|no matter how well dressed, do not trust the ajummas (old ladies)!|
The first time I went to Korea, I was expecting it to be like Japan, just a little poorer, and really hated my trip when it turned out to be radically different (I did write about this here and here).
2 years later, the Japanese economy has been steadily declining and the Korean economy booming, which now means that Korea, or at least Seoul (where 50% of the Korean population live) is actually richer in general and more expensive than Japan when it comes to many things.
|but ah, it's all so pretty!|
Anyway, I meant to give the country another go, although this time, I stuck to Seoul (where I couldn't do or see much last time due to an allergic reaction to what I now think was a mutated, Korean bed bug species). Within 15 minutes of arrival, I was being pushed around, stepped on and stared at by Korean grannies again. Old men made vulgar gestures toward me on the subway more than once. I was kicked out of restaurants again (traditional Korean restaurants don't serve single diners). I walked into a make up/beauty store and was told “Only for girls!” while trying some samples (while wearing a skirt and ballet flats... short hair in Korea = man ? Or do I look that old to Koreans?). Oh, and let's not forget the accommodation, where something is always wrong (this time, I was briefed within 5 seconds and then completely ignored by my hosts at both the hostel and apartment I stayed at – an improvement to last time where people told me when I could stay in my room and when I had to go to the toilet). Again, I witnessed how elderly people act completely ruthless, how people puked all over the streets and how young women kept checking themselves out in the glass doors of the subway stations continuously.
|perfection and beauty - too much of it?|
The more I learn about Korean culture, the more it fascinates me, but the more it alienates me, too. Japan, which is as similar and different to Korea as France is to the UK, has a culture that intrigues me, but with very few examples, it's one that I enjoy and can easily adapt to. The same goes for many other countries. Korea has the technology of 2050 and the attitudes of 1950, with a lot of vanity thrown in, and I don't fit anywhere in between.
|aaah, food... I forgive you, Korea!|
On the other hand, I had a great time with friends who live there. Attended a temple festival that would even put the New Year's festivities' at Chinese and Japanese temples to shame. Had delicious and cheap food and drinks. Did manage to shop for some Korean clothes and make up in the end.
It's not a word I use habitually, but Seoul is a really cool city. It's got all the things big cities have, with great nightlife (I don't even do “nightlife”), art, culture and museums and nature is always nearby.
I love Korea. I hate Korea. And most likely, I will return. It's like an abusive relationship...
I hear many people say that they have similar feelings for India, but India, for me was 'just ok'.