Written by : Rebecca
South Korea is an amazing place with beautiful landscapes and a capital that never sleeps. I’ve lived here on and off for almost 10 years now and despite my initial lukewarm feelings for the Land of the Morning Calm, I have grown to love it and call it home. Don’t get me wrong, living here is not without its difficulties, but the pros highly outweigh the cons in my opinion! Here are the top 5 things that I appreciated about Seoul, South Korea.
While Seoul doesn’t compare to lots of other multicultural cities in the world, I have seen an exponential growth in the non-Korean population over the past decade. In conjunction with this growth, I feel that there has been a very positive shift in Korean attitudes towards the non-military expatriates living here. I am also lucky to live in a district of central Seoul called Yongsan that boasts a large number of Korean and non-Koreans living together in the same community. 5+ years ago, this was a place that a lot of Koreans were hesitant to visit because of misconceptions about foreigners or their inability to speak English. Nowadays, these fears have been cast aside by many and it is now a true mixing bowl of nationalities with lots of opportunity for cultural exchange and fun times!
I considered putting this at the top of my list because eating is one of my favorite pastimes! Korean food is becoming more and more known around the world and I actually read something kind of cool that famous chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain said about Korean food. To sum it up, he explained that for a long time, the spice and seemingly bizarre nature of Korean cuisine was what kept it from becoming popular, especially in the U.S. The lack in popularity is what helped it stay true to its roots and thus, it abstained from catering to American taste buds. Today, the spicy and authentic properties of Korean dishes is what is attracting non-Koreans to it. Some mouthwatering foods and my personal favorites that you have to try are : marinated galbi (Korean style BBQ), braised beef short ribs (galbi jjim), spicy chicken stew (dakdoritang), kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae), and spicy chicken stir-fry (dak galbi).
Move over New York, there’s a new insomniac ready to take over your reigning title. This is probably one of the things I like most about Seoul. I come from a small town in Iowa where most places of business close early and bars do last call at 1:30 AM or before. When I first arrived in Seoul, I was amazed at the hustle and bustle of the mega city by night, but I have to say that I may have went a little overboard with the late nights out. A Korean night out can reach up to 4 rounds after dinner with rounds of food and Korean-style side dishes, karaoke rooms, nightclubs, and finally, a round of more food and drinks for a breakfast at sunrise. Now that I’m a little older and my body has so kindly given me the gift of the 3 day hangover after a night out, I don’t partake as much in the nightlife, but it is always bumpin’ 7 days a week!
I know most larger cities have this, but out of all the cities I’ve traveled to, Seoul’s trains and buses are the cleanest, safest, and most punctual I’ve seen yet. The buses and A one-way trip on the train comes to about $1.25 USD, so it’s affordable and accessible to nearly everyone. Plus, the transportation connects pretty much all of the country, so there’s really no need at all for a personal vehicle! Finally, there are the taxis. In most big cities, taxis cost an arm and a leg, but not in Seoul! Fares start at around $2.50 USD and a ride across the whole city from Gangnam to the popular nightlife and entertainment area of Hongik University will $20 USD or less!
No matter if you’re an R&B diva, classic rock connoisseur, or OG rapper, Korean karaoke–“noraebang”, which translates to “song room”– has something for everyone. I’m as tone deaf as they come and even I can get my singing on in a noraebang for hours on end! If you get stage fright like me, then this Korean style karaoke is perfect for you. It’s like regular karaoke, but instead of singing in front of a crowd full of strangers, you’re in a small, private room with just your friends and only your crew can hear your off key crooning. Some song rooms are even pimped out with full food and alcohol service as well. If you come to Korea and want to have an “authentic” experience, this is a must!
That wraps up my top 5 about Seoul, South Korea! There are so many more great things about this city, so if you’ve been there and I’m missing some, be sure to leave it in the comments section or tell us about them on our Facebook Travel Forum! https://www.facebook.com/groups/613025845523107/