Pro’s Guide to a Rookie’s Adventures in Seoul
Looking for things to do during the first few months in Seoul, Korea? Our own Transition Expert Kelsey Philips gives a rundown of things to do in this beautiful city.
Today’s post comes from Arrival Store Transition Expert, Kelsey Phillips. A California gal, Kelsey brings her years of experience and adventures in Korea to connect with expats coming over to live an work in Korea. One conversation with her, and it’ll change your life! Kelsey occasionally blogs at http://chroniclesofkels.blogspot.kr/
After living in Seoul for years and traveling back and forth multiple times, I’ve been asked to give advice to people on what to do and where to go in this incredible city a lot. Naturally, I thought I should go public with all the info I’ve compiled, so more people can benefit.
Of course, it’s coming from a female perspective, but hey, I like baseball too!
Whether you are traveling to Korea for a week or getting ready to make the transition to set up your life there, hopefully this will be a good crash-course for a Rookie’s Adventures in Seoul!
FIRST and FOREMOST! My Secret Weapon: the “Korean Help Line”: 021330 – save this number! They speak English, charge nothing, and will give you directions, tell you how to go about getting KTX tickets, give you the next days weather forecast and more!
Also! Definitely check out The Arrival Store if you are planning on moving to Korea. Here, you can easily get hooked up with the Western apartment you want, in the Eastern world you will be living in, by people who have been in your shoes before!
Places to visit in Seoul:
- Samcheong-dong (Anguk Stn. Line 3)
- Insa-dong (Jonggak Stn. Line 1)
- Myeong-dong (Myeong-Dong Stn. Line 4)
- Dongdaemun (Dongdaemun Stn. Line 4/Line 1 intersection)
- Gangnam (Gangnam Stn. Line 2)— this is to the main gangnam station
- Apgujeong (Apgujeong Stn. Line 3)— considered in Gangnam, but in a different ‘dong’… ritzy area
- Hongdae (Hongik Univ. Stn. Line 2)— gets crazy at night, but is really cute during the day and is a great place for dinner
Things to do:
- Manicure (everywhere!)
- Massage “Healing Hands” Itaewan // their location can be found here. Also… prices are more than reasonable and their English is great! YAY!) 070-7504-8090
- Shopping in Myeong-dong (outside area) or Dongdaemun (clothing import hub: from myeong-dong just tell at taxi driver “dong-day-moon doo-ta” and he will take you to this massive building that has tons of awesome stuff in it called “Doota”… the areas around the building though are where you find the nitty gritty deals, the building itself is well-priced ritzy stuff) here are some fellow-foreigners’ comments on it.
- Samcheong-dong: super cute. Windy alley ways, traditional homes, lots of art museums and cafes. Impossible to hate. A must-see.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace: right next to Samcheong-dong and Insa-dong
- Souvenir Shopping in Insa-dong!
With a friend (or date! oh haaay there!)
- Baseball Games: these are cheap and fun! Koreans are awesome fans to people-watch on a nice day. You are allowed to bring in whatever food or drink you want… so you can have a mini-picnic!! I would recommend seeing the LG Twins or the Doosan Bears (in Seoul).
- Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower (same thing): Seoul’s major landmark offers great views (go on a clear day/night). Lovers bring a lock and decorate it, then lock it to a fence on the top of the hill to signify their eternal love. Koreans like to think this is their idea, but its really based upon an Italian book, where the lovers locked their lock on a bridge in Rome and threw the key into the ocean. Still pretty cute. IF you can’t go with your your friend (or date! haaay), I definitely recommend doing it on your own during the day… its easy to get to from any of the locations I named above in the “Places to Visit” section.
- Eat some (actually legit) non-Korean Bistro food at “Craftworks”… it gets crowded there, but its worth the wait (if you like good brews and quality food). The only way you will be disappointed is if it’s too busy to get a seat. Directions to Craftworks
Places to Travel to:
- KTX Train to Busan: (2 hours from Seoul) Busan is the second largest city in Korea
- Bus to the East Sea (4 hours max I think): not such a big city, easy just to roll in and grab a hotel on the beach. I recommend Sokcho or Gangneung area… definitely the second if you are looking for less people.
- “Galbi” means rib-meat in Korean… eat lots of it! Especially the BBQ!
- “Galbi Tang”: Beef soup
- “Dak-Galbi”: chicken meat, stir fried with vegetables and thick rice noodles in spicy red sauce
- “Kimbap”: Korean ‘sushi’
- “Bim-im-bap” : Korean salad-esk thing (not a salad, but not far off… rice based)
- “Mul-Naeng-Myeon”: cold buck-wheat noodles served in an icy broth (only during warm weather)
- “Dok-bokke” popular street food.. super spicy but very Korean and usually pretty popular with foreigners.
- “Ma-ko-lee” korean rice wine… nothing like wine, but I like it!
- “Soju” korean rice liquor… careful, its strong!
- Hite or Cass: Korean beer (both are rice-based beers, like Budweiser). I don’t drink beer, but my friends would call them “Shite” or “Ass”… but hey, they still drank them, so they couldn’t have been too bad!
Incredibly Korean Things to do:
- “Norae-bang” Directly translates to ‘singing room’. You and whoever can rent a private room anywhere (literally, these are everywhere) and sing your heart away for as long as you want to. Relatively cheap. Drink some Ma-ko-lee then sing your heart away 🙂 This is a picture of an awesome one in “Hongdae” (see places to visit) where you can have your own mini performance to the street below! It’s called “Luxury Noraebang”
- “Jim-jil-bang” a public sauna. Women and men go their separate ways, then you walk nude freely among strangers of your same sex. I only went twice in my whole time there. They kind of gross me out, but they are definitely an experience! IF you are interested, I recommend calling the ‘secret weapon number’ and asking for a good one in the area near you.
Cultural Things to Remember:
- don’t tip (ever… no one, at any time. sometimes Koreans actually get offended when tipped. I know, its weird, but awesome!!)
- two-hands is better than one (when handing something to someone, giving it to them with two hands is more polite/shows more respect and care)
- if someone offers you food, they are just trying to show you they accept you. so just eat it 🙂
- when using public transportation, some Koreans may push/shove/cut in line (usually the really old people)… don’t take it personally, it’s not you.
- a Korean’s ‘bubble’ or space-awareness is way smaller than ours, so if someone is standing really close to you, even though its not crowded, don’t worry.
- “Hello”: an-young-ha-say-yo (i know, its long)
- “Thank you”: cam-sahm-knee-dah
- “Yes”: nay
- “No”: ah-knee-yo
- “Same”: same-same
- “Ok”: ok 😉
- “Left”: when-jok
- “Right” oh-ren-jok
- “Straight” jik-jin
*Key word* “Here”: yogi-yo –> you use this in a taxi to say “stop here please” or also this is how you get servers to come take your order or bring you something. Usually they don’t come to your table to ‘check up’ on you… you have to call them over.
I hope this help’s get you ready to rock-and-roll and love Korea through and through! 재미 있어요!!! ^^