CHRISTMAS creeps up on you in Korea. November 1 does not begin a two-month overload of horrendous music, lights and shops begging you to buy, buy, buy. Until December, there is little indication any holiday is on the way at all. But then lights finally arrive, strung out on buildings and trees, and coffee shops begin playing Cliff and Mariah and the rest of it.
Christmas here isn't about family, so much as your girl or boyfriend. It is yet another day in Korea for young romance, cute gestures and gifts. Another day for booking love motels for secret love or lust.
There is no turkey, no Brussels sprouts, no Christmas pudding. Rather than grow weary of the barrage of festive cheer and cheese as you might at home, in Korea, you barely notice it's Christmas at all. And then, suddenly, it is the day before Christmas Eve and there's no missing it any more.
Until a few weeks ago, I was not particularly looking forward to Christmas in Seoul: the cliché of the expat pining for home and family made me cringe as much as it threatened to define me as well. But I have no such worry now. I have a stupidly large bottle of wine in the cupboard, ready to heat and infuse, and someone extremely nice, the girlfriend, to spend the day with. There won't be turkey, but there'll be plenty of cheer all the same.
The wine should see to that.