What an atmosphere

Yes, I admit that I am still missing Beijing and most likely ever will be. The past more than three years have been packed with new impressions, new contacts and insights in a totally different culture that stand out from everything else before.

 

The problem is that this puts a certain threshold on my expectations for my time in Korea. Of course I wish that it will be a positive episode in the same kind of way.

However, when it comes to the language I doubt that for the moment. Three months ago I started with learning Hangul but besides a „Hello“, „Goodbye“ or „How much is it?“ there is not much progress. The grammar is feasible with a few weird things like the honorific terms for showing respect to others.

A comparison to my level of Mandarin is just not fair at the moment, I know that, but being able to lead conversations in Chinese puts some pressure on me. My goal is to achieve the same level in Hangul but until then it is still a long way to go.

Repeating the new vocabulary and topics of the previous lesson helps me to get things deeper in my memory but as soon as it comes to saying a word my brain somehow seems to be blocked.

 

Apart from the language another bigger difference to Germany or Beijing is the food. For those who insist on having a warm meal for lunch I have to tell you that this can be different in Korea. I have never seen so many cold dishes on a menu like here before. It might sound odd, but cold noodles in a cold soup, sometimes even with ice cubes, can be pretty refreshing in summertime. For a Western tongue this is something new but worth trying.

Do you like snacks? Perfect because after taking a seat in a restaurant, the waiters will put a few small plates on the table with side dishes. Most common are kimchi and some kind or spicy-sour radish. In other cases it can be spinach, marinated onions or peppers. Especially the last one seems to be one of the key ingredients of Korean dishes. Onions and garlic are the other two.

When you are not used to eating spicy food, you will be after living here.  Except candy or some kinds of bread almost every meal has a heavy taste of garlic.

Furthermore the mixture of meat, cooked and rare ingredients is amazing. Have you ever tried warm rice with salmon sashimi and fish eggs? Rare crabs sliced in half with some rice and soy sauce? You should.

 

Neglecting the language and food for a moment the most striking part so far is the culture for me. Respect and being friendly is a key value for Koreans and gives you a feeling of being welcome. After a while you will get used to that and might also taking a small bow when saying hello to a person you haven’t met before.

The first time you will realize the difference in treating people over here is when traveling back to your home country. People have been also treating me nicely in China and trips back home to Germany opened my eyes how rude German people sometimes are. Korean culture puts this to the next level.

Often I have the feeling that people even tend to be sorry for things they can not influence at all.

 

Last but not least the mixture of living the future and relicts of the past make this place so special. Being able to download movies, files or streaming music on your mobile phone at the highest data rates is only one example why Korea is known for the most advanced network technologies. Countries like Germany does not even have LTE network in every region whereas in Korea they wonder how they can push the speed even higher.

On the contrary areas like Bukchon Hanok village help you to forget all that for a moment. Small alleys wind through countless traditional houses of one or two floors. Each of them having that typical shaped roof and nice wooden doors.

Some of the owners opened their own kind of museum which I would rather call tea house or coffee shop. The clue is that being charged an entrance fee includes a free drink with an amazing view over this traditional area. Walking through this area lets you forget about all the rush and being connected every second.

Fortunately this place is just a few minutes away and so I can escape easily enjoying a short vacation from everyday life.

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