How will you survive London’s winter? Don’t you know it gets really cold there? Oh the Winters in London are so miserable…blah blah blah. The weather people keep telling me it’s been quite a mild winter, but even so; it’s still nothing like spending it in the deep freeze I call South Korea and now I have the stats to prove it.
Posts from the ‘South Korea’ Category
South Korea; we had a bit of a love hate relationship and we often wondered if we’d made the right decision not renewing our contracts for another year. This past weekend we took the opportunity to stop over for a couple of days in the place we called home for 12 months and found ourselves battling a mixed bag of emotions.
When I suggested meeting our friend Sarah at Embankment on Saturday I hadn’t given the Thames Festival a second thought. However failing to find a pub that wasn’t overflowing with tourists or crazy expensive we soon found ourselves on the banks of the Thames and right in the thick of this year’s festival.
As we’re about to embark on our next adventure I thought it only fitting to summarise the last one.
In the 12 months we were teaching in South Korea I took close to 3,000 photos, perhaps a little bit obsessive but when everyday is a new experience it’s hard not to document it. Here are my favorite ten.
A while ago the folks at the South Korean Travel Guide were looking for people to write-up some info on cities in South Korea. Certain that almost no-one would write something on Cheongju I took up the challenge and now it’s online for everyone to see. Check out Cheongju, courtesy of yours truly.
There’s info on attractions, festivals, transport, restaurants, bars, amenities and even exercise, with a few pretty pictures thrown in. Enjoy!
Whilst we were overseas many people remarked to us about New Zealand’s beauty and how lucky we were to be able to call it our home. Most of the time we shrugged this off, not really appreciating what it means to live in a country that has so much space and so fewer people. After a year living in South Korea the shoe is now on the other foot and we can’t stop gushing about New Zealand and constantly pointing out all of the things that are so dramatically different to SoKo.
A simple trip around the local supermarket is enough to get me started… blue cheese, brown bread, olives, salami, Speights; I missed you! It’s nice to amble along with your trolley and enjoy the relative anonymity, no staring , elbowing or promo girls pestering you makes for quite the relaxing supermarket adventure. I won’t lie, asking for things in English is awesome. Being given an answer in English is equally awesome especially since it comes with an accent I’d forgotten we even had and usually includes ‘sweet’ or ‘fo sure’ tagged on the end.
Something about the familiar just makes things so much easier. Granted it’s not as fast paced and flashy as the bright lights of Seoul but somethings are new and it’s still pretty comfortable. Like an old couch you’ve just had recovered. It’s hard to explain all the sights and sounds so here’s a collection of words that sum up our first week back in NZ.
Speights. BrownBread. Cheese. Driving. Green. SweetAs. SourCream. RedBull. Spacious. Grass. Pets. Beautiful. Ocean. Family. Produce. BBQs. Malls. RubbishBins. Dollars. Diversity. FlipFlops. NoRice. Salad. Trees. Avocado. Sunshine. BlueCheese. Lamb. MeatPies. ClearSky. Burritos. Expensive. Salmon. Beaches.
Today is the day. 372 days after arriving in Korea it’s all coming to an end, our contracts finish today and we fly home to NZ tomorrow morning.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster this week. Leaving Korea and packing up our apartment has been difficult enough, add in Neil still teaching classes, an earthquake in CHCH and a friend in NZ passing away and you get the idea. Amidst all of the crazy we’ve still had some time to reminisce and reflect on our year here.
All in all it’s been a fantastic experience. I’m not going to lie, that fantastic experience has been interspersed with some really shitty experiences too. The first few days here were the hardest, closely followed by the 6 month mark at which point we realised the honeymoon was really over and Korea wasn’t as shiny anymore, but we stuck it out and the last few months have been some of the most enjoyable. Ah Korea, we have a bit of a love hate relationship but we will never forget you and the lessons you’ve taught us this year.
We’ve been to some amazing places, eaten some crazy food and we’ve met a lot of awesome people. Those people are what we’re going to miss the most. Our crazy expat family. We’re all teachers, we’re all having the same problems and we were all thrown together in a South Korean city and left to our own devices. A couple of us abandoned ship but the rest have stuck it out and many will continue to do so for another six months or more. We will miss every single one of you and we wish you all well with whatever life brings you.
Good luck and good-bye!
Neil and Geri teacher’s giant Korean field trip pinish-ee.
This past weekend has been a bit of a blur. It’s was our last weekend in Korea, so we went a little crazy and jammed in as much as we could before Monday rolled around and the reality of packing set in.
Rewind. Friday marked our one year in Korea birthday; so we celebrated it with our leaving party. There were a great mix of people there, some we see almost every day, others we hadn’t seen since orientation and everyone in-between. Lots of laughs, a few tears and a bunch of shots later we arrived home at 4am.
On Saturday we headed out for Leona’s 25th birthday; cake, Shesha and more drinks resulted in another 4am arrival time. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around we were pretty shattered but we jumped on the bus to Seoul to meet up with some friends and watch Eric Clapton belt out some tunes. He played a two-hour set which included all the good tracks and an extended version of Cocaine which had all the foreigners on their feet dancing and singing whilst the Koreans in attendance looked on in horror! Priceless.
We’re slowly getting everything together here and I’m working my way through washing all our linen and the like. There is no way we’re moving out and leaving the place dirty. Neil packed up his bikes yesterday so all that’s left to do is pack our actual bags and then before we know it Friday will be here and we’ll be heading to the airport one last time.
According to a report released by the World Health Organisation earlier this week, “the world drank the equivalent of 6.1 liters of pure alcohol per person in 2005 and the biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states.” As indicated by the bright red area on the below image.
New Zealand pops up at 7.5 – 9.99 litres per average person, less than Australia (10 – 12.49L) and significantly less than South Korea (12.5 +), who as a result also qualifies for the biggest boozer category.
Per capita consumption
SK: 11.8 liters of pure alcohol
NZ: 9.1 liters of pure alcohol
Consumption by type
SK: 81% is spirits. Soju is the drink of choice here.
NZ: 44% is beer, followed by wine at 33%.
In South Korea there are no restrictions for on/off premise sales. Alcohol can be sold at all times of the day and night at specific events, to intoxicated persons and at petrol stations as long as that person is of aged 19 and above. There are no rules about drinking in public places either, it’s not uncommon to see people drinking outside the local mart or wandering along the street with a couple of beers or more likely; two bottles of soju.
In NZ the legal minimum age for off and on license alcohol purchases is 18 and there are some restrictions for these premises. You’ll be fined big time if you sell alcohol to an intoxicated person and you definitely can’t purchase it at your local petrol station.
Now comes the interesting part. “The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5million deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis.” So what mortality impact does it have two countries who have share a similar drinking culture?
Alcohol Use Disorders
SK: Males 13.10% and females 0.41%
NZ: Males 3.5% and females 2.2%
Death Rates, 15+ years (per 100,000 population)
Liver cirrhosis Road Traffic Accidents
SK: M: 38.4% F: 7% * SK: M: 29% F: 9.6% *
NZ: M: 4% F: 2% * NZ: M: 19.5% F: 8.6% *
Binge drinking is a big deal in NZ and many people argue it’s ingrained in our culture. As such it’s not uncommon to see headlines discussing this issue on a regular basis.
After a year of living in a country where drinking is a part of every day life the statistics in this report come as no surprise. Entertaining and drinking go hand in hand and are an integral part of establishing business and personal relationships in South Korea. It would appear that South Korea has a much bigger problem with their consumption than little old NZ but I’m yet to see anywhere near as much media coverage of the issue as NZ.
Food for thought.
* 2004 statistics only.