Friday, 27 April 2012

English Eating Etiquette

Going to a country with a completely different culture can be daunting at times, if you don't know the local customs. And dining etiquette is one of those particular things that always seems to have a lot of confusing rules. Sometimes, you get so caught up in trying to 'get it right' with the eating etiquette of your new country, you forget that your own country has 'rules', too, which might cause the same kinds of worries for foreign visitors.

Remembering this, though, helps you to relax about making social blunders at the dinner table. While you might have read, for example, that stabbing your food with your chopsticks IS A CARDINAL SIN in Korea, give yourself a reality check by comparing this to a rule in your own country, and asking yourself if anyone would actually give a damn if someone flouted that rule in public. After all, people will always cut you some slack if you're foreign, and let's face it, do natives actually follow their own rules all the time anyway?

Monday, 23 April 2012

5 Korean Essentials

For anyone moving to Korea, here are five things you'll need!

1. Slippers
Not just for home, but you'll also need a pair for work. As a teacher I've always had to take my shoes off when I arrive at work each morning, and change into a pair of slippers for the day. It doesn't matter if they're a traditional slip-on, or a fluffy pair with teddy-bear heads, as long as they are dedicated 'indoor shoes'.

2. Bathroom shoes
While we're on the subject of slippers, you'll need a pair of plastic slip-ons for your bathroom. Why? Because most places don't have a separate shower, only a shower head that splashes water all over the bathroom floor, making it wet and slippery afterwards.

3. Kitchen scissors
Why don't we use these more in the UK?! Scissors are so much easier than knives! Particularly useful for cutting up whole kimchi, they can also be used for meat, noodles and long leafy veg.

4. Smartphone
OK, maybe this one is obvious. Smartphones are not just a Korean thing, smartphones are all over the world. However, in Korea, you HAVE to have one. The better your smartphone, the more your Korean friends will admire and respect you for your impressive phone-owning skills. They will be surprised when you send them amusing emoticons on Kakaotalk, or take photos of yourself on the subway.

5. Korean Chopsticks
If you think chopsticks are just chopsticks, think again. Korea has its own unique flat metal chopsticks. At first, they are MUCH trickier to get to grips with than the thicker plastic or wooden chopsticks you may have used before, for example with Chinese or Japanese food. However, once you've mastered them you'll find that their small size makes them much more convenient to use and store, and being made of metal makes them easier to clean and therefore more hygienic.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Why is a Mountain Like a Mall?

If you think that a trip to the mountains is a trip to escape city life, think again. Seoulites love to go hiking at weekends, and wherever you find a lot of people in Korea, you'll find a lot of other people trying to make money out of them. From small independent snack vendors to large international outdoor clothing brands, there are a wealth of businesses clustered around the bases of Seoul's popular hiking trails, serving the needs of hikers and capitalising on the extraordinary amounts of them.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Seoul National Cemetery

Seoul National Cemetery for Korean war veterans contains the graves and memorials of thousands of soldiers, police officers, and government figures including former presidents.