Leaving Seoul Behind

서울 - Seoul

서울 - Seoul

The morning of the 23rd of December 2017 did not feel real. It was cold and chilly and dark when I stepped out on the streets of 동대문구 [Dongdaemun-gu], the past four months of my life packed in a suitcase and a 40 liter backpack. I breathed in everything – that small Chinese restaurant that just opened a few weeks ago, electricity wires hanging between the old pittoresque houses, the familiarity of rolling down the metro stairs at Korea University station exit 3.

Leaving Seoul felt like leaving another universe behind and entering a new one. And it kind of was exactly like that.

20170827_191726.jpg

All the faces, old ladies making delicious 비빔밥 [bibimbap] and 김밥 [gimbap] in small home-like restaurants at street corners, smiling couples streaming out of multiple floor Kakao Friends shops and the fun and noisy yet never anxious nightlife of 이태원 [Itaweon] are all something that I have never seen anywhere else. Not to mention the wide Han river dividing the city and the mountains surrounding it, creating one of the most beautiful city skylines in the world, together with the modern skyscrapers of Gagnam. All that life and that peace, all the contradictions and harmony, all that roughness and that beauty in one city – it is incredible. And how it all blends together and creates something so unique and exciting. In Seoul, there is an adventure waiting behind every street corner. And they come in all sizes from very small and cute to huge and breathtaking. I am still amazed and I will always be extremely grateful that I have had the privilege to be a part of all that.

한강 - Han Gang

한강 - Han Gang

When we sat for the fifth hour stuck on the plane waiting for a permission to take off it felt like life wanted to give me some extra time to deal with my contradictory feelings about leaving South Korea. I was so excited to see Australia, but I was definitely not done with Seoul.

It is magical to experience – even more so to live in – a city for the very first time. You can of course always go back but it will never be quite the same. A whole new world filled with secrets to discover and new interesting people to talk to. Streets that you will observe to transform from strange to familiar. New language that first seems weird slowly starts to make you feel like home.

The charm of a new beginning, when our mind is not spoiled yet by what we already know – or what we think we know. The freedom to start from a clean slate. And even if it will be a return, Seoul is definitely a city that I want to go back to. 

Fall 2017 I fell in love with Seoul.

Lovely Dove-pendant by  YO ZEN . 

Lovely Dove-pendant by YO ZEN

You Complete Me

We all know the feeling. Everything is in place and looking good. But something seems to be missing. There is room for something unexpected and imaginative. In the middle of all the clean and neat and nice we want to spice things up - add a little something. 

I absolutely love simple and stylish outfits but they do sometimes require adding a little edge. The xxx -earrings by YCM have become one of my favorite pairs. There is something almost radical in their simple form and strong coloring. This pair can add color and complete very different outfits. 

XXX in Seoul. 

XXX in Seoul. 

YCM's xxx can complete different outfits. On the left enjoying a brunch with a friend in  Vestiarium  Seoul shirt. On the right heading out to a fashion show wearing Moomin Senja dress by  Ivana Helsinki . 

YCM's xxx can complete different outfits. On the left enjoying a brunch with a friend in Vestiarium Seoul shirt. On the right heading out to a fashion show wearing Moomin Senja dress by Ivana Helsinki

Skyscrapers, edgy forms, interesting color combinations, Finnish melancholy and the beauty of nature inspire the YCM designer Janttu. It is amazing to see how the impressive nature of her sources of inspiration is so powerfully reflected in her work. The charismatic pieces are made with love and also ethically manufactured.

YCM Caraluna earrings are a great example of a more melancholic and  piece that can add a some cool nordic drama to a simple dress. YCM jewelry indeed adds a little something to every outfit. They complete the style and the vibe. 

Yours,

Meri

YCM Caraluna. 

YCM Caraluna. 

Dreamy coffee moment feat. YCM Caraluna. 

Dreamy coffee moment feat. YCM Caraluna. 

The Funny Little Things

The everyday life here and probably all over the world is pretty much the same. People go to work or school, they spend time with family and friends. Everyone has the same basic hopes and desires, fears and worries. Life is the same same - but different. And the difference often comes in the form of funny little things. And often times these things are not better or worse, they are just different. And sometimes a little confusing. So, here are some small everyday differences that I have noticed between the Nordics and South-Korea. 

Everything is cute

Cuteness seems to be something highly appreciated by everyone regardless their age or gender. I was having a conversation with a 20-something Korean guy about Pokemons. "My favourite is Eevee", he said. When I asked why his answer was very clear: "Because it is so CUTE!". 

You can also notice this by walking around the city and checking out packagings of different goods. And honestly, where else in the world do you think you could find this kind of coffee? C.THROUGH [씨스루] in Seoul is one of the best coffee shops in the world. And probably the cutest. 

20171222_150211.jpg

 

Everything is sweet

What about some potato chips to have a nice salty snack? Great idea, but you can forget the salty part. Everything and I mean literally almost every single snack you find on a regular convenient store contains sugar. Often a lot of it. Pocky sticks are popular here - you know these slim biscuit sticks with chocolate coat. I was heading to my Korean class and wanted to have a small salty snack. At the convenient store I found they also have a cheese version. "Fun! Salty Pocky sticks", I thought. Wrong. They were sweet too. Very sweet. Definitely the first (and maybe the last) time I have eaten sweet cheese. 

20180109_121425.jpg

Brushing your teeth everywhere

Yes, you read right. This is something that I noticed already during my very first week in Korea. It happens everywhere. In metro station and department store bathrooms, even at the university corridors. In Europe we are taught to brush our teeth twice a day but living in Seoul has definitely made me question the sufficiency of my dental hygiene. 

Sleeping in the metro

Let's face it - this happens occasionally in Helsinki and Stockholm as well. But in South-Korea it is a collective past-time for people traveling on public transport. Especially early in the morning or late in the evening you can easily find yourself being the only person actually having their eyes open during the ride. Other legit places to sleep are for example the dressing room at the gym or at the back of the class. Basically anywhere works. Just close your eyes and give it a go. No one will judge.

Opening your umbrella when it is barely raining

Two drops of water from the sky is considered rain in Korea. Time to pull out your umbrella. There are probably two reasons for this. First of all, rain can easily spoil your carefully done make-up and hair. For the second, sometimes acid rain occurs so it is only smart to cover. Especially during the summer it can be pretty rainy and Koreans are very good at keeping up to date on the weather forecasts.

20180109_121113.jpg

Ice Americano

This is a thing here. Especially during the summer you will get your coffee cold if you don't specifically ask for a hot one. And when you do, people will think you are crazy. "It is +30 degrees and you are drinking HOT coffee??". Well, I grew up believing that coffee was supposed to be enjoyed hot..? However, Korean people have their coffee cold. And they drink a lot of it. Finnish people be aware, if these guys keep up the pace you might loose the glorious position of No.1 coffee drinkers in the world.

Give and receive with two hands

Especially when you do not know the person or want to show respect, you always give and take things with both hands. An alternative way is to place your left hand lightly on the lower part of your arm. 

Age

Age is extremely important in Korea. It will most likely be among the first questions your receive and it is not because people are being impolite or simply curious. They need to know your age in order to know how they should address you and how to speak to you. If a guy is older than me for example, I am supposed to call him oppa, which literally means "older brother". You can hear many Korean girls using this word on a flirty child-like tone while talking to their boyfriends. Also older sister and younger brother and sister have their own terms. 

Another fun fact related to age is that Korean people actually have two ages. The international one and a Korean one. In Korea a person is considered to be one year old when they are born and everyone turns one year older at the beginning of the year. For example, if you happen to be born 31st December, you are one year the day you were born. The next day (1st January) you will be two years old - even if you are actually just two days old. Because of this system, the difference between the person's international and Korean age is 1-2 years depending on the time of the year.   

Drinking

People here drink at least as much as in Finland. Our MT (Membership Training) at the university was like a South-Korean version of a Finnish summerhouse party. You gather to a house outside the city. Main program for the evening is to drink soju and get wasted. In the end you just pass out wherever. Basically the difference is that here people drink soju and beer, in the Nordics we have vodka instead of soju.

In the bars you normally have to order something small to eat while drinking. If you are allowed to order only a drink (in which case the waiter will most likely think you are a hard core drunk) they will always bring you at least a cup filled with salt sticks or some rice-based snacks. Another thing to remember is that you are not supposed to pour your own drinks. A friend should do that for you. Normally the youngest person at the table is supposed to serve the older ones. 

Rasberrywine, fresh soju and another form of soju. 

Rasberrywine, fresh soju and another form of soju. 

All Kinds of Couply Things

Dating in Korea is huge. When two people have found each other they are definitely not hiding it. Quite the contrary. It is very common to see couples walking on the streets wearing similar shirts, backpacks or even jackets. A local friend of mine said sometimes the couples even call each other in the morning to coordinate their underwear. Finding a partner is one of the most important things for a young Korean person and dating is very popular. Many people go to blind dates that their friends organize for them. It is common to celebrate not only anniversaries but also being a week together, a month together and half a year together. There are two Valentines days in a year. One at the end of the year which the girl is supposed to organize and The Valentines day in February which the guy organizes. Often times the guy is supposed to go bigger with his surprise and present in February. Dating in South-Korea is still very heteronormative and being gay is still a big tabu.  

 

What do you think about these differences? What kind of funny little things have you noticed during you travels? Let me know and leave a comment! ^^