Things I Love About Living in Seoul
We’re currently on our final plane to Seoul from a week-long trip to Lisbon and Porto, and this post title belies my true feelings about our return. The truth is, I’m dreading returning to the crowded city where I’m bumped into and pushed every which way I turn without an apology, ‘excuse me,’ or even a thought or glance. Being in Portugal where the lifestyle seems to be smiling, giving space, and taking things slow reminded me of how much these little gestures and customs matter to me, and inspired me to persist with them in Korea.
So, rather than bemoan the 빨리빨리 culture of Seoul and all the stress that comes with it, I’m keeping in mind the things I love about living here and am excited to get back to.
Though the emphasis on ‘efficiency’ can be anxiety-inducing, it does come in handy. The primary goal of the service industry in Korea is to get customers what they need or want as quickly as possible. There’s an order to most day-to-day events—finding a table in a food court is something that’s done for you by the individuals who work there—and even if there’s a queue, you’ll rarely find yourself waiting too long. This spans from food, where your meal and check arrive within five to ten minutes of ordering and anything else can be added at the literal ring of a bell, to shopping, where a sales associate is available at every turn of the store and every one will ask to help you find what you are looking for, to even banking, where your online transfer will be delivered to the recipient the instant you press send.
In contrast to Europe, where you have to pay for water and the bread basket before your meal, and sometimes even to use a restroom, in Korea, water, tea, soup, side dishes, and even bigger food items are given as ‘services’ (and you’re not supposed to tip), and not only is there free access to clean public restrooms, there’s almost always free WiFi access anywhere you go, even on public transportation.
This might be an #unpopularopinion, but strawberries in the States suck. I always thought I should love them—in theory, everything about strawberries is something I would love—but even if they’re organic or from a farmers market, they’re tart, and eating them with sugar or honey defeats the purpose. Strawberries in Korea? Wow. You could buy generic-packaged ones from any grocery store and every strawberry in that package would be the sweetest and juiciest strawberry you’ve ever eaten. This goes for all fruits. Fruits are expensive in Korea, but they’re also exponentially more delicious. Even Andrew, who is the anti-sweet tooth, couldn’t help himself from having seconds and thirds.
four distinct seasons
I’ve only lived in the northeast in the States, which meant going from summer to winter and back again, with maybe a week or two of ‘spring’ and ‘fall’ each. Korea has four distinct and true seasons, and while this may be unbearable in the summer and winter, it’s lovely in the spring and fall (my favorite season), when we have full months of moderate temperature and rotating blooms and foliage. Best of all (maybe not so much for Andrew), they’re seasons of mostly sun, with little precipitation outside of 장마, or monsoon season.
At the least, I’ve left Portugal in high spirits and with a renewed appreciation for the little things. And if those things aren’t feasible here, there are other little things I can appreciate.
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