10 Things I Miss About Korea
From the food to the accessibility, here are the ten things I miss most about living in Korea.
I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M ACTUALLY SAYING THIS BUT I MISS KOREA. It’s completely normal that I would miss a place that was my home for a year. But for those who know me, I don’t necessarily have the most positive opinion of the country. That’s the strange effect missing has on someone — that after enough distance and enough time, all the terrible things disappear and you’re left with only the good things which is a huge distortion of one’s memory. But I’m grateful that after nearly a year of being away, I’m starting to miss things. It makes me feel like I’ve found peace with what disgruntled me on the ground at the time. I miss the nights that turned into days after dancing my heart out, I miss quiet walks under neon-lit bannerheads. I miss brunching with my girlfriends and watching Tim play frisbee along the river. I miss my students who would applaud me every time I would resort to Korean to explain myself. I miss being a little bit chilly and pulling my down comforter tightly around me since southern Vietnam is the land of perpetual summer. It honestly cheers me up to think that I have so much to yearn for. I have itemized some of the things I miss most about Korea. While they might come off as trivial, if not superficial, to me they will be always associated to Korea and the life I once led there.
DUDE. Seriously could not get enough of snacks in Korea. Since convenience stores are on every corner with their 1+1 gimmicks, I got suckered into buying a ton of artificial goodies. Those ramen noodle chips 뿌셔뿌셔, or ‘ppusha ppusha’ were my jam. They’re basically uncooked ramen noodles that Koreans ingeniously decided to package with seasoning and call a legit snack. You crush that block of ramen in the bag (fun fact: the word “ppushuh” means to “break apart”) and then dump the flavoring on the little bits. So bad, but soooo good.
After the beauty gurus of Youtube introduced the rest of the world to the magic of Korean beauty products, life has never been the same for the female-folk. A silver lining to living in a culture riddled by vanity is that its totally acceptable to splurge and pamper oneself. The reason why Korean women have the most luminous faces? ALL MAKEUP. BUT ITS FANTAAASTIC MAKEUP. And on top of quality, its hella inexpensive! My faves were Nature Republic for hair products and masks, Etude House for nail polishes and eyeliner, The Face Shop for, you guessed it, facial products, and Tony Moly for quirky packaging and their lipstains. Although, I will say I have never seen so much pastel in my life on someone’s face. Not a fan of the fifty shades of pink look.
‘JIMJILBANGS’ / KOREAN SPAS
For someone who’s always been a stickler about nudity *I cringe*, after I got over my insecurities, a spa outing became my idea of “Sunday Funday.” For 6,000 won (about $5.50), you get unlimited access to a number thermal pools, saunas, and jade beds (if crystal therapy is your thing then word). You can even sleep at ‘jimjilbangs’ too. It was a perfect way to deal with the bitter cold of winters in Korea. Although its funny that my first jimjilbang experience was at a gay jimjilbang (unintentionally). Will save that story for a later time.
‘CHIMAEK’ / FRIED CHICKEN AND BEER
When my mom came to visit, she told me her favorite dining experience was ‘chimaek’ 치맥. Now who would ever think you would go to Korea for fried chicken but au contraire, mon cheri. ‘Chimaek’ is the combination of chicken and ‘maekju,’ Korean for beer. The two entities go hand-in-hand and its a beautiful marriage between flavorful chicken and carbonated goodness. Seriously, I have no idea how the fried chicken is so perfectly cooked. From the superb, crispy outer coating seasoned with (crack?) and the delectable sauce that bathes the chicken, you can’t help but feeling mmmm,mmmm good.
‘BULGEUM’ / GOING OUT ON FRIDAY NIGHTS
The Korean take on ‘TGIF” (American English for “Thank God It’s Friday.) Except Koreans make TGIF look like a joke. Koreans are the hardest partiers I’ve ever met in my life. Honestly, my liver is still recuperating after a year of almost total sobriety. Not shops close. Soju is cheaper than a bottle of water in the States. It’s okay to eat Korean barbecue at 8 am if you’re wasted beyond belief, someone will be there by your side. Oh… and you can dance your heart out all night long ie. NO LAST CALL. One thing I don’t miss is the horrible DJ-ing. Sorry but Vietnam’s dancefloor playlist is on point.
RIDING MY BIKE
Riding a bike on the banks of the Gapcheon in Daejeon was really otherworldly. I remember careening down the ramp on my trusty orange cruiser onto the bike paths that were laid out next to the city’s riverway. I once rode to another city following those bike paths. Talk about about some serious infrastructure awesomess. I especially loved riding my bike past the river at sunset, the stress of the day melting away with every pump of the pedal. Once it was warm enough to start riding, my bike and I were inseparable.
I’ve begged all my friends who are coming to visit to please bring me some stationery. While I was living in Korea, I made a weekly pilgrimage to ‘ARTBOX,’ Korea’s #1 stationery destination. When most of my friends were blowing their paychecks at the bar, I was splurging on greeting cards and stickers like the child that I am. But when you’re a travel blogger and you come across a journal whose pages are overlaid with desaturated candids of Paris city scenes, you’d be spending all your cash there too. I’m a paper goods addict and proud of it!
Being in Vietnam where public transportation is virtually non-existent, I cannot help but cry for the simpler days when a ‘T’ money card would get me wherever I needed to go. Public buses ran every 5 minutes. There were subways, taxis, and bullet trains. Here in Vietnam, you can’t even enter a cab fully trustworthy of your driver. Sad but true. I miss being able to walk to a bus stop and feeling confident that I could make it from point A to point B without having to pay more than 2,100 won ($1.75).
I regret not taking advantage of all the mountains that surrounded Daejeon. I hiked a total of four times in the year I was in Korea which is depressing considering that hiking is not only super accessible in Korea but like, the nation’s favorite pastime (besides drinking.) Also being from Boston where winter immediately goes into summertime, seeing the flowers bloom during spring was especially memorable. The cherry blossoms are not overrated whatsoever. When those babies rain down on you from the sky, it’s honestly a K-Drama moment every girl should experience once in her lifetime.
‘NOREABANG’ / KOREAN KARAOKE
When I first came to Korea and I found out that karaoke was considered an actual socializing event, I think I actually teared up. There is no better way to cap off a night then by being soju-silly while singing throwbacks from the nineties. Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” = always a success. “Lady Marmalade” is my forever power anthem. And I will never forget my friend Gavin’s rendition of “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. If ever I met a born performer in my life, it was Gavin.
👉 For anyone who has left Korea, what do you miss most? For those who haven’t left, what do you think you’d miss the most? Comment below!
Your graphics are literally the best. I love seeing them. Everything you miss are the things I love Korea. I can totally relate with you about hating a certain place and then getting a grace period to heal from it. I felt the same as Okinawa and the things I took for granted are the things I miss the most. (I especially miss the beach and I’m a total beach snob because of how pretty Okinawa is.) Despite all this, when you find your happiness elsewhere, you would never give up that happy place! 🙂
I like that grace period theory, that definitely encompasses what I was going through. I definitely took Korea for granted thinking I was gonna have a second opportunity but then again, Tim’s mom is living there so hopefully its a part of my future forever! 🙂
I’m heading to Seoul next week! I can’t wait to go to all the beauty and stationary shops!!!
OOOH!!! Excited for you! What neighborhood will you be in? Visit Hongdae and Insadong 😉
OMG It’s so funny, we missed almost all the same things! I missed Korean beauty products big time because when we were traveling in SE Asia I would see Korean cosmetic stores, but the prices were like 4x higher!!!! >:( We also missed bringing pizza and beer into the movie theatres and sitting in the Sweetbox at CGV! Also, our favorite fried chicken stand… makgeolli, and all our day trips and day dates around Seoul. Seoul will always hold a special place in our hearts!! One time when we were in Vietnam (thinking we were going to be living there instead of coming back to Seoul) we saw one of Korea’s fried chicken chain restaurants and we lost our minds and ate there! Shortly after we accepted a job back in Seoul…hahaha I blame it on the fried chicken!
Haha too true! I remember getting to HCMC and I was like yessss theres face shop and I waltzed on in and checked out an item and it was like triple the price! I was soo crushed! That’s too funny, I’ve never heard of fortuitous fried chicken but then again, friend chicken is always symbolic of our most hidden desires so it makes complete sense that would happen to you 😛
Gina is right! Your graphics are super cool 🙂
I feel ya, Izzy. I feel ya. I’m back in Malaysia for the summer, and guess what, I miss Korea. I miss the convenience. I miss going hiking. I even miss the food that I had to dine at Korean restaurant so many times 😛
Haha I do love Korean food but it got very monotonous overtime. I’m gonna have Korean bbq this weekend though after six months of not having it!! So psyched!
It is quite normal to feel nostalgic about the place you once ever lived. Korea has this touch that never leaves you. And oh, I loved your graphical representation of the stuff you miss about Korea. Maybe, one day when I am outta here, I would share some memories. Other than that, try and plan another visit. I am sure you may still have some friends to catch all the frenzy and relive the Korean life.
I think the rant about how weird it was that I was missing Korea was more of a preface for friends/readers who knew the embittered me while I was living there. Reflection is always therapeutic. If, and when you leave, please share your musings would me. I’d be happy to compare and contrast notes 😉
Sarah from Tales From a Fork
This is such a great list. I love that you can have Korean barbecue at 8am and it’s totally acceptable. Totally doing this when I go to Korea in August!
So this is also the funny thing is in the Korean dating culture, if someone wants to “go home” with you then you ask them to eat bbq with you and if they accept, its basically like yea I’ll sleep with you! Luckily I always had my friends accompanying me to early morning bbq and not creepy guys I met at a clubs 😛
I am all about that cutesy stationary and journal stuff =P When my brother went to Korea, I asked him to bring me home empty planners and now I have three! I haven’t been to Korea yet but I cannot wait for when I do. I really want to check out those spas I see in shows just like the picture you have haha and learn how to wrap my towel into earmuffs.
There will be people who will assist you with that cute turban get-up. Seriously if you want a real Korean experience, the spas are your places and yes… sooo many kinds of Korean stationery, I get sooo greedy!
Korean Fried chicken and beer would be what I would lean to. Interesting your graphics, as Korean/Asian imagery always strikes me as being like this. A bit child-like, a bit playful. Looks great!
Wow thanks for the compliment on the graphics! I wanted it to come off “Korean” esque so glad to hear its been achieved 😉
I have heard that Korean Fried Chicken is amazing! I tried it in LA (I know that doesn’t even come close to counting) but want to have the real thing. I am hoping to make it to Seoul in a couple of months so these are good things to know. I would definitely love to go a karoke room and jimjilbang. Although I am pretty comfortable in my own skin, I can be a little prudish about being naked in front of strangers (or seeing them naked) so that should be a growing experience for me!
Oh man I tried it in Boston at this place called Bon Chon and was seriously unimpressed and then when I got to Korea, I was like holy amazeballs where have you been all my life!!! The jimjilbang is an absolute must! You will learn to love your body so much more, I think thats why Koreans are so confident, cause they’ve never had to worry about their naked beings.
Check to all those! Korea is a good country to live in. Especially us who have small kids. It’s a safe place for them. I agree, your graphics are dainty and fancy. I love chimaek with my husband, that’s an exception to our preference for wine.
Yes, reading from your blog posts I can see that is a special place to raise a child. And I love that your date nights with the hubby center around chimaek. All my friends who were devout winos (it was hard to come by good wine/expensive) settled for chimaek nights too 😛
I have never visited Korea but looks like I need to now. I did not know those funky korean cosmetics were any good – I always though it was junk glittery stuff, good to know that you recommend them (ROFL at fifty shades of pink look). Also the snacks – I know what you mean – I miss Indonesia so much now and even the food sometime (though when I was there, I was missing home food lol).
Korea is the next place to be! There’s honestly so much to do there, I’m surprised its not more of a tourist destination and yes, the childish packaging of Korean beauty products is so misleading. Its all really good, probably one of the best things I’ve ever discovered on my travels!
The Toronto Seoulcialite
Hah! I will totally miss every last one of these! You’re so right about the KBBQ at 8 AM, and I think I know which jimjilbang you’re talking about…although I’ve certainly never been 😉 You can always come back and visit (or teach again!)
I can’t go back to teaching I think after getting a taste of the writing world but yes, definitely will be visiting 😉 It’s that creepy Jimjilbang in Itaewon at the Hawthorne Hotel!! Stay away!
This is an amazing list. Have been following couple of Korean beauty blogger and I’m kind of fascinated with their cosmetics, the packaging looks so cute and I’m pretty sure they are worth every penny.
The level of love that goes into create the packaging makes the purchase feel like a double-win since I’m a product design freak as wel!
Lauren of Postgrad & Postcards
I’ve never been to Korea but I had a genuinely great time reading this and foraging through the graphics.
Thanks Lauren! You definitely need to get out there 🙂
If I would ever leave this place I would miss the ice cream. So many great flavors in the convenience store. Also, 치맥. Thinking about that makes me want to eat it now, but it’s morning so I can’t. 🙂
Haha the ice cream really is so good! My favorite one is that fishie with the red beans, awww man its so good! Takes me back!
Samantha | There She Goes Again
Yes!! I know I’m going to miss all of these when I leave in November!! Oh Korea, I sometimes have so many problems with you, but there are certain aspects that are going to make me cry when I leave!
My advice: take advantage of every minute you possibly can! I seriously regret not being more astute about trying to fit everything in and crying is totally okay!
We go nuts for chicken and bear in the states so I’m not surprised. Feeling nostalgic is normal, you made a connection and I hope you get to visit Korea soon.
Love this write up! I’ve never been to Korea but I’m a big fan of their beauty products and their fried chicken. This post made me laugh so hard. I’m going to have to go visit there. I would eat all of the snacks!
Hahaha I’m glad it made you laugh! And snacking there is totally embraced! Seriously, all I see in Korea is people eating their hearts out!
There’ s so much to miss about Korea, and I am sad that one day, i think less than a year from now, I am going to have a run down of things I miss about Korea too. I agree to what you wrote here. I experienced all of that except for, oh well, the 뿌셔뿌셔.. haha. I didn’t encoutnter that one. For somebody who is a fan of convenience store as it is my go to when I am hungry, I haven’t seen that one just yet. I want to try it too.
The 뿌셔뿌셔 comes in yellow packaging with a little boy looking like a super hero on it! A year is plenty of time to start getting to what you haven’t so unearth that bucket list and have fun enjoying what you have right now.
Love this! Totally on point! I also miss Korea for these reasons (and more). I hope to go back one day though! 🙂
Hi Jackie! Are you not currently in Seoul right now? I always under the impression that you were living there!
Nicole (Wee Gypsy Girl)
Thanks so much for this post! Sometimes I get a bit bummed out on Korea, but this has reminded me of all the things that I LOVE about this country!!! When I went back to the UK I was cringing at the cost of “cheap” make up! Love Innis Free! And also, those bike paths are my new obsession. I did a 4 day cycle trip a couple of months ago and it was amazing! Hope you’re having a great time in Vietnam though. I bet there are plenty of things you would miss about if you ever leave!
You know what, I was the same as you when I was living there. It was so easy for me to get down about things and not appreciate what was around me but then now, I get to look back on it and miss it for things. Right??? Cheap in the USA is a joke too. In Korea, you can get top notch moisturizers for $5. It was paradise! You did a 4 day cycle??! Wow impressive! I think my bum would hate me if I put it under that kind of torture!!
Well, I haven’t left Korea completely, just on vacation for 2 months, but I’m surprised you didn’t include – Korean Food and Internet Speed, because after 2 weeks I’m starting to miss my favorite Kimchi Jiggae, Dalk Galbi, Tuna KimBop, Bi Bim Bop, Kimchi Mandoo and the list goes on. And you?
The internet in Vietnam is equally as fast, if not more so which has been such a surprise! And I do miss Korean food but lucky for me, there’s a ton of great Korean restaurants in HCMC and I was saving a post specifically devoted to Korean food in the near future 😛
This is so spot on! I’m leaving Korea in a month and a half after 3 and half years here. I’m going to miss the social life, all the food and definitely Noraebangs!
Hi! I’m a bit late but able to share the name of the jimjilbang you went to? I was looking for some cheap alternative to the bigger names (around 5000-6000won). Thanks!
HI Jae, sorry for the late reply! The jimjilbang I went to in Seoul was called Dragon Hill Spa! It’s a little pricier (around 9,000) but so worth it!!! There are a lot more pools and floors to explore!