It is with a heavy heart that I’m wishing you a happy new year full of love and strolls. As you know, this year started tragically in France and this is why I’ve been so quiet recently. These atrocities devastated me and left me speechless. I can only hope that 2015 will be the year of solidarity, freedom and peace.
However life goes on and, even if it’s hard, I’m sure that some evasion can do us some good ( which doesn’t mean that we forget what just happened).
I’ll talk to you about then my Korean strolls in the Land of Morning Calm. I came back from 10 days in Korea where my family and I visited my brother who is studying there for a year. What a fantastic trip we had !
I’ve always been fascinated by Asian culture especially since my grandfather is Vietnamese but I’d never had the opportunity before this day to step on Asian soil.
You will probably never go to Korea because it is clearly not the most touristic destination in Asia and especially not during winter so instead of making a guide and drowning you under tons of Korean names you will forget immediately, I’ve decided to share with you my impressions and what caught my eye.
In this 1st post I’ll focus on Korea as a happy and colorful country that likes bright colors, cute things, beauty, cats and karaoke. In the 2nd one I’ll focus more on temples, food and their superior technology.
First, I was charmed by the bright colors and the ornaments of Seoul temples. Korean traditional costumes called « hanbok » are also very colorful and elegant. I had the chance to wear it for a few minutes and feel like a Korean princess. “Kawaii” tradition which more or less means “cute” in Japan is part of Korean culture. It’s probably not as present as in Japan but when you look around you and look at socks, at pyjamas, at parking doors, at cellphone covers etc… there’s no doubt it’s here. It makes everything so happy, I love it ! Absolutely everything can be cute in kawaii culture, poop included ! This is why you can find cafés where they sell cakes that look like cute little poops and all kind of goodies. Intrigued, we entered in one where my brother asked a waiter what was this thing you can see on the picture below. He answered him that this was a poop and when my brother asked him what it was for he answered him very seriously : “It’s a hat.” Hum yes of course, how silly it is for us to ask ! We tried one of their “gâteaux caca” (it was written in French) in a boulangerie named “Le petit four” held by a Korean graduated of the famous French chef Paul Bocuse. The sentence “I could even eat shit if it was well-prepared” makes all the sense here, plus I’m ashamed to say that it was delicious ! I brought back so many souvenirs like cute socks, this soft and warm pyjama, these wooden sticks, an adorable card and a selfie stick because everyone has one in Korea.Kawaii influence reflect also on k-pop (Korean pop) the music Koreans like to listen to. You can click here to have a preview of what k-pop is with the ranking of the best girl bands of 2014 and here with the ranking of the best boy bands of 2014.
Koreans pay close attention to appearance which maybe explains why Korean girls are so pretty. Korea is the cosmetic products El Dorado. Korean girls are among the first consumers of cosmetics in the world and when you visit Korea there’s no doubt about it. I have never ever seen so many beauty shops in my life ! The most important thing for Koreans is to have a perfect porcelain and flawless complexion which explains the origins of BB cream. Cosmetic products are quite cheap but of good quality. I can’t wait to try all the masks and BB creams I bought !
To follow this quest of perfection, Koreans don’t hesitate to have cosmetic surgery. They seem to hold the world record for surgery. You can see a lot of advertisements about surgery a bit everywhere, even in the metro. In Korea, beauty would be a criterion for professional qualification as important as diplomas or internships.
I was a lot surprised to almost see nobody walking their dogs in the streets. In 10 days I just saw 3 dogs which is very disturbing for me considering the fact that Seoul has X millions inhabitants ! I can only assume this is because Asian people prefer cats. Anyway, we went to 2 cat cafés which is a concept that originated in Japan. They are cafés where there are a lot of cats which people can interact with. The concept also arrived in Europe because we already have 2 in Paris. It was so nice to be surrounded by these very friendly cats, plus the places were very clean. Cats could go on the tables but anyway they didn’t serve any food, just drinks.
We also had a glimpse on a dog café but we didn’t stay much because it wasn’t smeeling as good as the cat cafés and one dog tried to eat my sister’s scarf while another one tried to pee on my brother. Thankfully, he missed it !
Finally, it is unthinkable to talk about Korea without mentioning karaoke because you cannot walk 100m in Seoul or Daegu without seeing one. Called « noraebang », these karaokes are organized in small private rooms where you can sing with your family, your friends, your colleague or even alone between 2 exam sessions. You choose the song you want to sing in a rich repertoire and as soon as you take the mike, there disco lights turn on and the disco light start spinning. This is a space very appreciated by Koreans to relax and express themselves. Out of compassion for you and your ears, I won’t show you any of our videos. :)
I’m leaving you with this preview of a wonderful Korean show we assisted in Seoul that you can watch here. See you for the 2nd episode of my strolls in the Land of Morning Calm.