Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas in Korea...

Imagine a cold and frosty morning huddled around the Christmas tree opening presents with your nearest and dearest. Imagine the mountains of food that will be utterly demolished as you pull open yet another cracker and tell the cheesiest joke of the year. Imagine seeing the Christmas lights around your local town and enjoying a warm mulled wine from one of the many Christmas market stalls. Imagine the Boxing Day sales or ice skating at Winter Wonderland. Imagine the chocolate calendar, the Coca Cola advert, the mince pies, the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the pigs in blankets, the roasted vegetables, the Yorkshire puddings, imagine ALL OF THE FOOD!! Imagine that, and then imagine this...

Teacher? What’s Christmas?! ...Welcome to Christmas in Korea! I’m exaggerating slightly but Christmas really isn’t a big deal here. Unlike back home where pretty much everyone (regardless of their religion) celebrates it, in Korea only Christians really do. Christianity is the second biggest religion here but it still only makes up about 25% of the population. A massive 70% of people are Buddists, and so because of this you won’t find as many festivities going on as you might do in certain western countries.

...The few decorations I found...

The local towns aren't really decorated and you’ll find it hard to spot a Christmas tree or even a bit of tinsel. However if you absolutely LOVE Christmas and can't live without it then have no fear, there are a few things that are worth checking out. If you’re an ESL teacher like myself, then you should experience some sort of Christmas, depending on your schools beliefs of course. At my school we had a small party, sang some Christmas songs and made some lovely little Christmas cards. We even had Santa stop by with a few presents to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. How lovely. 

Outside of work on the streets of Seoul you’ll be able to find a few Christmas decorations dotted around the place, and there is even a couple of restaurant serving up a good old (Korean style) roast dinner! It’s not really the same but it’ll do. Lotte World apparently has a big Christmas parade too, and as the worlds largest indoor theme park you should expect great things - although the jury is still out on that one!

Myeongdong Shopping street

Be sure to also check out the huge outdoor ice skating rink at Seoul Grand Plaza. Book in advanced if you can though, as this does get extremely busy around this time of year. There are a few light festivals worth seeing around the city, including some along the Cheonggyecheon Stream, and I’ve also heard that there are some really nice Christmas Markets around the same area of Insadong.

Although its not a big deal in Korea, Christmas Day is still a public holiday and the people that do celebrate it exchange gifts (usually money) and eat traditional Christmas cakes much like people in the west. However, their idea of a Christmas cake is basically a sponge or ice cream cake bought from the local Baskin and Robbins. Nice.

Christmas Eve CAKE!

It has felt a bit strange to not have as many things going on around me this year, and of course not being surrounded by my friends and family. I've missed things that I didn't think I would really miss - like the annual Christmas work party and the dramas that follow it. It feels very un-Christmassy without the dramas, but it has been great to experience a different type of Christmas in a different country, and I am very happy to be a part of it.

This year I will be spending Christmas day itself...on a plane! Yes that's right folks, tomorrow I will be flying out to spend the holidays in the wonderful land of Australia! Whoop! It will be as hot as the sun and after the last few weeks of freezing cold weather I honestly can not wait! I will be stopping off for a few hours in China too, so technically I’ll be in Korea and China on Christmas Day, and then Australia there after, so i’ll let you know how that one pans out!

For now though I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, enjoy it wherever you may be in the world and remember, dogs aren't just for Christmas - they eat them all year round here!

Until 2016...

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Another Year? Go on then...

So last month my director sat me down and asked me if I'd like to stay another year! Eeeeek! Nine months in and I already have to decide whether or not I should stay for the next fifteen! Wow! Its a big decision to make and at the time I honestly wasn't sure how I felt about it all. However after much umming and erring the results are in, and I have decided to stay!

With one more year behind my back I will have saved a lot more money and I will be able to explore a lot more of the world, which is one of the main reasons why I moved over here in the first place. I will also have more time to figure out exactly what it is I want to do when I eventually do go back home...Oh god. I have also come to realise that I probably won’t have another break like this until I retire...in about 35 years time, so I figure I may as well make the most of it. 

Since I moved to Korea in February I have been saying that the highs are extremely high and the lows are extremely low, but over the past couple of months as things have settled, I have realised that this is actually a little bit silly. Sure there’s going to be tough times, but after a while it sort of becomes a bit ridiculous. Making a mountain out of a mole hill, feeling anxious and paranoid and becoming unnecessarily dramatic have been some of my worst qualities in Korea. Thankfully I now know that there are much better ways to spend my time, and I think that this is probably one of the best lessons I have learnt here.

Being in Korea is almost like being back at university but with the added benefits of money and a home of your own. Its a massive learning curve (as is life) and I think in order to truly appreciate this experience, I need to stay another year. If only just to understand how amazing it is to be able to explore Korea (or anywhere else in Asia) within just a few hours, and I am for sure going to make the most of that.

So I plan on trying to do as much as possible over the next 15 months and stop wasting so much time on the silliness. This is one of those experiences that I want to look back on with fondness, and it is only really me that can make that happen.


So Korea 2016...bring it on!


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