All posts by Florentina

Daily Life in South Korea Pt.II

High-tech toilets, smileys which look like a butt, life jackets in water parks, funny holidays with black noodles and teaching videos in the metro, which show you how to use the escalator in the right way – that’s South Korea with part II. 

 

 

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Rarely items: tampons, sunscreen, and deodorant

That is actually a tip for whole Asia. Especially when you are “Westerner” you shouldn’t forget to bring tampons, sunscreen, and deodorant. Because it is hard to get and in most cases really expensive. Of course, I forgot my deodorant and had to buy a bottle in Korea. Funny thing, it was German deodorant. I was lucky and got a discount but still paid five times more than I would have paid at home. Most Asians don’t use deodorant since they supposedly don’t sweat as much as the rest of the world. Another thing you should know: the perfect beauty ideal is white skin in Asia (for Asians: the perfect beauty ideal in Europe is to become brown from the sun, I know really ironical). That is also a reason why you have whitener in many beauty products but also in sunscreen. Furthermore, the sun protection factor (SPF) is really high and the cream extremely expensive. You should be aware of it. So if you are more the type of “I want to become brown in my holidays” you should bring your own.

 

The silent place of Korea

Actually, that’s a German thing. We call toilets “stilles Örtchen”, what means something like a “silent place”. Nothing is more ambivalent in Korea as their toilets. On the one hand, they still have some really simple toilets with a hole in the ground and flush like they have almost everywhere in South East Asia (but then most times without a flush). On the other hand, they have this really luxurious toilets with an extra remote control. There you have different water flushes and shower. Once my toilet also had a button for water sounds what is really crazy, but also kind of useful. In some public places as restaurants or hotels, Koreans have extra toilet shoes for the general use.

 

Frodo, Ryan and Apeach – the first friends you’ll have
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Con and Muzi

I felt really often that Korea has from everything kind of his own company, product or version. Everything I bought seemed to be “made in Korea” what is really impressive how one country supports itself. Korea has also his own messenger app for cell phones to chat with friends. It’s called Kakao Talk and has its own smileys which are really famous here. You can also buy merchandise article from the famous Kakao Talk friends. There are seven and a half characters, a half because Con the small Crocodile is actually always stuck with Muzi. Muzi is a yellow radish in a rabbit-looking disguise and according to the official page was magically brought alive by Con – seriously, I’m not kidding.

Other Kakao Talk friends are the fashion-conscious cat Neo and the city dog Frodo (I believe the favourite movies of the creator of Kakao friends is Matrix and The Lord of the Rings), the choleric duck Tube and according to the creators a “stylish secret agent” called Jay-G, I would say it’s a bear with an Afro and sunglasses.

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Ryan – the lion as toy

Furthermore, there is Ryan, the lion, which looks (sorry Koreans) totally like a teddy bear. According to the creators, it is a lion without a mane. To be honest, I thought first that my Korean friends thought it is a lion since the “L” and “R” is really similar in Korean or actually for them it’s kind of the same letter. So when they say “Ryan” it’s more called like “Lyan” – but I took a look and unfortunately, the creator thinks really he drew a lion.

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Apeach

Oh yeah, and the last Kakao friend I want to introduce is “Apeach”. I think I’m not the only foreigner who thought (again, I’m sorry Koreans) that Korea has a pink butt as a smiley. But according to the creators, they draw a peach which actually likes to show its butt(s). But also the creators had to admit that especially the backside of this funny fruit reminds of something else than a peach.

 

Instructions in the subway – or how to use the escalator

I have the feeling Koreans really love to instruct others. A really good example is the videos on the screens of the metro stations in Seoul. There the government shows in little videos how to use an escalator in the right way – pay attention to your shoes, don’t run but use the handrail. Furthermore, you learn how to wash your hands correctly, what happens if you don’t buy a ticket, why it is important to pay attention when you leave the train (don’t hear music, sing and dance and fall in the gap between the  train and the kerb), what a pregnancy seat is, how to leave the train correctly or also how to stand on the train without being in the way of others. In my opinion, some of the videos are really funny but some also have a really important message as against suicide and for situations of emergency.

 

The secret of the fountain of youth Koreas

The last secret I share with you is the one about the fountain of youth Koreas. Many people think Koreans look in general younger as they are. Especially, Europeans and Americans think it is hard to estimate the age of Koreans. Okay, one of the reasons will be probably that Koreans are older in Korea than in (almost the whole) the rest of the world. In Korea age starts already by one when you are born and continues counting with every New Year after the Chinese calendar. This different system makes you one to two years older than you actually are in the rest of the world (of course, there are some exceptions in East Asia as parts of China, Japan, Mongolia or Vietnam).

By the way, the argument “I’m older” is a really important one in Korea and can help you in almost every conversation. Elderly people enjoy a really high reputation in Korea and have some advantages over young people. Besides, Koreans always talk really formal to older people.

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Kimchi

Furthermore, South Korea is really famous for its many beauty products as anti-aging-creams or also some plastic surgeries. But the mother of a friend told us she learned about the real reason by googling it. And Google says the secret of Korean women is the really healthy Kimchi which Koreans eat every day.

 

Click here to read part I:
Daily life in South Korea Pt.I

 

 

 

Daily Life in South Korea Pt.I

High-Tech toilets, smileys which look like a butt, life jackets in water parks, funny holidays with black noodles and teaching videos in the metro which show you how to use the escalator in the right way – that’s South Korea.

 

 

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I had the chance to live four months in Korea when I studied abroad. I already learned a lot about the huge differences between the Asian and Western cultures in my first week, or to be more specific between South Korea and my home country Germany. Here I want to share my experiences with you. Maybe you already went to Korea and find yourself in the stories. Maybe you are just curious, or you want to go and find one or another tip for your travels. If you’re Korean – you will see how I saw your country and what seemed funny to me (so funny I wrote a blog entry about it). Don’t take it too seriously because I love your country a lot.

 

Koreans love endings

Gu, Dong, Si, Gil, Do – Koreans use endings to describe places. First of all, it seems really complicated if you are not aware of the meanings. But if you know them, it is actually quite useful since it describes which places are “what”. The ending “do” markers the province you are in. South Korea has eight provinces and one special autonomous province. The ending “si” describes a city in this province. For example, the capital of the island Jeju has the same name as its island. In this case, Jeju-do describes the whole island as one province, Jeju-si is only the capital of the island.

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Jeju-do

Bigger cities have different boroughs with the ending “gu” (towns and the countryside have the endings “eup” and “myeon”) or rural districts “gun”. One level below is the district marked with “dong”. Villages are labeled with “ri”. Last but not least, is “gil” which tagged streets.

 

Special holidays

Koreans love to celebrate and give each other gifts. The biggest holiday is Chuseok (추석) which is equivalent to Thanksgiving and is a celebration with the whole family. The holiday is about three days and around autumn. Furthermore, Koreans celebrate a special New Year called Seollal (설날) after the Chinese calendar. This holiday is in the beginning of the year. Valentine’s Day is always on the 14th of February and a famous day in the whole world. In Korea, it is the day where women have to bring presents for their lovers. But Korea also has the “White Day” which is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It’s exactly one month later and at these days women get the presents from their partners. But Korea also has a special day for singles.

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Jajangmyeon

On the 14th of April, it is “Black Day”. All single persons wear black clothes and meet each other in restaurants to eat Jajangmyeon, Black bean noodles. Another commercial and unofficial holiday is “Pepero Day”. Pepero (빼빼로) are little sticks with different flavours as chocolate, berries or green tea. It is supported by the big company Lotte and celebrated on the 11th of November since 11/11 reminds to the pepero sticks.

 

Overnight in libraries

Since I studied in Seoul I already know Koreans are really diligent and have to learn a lot. Especially before midterm and final exams, the libraries are full of students. Some of them are so into their learning period they even sleep in the library. My friend accidentally stayed overnight in our library at my university. She didn’t know the doors close at midnight and since a lot of other students also stayed beside here she didn’t think of the closing hours. When she wanted to leave the doors were closed and she was forced to stay until 5 o’clock in the morning to get out of the library. The students told her that they stay by their own choices in the library to concentrate fully on their exams. If necessary, they take some naps or bring blankets to sleep overnight in the library to start learning early in the morning.

 

Free time in Seoul

If Koreans don’t study all night and stay in libraries they of course also enjoy some free time in Seoul. One of my favourite stories is my day in a water park in Seoul because I felt like I learned a lot about small differences that day. I went with three other friends to a water park in Seoul. We are all from Western countries, so for us, it was pretty in common to wear a bikini. The thing is wearing a bikini seems not so famous in Asia. In general, I also felt Koreans don’t wear low-cut tops (miniskirts are no problem). This is the reason why I felt a bit uncomfortable in my bikini. Most Koreans wore swimsuits made out of neoprene or long shirts. In general, I was really surprised how many people wore just normal clothes as jeans, shoes, sunglasses or shirts for riding a slide. I am pretty sure in Germany they wouldn’t be allowed to wear street clothes in a water park.
Another fact is that many Koreans (but also in other countries) can’t swim or aren’t the best swimmers. That is why many people also were lifejackets. Actually, that was another fact, why we attract attention. I wondered about the girls in the water park who wore nice makeup and lipstick. Because for me a water park wouldn’t be the spot where I would wear any makeup. But my Korean friend told me the water park is also a possible flirting spot so it is important to look beautiful even there. Furthermore, people had little transparent and waterproof pockets where they carried really expensive cell phones, makeup or credit cards. More stuff I wouldn’t bring in a water park so I really had to think about the difference. Another interesting fact is that in Korea it is totally fine to be naked in front of the same gender. In Germany, we have single changing rooms and most people would not show themselves naked not even under the public showers. On the other side, German television is more open showing naked people in movies or series. Whereas in Korea naked parts in movies and series are rare.

 

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A game place in Seoul

One other thing I really loved for our free time are the game places. There you find a lot of nice games you can play by yourself or with friends. Really famous is the Baseball game where the player plays the role of the Batter and hopefully hits a home run. Also famous are the machines with soft toys you have to grab in one shot with a crane to get the toy.

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Noraebang (노래방)

The most important free time activity is: Noraebang (노래방) – Korean Karaoke. It is a good opportunity to meet with friends and sing favourite Kpop music, but als hits from Japan and China and of course world hits in English. Every group gets its own room with big screen, microphones and party lights. Noraebangs are sometimes also a good opportunity to bypass the time until the first metro is running again.

 

 

Click here to read part II:
Daily life in South Korea Pt.II

 

 

 

222 days of Asia

Snorkeling with fishes, kayaking, Street Art, a lot of Buddhist temples, eating insects, public bath, vulcanos, motor rides, meditation with a monk, Full Moon Party, dolphins … 

 

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First of all, don’t get killed

“Oh, you really want to go to South Korea? That’s brave since North Korea has atom bombs and will for sure use them soon.”, “My uncle went to Cambodia but he died six months after this trip since he got cancer from there and the doctors couldn’t help him anymore.”, “I heard a lot of women get kidnapped in Vietnam.”, “Oh, you have really to pay attention. I heard a lot of stories where people got rob out in Indonesia.” Well, I heard a lot of stories like this when I told people from my plans to travel through Asia. I really don’t get why people can not just wish you a good time instead of trying to freak you out with the worst travel stories. Whatever, it couldn’t stop me and I’m glad I ignored most of the warnings and just enjoyed Asia.

Furthermore, a lot of – especially Asians – told me I am very brave because I travel on my own. But actually, I didn’t feel I’m brave at all at least not because of my travels. Nonetheless, there is a point where you need to overcome yourself and make the first step for your travel plans all by yourself. But fortunately, the curiosity was always bigger than any fear.  And in the end, most people were really friendly and helpful. I found people who hosted me, invited me for food or gave me a ride. It’s incredible and most places were not scary at all.

 

 

 

In 222 days I saw thirteen different countries. All started with my exchange semester in Seoul, South Korea in End of August. During my semester I traveled for four days to Tokyo, Japan and also visited different places in South Korea as the borderline to North Korea, the island Jeju, the second biggest city Busan and an island in a river – Nami Island. One day before new years eve I took a flight to Beijing and from there I started my travels through South East Asia – to Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapur, Indonesia and on my way back from Korea to the United Arab Emirates.           

But I will tell you more about all places piece by piece. So hang on and read about all my crazy, funny and adventures stories.

 

 

 

Tears in crazy Saigon

How I arrived in Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh-City) and realised I am a multi-millionaire. I learned about the Vietnam War, visited a theatre where puppets dance over the water and took a boat in the jungle.

 

 

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My flight was from Hong Kong to Saigon (Sài Gòn), or how it is called nowadays: Ho-Chi-Minh-City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh). DSCN9530Both names are still in common but the official name is Ho-Chi-Minh-City since the reunification in 1976, named after the further president of the Northern part of Vietnam. It is the biggest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million habitants and was until 1975 the capital of the Southern part of the country when Vietnam was divided.

My first impression when I arrived in Saigon was: The city is crazy. There are cars and especially motorcycles everywhere. The latter replaces the family van. Parents and three children fit easily on one motorcycle. It’s loud, it’s crowded and especially for a Westerner as me, it is confusing. When you want to cross the street there are often no traffic lights and if there are some there are still motorcycles which ignore it (They sell shirts in Vietnam with “Red means I can still go”). Especially Rush Hour is horror. People told me the trick – as pedestrian – is: Keep walking.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Oops, I am multi-millionaire

One other overburden thing is the money. The lowest banknote in Vietnam is 1,000 VND (circa 0.04 US$), the highest 500,000 VND (circa. 22.18 US$). So when I first came to the bank I took 2,000,000 VND (circa 88.70 US$) from my bank account – I never felt richer. If it is your first time in Vietnam, the money could be probably a bit confusing. The banknotes are high, all notes are colourful but have the same person (Ho Chi Minh) on it. A nice idea is to install an app for currency translation to make sure how much money you spend for something. A helpful rule of thumb is around 20,000 VND are one US-Dollar. Don’t get into a rush by paying because unfortunately, there are people who try to utilise the situation and get more money from you by not telling you that you paid one zero too much or giving the wrong change. But do not worry you will get used to it pretty fast.

 

Tears at the Sightseeing Tour
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The Old City Hall

In my opinion, Ho-Chi-Minh-City does not offer so many Sightseeing-places. They have some nice buildings in the French colonial style as the post office (built by Gustave Eiffel the engineer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris), the Reunification Palace or the old City Hall with a little park and a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the front. All the places are nice to see but you can not really spend a lot of time there. I would recommend the War Museum and the Water Puppet Theatre.

The War Remnants Museum costs only 15,000 VND (circa 0.65 US$) and shows different photos, articles from newspapers and some videos about the Vietnam War (1955-1975). They tell some really TitelbildWMpersonal stories about different people who got killed in the war or even crueller through war crimes as massacres. People, who were born in the last 35 years (some of them are in my age or younger) and have to live with worst deformation of their bodies as consequence of the toxic of Agent Orange. But also of victims of the war who lost their legs and/or arms and who are top athletes or painters today. I have to admit that I had more than once tears in my eyes. Tears because of the incomprehension how so many people can protest all over the world against this war but can not do anything against it. Tears because of the never ending possibility of the cruelty of people in killing, destroying and torturing others which make me feel sick and so angry. But also tears for the hope the people in these stories can give you about living a successful and happy life whether they have to live with diseases.

 

 

Dancing puppets on the water

One other highlight was the Water Puppet Theatre to me. The 20170115_191108tradition of the theatre goes back until the 11th century and is from Northern Vietnam. The show in Saigon was around 45 minutes long, cost 200,000 VND (on a Sunday evening, circa 8.90 US$) and showed several little stories about animals and humans in the water combined with traditional live music, singing and sometimes speaking (in Vietnamese). The puppets are made out of wood with lacquering and dance, swim and walk through a small pool. The puppeteers are hidden behind a drop.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shipping through the dschungl

Many hotels and travel offices offer different kind of tours. Really famous are one-day-tours to the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi DSCN9796Tunnels. I decided to do former. Some agencies already offer group tours for 10$. The Mekong Delta is a region in Southern Vietnam. The Mekong is a huge river which extend over six countries: besides the Vietnam also China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I would guess most Mekong Delta tours offer a similar programme. We went to a little temple on our way and at the Mekong Delta we took a boat, tried some tea and domestic fruits. We went to a coconut farm, rode in a horse-drawn carriage and of course the highlight – taking a rowing boat along the different canals.

After a few days in Ho-Chi-Minh-City I went on to Da Lat in a sleeping bus – travelling while you’re sleeping, that’s a nice one.

 

 

 

Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II

After waterfalls, new fruits and a visit of the famous Seongsan Ilchulbong, I travelled to the Western side of the island. At the third day, I visited the Hallim Park and the Hyeopjae Beach.

 

 

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Day 3: Sea, K-Dramas and museums
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The Oedolgae Rock

At the third and last day of my trip on Jeju, I wanted to use my time to visit the Western side of the island. I met a Korean a day before and we decided to travel together. On our way, our first stop brought us to the Oedolgae Rock. From there one has a nice sea view. Different loop roads guide along the rock cliffs. The setting is really nice which is the reason why it is not surprising that this background was also used for some K-Dramas. In general, Jeju is one of the favourite places for shooting programs. Oedolgae Rock was also the setting for the K-Drama “Daejanggeum”. The TV series were broadcasted in 2003.

 

 

The second, really short stop, brought us to the “Jungmun Tourist Complex”. Here are several museums as Ripley’s “Believe it or not! Museum” which is a chain from the US and shows different curiosities, wonder of nature and records. Furthermore, there is a Chocolate Museum and a Teddy Bear museum. Visitors of the “Alive Museum” can make funny pictures and play with optical arts and  “Play Kpop” is a museum about K-Pop music with hologram- as well as 3D-concerts. But I don’t want to make too much advertise here. If you like museums, have a bit time and/or rainy days, this place is perfect for you.

 

At the Oedolgae Rock
 
 
 
 
 
Ripley's "Believe it or not - Museum" at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex" - already the building looks a bit crazy.
 
The K-Pop museum at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex"
 
At the  Hyeopjae Beach
 
 
 
 
 
Hallim Park – palms, caves, and tropical birds

Hallim Park is named after its location near to the Hallim-eup. The park was founded in 1971 and is a famous tourist spot next to the popular Hyeopjae Beach. Hallim Park reaches almost 100,000 square meters and has many different gardens with plants, animals, and caves.

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Feeding the small parrots

After the “Palm Tree Avenue”, visitors can see the “Wild grass & Flower Garden”, the “Jeju Stone & Bonsai Garden”, the “Stone Exhibit Hall” and the “Water Garden”. The “Hyeopjae & Ssangyong Caves” are known as the only two-dimensional caves in the world. The “Jae-Am Folk Village” dscn9745includes several traditional houses. Visitors get the chance to feed small parrots, see beautiful peacocks and ostriches in the “Bird Garden”. Here some birds are also allowed to walk freely through the park. In the “Subtropical Garden” live different types of animals as turtles, snakes, and lizards. I liked that the birds had the chance to walk freely. But – and I don’t want to start a long and tiring discussion now- but I had the feeling that the terrariums in the “Subtropical Garden” were a bit too small for the animals. And I think that’s a pity because the gardens are really beautiful but, in my opinion, visitors can enjoy their visit so much more when they have the feeling that the animals feel well in the park (whereupon I also do not want to impute something).

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Besides the listed gardens, there are also smaller ones which are open in different months as the “Cherry Blossom Garden” in April. We dscn9618were almost three hours in the park, I really underestimated the size of it. The entry fees were 10,000 Won ( ~9$). I would recommend the park, it was really beautiful and fun to see all the plants and animals. My highlights were feeding the small parrots, the avenue with the little Grandfathers at the beginning of the “Wild grass & Flower garden”, but also the “Bonsai Garden” with little trees which were several hundred years old, the “Palm Tree Avenue” and the little houses of the “Jae-Am Folk Village”.

 

White sand beaches and clear blue water

Our last stop for the day brought us to the Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장). I already wrote in my last article about beautiful beaches with crystal clear blue water which look like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine. Yes, with this sentence I meant the Hyeopjae Beach on the Western part of Jeju. I don’t know how full the beach is in high season since we were there in mid of October. There were still several people relaxing at the beach. The coast is around nine kilometres long, has beautiful white sand and lava rocks. The water is for a long time very shallow when you walk in. I think swimming is only allowed with a life guard in high season.

 

Click here to read part I:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. I

 

 

 

Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. I

Three days in the vacation paradise of South Korea, the island of the little grandfathers, the hallabong fruit and beaches which look like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine.

 

 

Facts about Jeju

Jeju (제주, or actually Jeju-do, because the abbreviation “do” stands for province) is an island and the southernmost place of South Korea. Furthermore, it is one of the nine provinces of the country. The capital of the island has actually the same name, it is Jeju-si (“si” stands for city) or simple Jeju City. The island is built up of volcano rocks from the mountain Hallasan, which is with 1,950 m also the highest mountain in South Korea. The mountain is a dead volcano with a crater lake and located in the centre of the island. Nowadays the mountain and its environment are a national park. The island has subtropical climate and is a really famous vacation destination for Koreans. A few years ago, it was also the most popular place for honeymoon travels. Nowadays Europe is also a favoured aim for newly-married couples.

 

 

 

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From little grandfathers and new fruits

dscn9270Dol hareubang  (돌 하르방) is the Korean name of the stone figures which are everywhere in Jeju. Rather the word “dol” (돌) stands for stone and “hareubang” (하르방) for grandfather, so they are the (little) grandfather stones. And of course, they sell this little dscn9106sculptures also in any variations of souvenirs. Those versions remember me actually a little bit to the little trolls from the Disney movie Frozen. However, originally the figures are considered to be gods and should bring protection and fertility.

I think hallabongs and tangerines are the most sold fruits in Jeju. dscn9510Hallabong is a variety of mandarin and orange. The more widespread name of the fruit is “dekopon” and it is a hybrid fruit. But in South Korea, the fruit is named after the mountain Hallansan in the centre of the island, where it is primarily grown. Besides the fruits, the markets also offer freshly squeezed juice, chocolate and pastries made out of hallabongs and tangerines. Also, popular fillings for chocolate are blueberries, green tea and cactus fruit.

 

 

Day1 : Seongsan Ilchulbong and U-do

Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산 일출봉) is one of the must-see sightseeing points. dscn9033It is a volcanic tuff cone formed by an eruption. Seongsan Ilchulbong is also called “Sunrise Peak” because it is located on the eastern side of Jeju, so the view of the sunrise is perfect. The ticket office opens one hour before sunrise. However, the public transport doesn’t run before 6 am. That was also my problem why I couldn’t see the sunrise at the peak. Seongsan Ilchulbong is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, beside the mountain Hallasan and the lava caves Geomunoreum.

dscn9184Close to Seongsan Ilchulbong is another small island, U-do (우도). The island was also created by a volcanic activity more than 2.1 million years ago. U-do is named after its shape which remembers reputed to a cow, that’s why it is also called “Cow island”. The island is easy to reach by ferry. Many Koreans feed the seagulls with shrimp crisps. Some of the birds ate them out of their hands, others caught the crisps the Koreans throw to them out of the air. The seagulls seem to like the crisps a lot. So if you want to see them from near you should buy one package in the convenience store and give it a try. Actually, it gave me the chance to make some good photos of the birds.   dscn9160
Many people also bring their (rented) car to the island. Though the island is much smaller than Jeju it is still too big to walk everything by foot (unfortunately, I speak from my own experience). If you want to visit the island and don’t have a car or don’t want to bring it, you should at least rent a bike or better a quad. Otherwise, you won’t have the chance to visit the real beautiful places of the island. If you don’t want to rent a vehicle I wouldn’t recommend a visit.

 

Seaside in East-Jeju
 
 
On the way to the Seongsan Ilchulbong
 
View from the peak of the Seongsan Ilchulbong.
 
The stairs to come to the Seongsan Ilchulbong.
 
The try to make a nice picture - but it was a little bit windy...
Seongsan Ilchulbong
 
Korean women sell fresh sea food.
 
 
From the ferry to U-do.
The famous cow of the island U-do.
Beach on U-do
 
 
 
U-do is famous for its horses.
 
Day 2: Many waterfalls around Segowipo
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Jeongbang Fall

Segowipo is the second largest city of Jeju and takes the whole southern part of the island. Near the centre of the city is also the Cheonjiyeon (천지연폭포) and Jeonbang Falls (정방폭포). I visited both falls at the same time. Unfortunately, it rained the whole day, as you will see in the photos. Most Koreans wore rain capes which are, in my opinion, really useful, but still you feel like seeing the Teletubbies everywhere ;). To visit the two waterfalls, you have to pay 2,000₩ (~ 1.82$) for each.

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Cheonjiyeon Fall

The Jeonbang Fall is the only waterfall in whole Asia, which falls directly in the sea. Furthermore, some ajummas (older Korean women) sell fresh sea food at the waterfall.  The other waterfall, Cheonjiyeon, is near by the Saeyeongyo Bridge (새연교). A loop road guides the visitors to the waterfall. You also see other smaller falls and can cross the river by using flagstones. The translation of Cheonjiyeon is “sky connected with land”, so the waterfall falls from heaven to earth. In warmer seasons there is also the possibility to go to the Donnaeko Valley (돈내코유원지) and swim in the clear water under the Wonang Pokpo Waterfall. The water is ice cold because it comes from the Hallasan Mountain.

 

The Soeyeongyo Bridge at the harbour of Seogwipo.
 
The Jeongbang Waterfalls
Korean sell fresh sea food directly at the waterfall.
 
On the way to the Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls.
A little Grandfather
 
The Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls
A Mandarin duck
 
 
 
 
 
At the harbour of Seogwipo.
 
 
The loop way around the birds island.
Big spiders in the coppices.
 
 
 
At the Donnoeko Valley with the Wonang Pokpo Waterfalls.
 
The harbour of Seogwipo
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Saeyongyo Bridge is at the harbour of Seogwipo and lead to the Saeseom Island (새섬). The translation is simple, dscn9236“Saeseom” means “bird island”. Saeseom has a warm temperate forest consercatiom zone. A loop way guides around the island and offers beautiful spots. But be warned, if you have a spider phobia this way might not be the best for you because a lot of big spiders (the body has the size of your thumb) live in the coppice around. But of course the spiders are not poisonous and actually also stay in their cobwebs, so don’t worry. The bridge is illuminated by night and the major tower, which is designed after a sail from a ship, changes its colours.

 

Click here to read part II:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II

 

 

 

Traditional Korea

South Korea is still full of traditions and folkways. Seoul by oneself has five old King Palaces and different Hanok Villages, where the old Korean traditions are still alive.

 

 

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Hanok Village

The different Hanok Villages offer the opportunity to visit old traditional Korean houses, to take  a look at the architecture and also a look inside of the rooms. The houses are preserved from the past and more than 100 years old. dscn7868We were in the Namsangol Hanok Village. The entry is free. This village shows again the combination out of traditional and modern life in Korea, around the beautiful houses are skyscraper. I was really surprised, how small the rooms and houses were. At the entrance gates are everywhere warnings that you should pay attention because the gates are so low. Even for me, it was a problem (and I really don’t know many people who are smaller than me). The architecture is totally incredible and beautiful. You will feel like you travelled back in time. The location is so nice that also many fresh married couples come to the Villages to take their wedding pictures.

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Samul nori

In the village, they also had little straw huts which remembered to tipis. In the past the function of the straw huts were to keep the Kimchi (traditional Korean food made out of Chinese cabbage), I was told, it worked similar to a fridge. In the center of the village, they have small games. At one game you have to throw arrows in a vase. – Really not so easy. But if you succeed the reputation from all bystanders is safe. We were also lucky and watched an old traditional dance, Samul nori. I already wrote a lot about this traditional music and dance in my last post (click here to read the article My first week in Seoul). But this time they also had headgears with long white ribbons and when they moved their heads the ribbons danced around their heads. That was really pretty.

 

In the Namsangol Hanok Village
Girls wearing Hanbok
 
 
 
 
 
Dancers of Samul nori
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The straw hut for Kimchi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the village of Bukchon
 
 
 
 
Feel like a Korean princess

Hanboks are the traditional Korean clothes. In Korea, you can borrow these clothes and wear them. To borrow the clothes you have to pay between 10,000-20,000₩ (circa 9-18.20$). Depends on which dresses you want to wear and how long you want to borrow them. dscn8051One of the most important holidays in South Korea is Chuseok (추석), it is a family celebration. And at these days the whole city was full of Koreans wearing beautiful Hanboks. Chuseok means loosely translated autumn evening. It is equivalent to Thanksgiving and takes about three days.

 

 

 

King Palaces
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Deoksugung Palace

In the Joseon Dynasty Seoul had six palaces. Today five of them are still preserved: The Gyeongbokgung (the biggest), the Changdeokgung, the Deoksugung, the Changgyeonggung and the small Unhyeongung Palace.  In my opinion, visiting a Kings Palace is a must-see in South Korea. The entries are really low (between 1,000-3,000₩, ~0.90-2.70$), Unhyeongung Palace is for free. Also, the architecture here is really beautiful.

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Me with the Aekjeongseo Sayak (key master) and the Seungjeongwon Juseo (delivers the King’s orders)

The roofs are painted in vivid colours. Furthermore, the Gyeongbokgung and the Deoksugung Palace offer free little shows for tourists. There they show the changing ceremony of the royal guards. There you can see the different persons of the king guard and get a feeling for Korean history. If you are a big fan of the Korean architecture and palaces you should think of buying the “Integrated Palace Ticket” it offers the entry to four Kings palaces including the secret garden and the Jongmyo Shrine. The ticket costs 10,000 Won (~9$) and is valid thee months after purchase (you save around 4,000 Won when you use all tickets). Furthermore, people who were a Hanbok get always free entry.

 

 

The king guard infront of the Deoksugung Palace.
The main entrance of the Deoksugung Palace.
 
 
 
 
 
The colourful roof of the palace.
 
Western architecture in the midst of the traditional Korean houses. The Seokjojeon Hall, you need to register before if you want to visit the rooms.
 
 
The Deoksugung Art Museum
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The king guard march to the main Gate.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

My first week in Seoul

South Korea and Seoul itself are full of new experiences, differences in culture, language script, food and even the everyday life. It’s a country full of opposites. The new-age Korea with all of its high modern technic versus the old traditional Korea with all of its Palaces and Hanbok .. This post is about my first week as an exchange student in Seoul.

 

 

Facts about South Korea and Seoul

The official name of South Korea is Republic of Korea. The official language is Korean and the official script is Hangul. In 1910 Korea was ruled by the Imperial Japan and after World War II it was divided into North and South Korea. Since then, North Korea is the only borderline to South Korea. The capital of the Republic of Korea is Seoul. It is also the largest city of the country and the 16th largest city in the world. Circa 50% of the population from South Korea live in the metropolitan area of Seoul.

 

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My first week in Seoul

Finally, my semester in Seoul started. I arrived after 18 hours with a little stop in Abu Dhabi in Seoul with seven hours time difference to my home country. Lucky me, I hadn’t to fight with a jet lag since I am in Seoul and the weather is also very nice. Something between late summer and early autumn.

 

 

I am studying at the EWHA Womans university which is really beautiful and even a little tourist attraction in Seoul.  dscn7825Rents and especially deposits are really high in South Korea, which is why I am happy to stay in a dormitory (if you want to read more .. click here to read my post Curfew. Woman’s University. Visa. And lots of preparation.) The running costs for a living are really high in Korea what makes the country so expensive in the relation to Germany (and many other countries in the world). Also, the food prices in supermarkets and Convenience Stores are high, especially, fruits and vegetables (for example, 5 apples cost approximately 6,000 ₩, these would be 5.45$). In my opinion, some restaurants are not so expensive in Korea and I love that you always get free water and can refill it as often you like. The cheapest way to eat is properly the street food (you pay something between 1.80-4.54$). Also really in common is to order food. Even McDonalds has his own delivery service. At public places as Han River it is easily possible to get 40 flyers for different delivery services. But I will write an own post about food in Korea.

 

 

Learning a new language script

Hangul (한글) is the official script in Korea. Although it looks really complicated, it’s not so difficult to learn. My university book for Korean classes said it’s the 12th widely used language in the world and ahead of Italian and French (sounds unbelievable, I know).

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King Sejong who invented Hangul

Hangul was invented in 1443 by King Sejong, the fourth monarch during the Joseon Dynasty. The new language script should help ordinary people easier to write and read. Because before Hangul, Korean was written in Chinese characters. One says a wise man could learn Hangul in one day, a stupid man could learn it in ten days. I have Korean classes twice a week, so I learned Hangul in seven days ;). The modern Hangul has 24 letters and 27 digraphs. But also if you don’t speak the Korean language, especially Seoul has many English speaking people who will try to help you and the metro signs and the station announcements are also in English.

 

 

The view from my university to the city
On EWHA Campus
 
 
 
 
 
At the Han River (Hangang)
We got 41 flyers for ordering food at the Han River.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The City Tour Bus of Seoul
 
Soju is the most popular alcohol in Korea, one bottle of it is even cheaper than a can of beer.
 
 
The pavilion at the Namsan Tower
 
 
An underground museum explains the story of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sunshin. This statue shows the Admiral.
In the underground museum
 
Cultural Day in Korea

Since 2014 Korea has the cultural day every last Wednesday in the month.dscn7426 Then is the best time to visit museums and cinemas, because the cultural day offers discounts, sometimes even free entries and extended opening hours. Since I arrived in End of August, we have been using this day already to visit the Seoul Museum of History. The museum shows the history and culture of Seoul from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to the present day. It represents the living of the people in Korea, also during Korea under Japanese Control until the late 90s.

 

Seoul Museum of Histroy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Samul nori – Traditional Korean Dance and Music

Samul nori is a genre of traditional Korean music and dances. Me and my roommate were lucky to see such a dance performed by Korean students at our university. Samul nori uses four different percussion instruments. They have a small gong (Kkwaenggwari), a larger gong (Jing), an hourglass-shaped drum (Janggu) and a barrel drum (Buk drum). The students were dressed in beautiful Korean dresses, called Hanbok. They had two students, which were dressed differently from the others. They had the small gongs and provided the rhythm.dscn7540 Some students from the audience ran to the dancers and clipped some banknotes under their hats. There was also a little ceremony in the beginning. We didn’t understand what they were saying (because it was in Korean), but one girl had a mask of a pig. Pigs count here as lucky charms. Some girls stand in a row, got something to drink, then they kneeled down and after standing up they gave some little papers to the pig mask. Perhaps they wrote down their wishes or something similar.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Namsan Tower
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Namsan Tower

The official name of the Namsan Tower is N Seoul Tower and it is one of the most famous attractions in Seoul. It’s a TV tower and has its name from the hill Namsan. When you go to Namsan Tower you can choose between using a cable car or many, many stairs. I would recommend the stairs because of the view. The tower is circa 237 meters high and gives a nice few over the city. For people which try to save money, I think it’s not absolutely necessary to get up the tower because the view is already really good from the bottom of the Tower. There is also one viewing platform which is adorned with many love locks.Actually, there is a little shop for love locks in the Tower.

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The view from Namsan Tower.

The entrance for adults is 10,000  (circa 9$), but the viewing platform is just inside and around the windows are many bright shining stalls which make it really complicated to make a good picture. I liked that the windows have flags from different countries which show how far away the capital of the particular country is. Nonetheless, it was a really nice view from the Namsan Tower and I didn’t repent to spend the money.

 

Deposit and free trips for foreigners

Why is it good to be a foreigner? South Korea is really interested in introducing their country to foreigners. They want to make K-Pop more famous in the world. So as a foreigner, you can visit some concerts which are especially (and actually only) for foreigners and (that is the best) for free.dscn7810
I was lucky to join a free trip to Jeollanam-do Provine deep in the South sponsored by the Korean government. It was a free trip also just for foreigners, two busses full of exchange students. We went to the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival and the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings (also a section with erotic paintings). But the best was the trip to the little island 가우도 (Ga-u-do). It is really near to the mainland and connected by a bridge. We saw fisher boats and at the beach were beautiful shells and tiny crabs.
Sometimes foreigners also get deposit for free time activities. So that is the reason why it is good to be a foreigner in South Korea.

 

Free trip for foreigners to Jeollanam-do Province in the South.
At the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival
Many stalls with food and spices.
Beondegi (번데기) is a typical dish for Korean cuisine. Beondegi are steamed and  boiled silkworm pupae.
The bridge with thousands of flags of the Battleship Festival.
 
 
 
 
Traditional Korean music
 
In the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings.
The tiger is one of the favourite motives of the Minhwa paintings.
A modern Minhwa painting.
 
 
At the islands of 가우도 (Ga-u-do). One bridge link the island with the mainland.
 
 
Fishing in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
 
Tiny crabs between the stones at the beach.
 
And an important message in the end.

 

 

30 Hours in Uruguay

About world cultural heritage, clichés, dog sitters, national heroes and  really nice people.

 

 

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Ferry to Colonia del Sacramento

DSCN4354While my vacation in Argentina I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit also Uruguay. I read about the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento and my Argentinian friend helped me to buy a ferry ticket in a tourism office. On Thursday started my trip to Uruguay. First, I had to check in for the ferry. There is one control for Uruguayans, Argentinians, Brazilians and Paraguayans. Because these four countries have an agreement similar to the Schengen Agreement on the European Union. So I had to take another pass control with fingerprints, cameras and a new stamp for my passport. The ferry only needs one hour to cross the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento.

 

 

A city full of World Heritage

DSCN4443Colonia del Sacramento is in southwestern Uruguay nearby the Río de la Plata. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and was a Portuguese colony in the past. Actually, it was also founded by Portugal. However, at some times Spain, Brazil and the Liga Federal also ruled Colonia del Sacramento. Since 1828 it is officially a town of Uruguay. About 27,000 people live there. It has a beautiful old town with a historic quarter which is part of UNESCO World Heritage. DSCN4457Tourism attractions are the lighthouse and the ruins of a convent (Faro y Convento de San Francisco). On this day I met a lot of school classes. I am not sure what they celebrated but they also had a little ceremony at the big fairground, the Plaza Major del 25 de Mayo. But perhaps that was the reason I saw  a few men dressed in traditional uniforms. Furthermore, one other attraction of the old city is the “Portón de Campo”, it means the city gate and wooden drawbridge.

 

 

 

 

At the Río de la Plata
In Colonia del Sacramento
 
 
 
Many streets were lined with trees. - It was End of Winter/ Beginning of Spring, so the trees were still bleak.
 
 
The city gate of Colonia del Sacramento.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The suburb of Montevideo

In the afternoon I took the bus to Montevideo. The buses are really comfortable and as good as new. After more than three hours we arrived at Montevideo. Before we crossed the borders of the city we passed some suburbs of Montevideo with dirty little houses and walls which looked like they were made out of corrugated metal. The tourist guide recommends avoiding to visit such places because the crime rates are really high there. I felt a little bit awkward to see so many poor people and felt the differences between these places and the beautiful old town of Colonia del Sacramento  – and of course also to my home country Germany.

 

 

All Germans have blond hair?

When I arrived in Montevideo at the late afternoon/ early evening at the bus station. I decided to walk to my hostel and explore a little bit the surrounding. The Uruguayans were really nice and asked me if I would need help because I stopped from time to time to take a look at my map. However, I found the way on my own. I had a bed in a shared room in a hostel. The name of it was Tibet Hostel and that was the reason why the whole hostel was decorated with colourful cloths, umbrellas, and lamps. I really loved the atmosphere. The guys from the Hostel explained me later that they named their hostel after their trip to Tibet. It sounded really adorable, I would love to get the chance to travel to Tibet. Unfortunately, it is really hard to get a visa. We heard some music – I showed a German music video and one of the owners were really confused that there were also some brown- and black-haired women in the music video. He thought all Germans have blond hair. So to everyone who also thought this: No, this is a cliché. Actually, I think I read most Germans have brown hair. The remaining night I sat in the bar of the Tibet Hostel. I drunk a Mohito and a Caipirinha with strawberries. Tasty! And I also ate some really good fries and Chivitos (If you want to know more .. click here to read my article Food Porn – Pt. 1).

 

The letters of Montevideo.
After my arrival in Montevideo.
 
The district "Tres cruces" (Three crosses)
 
 
The view from the small roof-deck of my hostel.
Walk at the beach
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thousands of geese in a parc in the central of Montevideo.
 
 
 
La Plaza Independencia in Montevideo
The high statue of Uruguayans hero José Gervasio Artigas
Me in front of the Palacio Salvo
The Ciudad Vieja (Old town)
 
 
 
 
A dog sitter with 19 (!) dogs

DSCN4584The next morning I wanted to walk through the capital of Uruguay. I took the way to the beach – Punta del Canario. At the beach are big letters of Montevideo. A taxi driver told me that the city changes the letters and colours. This time, it was very colourful. I walked along the coast in the direction of the centre of the city. It was really windy DSCN4585and not so warm. When I walked I discovered a man who walked with dogs, a dog sitter. But not two or maybe three … no, he had 19 dogs at his leads. I heard a lot of dog sitters before. It seems like it is a common mini job in South America. I saw also a lot of dog sitters in Argentina. But this guy with 19 dogs was my record. Incredible – lucky me I made a photo of him because in Germany I am sure everyone would believe I hyperbolize when I tell this story.

 

 

National hero of Uruguay
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I am looking really small infront of the large statue of José Gervasio Artigas.

I walked some hours until I arrived the centre of Montevideo. The city is the largest in Uruguay. More than 1.3 Million people live in Montevideo. According to the Mercer 2015 Quality of Living rankings, Montevideo takes the top spot in South America with rank 78. The next highest ranks in South America are Buenos Aire (91) and Santiago (93). Montevideo has more than 60 districts. One of the tourist points is the Plaza Independencia with the Palacio Salvo. In the centre of the Plaza is a really high statue of José Gervasio Artigas. He is a national hero in Uruguay and some also call him “the father of Uruguayan nationhood” because he fought against Spain during the Uruguayan revolution. His corpse is in the Artigas mausoleum under the earth and under the high statue guarded by two soldiers. The statue is 17 meters high and has a weight of 30 tons. Since 1828 Uruguay is an independent state with Montevideo as its capital.

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The gate of the old city.

Also at the Plaza Independencia is the Palacio Salvo. It was built by an Italian immigrant living in Buenos Aires, Mario Palanti. The Palacio remembers to the Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires which is also from the same architect.It was planned that the building also should have a lighthouse at the top of the building. But this was replaced by a set of antennas. It was finished in 1828 and has a height of 95 metres. Unfortunately, I hadn’t enough time to see the Palacio from inside. Behind the Plaza Independencia begins the Ciudad Vieja, the old city. It has a lot of beautiful colonial buildings and national heritage sites.

 

Hospitable Uruguyans save my life

Okay, perhaps this heading sounds a little bit too dramatic. But at one point I recognised that I hadn’t so much time to catch my ferry back to Buenos Aires. DSCN4708I took a taxi back to the hostel to pack my stuff. However, it was already really late and I was almost out of Uruguayan money. It wasn’t enough to pay a second taxi back and I wasn’t sure which bus I had to take. However, I asked the electrician of the hostel to help me. We talked a little bit the last days. So, I asked him to help me to find the right bus. Unfortunately, we had some communication problems because he spoke just a little bit English and my Spanish is really, really bad. In the end, he took a look at my ferry ticket. He talked with a girl from the hostel, then he said I should follow him. I thought he showed me the bus stop because it would be too hard to explain it. But I had forgotton about the hospitable of South Americans. He drove me to the harbour and brought me till the check in. I even wasn’t allowed to give him money for the parking ticket he had to pay to bring me in. He is really so nice and friendly (At this point: ¡Muchas gracias!).

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The sundown at the harbour of Montevideo.

I arrived 50 minutes before the ferry took off. I was really lucky. My friend in Buenos Aires had told me I have to be one hour earlier at the harbor to check in. When I took a second look at my ticket I saw that I should check in two hours earlier (I already said my Spanish is bad but this sentence I understood). In the end, I think I am very lucky that South America is more flexible with time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curfew. Woman’s University. Visa. And lots of preparation.

In preparation for my exchange semester in Seoul …

 

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Why South Korea?

“Of all things, why South Korea?” This was a question I had to answer really often when I told someone I will make an exchange semester in Seoul. I never was in Asia before (once I crossed the Asian border of Istanbul – however, I’m not sure if this will count). But I was always really interested in the culture and people of Asia. I believe one of the main reasons are the cultural differences in the opposite of Western Europe. My first contact with Korea was through a friend a few years ago. She is a big fan of Japan and once she told me she had watched a really great TV series from South Korea and – for sure – I would love it. So I followed her advice and watched my first K-Drama (this is the abbreviation for series in the Korean language). The title of the series was “Playful Kiss” (or also “Mischievous Kiss”/ “Naughty Kiss”/ “장난스런 키스“) – a clumsy girl falls in love with a handsome and clever but also sometimes really rude boy. K-Dramas are really different from American, British or German series – I normally watch productions of these three countries.

The Korean culture is different, they have a variety of Dos and Dont’s which were really strange for me (… and they censor cigarettes on TV – because nobody will understand what a person holds in their hand when smoke is coming out of their mouth). Honor is an important value of the Korean culture and of course, the tribute and respect for older people and traditions. Korea has a high hierarchically system, which is especially striking in their language – Korean has five different polite forms. I also was really surprised that living together seems a really big no go for lovers in South Korea. However, I was really fascinated by all that – for me – crazy (but in a good way) new world in Asia. Later, I watched three, four other K-Dramas and heard some Korean Songs (it is called K-Pop).

The official YouTube channel of the TV series “Playful Kiss” – The producers created seven mini episodes for YouTube after the large success of the series.

 

Hangul and Coffee shops which sound as copy shops

However, when I decided to make my Master Studies in Berlin another aim was to make an exchange semester abroad because this was something I missed during my Bachelor Studies. You have three choices for the stay of an exchange, I thought I had to pick three countries (for real you have to choose three universities) – so I prepared myself for a counselling interview. I chose Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea. The consultant was happy I named Korea and totally ignored the other two countries. She encouraged me to go to South Korea and told me that every student, who was in Korea, was highly satisfied with their choice. That was the decisive reason why I picked South Korea and applied for three universities in Seoul. In 2010 – when I was highly addicted to Korea and watched the K-Dramas for the first time  – I would have given everything to get the opportunity to go to Seoul. So six years later I wanted to take this chance. Actually, the only reason I didn’t choose South Korea at the first side was because of Hangul (this is the Korean alphabet). I was afraid I wouldn’t understand a word and couldn’t even buy Ramen (Ramen is a noodle soup and a famous Asian dish) in a supermarket because of the missing vocabularies. To be honest, I still don’t speak Korean. I can only say some useful words as “saranghae” (I love you) or “keopi syob” (coffee shop but sounds as copy shop).

 

Much preparation stuff

After I wrote motivation letters, collected thousands of important papers and provided all kinds of evidence, I finally got my accommodation letter. I decided to go to the EWHA Womans University in Seoul because it has the largest and the best offering for my field of study – Media Studies. At this point started my preparation time: I needed a visa, a place to stay, a flight, inoculations, health insurance, apply for a scholarship and other financial facilitation, I had to freeze my contract of my cell phone, needed a backpack… thousands of stuff.

The visa is relatively easy to get for Germans because the countries have a good relationship to each other (and it’s free). The inoculations are really expensive and there are a lot of recommendations about immunisation protection. If you don’t want to pay more money for inoculations than for the flight, it is impossible to get inject against everything. The flight is one other problem. My plans are to travel a few months after my exchange semester that’s why I don’t know yet when I will come back to Germany. However, it is cheaper booking of a return flight. That’s why I would recommend to search for a flight with nice rebooking options. One other problem will be the luggage. I have to left some stuff in Korea while I’m travelling around. I also have just 23 kilogrammes of free luggage from Germany to South Korea. A friend gave me a really nice advice. She loves backpacking journeys so she is kind of an expert. She always takes some old or washed out clothes to her travels or just outfits she doesn’t like anymore, so she can throw them away and has more space for clothes, souvenirs or just food. I believe it is a really useful advice.

 

Immaturity in Seoul

Flats and rooms have – at least compared to Germany – really high rents. Some cheaper flats have a higher deposit up to 5000 Euros respectively Dollars. This is one reason I really wanted to rent a room in a dormitory (and there you still can pay over 500 Euros/ Dollars). Unfortunately, curfews are a common thing in the dormitories of Seoul. I knew that South Korea is more strict with the separation of sexes. However, the curfew shocked me a little bit. I read that not all universities have stringent conditions. However, one article (here) from October 2003 from the English newspaper of the EWHA Womans university – the university where I will study – discourage me a little. But perhaps something changed meanwhile because the article is 13 years old by now. The curfew is just in some of the dormitories in the EHWA, however, in my opinion, the rules are very strict. The curfew is from midnight until five o’clock  in the morning (12pm-5am). The article talks about black marks: Three for being tardy, five for staying out without permission – the students who collect ten marks have to leave the dormitory. If ones want to stay out, they need to sign up hours earlier. The process is even more complicated at the weekend. Then students need the permission of their parents.

I read that some reasons for the curfew are the responsibility to take care of the students. The curfew would help the students to go to bed early and stay healthy. And also to maintain their regular daily life.  Actually, to me, this sounds really unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, however, in my opinion, of an age of 20 or older you should be able to organise your daily routine by your own. But perhaps some don’t want this and it is one of the differences between the cultures. I also read that some people like the rules and feel more organised and save with them. So it perhaps depends on the person which dormitory is the best for themselves.

By the way, the International House of EWHA hasn’t a curfew and I’m so glad I got a place there. Because in my opinion, dormitories are in general a perfect decision to live for an exchange semester. The dormitories are near the university on the campus, you meet really fast other students, you already got the most important furniture, the period and costs are complementary. Therefore, we will see how it will work for me. I am very pleased to get the chance to study in Seoul. For sure I will tell more about South Korea from time to time because the adventure has just begun.