Wandering in Seoul. Then vs. Now.
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
New Year. New Blog.
After debating whether or not to actually go through with this blog, I’ve finally decided to just stop procrastinating and start writing.
Well.. where should I start? It’s actually been almost 3 years since I’ve spontaneously decided to move to Seoul to learn Korean (or an excuse for me to legitimately live in Korea whilst doing all the awesome things Korean people do..so I’ve thought.) Don’t get me wrong, it has been such an incredible journey living in Asia after spending almost all my life in the West, especially coming from a city like Vancouver, where life is ordinary and slow-paced. Days are filled with morning yoga sessions in Lululemon leggings and having small talks with people you encounter, mostly about the weather, not much excitement besides coming across petty cliquey gossips about people you don’t even know, but most likely have heard of somehow. But anyways, I won’t get into that now. Back to living in Seoul, life here is definitely more lively and full of surprises, in good ways and bad. My daily life has been a mixture of new discoveries along with few daunting experiences here and there (for instance, I’ve had my hand, finger by finger, peeled off the hanging strap by an Ajumma on the train during rush hour. I’m dead serious.) and some other bits of culture shock, which is pretty standard, in my opinion, when you move to a country that doesn’t speak the same language as you. As much as I hate to admit it, the once ideal image of this friendly, accepting and diverse South Korea, as often perfectly painted by popular media, had somewhat shattered by the reality of actually living here. However, mentality wise, I do find myself starting to appreciate the little things more. Living in a cosmopolitan where everything and everyone is mega fast paced, it’s no surprises that people tend to be more self-absorbed and less empathetic towards one another. Therefore, whenever I encounter someone who’s willing to hold the door opened, or kindly apologizes after bumping into me, it really makes my day extra special, which is something I realized that was taken for granted when I lived back home in Canada. Let’s face it, the world we live in nowadays is not exactly all rainbows and butterflies. Terrible things happen everyday so why not appreciate the better things in life, even if they are mundane and insignificant?
Continuing with my life in Seoul, I remember when I first came here and barely spoke the language, it was challenging enough getting through with daily tasks such as ordering food at a restaurant. Unlike other countries, it’s quite unlikely to come across anyone who speaks fluent English in the street, that is why learning Korean is absolutely essential if you ever wish to live here. Not gonna lie, I’ve had several instances where people gave me shitty attitudes just because I didn’t speak their language fluently but that’s okay! Because here I am, 3 years later, am able to survive daily encounters with the Korean I’ve learned so HA! In your faces rudeass people! But really, jokes aside, I’m grateful for this kind of “special treatment” because it made me extra cautious of my Korean pronunciation. Not saying I have perfected the accent but close enough, I guess?
Another thing I want to mention is the fact that South Korea is so much more than just K-Pop, Dramas and Kimchi in every single dish, things I may have once thought were the only things existed before actually living here. Fun Fact: I actually stopped catching up with K-Pop and K-Dramas now that I live in Seoul. The reason being is that unlike what I was used to back home, which was constantly looking for things to do, Seoul is literally the city in Asia that never sleeps. Yes, NEVER because there are constantly things for you to do, no matter what time it may be. From early morning JJimjilbang (bath houses and sauna) runs to drinking and eating til sun rise or spending the whole night playing games at an Internet Cafe, you name it, there are always things for you to do here. Hell, rumour has it, people even go clubbing on Mondays, I mean, who does that?! Now I finally understand why people would have their Bachelor/Bachelorette parties in Seoul because nobody would judge you even if you start drinking at 7AM in the morning. True story. Though I’ve long past the age of excessive partying, I do find myself enjoying some of the cultured activities Seoul has to offer, such as a wide range of artistic exhibitions showing at various museums/galleries as well as different genres of musical concerts etc. Not to mention the number of Instagram-worthy coffee shops and restaurants that dominate the streets here! I’m sure anyone that has been to Seoul would agree that these eyeful places are present in almost every major neighbourhoods across town, from the less populated areas of Mangwon to tourist central Myeongdong, visually pleasing coffee shops are easily spottable. As I’m typing these lines at this very moment, I’m seated in what I would call an “industrial chic” café, sipping on a cup of latte that is easily one of the best I’ve had yet. Life feels pretty damn good right now if you ask me.
Whether it be the 24/7 food delivery systems that offer any kinds of food beyond one’s imagination, having the world’s fastest average internet speed, or surrounded by people frantically invading all of your personal space during rush hour on the train, just like any other places I’ve ever lived in, Seoul has become a city where I constantly have a love-hate relationship with. As of now, it’s uncertain how long my love affair with Seoul will last, but what I do know is that coming here was something beyond a mere coincidence. I have yet to see what this amazing city has to offer and I can’t wait to share it with you, whoever you may be.