I got an ask about how my sister has experienced living / working in Korea, and thought maybe more people would be interested in that, seeing as most people who are into k-pop will also have a certain interest in the country itself!
- Seoul is a very odd mixture of old and modern, western and Korean. Basically you’ll find skyscrapers next to an old temple, and you have ultra fast internet access everywhere while there are still people in the streets towing their goods in old-fashioned wooden carts.
- ‘Beautiful’ isn’t a word she’d use to describe Seoul: when you compare it to a city like Paris or Venice there is no contest at all. It lacks the historical center most European cites have (instead the old buildings are more scattered). Rather, she’d describe it as ‘exciting’ or ‘interesting’, all the more so, of course, because it’s very different than she’s used to.
- It’s very evident that Korea is / has become a Christian country. You can spot a church tower at almost every corner and on Sundays the streets will fill with people dressed at their Sunday best, Bibles in hand.
- My sis spent an earlier summer in Tokyo, and naturally started comparing a lot of things. One of the most obvious differences to her were the people: in general they were a lot ‘rowdier’ (loudly talking in their phones, conversations on the street etc.) and also more open to contact. If she took the subway in Tokyo, for example, she’d feel the whole compartment stare at her, but as soon as she looked up everyone would look away and busy themselves reading the newspaper or whatever. Here people might talk to her to practice their English a little. In that sense she liked the atmosphere in Seoul better (though sometimes people could get a bit too rowdy, in traffic for example, where you really had to watch your back.)
- Through the various variety programs it had already become evident that Koreans liked to drink, and proved to be right. It’s common to see men go drink a beer or two after work before heading home (for women, on the contrary, this isn’t common at all.) In general Koreans can hold their liquor better than the Japanese can, but if she drank with Koreans they’d still get red-faced or rowdy when she’d barely emptied half of her glass.
- K-pop is everywhere, basically. In shops, on tv (almost every ad has at least one idol in it) and also in clubs. Though it was to be expected, it’s still good to hear that Big Bang was the most prominent of all! On the radio they’d often play Blue, Monster, and Fantastic Baby, and also older hits like Haru Haru and Tonight. In the clubs, Fantastic Baby was very popular, alongside High High and 2ne1’s I am the Best. Most popular of all, though, evidently was Psy’s Gangnam Style: the song was everywhere and she’d described it as ‘her Seoul song’ (all the more so because she stayed in Gangnam herself) Therefore she was really surprised when some time later people at home started posting on Facebook and the like, haha
- Speaking of clubs: there are endless options for a night out: you could probably stay there for two weeks and go to a different club every night and not get bored (though evidently tired haha). So yeah, Seoul’s nightlife is famous for a reason, then!
- Fashion-wise most young people are dressed trendy and always have their eyes fixed on their smartphones. Older people are not so very fashionable and can be seen wearing tracksuits and the like.
- One of the things that was advertised most for, was plastic surgery: you could see a lot of posters or billboards with before-and-after pictures (usually of eye and nose corrections, but also to make the face look slimmer.) This wasn’t really a surprise because evidently Korea is a country with one of the highest plastic surgery rates, but still it’s kind of weird to see it advertised so openly and so much (here you’d only find those kind of advertisements in the back of some trashy magazine)
- Koreans love food, which is only natural, because Korean food is love, basically, haha. I suppose everyone who’s ever visited a Korean restaurant will know what I’m talking about. It’s to be expected, then, that half the emails and pictures my sis sent were dedicated to some new dish she’d tried, haha, be it sea food or some weird candy or good old-fashioned Korean bbq. Special mention for the ice cream which is apparently heaven and which you can get in countless different flavours (I see where you’re coming from T.O.P, haha)
- Despite being a metropolis, Seoul is quite cheap: you can get a good meal for only four euros (!!!) and a fifteen-minute taxi drive won’t cost you more than 1,5 euros (!!!!) This is very pleasant if you’ll be staying there for awhile, obviously, and again a stark contrast with Tokyo where everything is just ridiculously expensive.
- The weather in Seoul during summer can best be described as ‘hot’, basically. Often the sky is cloudy (she says she’d hardly seen a blue sky) so any pictures will be quite misleading: it may look like only 15 degrees but it really is above 30. There were also a lot of sudden, heavy rain showers.
- The English of most Koreans isn’t that good: they can say some things, but either they’re too shy to carry on a real conversation or they’re simply unable to. Some of the people my sis worked with would just talk in Korean to her, knowing full well she wouldn’t understand a word.
- The North Korean situation is in the news daily and you will come across American bases right in the center of town (which is off-limits for normal people) and also often see military men on the street, in front of you in line at the grocery store, etc. It isn’t like it influences everyone’s daily life, but it’s always there in the background.
- Overall it is a very exciting city, and she’d definitely recommend anyone to visit :)