No gimmicky long winded intro. Just I thought I’d try and sum up 8 things I wish I either knew before, or have realized since being in Seoul. Some of these apply to SoKo in general and not just Seoul. All in good jest, and may be useful to a newbie, or provide a good laugh to those who know what I’m referring to!
1. You are not Asian. In fairness I knew this already. lol Even in their friendly and most inquisitive state, Koreans constantly remind you that you are a foreigner. ‘Teach our children, but remember you are not from here.’ ‘Do you like kimchi? It’s really spicy…foreigners don’t like spicy food.’ The amount of conversations I have had that started out with ‘I heard foreigners....’ It’s such a subtle, innate and non malicious part of their outlook, that they often don’t realize they are doing it. *shrugs*
2. Personal space is a myth. Borderline extinct. It’s gone. So just forget about it. In Seoul, especially during rush hour don’t expect to move at a great speed. As 1) the amount of people is ridiculous and 2), Korean perception of personal space (personal anything for that matter) is non existent. Going to meet a friend and you need to check where you’re transferring, right? The unspoken laws of spacial awareness dictate you should walk to the SIDE and out of the way of other commuters. Because you are f**king STATIONARY! ..Yeah…not here…expect teens, adults and old people alike to stop dead in your path to check their phones, watches or just coz. And then have the audacity to be pissed off at you!
After week three I ditched my British politeness. It’s ingrained in me to say ‘sorry’ or ‘I beg your pardon’ to everyone. Now I bulldoze through. No fucks given. Because usually, as I was attempting to apologize for the mutual collision, the other party has already scuttled off.
3. Trap or Die trying. ..All too often, I walk past a cafe with prestige interior and well groomed staff, but I have to double take. The Kanye, Drizzy, or latest over night Trap sensation pumping from their speakers, doesn’t match the aesthetic of the brand. I assume that their young staff have taken over the shops playlist, but it literally feels like a college party every time I walk into Paris Baguette. Equally, Seoulites aged 18-29 are like one big 90’s throwback. I’ve left clubs at 4am and witnessed drunk Koreans singing RnB songs I forgot about.
4. Old people rule. Pointless trying to argue, understand it or start a revolution. Ajumma’s & Ajeossi’s (Old men and women) run things. They skip queues, push past, shout when your in a designated old persons seat…even if the one next to you is empty. Due to Asian cultures large respect for old folks, they have genuinely adopted a superiority complex. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are lovely… But, violence towards the elderly, I have never considered until now.
5. You don’t need that extra peanut butter! Don’t bring shit you realistically don’t need. It takes up valuable space in the suitcase. I really wish I had taken heed; I can hear my family from here saying “see I told you!” Fatty McFat Fat over here tried to shove whole nut peanut butter in her case because she read somewhere she couldn’t get it in Korea. Yeah sure, posts on what’s going on in Seoul are helpful, but some of them are from a few years ago. There is not much I can’t find here. Even if I have to wait a few days for delivery… Countries move on ..they develop… so does their access to whole nut spread and such things.
6. Garlic bread is sweet.. only God knows why? I feel like this should have been number one to be honest. But let’s just say for arguments sake this list in no particular order. Garlic bread, your fav Mediterranean bread is sweet here. That’s right.. sweet (and often hella crunchy). Although traditional cuisine is everywhere, they do like to dabble in a bit of K-Western fusion. Tteokbokki Carbonara is a real thing… Even more baffled was I when I came across garlic bread with squirty cream on top. Next to the ice cream and jello of all places! Need I say more?
7. Taxi Drivers are Pr**ks. If you’ve researched and YouTubed to death (like me) before getting here, everyone pretty much already knows. But I’ma reiterate because it’s annoying as hell at 5am to be ignored by a taxi driver. Or they stop, ask where your’e going, and if it isn’t far enough, reply ‘no no’ and drive off. Bastards. Hate em all. loool Most effective way is to get in first then say where your going, or pimp out a Korean friend to hail one down.
8. Grand Theft Auto: Seoul Session. Traffic lights in London mean the following. Red=STOP Amber= GET SET Green=GO. And if you don’t understand basic colour warnings, there is CCTV to snap your vehicle, and send a ticket to your house. Trust me, they will find you. In Seoul, for some reason unknown to mankind, all lights regardless of colour mean go. There’s even a count down for pedestrians and drivers. Yet every time I journey to the station I feel like I’m a GTA character. Watch where you walk!
*Disclaimer All pictures are my own..*