I lived in South Korea for 18 wonderful months and absolutely loved it. LOVED it. Of course while living in a country so different to my own there were many things I missed about home, but now that I’m back in Australia I’m finding that there are a lot of things I miss about Korea too – so many I think I’ll have to dedicate a few Friday Fives to the topic.
So, without further ado, let me present (in no particular order);
5 Things I Miss About South Korea – Part 1
#1 Ondol (온돌): My toes are frozen as I write this (thank you Melbourne winter) and all I can think about is how warm and snug my apartment in Korea was thanks to ondol, the ingenious Korean invention of heated floors. Seriously, it’s amazing… it’s like an electric blanket for your feet.
Ondol works by circulating hot water through underfloor pipes, providing the most effective and deliciously toasty heating I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing quite like coming in from the freezing cold and sprawling out on a balmy ondol-heated floor to warm up. In my experience, ondol also proved to be quite effective in quick drying underpants and thawing frozen bread in a pinch.
#2 Buzzers on restaurant tables: Sick of waiters hovering around your table before you’re ready to order? Tired of trying to attract a waiter’s attention when you actually need their assistance?
If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, then boy does Korea have a solution for you! Most Korean restaurants have a nifty buzzer system whereby each table is equipped with a doorbell-like button that, when pressed, alerts the wait staff that you require their attention – just press the buzzer and someone will be at your table in an instant! The novelty never wore off for me.
#3 Wearing slippers at work: What’s not to love about this? Slippers aren’t just acceptable footwear in Korea; in a lot ofworkplaces they are mandatory attire. How cool is that!? Not only can you relish in the novelty of being able to don bed-wear at work but your feet are super comfy and warm all day AND you don’t ruin your nice shoes! Everyone’s a winner!
This slippers at work business ties in with the Korean practice of removing your shoes before going inside… and given the amount of spit splattered on the average Korean sidewalk, it’s not a bad idea.
#4 Neon: It’s everywhere – and I mean everywhere in Korea (as if you hadn’t figured this from the header photo on this post). When I first arrived I was completely gob-smacked by the fact that just about every single building was covered in signs made from the luminous gas. It’s like the country had been invaded by rainbow-vomiting glow-worms. For real.
Upon leaving Korea I realised that I may have developed a bit of an addiction to neon. Without it, streets seem so lifeless, so dark… scary even. The humble streetlamp fails to deliver the same excitement (nor the constant humming sound) that a good dose of neon provides. Give me back my shiny lights.
#5 K-Pop: Honestly, I could probably write an entire series on K-pop – I love it that much – which is ridiculous given I don’t care all that much for pop music anywhere else in the world. K-pop is über cheesy, the lyrics are kinda lame and the music videos are unintentionally hilarious (but let’s not hold this particular music video against all K-pop, ok?) The groups are entirely manufactured and often absurdly huge (boy group Super Junior, for example, has 13 members, while girl group SNSD has 9… all singers btw). And to top it all off they have some seriously crap number-letter combination names like SS501, 2NE1, AST’1, B2ST, Se7en, 2PM and 2AM (yes, PM and AM – they are two separate groups that came from the same 11 member ensemble, One Day… and no, I’m not joking).
Lame lame lame, I know, but I love and miss it all… I miss my all-time favourite group (Big Bang) and my husband-to-be (T.O.P. from Big Bang… he just doesn’t know it yet). I miss hearing K-pop being blasted out of every shopfront and bonding with my students over our shared love of the Wonder Girls and MC Mong (let me be clear here, I taught Kindergarten and Elementary). Ahh, K-pop, how I miss thee… at least we always have youtube to keep us together.
Check out part 2 of this post: 5 More Things I Miss About South Korea