Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 1 in Seoul.

SHE DIDN'T have a clue what I was talking about. Neither did the girls at the last two phone shops. I wanted a Korean sim card for my phone, but obviously English wasn't as global a language as I'd thought and hoped. And the girl in this shop had been most promising of the lot - being able to pronounce some strange, previously unheard of word that sounded just a bit like "poem".

On the TV behind her a man was being tickled by a rotating wheel covered in feathers on all sides. His wide-eyed expression seemed to reside somewhere between ecstasy and agony, and he was in fits of involuntary laughter. A small crowd was gathered around him, laughing hysterically. Footage of baby crying began to blend into the shot, over the howling man. It all began to look rather sinister. But who am I to judge? It's their culture.

Despite this troubling first look into the psyche of a nation, my first day in Seoul went surprisingly smoothly. I made to my hostel without getting lost (though I had help from a nice Taiwanese girl) and I even managed to fix up some long term accommodation in a tiny, soulless (but not "Seoulless", wahey, get it?) room for an unbelievable €132 a month. I'm sure I'll begin to feel the walls closing in after a matter of days, but right now it seems slightly adventurous and glamourous - like what James Bond might do if he were a student on the poverty line - and in Seoul. Or at least as cool as Tintin anyway. I move in tomorrow.

I've only been out and about on the streets for a couple of hours, but it's clear the city is teeming, chaotic, intimidating - and very, very exciting.

Two observations:

There are very, very few white people here. I've seen two today, which is strange to see, coming, as I do, from quaint old Ireland.

Second: to the casual observer, it might seem at first glance that Seoul has the greatest number of teenage lesbians per capita on the planet. Everywhere girls walk around in pairs holding hands. I'm assuming for the moment that this is an altogether innocent cultural quirk.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to what comes next. Time, I think, to see how well the Koreans hold their drink.


  1. Careful now John, they might not be ready for ya, you want at least a month before they deport you to the North. Good to hear you got there ok, hope results went favourably as well.


  2. Good man John!

    Keep us updated.

  3. Important cultural tip number 1.

    It is considered polite to lick the hand of an older Korean gentlemen when offered in greeting. Failure to do so will be considered as a sleight.

  4. Culture shock, eh?
    By the way, as you might have figured by now, the Korean phones dont run on sim cards, but are digital CDMA format. That might have been another reason for confusion I guess...

    Funny though, dont you live in Seoul? I see so many foreigners in Seoul on a usual basis...

  5. Yes, next to a lot of Korea Seoul has many foreigners, but compared to the average American or European city there are very few. Stepping off a plane into Seoul is nothing like London, Paris or Chicago.

    Even now, in "mutli-cultural" Korea, foreigners make up just 2 percent of the population. Most of that 2 percent is other Asians.

  6. I find your blog to be quite hysterical. I am not computer savvy, nor am I too familiar with the way blogs work but I hope you receive this!

  7. Why thank you Jin Seon. Drop by any time.

  8. Is there another way to communicate with you? I see you are in Seoul and I wanted to ask a few questions about teaching in Korea...

  9. I don't teach in Korea, nor have I ever. But if you want to ask me any question about living here in general, I'd be happy to answer the best I can.

  10. Oh I misunderstood by your title. It was questions pertaining to teaching in Korea but I just signed a contract so I guess I will find out for myself! Thanks anyways :)