This blog post is long over due. I was actually beginning to question why I was holding off on writing about my now month-and-a-half-long stay in Seoul, South Korea and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure why but it is what it is. I’ve been busy adapting, I guess.
So, Seoul. Where to begin? Maybe I’ll start by mentioning that you can make ramen in convenience stores. Or that you get free, refillable sides and water at every single restaurant you enter. But I won’t discuss the food here right now in the case that I leave this post in my drafts AGAIN just to go stuff my face with the best cuisine I’ve ever tasted in my life. Seriously.
Anyway… From face value, Seoul appears as a technologically well-versed metropolis that runs on a mix of social, pop and drinking cultures; all of which I have become extremely fond of or intrigued by. I’m excited to see how my feelings develop or change along the year-long way but as of now, my opinions are as follows:
The social culture here is something I’m fascinated by; in many ways ‘Korean social life’ is incredibly similar to that of my hometown in London, but then again, it’s so vastly different. (This is all based purely off my experience with Korean natives of course, but) I’ve been strongly welcomed into Seoul, particularly by the familial energy of some of the older women who practically hug me into their restaurants and cook warm and ‘home-y’ food, or those who show a sweet smile when I attempt to communicate in my lacking Korean. With the younger generation, I feel a slight intimidation, for example on the subway, seeing as I’m a short Latin girl with hair down to my legs, I stand out, which tends to invite a lot of stares.
Out for 치킨 (korean chicken, otherwise known as the best thing I’ve ever tasted)
But at the same time, the young Koreans I have met and gotten to know have made me feel more comfortable than I ever have with strangers. As it seems, there is an uninhibited quality in the way Koreans approach the process of creating relationships, which I find so different from in the West. Maybe the best way to describe it is a frankness in demonstrating their interest in you and spending time together, which I think is a more coded process of forming ‘closeness’ in at least England, for sure. And then drinking culture plays into Korean social life a lot too, because as I’ve come to learn, Korea likes alcohol. Loves it. And it’s so cheap. Dirt cheap. Imagine paying less than a British pound for a 500ml bottle of Korean soju. Once again, I won’t get into it too much in case I’m tempted to leave my desk, but wow, I really do love Seoul.
Then, we have the ever-growing status of Korean popular culture, which interestingly enough I was already familiar with before coming to Seoul, however, seeing it from a directly Korean perspective has changed some of my feelings towards it. Korean pop music, television dramas, make up, skin care; all of these industries are in the process of mass growth internationally and I think this is because there’s no room left to spare in Korea, particularly in Seoul. The mainstream is overexposed. This city runs on an image of perfection and at every corner, you can see how pop culture is used to promote this through the endorsements of actors, singers, essentially the most ideal and beautiful people posted just about everywhere; on every taxi cab and soju bottle. In fact, I might hold onto this conversation of Seoul’s capitalist identity as I want to develop my thoughts a little more on how the concept of pop culture is overshadowing other and arguably more important aspects of Korean life… Might be a bit heavy for a first impressions post, so I’ll just say this:
This entry has not even covered a fraction of my life here thus far, but I’m excited to turn this blog into an archive of experiences that I’ve had and will have in the near future. Sick. See ya.