me while giving me a smile. Whenever I need directions somewhere, people are always helpful and some of them even walk me half way to my destination. It is never awkward here to strike up a conversation with a random stranger and they are always fascinated to hear that I’m from America.
Another thing that I deeply respect about Korea is how much reverence is given to elders. Young people are always expected to give up their seats to the elderly on the subway or on the bus, but it is not done with reluctance, but rather with thoughtfulness. The elderly people aren’t snobs about it either. I remember the last time I gave up my seat to a grandma on the subway, she first fervently refused to take it, then finally took it with gratefulness.
Although the subway and bus can get crowded at times, I am very envious of the strong infrastructure that Korea has when it comes to public transportation (unlike America). Here you don’t need a car to live. You can take the bus or the subway to anywhere you need to go. Literally anywhere. And the number of buses are abundant which means less time waiting at the bus stop as well.
Although it is nice to have a car and everything, life is so much easier without having all the worries which comes with a car. Having to maintain it, paying gas, dealing with registration and smog, worrying about getting into accidents, and also worrying about getting traffic tickets. When on the bus or the subway, I can just kick back and spend that time commuting doing productive things, like typing up this blog post (I’m currently on bus on the way to go tutoring).
The nightlife in Korea is incredible as well. And with public transportation so convenient (as well as Taxis cheap) you can play all night without worrying about designated drivers and whatnot. The main popping places when it comes to the night life include (but are not limited to) Gangnam, Apgujung, Hong-Dae (my favorite), and Shin-Chon. I would call Gangnam the Manhattan of Korea with high-rise buildings all over the place, but also with nightclubs and bars a plenty. Apgujung is more spread out but also has many places to hang out. Hong-Dae and Shin-Chon are near colleges, so the streets are full of young college people, along with the businesses that cater specifically to them.
I would definitely say that the food in Korea is one of its best aspects. Not only is the food delicious here, it is relatively cheap as well. On top of that, you don’t need to pay for tax or tip, which ends up saving you a ton of money. There are small little restaurants and mom and pops places anywhere you go, that cater to any mouth. Whether you are feeling Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, or even American, you can find it here.
There are also a ton of cafes here… and with a ton of cafes comes a ton of free places to get wi-fi. I recently purchased an Acer Aspire One Netbook that is 10 inches big that I take with me everywhere I go. It helps me blog when my ideas are fresh, as well as checking my email or doing other business on-the-go. I have never blogged or hung out at cafes before my trip to Korea this summer, but I am in love with the experience. I definitely feel more inspired when at cafes over home because home can get pretty stuffy and boring sometimes, with cafes being a fresh change of atmosphere. Also the idea of hanging out at a café while reading or writing sounds really artsy, and it feels artsy as well.
I also met a bunch of my old friends from Korea in Seoul, near my grandmas place at church last Sunday. It is nice to actually have Korean friends in Korea, because it gives me that authentic Korean experience when compared to just hanging out with my American friends here. I’m sure you’re wondering how I made Korean friends in Korea when I was born in the states and have lived there my entire life. So I’ll try to tell you in a nutshell.
There is this annual “Young Adult” camp at the church my grandma attends near her house in Seoul. I first went two years ago after my grandma encouraged me to go. I first assumed that it was going to be all college students, but I was surprised to see when it was mostly people who had jobs and were all over the age of 25. But regardless, I was the popular guy at camp being from America and all. So regardless of our age difference, I befriended all of them and they were all extremely welcoming as well. So now whenever I meet them on Sundays, it is nice to go out and eat with them and usually grab a beer afterwards. On top of that, they teach me a bunch of Korean slang… and you know how people say to truly learn a language you must learn its slang first.
I’ll definitely add more onto my thoughts about Korea soon. Stay tuned.