Monday, February 24, 2014

[Living/Press Article] Things you’ll miss from Korea

It is February in Korea which signals for many the end of work contracts and time to  move on from this lovely country. Whether you’ve had a rocky time here and can’t wait to get on the plane or if you have loved every second and are fearing the teary good byes its important to stop for a moment and enjoy the crazy things you will miss once you go (even if it’s just an excuse to drag your friends out for a few more ‘farewell’ events).
Things you’ll miss from Korea:

If you have lived in Korea for even a few days you will already know the experience that is ‘Norae Bang’. If you have some how missed this phenomenon, Norae Bang translates to ‘Singing Room’ and it is just that. A room you hire for (normally) a small amount of money where you have hundreds of songs to choose from. Once you pick your song the lights start flashing, your friends play the tambourine and you sing the night away. Norabang is unique because it’s not just Karaoke, there’s something special about having your own space with friends to make private fools of yourselves. Singing rooms are starting to pop up around the world. The UK has a few establishments but the rarity means it is an expensive past time. So get to those Norabang booths now before you head home and crave those tiny singing booths and the hours of fun they bring.

Whether you love or hate Korean food you will definitely not find it easy to find it when you leave. If you are lucky enough to live in a place like LA or New Jersey you will already have small Korean towns in your cities that will supply the basics but for the rest of us we may never see red pepper sauce again. I know one or two people that think this won’t be a problem but whether it’s the huge honey pizzas, sweet potato lattes, peanut butter squid or just the ice cream there is something unique here that everyone has taken a liking too, even if it’s the novelty of cheese. I know of people that have left Korea and who send me emails begging me to send them Maxim coffee sticks and Sam Guap Sal sauce. If you are a lover of Korean food like me you will have already had to come to terms with leaving all this loveliness behind but if you haven’t given it a second thought, maybe you should spare a moment for those little touches that you loved in Korea (and if possible fill your suitcases with them).


Most people who head away from Korea are off on an adventure. You may be heading to Vietnam with family, Cambodia with your boyfriend or maybe Australia to live but all of you will be heading to different shores. This is exciting in itself but spare a moment for all the travel Korea allowed you to do. It may be expensive to get off this small part of the world but when you do the world is your oyster. Taiwan, China and Thailand are mere hours away and then of course there’s always the quick hop to Japan.
Even if you didn’t travel much around Asia during your time here the traveling and differing environments you can visit inside Korea are vast. Ski resorts and snow capped mountains, long sunny beaches, temples in the forest and tiny tropical islands are all part of the Korean experience. Before you jump on that plane and head away take a second to tip your hat to all those badly planned excursions and fantastic trips that let you see a whole lot more than you ever thought Korea had to offer.

Firstly, what is an Ajuma? Almost every foreigner I have spoke to here in Korea can give you their own interpretation of what this term means but my personal interpretation would be fiery old ladies that run this country. These visor wearing lovelies demand you take a seat on the bus, help you choose your dinner or just demand respect and they deserve it. I suppose this is an unfair category and the real thing you should be ready to miss is Korean people. There may be many differences between your nation and theirs but I haven’t meant anyone in Daegu that hasn’t been shocked at a pure act of kindness from a stranger or that doesn’t have a funny story about this loving nation. Korean people are definitely unique in the world and although we will all bump into Korean people from time to time as we travel it is a privilege to be here at the heart of their culture and society for a little while.

Love it or loath it the Korean drinking culture is by far the weirdest and most magical thing a lot of westerners have experienced. Doing shots with your local shop owner and getting drunk with your boss at 5pm is a regular story around the BBQ table in Korea. Mikgu, Soju and Makgollie have definitely passed most foreigners lips (sometimes all in one night) and they will be hard to replace. A small bottle of Soju can be found in the UK but it is being sold for the shocking price of 30,000\. Makgollie is the most unique alcoholic drink I’ve personally experienced and I don’t expect to find a replacement. Leaving behind the delicious food and conversation that comes from sitting around a strawberry Makgollie pot and ladling it to all my friends will be one of my fondest memories of this country. I may just have to start a Makgollie home brewing system when I leave.

 Public Transport
If you keep up with British news you will have recently seen the chaos that is the London subway (tube) strikes. This normal and frequent occurrence around the world is not something you would have to deal with here. Delayed subways and cancelled buses are rare. Waiting an extra 10 minutes when you watch your subway pull away from the station as you run down the stairs is probably the closest to public transport annoyances you’ll find here in Korea. It’s well run and frequent. Public transport we salute you.

 Being lost in translation
The first few days here were daunting for us all. Hangul seemed impossible to crack and the speed in which everyone talked definitely wasn’t the speed in which they spoke on your ‘learn Korean’ CD. Slowly over time you start to pick things up and this place seems less confusing but all of us from time to time, no matter how long you have been here will run into a tradition or situation that baffles us. This is something rare and the reason people travel, to be in situations you couldn’t even imagine and to come out smiling. Being an Alien in a country can come times feel just like that, like it’s a different planet. You may be traveling to other places and being even more lost in translation for the next few years but if you are heading back home to normality , take a second to realize how crazy 98% of your day is and how even crazier it is that its almost all just normal to you.

 The ‘Waygook’ card
This kind of goes hand in hand with being lost in translation but the ‘Waygook’ card is a magical thing. The word ‘Waygook’ means foreigner. The Waygook card is when you do something silly or obviously wrong but can plead ignorance because after all you aren’t from here. I know of many people that use this on a daily basis. In fairness it is normally always justified and you genuinely have no clue what’s expected of you but just sometimes it’s a fantastic buffer that you will never be given in your home country. Enjoy it while you can.

There are hundreds of things you will miss when you leave this City and Country , most of which you won’t be aware of until you go but if you are leaving us make sure to take a second and think about the wonders of Daegu and the weird time you’ve had here. You never know, you may miss it so much that you come back.

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