Tag Archives: Kimchi

Ten things I hate about South Korea.

In no particular order:

Bars and restaurants

One of the worst things is going to restaurants and bars on your own. Koreans have a hatred of doing things on their own. Don’t expect to be welcomed by other Koreans when you go to restaurants as a foreigner, they will completely avoid any interaction with you. Although I enjoy eating Korean food, the pressure of sitting in a restaurant being glowered at is too much sometimes. The bottom line: Korea can be very lonely place for a single person.

Korean language

Aaahh, the Korean language. When I was England I was serious about studying Korean. I took lessons, went on language exchanges and used apps to improve my Korean. THe worst thing is when you have a conversation in Korean and people ignore you, or laugh, or answer you in English. I have learned very little Korean here and I am convinced my Korean is going backwards.

Dating

Wow, is dating hard work here. Its not that dating is unpleasant, it’s mroe the attitude Korean women have towards dating foreigners. For example, a common excuse is “I can’t speak English so I won’t date anyone who isn’t Korean.” It’s hard to approach someone and simply ask them out, at least, in my experience.

Traditional culture

I visited the Korean palace in Seoul. Apart from a nice garden and a pond, there was little else to see. As for traditional culture, Korean’s traditional music, pansoori consists of a drum being banged loudly for half an hour whilst a woman makes a noise like she is being slowly impaled. Apart from concerts and Koreans wearing Hanbok, I see very little signs of traditional culture here. At least in Japan you can easily see kimonos and visit traditional restaurants.

K-pop

When people talk about Korean Wave, Hallyu, it’s K-pop that often comes up. Now, I like K-pop. I think some of it has been good fun. What I don’t like is that for most people K-pop is the only music they will hear in Korea. There are some great rock and Indie bands but due to the large record companies that produce and distribute music its very difficult to hear anything but the Melon 100.

Work

Korea has the most miserable work culture in the world. But at least Koreans can talk to each other and share food at work. As a foreigner, I feel excluded from most work activities. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to my colleagues to ask me any questions about my life or pay any interest in what I am doing, or invite me to lunch. Although many Koreans teach English, they would much rather talk to their colleagues in Korean than speak English to me.

Old people

Encountering old people is one of the hardest aspects of life here. For example, there are seats marked for use for the elderly, one of the many areas where old people have privileges over everyone else. It’s quite common for older Koreans to take up every seat in a carriage while young people who have been working all day must stand.  Korea has a real problem with age. There are places where you won’t see anyone under thirty. At other times, you can visit an outside market and it will be mostly be seniors. It’s hard to reconcile the behaviours of older Koreans with younger people. It’s a problem that is going to get worse as Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world.

Clothes and fashion

I try not to buy many clothes here. It’s hard to find clothes of very good quality. Unfortunately Koreans have a mania for new things. It’s not socially acceptable to wear old clothes here. everything has to be brand new and up-to-the minute. I can’t deny that Koreans are well-dressed, stylish people, but the desire to follow the latest fashions seems exhausting.

TV

This is certainly the least serious problem because there’s always the option of simply turning the TV off. There are typically three types of popular shows here:

1: Lifestyle and travel shows. A group of foreign tourists visit Korea and try kimchi, wear hanbok, etc. I can’t watch without cringing, but there are at least five programmes I can see which follow this theme.

2. Wacky and zany variety programs, the most popular is Running Man. They sometimes feature famous Americans such as Tom Cruise and Steven Youn.

In the last category are dramas. The good ones are ‘The Good Wife”, “The Return” and “Mr Sunshine.” There are also Korean soap operas which usually revolve around family relationships. A very common trope is a mother-in-law who criticises her daughter for not being a good wife, or making bad food or something. These are the least interesting programs on TV. There are several news programs which seem to be exclusively focused on domestic news. Which brings me to…….

Attitude to foreigners 

As many have pointed out, Koreans have a strange attitude. On the one hand, I think they want foreigners to know about Korean culture. I see that they have a lot of information about Korean attractions on line. On the other hand, a foreigner could easily come to the conclusion that Koreans don’t want to have any interaction with foreigners unless it involves money. Come on Koreans, you can do better!

Ten great Korean dishes

Here are some of my favourite Korean dishes that I have tried so far…

Bibimbap

This is a hot-stone bowl with julienned carrots, courgette, seasoned beef and other namul. Its served in a hot stone bowl so the rice is still cooking, and comes with a fried egg on top. Stirring it all together prevents the rice from sticking to the sides of the bowl.

BIB
Bibimbap is a perfectly harmonious dish which contains several vegetables and meat.

Dukkboggi

This is a dish made from rice sticks with a sweeet spicy sauce. The texture of these rice sticks is a little like pasta – they tend to be very chewy. It’s commonly served as a snack or as a side dish to go with main meals. They taste great with grated cheeese and slices of boiled egg.

tukk
It took a long time to find a decent picture of this dish, it definitely tastes better than it looks.

Bulgogi

This is one of the most famous korean foods. The beef is sliced very thin and marinaded in a soy sauce and ginger mix. It’s served with rice. Less common but also very tasty is pork bulgogoi, usually slices of pork belly cooked in sesame oil.

Hotteok cakes

hotteok
Hotteok Pancakes, picture from Korean chef Judy Joo

These require more effort than typical pancakes because they are made with yeast. You let the dough rise, then cut in to discs, placing a mixture of brown sugar, peanuts and cinammon inside and then pressing them together. Frying them melts the sugar mixture so that you have a deliciously nutty caramel filling. They taste completely amazing.

Galbitang

This is an excellent choice for people who don’t want anything too spicy. Short ribs are simmered with daikon for 5 hours until the meat falls off the bone.

Kimchi Chige

This is another one-pot meal. You put kimchi (spiced pickled cabbage) into a pot with either water or beef stock. Add pieces of tofu and tuna and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal that’s ready in minutes. You can vary the heat by choosing how much chili to add. It’s great to eat the following morning for breakfast if you have leftovers.

Jap chae

This is a famous mainly vegetable dish that is served with sweet potato noodles (or glass noodles). Mushrooms, courgettes and carrots are julienned and stir fried with slithers of beef and then added to the noodles. The only difficulty is in slicing the vegetables the correct thickness.