Day trips from Seoul: Wolmido

The best part about living in South Korea, is the transportation. It’s easy to get from one end of the country to the other on the KTX.

A few weekends ago, my friend and I decided to escape the city life and head into one of the nearby islands in Seoul.

We got to Wolmido right when the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom, so it was a really beautiful sight. There are ferries that you can take to other nearby islands and hike. There are also tons of great seafood to eat. There’s also a mini amusement park for little kids to play at, along with some beautiful gardens for a quiet escape.

It’s pretty accessible to get from Seoul. Just take the train all the way to Incheon Station (Line 1), exit and take any of the local bus (2, 15,23 or 45) to Wolmido. Get off at Wolmido City Tour, Wolmi Culture Street, or Wolmi Final Bus Stops.

 

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Flirting in Korea

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Yup. My biggest ‘culture shock’ in Korea is dating. I’m literally the worst when it comes to flirting. I can tell when someone is interested in my friends, but I struggle when it happens to me. Throw in a different culture and I’m pretty much clueless.

So if a guy texts you everyday, tells you to take care when the weather is cold, or that he cares for you, etc. If this was back in Canada, I’d take all these as little hints that someone is interested. However, that’s not the case here.

I’m often told that Koreans guys are more ‘chivalrous’ than their counterparts back in Canada. Showing someone you care about them is just part of their culture.

 

TL;DR Language,crazy taxis, squatting toilets, etc. All of these don’t confuse me as much as dating in a different country 

My awkwardness knows no bounds

Before departing for my exchange in Seoul, I looked up cultural norms in order to prepare me for my trip. One of the things that caught me off-guard was blind dating. Apparently it is quite common in Korea. I wasn’t planning on going on blind dates in Korea, and to this day I have no idea if I was placed in one.

While in Seoul, I had a pleasant chat with one of my security guards  after returning from my trip from Japan.  He told me about his son, 승현(I’ll  abbreviate him as SH) who was around the same age as me.  He asked if I wanted to be introduced to his son, I said no. But when he suggested that I could teach his son English, and SH would teach me Korean, I agreed to dinner on a whim.

It also just so happened that in lecture that week, we were learning about rape. I was already a bit freaked out by meeting a stranger alone, so the school lectures just added on to the anxiety. I called my brother soon after, panicking, unsure if I’ll make it out of this dinner alive. My brother scolded me for being so careless in a foreign land. But he also promised to call before and after dinner to make sure I was safe, as he was convinced that the dad only wants to set me up with his son.

I messaged the security guard freaked out, asking to meet in a public place. He then sent me a photo of his family to reassure me that he wasn’t lying about having a son. I mentioned before in our conversation that I was a Christian, and said that I had nothing to worry about, as we both belonged to God.

Dinner was so awkward. I didn’t know what to say, or when to stop eating. The dad asked why I was so silent the whole time.

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(except we didn’t meet on the internet)

The dad pretty much dominated the whole conversation and SH would occasionally ask  me questions but his dad would translate for him. His dad told his son to call me “noona” as he wanted us to have a comfortable relationship. His dad left after dinner and SH led me to a bar. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me and I wasn’t sure if I was being too intimidating.

Our conversation got a bit better, as he loosened up to me after a drinking a bit. He kept asking “do you have any questions for me?” It was kind of funny/cute when he couldn’t understand me. He’d awkwardly laugh, hide his face with his hands, and ask me to write it down, as it was easier for him to read English.  He walked me back home and asked for my number before we parted.

I got home safely, and contrary to my fears, nothing bad happened. I called my brother to let him know, and after a short lecture from him about safety, we laughed at the exchange.

Till this day, I still have no idea if this was a blind date, or a language exchange.

Bonus: when my friend came to visit, the security guard told her ” I tried to set her up with my son.” Then winked.

My soul misses Seoul

Is it possible to miss a country this much when you don’t even have the right to call it your own?

I spent my summer in Seoul, half studying, but mainly sight seeing. I made friends using a language outside my mother tongue, and my heart skipped a beat whenever anyone assumed I was Korean. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll miss the most. The feeling of being lost, new discoveries, or the joy in finding familiar things in a distant land…

I miss going to Hongdae and hearing the clubs boom with music
I miss going to the fish market and tasting weird delicacies
I miss staying out all night with friends
I miss seeing the couples walking along the Han River
I miss the familiar chime of the convenient store
I miss the luxury of shopping in underground subway stores
But I do not miss those pesky salespeople
I miss being able to see my favourite celebrities and hearing Kpop blasts in the streets
I miss the burning taste of Soju
I miss the cute accessory shops.

One summer. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with this country.