7 things I miss about living in Korea

Happy March!

It seems like only yesterday that I opened up this blog, but can you believe it’s been almost 3 months already…time sure does fly by quickly.

This year, March 1 is a day filled with all sorts of holidays and observations. For Filipino Catholics, today marks the start of the lenten season-Ash Wednesday. On the other hand, for Korean people, today is 삼일절 (sam-il-jeol, “Three-one day”). 삼일절 is a holiday that remembers the March 1st movement (1919), one of the earliest demonstrations by the Korean people against the Japanese colonial government.

However, apart from these two events, I also am celebrating my own personal “holiday”-if you would call it. Just a couple of days ago marked 2 years since I first arrived in Korea for my Junior Term Abroad. A part of me is still not letting the fact that it’s been 2 years since then sink in completely, because I do, in fact, miss my second home every single day and I can’t wait until I can go back to visit.

…though don’t get me wrong, I do love the Philippines, there are just a number of things that I left behind in Korea that can’t quite be replaced-and here are seven of them.

01. The Food

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Korea is widely known for all sorts of delicious food-during my stay in Korea I made sure to take pictures of all of the things I ate on a daily basis. Though I realized that while I lived in Korea, I ate so much-and by that I don’t just mean that I ate many different things, I would eat near-gluttonous amounts of food every single day (thanks to the “buffet” breakfast and dinner at our dormitory cafeteria).

In Korea I discovered some of my favorite food dishes-from the usual Korean staples and street food:

  • 순두부찌개 (sun-du-bu-jji-gae, “soft tofu stew”) with unlimited seaweed rice
  • 라볶이 (ra-bokk-i) which is a cross between 라면 (ramyun) and 떡볶이 (ddeok-bokk-i)
  • 떡볶이 (ddeok-bokk-i, “spicy rice cakes”), one of Korea’s most famous street food items
  • 찜닭 (jjim-dak, “steamed or braised chicken”), my favorite variation of which being 안동찜닭 (An-dong jjim-dak)

Other than these, there are also Korea’s trendy and must-try dishes! Although there is of course, Chicken  or 치느님 as Koreans call it, Korea has fallen into a deep affair with cheese. Many restaurants have been popping up with their own cheesy food items–from cheese ribs, cheese surf and turf, to cheese chicken….they almost have it all!

02. Weather

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I arrived in Korea during the tail-end of the winter season, and stayed through spring and left just before summer hit. The weather was perfect, and so much better than the sweltering heat that I grew up with in the Philippines. I loved wearing all kinds of thick jackets, layers, bonnets, and hats. I was also in Korea when the cherry blossoms and other flowers bloomed-so it was like a dream come true for me!

03. Transport

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The vast transport system is probably one of the things that I miss most about Korea, and one of the things that I wish the Philippines had. During my first visit in 2013, I learned how to use Korea’s subway system (which is actually very foreigner friendly, mind you) so when I returned nearly 2 years later, all I had to do was to arm myself with the subway app and I was basically ready to go anywhere!

Granted, I did take the subway from 신촌 (Sinchon) to 홍대 (Hongdae) during the first few months–which I learned that you can actually walk to-and-fro easily. Thanks to some friends I learned the advent of 네이버 지도 (Naver Maps) and how to take the bus-which is so much more convenient at times, and saves you the long walks to the subway station. I really really wish that we had a transport system as quick and as reliable as Korea’s, but that’s wishful thinking for the time being.

04. “Fast-paced” & “convenience” cultures

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Some people who have experienced living in Korea may disagree with me on this, but I personally miss the fast-paced and on-the-go culture that Korea has. Korean people walk and move fast, work fast, and want everything done fast. Thanks to this fast-paced and constantly moving culture, it’s no wonder that their delivery system allows you to have food delivered at public parks, and that you can cook your own ramyun by the Han river.

Moreover, the current Korean culture leans towards having things at your convenience. Convenience stores now have almost anything that you could need, and I honestly would have not survived living in Korea without them.

Plus, it’s also thanks to this quick culture that I didn’t gain weight and was at my fittest state (despite all the eating) because it was either I moved fast or possibly get bumped or trampled upon!

05. The mix of old & new

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I truly admire Korea for being able to become such a modernized country while keeping some of its roots in tact. Although that may sound like an oxymoron, the most evident example of how Korea keeps the old while welcoming the new would be through its architecture. To this day, many of Korea’s ancient palaces and folk villages stand-side by side with modern architecural masterpieces such as the DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza).

I used to enjoy passing up the street behind my dormitory all the way up to 이대역 (Edae station) because there were a lot of second hand stores, pharmacies, and small markets that all the 할머니s (Korean grandmothers) would frequent. Then when I would reach the station, it would be a a bustling marketplace filled with young people-usually students out to find the latest fashion trends and to look for good places to eat.

06. Friends

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While living in Korea, I’ve met some of the people that I can safely call my “forever friends.” What started out as just me and Yuki in the beginning blossomed into a much larger group of friends from so many different countries and cultures. Like in any friendship, yes, it was awkward at first and some people didn’t really feel comfortable with each other, while there were others that just bonded and clicked like magnets from the get-go. In the time that I spent in Korea I learned a lot from them (and I can only hope that they learned from me as well), and grew in a lot of ways thanks to their company.

Although we only really spent a couple of months all together, most of us still keep in contact, and I want to thank them all for helping me become who I am today. I also want to thank them for putting up with me and all of my weird phases (special shoutout to Yuki, Becca, Karina and Marina). These friends that I made that one spring are now some that I consider my best friends, and I cannot wait to see them all again some time soon either in Korea or in any of the countries that we came from. I love these girls ♡

07. Fan Life

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…and last but not the least, this post would not be complete without me talking about my experience as a K-Pop fan!

Prior to living in Korea I had been a fan of Korean pop for about 7 or 8 years (this year it will be 9 or 10 already). Thanks to K-pop I was able to learn how to read the characters at least, but not entirely learn the language. To be quite honest, K-pop is one of the reasons that pushed me to go to Korea for my Junior Term Abroad. I will say that I thought I knew a lot about Korean pop prior to entering the Korean fandoms, but apparently there were a lot of unspoken rules that I had to learn on the spot (sometimes the hard way).

I was fortunate enough to have been able to follow two groups closely-JJCC and VAV. Within these two groups are some of the nicest, sweetest, and friendliest idols ever (in my opinion), and I don’t regret getting myself interested in them ever.

Long story short, I was able to do so many things as their fan, but…I will warn all of you who are interested in doing the same things I did. Going to events, schedules, and concerts is by no means an easy task. As in any other undertaking, you have to be dedicated (not just to doing it, but to ideally, one group) because it will at times, drain you of all your energy. Like it or not, you will have to wake up early, sleep late, and engage other fans to keep your place in a certain fandom-and with the place comes the drama at times…so it’s really not for the faint of heart, or the physically weak.

It will however, teach you to write letters that you never thought you’d be able to, allow you to travel to places that you’ve never been to, and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. It also will give you the best memories with some of the greatest people you will meet, so if you’re up to the challenge then I would say go for it, but never ever forget to always be sensitive towards the people around you as well!

 

Now that I’ve enumerated all the things that I miss about my second home, Korea-I can’t wait to go back. Hopefully within this year I’ll be able to head back for a visit, but until then…

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