I’ve fallen for Korea pretty hard.
A few weeks ago, I posted the first half of all the things I love most about life in the land of fiery kimchi, soju and K-pop.
Here’s part two of the 50 things I love most about living in South Korea.
26. Cute Cafes.
With whimsical lights, enchanting patios and picture-perfect treats and drinks.
F-Story, 460-24, Seoyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
27. Themed Cafes.
From poop cafes to meerkat cafes, Korea’s themed cafes put an interesting spin on grabbing coffee with a friend.
At Racoonamatata in Busan, my friend and I slurped back our drinks while playing with toe-nibbling, arm-scratching raccoons. We accidentally helped one of the raccoons escape out of the enclosed “raccoon playing” area into the main cafe, causing some distressing (although, entertaining) chaos during innocent bystanders’ coffee dates.
You can read more about my themed cafe experiences by clicking on the links below.
28. 1+1 Deals.
What’s 1+1=? Free! Well, at least that’s what it means here in Korea. Convenience store chains are insistent on giving away freebies.
There is always a promotion going on at 7-Eleven, GS25 and CU. My personal favourite promotion is a 1+1 deal. Buy one, get one free! Yes, these stores are giving away free chocolate bars, water bottles (which I appreciate so much more now that it’s monsoon season and disgustingly humid), beer, and potato chips. I’m still confused as to why they are so eager to give away free products, but it’s definitely something I don’t complain about.
A mountain of shaved ice, smothered by an endless list of toppings, including: green tea, cheesecake, Oreos, red bean, and strawberries. Is there any better treat to beat the summer heat? Although, I’ll admit, I’ve been eating this genius and addictive creation throughout the entire year (even when it’s snowing outside).
30. Humorous Knockoffs.
I live in Boseong – a tiny, rural town with 10,000 people, of which most are over the age of 80. They insist on wearing mismatched prints head-to-toe, with wide-brimmed visors to shield their entire bodies from the sun.
With this demographic, it’s truly puzzling that this would be where Abercrombie & Fitch decided to set up shop in Korea. But, what’s even more puzzling is that Boseong’s A&F doesn’t sell a single moose-embellished polo or a single bottle of the overwhelmingly fierce, “Fierce” cologne. Instead, it sells a curious selection of Nike, Adidas, Crocs and New Balance shoes.
31. Baseball Games.
The four Cs of what makes baseball games in Korea awesome and the perfect activity for an evening out with friends: Cheap tickets, Cheap snacks, Cheap beer, and Choreographed cheering.
32. Themed Trains.
Long train rides can be boring. But, in Korea, a fun twist makes traveling by train exciting and something to look forward to.
Themed trains run through different parts of the country and provide unique experiences representing the regions through which they operate.
I took the S-Train from Boseong to Busan, which comes equipped with a music-themed bar, a tea ceremony room, and a wild noraebang (karaoke) party room (filled with a group of middle-aged, soju-tipsy, Korean women in matching outfits, serenading one another with Korean love songs).
I’ve only had the chance to take the S-Train, although, I’ve heard rumours that other train lines include a DJ, spa foot baths, seats that face out the windows (to soak up all of Korea’s rich, mountainous scenery), and even a glow-in-the-dark room.
For more information about the themed trains routes and services, click here.
33. Outdoor Food Markets.
With all types of deep-fried, sugar-overloaded, and fiery hot street foods, these outdoor dining experiences are a food lover’s paradise.
Vendors set up their stalls as mini, fast-food dining joints, complete with counters, tables and bar stools. These tiny eateries can only hold a few people at a time and double as bars, serving beer, makgeolli, and soju. For a cheap and quick way to fill your belly and get a little tipsy, outdoor food markets are where to go.
Read more about one of my favourite outdoor food markets, Gwangjang Market, here.
Speaking of outdoor food markets, this is how I discovered my favourite street food, hotteok.
I am seriously obsessed with this fried treat, stuffed with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Whenever I see a stand selling hotteok, I make a beeline for them and practically swallow them whole, one after another.
I never thought I would say this, but getting naked and bathing with a bunch of strangers has become one of my favourite activities in Korea.
Yep, I’ve come a long way since my first, traumatizing visit to a jjimjilbang (Korean bathhouse), which you can read all about here.
I never knew true honesty until I moved to Korea. But, through all of the interactions with Koreans I’ve had this year, I’ve realized that this can be both bad and good.
Bad Honesty: Coworkers telling you you don’t look well when you’re not wearing makeup.
I like to think of “bad honesty” as a sign of my coworkers showing concern for my well-being.
Good Honesty: Leaving your phone and laptop on the table at a cafe and finding them still there when you’ve come back from the restroom. Losing your wallet at a convenience store and going back three months later to have the clerk return it to you – untouched. Accidentally putting too much money in the fare box on a crowded bus and having the bus driver pull over (albeit, bitterly) to the side of the road to make sure every last coin is returned to you.
Koreans are the most honest people I have ever met. And, I’ve realized that to experience all of the good forms of honesty, you must be willing to take the bad as well. So, don’t forget to put on makeup to spare yourself this honest conversation!
37. Matching Couple Outfits.
Date night planning is a lot more complicated in Korea than in Canada. Not only do you have to decide on an activity to do and somewhere to eat, but also an outfit to match with your date’s.
Young, Korean couples show their love for one another to the world by dressing in couple outfits. From head-to-toe, couples match everything including: hats, sunglasses, t-shirts, shorts, bags, and even phone cases. I really can’t imagine myself doing this ever – I mean, I’m incredibly lazy and rarely leave my house with makeup on. But, I do appreciate the efforts and the entertainment value of seeing young couples in love sporting matching Pokémon sweatshirts.
38. Mural Villages.
Bright and colourful neighbourhoods can be found all throughout Korea. These mural villages are the results of creative projects to revitalize previously run-down communities.
Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village is my favourite mural village. This hillside neighbourhood is covered with vibrant, multicoloured homes and art installations. Click here to read more about this picturesque Busan neighbourhood.
THE one stop shop for anything and everything you need, whenever you need it.
40. Fried Chicken.
If you’ve been reading my posts, you may have noticed how much I talk about fried food. I love fried food and KFC (
Kentucky Korean Fried Chicken) is no exception. Chicken restaurants are everywhere. I can count more chicken restaurants in my town than ATM machines. Korean chicken is dangerously delicious and is typically served with pickled radishes (they grow on you) and an array of dipping sauces.
41. Organized + Cheap Medication.
Being sick when you’re living alone, away from home sucks. There’s nothing worse than being sick as a dog, crying to yourself, wishing your mother would magically appear in your apartment, chicken noodle soup in hand.
But, Korea’s health care is pretty awesome and makes being sick slightly more manageable. Visits to the pharmacy are quick, easy, and shockingly cheap. What makes it even better is leaving with all of your medicine perfectly planned and organized for you by day and time of day. Although, the only thing still missing is that bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Going out on the town with friends has a whole other meaning in Korea.
Noraebangs are private singing rooms you and your mates can rent out by the hour to sing your hearts out (humiliate yourself in a safe space) to each other. Some include loft platforms, bean bag chairs, instruments, light shows, and even costumes to make for an even more Korean night out (as if it wasn’t enough already).
43. Love Motels.
I LOVE love motels! Alright, don’t jump to any conclusions now!
Yes, love motels have a bad rap and can be a little dodgy. But, if you’re not bothered by what the name of this type of accommodation suggests, they can be a cheap alternative to hotels. But, there is another reason why I LOVE love motels so much – the incredibly interesting and quirky choices of decor for the rooms. Which, ranges from questionably translated love poems, written all over the walls to completely themed rooms featuring a giant ramen cup which serves as the bed.
I was lucky enough to stay in a room once with a disco ball, hanging over a mosaic, Jacuzzi tub, which was positioned in the centre of the room. Thank goodness for the orange tassel curtains surrounding the tub, or it may have made sharing this room with my platonic, male friend slightly uncomfortable.
44. Side Dishes.
When going to a restaurant, you can expect more side dishes than the actual size and cost of the meal itself. Not only that, but they arrive at your table seconds after you sit down. NOT ONLY THAT (yes, there’s more!), once they’ve been inhaled by you and your friends, they are immediately refilled.
That’s Korean service for you!
45. Mild Winters.
I did not miss Canadian winters this year.
46. Cheap Phone Plans.
I am ashamed to admit how much I used to spend on my monthly phone bill in Canada. Month after month, I believed that I was immune to data usage overage fees and would test my luck by streaming YouTube videos for five hours straight without connection to WiFi. Gasp!
But, in Korea, I am immune. I’ve tested my luck and I’m unstoppable. Phone plans are cheap. Crazy cheap. I spend $30 CAD a month for my plan and watch not five, not six, but seven straight hours of cat videos on YouTube without connection to WiFI or putting a dent in my wallet.
47. Movie Theatres.
Cheap tickets and a transparent bring-in-your-own-snacks-if-you-want policy. Going to the theatre has never felt so fair and honest.
Korean snack culture is insane! There is such an overwhelming variety of snacks lining the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores, that I’ve barely scratched the surface of taste testing them all.
Not only are there so many different types of snacks, but there are also so many mind-blowing, “who would ever think of that?!” kinds of shapes, styles and flavours. Everything from shrimp and mayonnaise corn chips, butter caramel Pringles, onion ring chips that look and taste exactly like onion rings, watermelon popsicles shaped like watermelon slices, dried churro sticks, milk soda, canned coffee (available both hot and cold), honey potato chips, to coconut puffs.
49. Food Delivery.
Lightning speed food delivered via scooter, anywhere you are. Well, I suppose there are limits. I’ve only tested this “anywhere” claim as far as the park and the beach. But, I was still amazed that this could be done without a physical address.
From the friendly, kind, and hospitable to the ajummas that push me out of their way to get on the bus, then motion for me to carry their heavy sack of potatoes on to the bus. Koreans are some of the greatest, kindest, and selfless people I have had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with. Even the ajummas have their own redeeming qualities. Although they can be terrifyingly demanding, they can also show slight glimpses of their soft sides. I know I’m in an ajumma’s good books, when she stuffs free clementines into my backpack, then shoves me out of her way.