Well the blog was put aside and forgotten a bit as we adjusted to our new home and new jobs. Now that we’ve got the routine though, we are planning on writing a series of general observations of Korea from our everyday lives, as well as posts on some of the bigger adventures. This first one is strictly about Korean culture, particularly compared with our own American culture. Many more cultural goodies will be seen in an upcoming post on Korean education and teaching in Korean. So this post will just be a few short, simple thoughts until next time.
First, Koreans are generally less concerned about showing class differences. In fact, my impression is that there is a much smaller deviation of class differences. It is very rare to see someone and think, “Whoa, that dude’s loaded.” People aren’t as flashy as in the States, and people’s wealth is not as apparent through what they own. Most neighborhoods pretty similar, with simple apartments, no houses, and similar shops and restaurants. With the exception of uber-rich Gangnam and foreign-dominated Itaewon, Korean neighborhoods have similar feels.
Next, Seoul, for being the world’s 11th most populous city, is quite beautiful. I’m astonished to have otherwise from other foreigners. Running has given me ample opportunity to see Seoul on foot and to go where I wouldn’t otherwise go. The city is a very lush green, and with Autumn just setting it, the leaves are beginning to change, and all the tree-lined streets are pleasant as pie. The city is surrounded in all directions by beautiful green hills and the occasional rocky outcropping resembling a mountain. The city spreads outward in either direction from the Han River. The Han has been beautifully kept, and walking and bike paths line it for further than I can run. Gardens and parks abound along its shores, and it has become a happy destination for me 4 or five times a week.
Sadly, Korean food is nothing to write home about. Koreans have won my heart in many things, but their cuisine isn’t one of them. Kimchi (pickled vegetables in chili sauce), a side dish with almost any meal, is occasionally good, but more often than not, is not very appetizing. Koreans eat meat with almost every meal, and they enjoy an uncanny amount of dishes with hot dog in them. Korean BBQ is pretty tasty and enjoyable to cook, but it never leaves me feeling very good after (maybe it’s the soju). That being said, we have found a few good dishes in Korea- visitors would do well to find shabu shabu (a delicious spicy soup cooked at your table, followed by fried rice), bimsu (shaved ice flakes in all sorts of flavors), mandu (traditional dumplings), and of course, bubble tea.
Koreans also seem to get angry more often than most cultures I’ve seen. This could be related to their famously large drinking capacities, but scarcely a night goes by when, even on our quiet street, we aren’t wakened by some sort of wild dispute in the wee hours of the morning. Since my Korean is a random lexicon of words with little grammatical structure, I can only guess at the reasons, but I say with confidence that they are private disputes and not criminal activity. Seoul is incredibly safe, and I would have no problems wandering anywhere in the city at any time of night.