1. Lots of people smoke here. The good thing is that if they are Korean cigarettes, they don’t smell terrible. Chinese cigarettes smell terrible. One day, Landon and I were out on the Hangang park river trail with lots of cyclists. I noticed quite a few stopping at benches along the way for a smoke break. That seemed weird to me, but at least they were participating in part of a healthy lifestyle. I wish I had caught video footage of this one guy, though. He finished his smoke break, stomped out his cigarette and immediately put his face mask on- I’m assuming to protect his lungs from the pollution of Seoul. Buddy, I think the pollution will not kill you as fast as inhaling burning chemicals and tar into your lungs!
2. Koreans get really into whatever they like doing. The hikers have whole hiking outfits, boots and backpacks and poles and you can tell from what they are wearing that they are going hiking. It may just be a jaunt around a local park, but hiking shoes are a must! When doing anything outdoors, everyone brings their tents and/or their pads for sitting on the ground and lots of toys for the kids. This is great for Landon because he likes to steal all the kids’ toys. Koreans are too nice to tell him to stop. so I get to every time, hooray!
|This is a real product on Amazon… and I have seen people wearing them|
|Look at that HUGE visor!|
3. That leads me to my next point… Like many other eastern cultures, the sun is the enemy. White is hottest. These people don’t need any help looking young and beautiful for a long time, but some go to extremes to cover up. When they go outside, some wear stretchy sleeves when they have a short-sleeved shirt on in order to protect their arms from getting tan. Some have masks that cover the bottom half of their face while the top half is covered by a ginormous hat or my personal favorite, visors!
4. Koreans like to wear shirts with English sayings on them, even if they don’t know what they mean. This ends up being funny for us English speaking folks, because sometimes the person and the shirt don’t exactly match up. First example, a middle-aged lady wearing a T-shirt with a very provocative saying with some swearing in it. Second example: a young mother with a fairly young baby with a T-shirt that said, “Have a nice death” with a smiley face with X’s for eyes. Kind of creepy, kind of funny.
5. Safety awareness/equipment is interesting here. I guess the whole still being actively at war with another country will do that for you, but in our hotel room, we have a fire extinguisher, a safety kit with respirator breathing masks, and a box with a rope in it by the window in case we need to repel out the window and down to safety. There is even a convenient metal hook in the wall. Our hotel is not crazy, safety stuff is everywhere- in the subway stations there are masks and bags with stuff in them stashed away in cupboards, and there are instructions with pictures everywhere to show me what to do in case of nuclear warfare. Good job being prepared, Korea!
|These Jelly Beans, aka mascots of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, welcome us home every time we return to our hotel on the subway. I think they are supposed to be seals.|
|This kid likes the subway!|
6. The Seoul subway system seems a bit convoluted at first look, but it is possible to navigate and is made even easier by a website where you put in starting and ending stops and it tells you the best way to get there, which stations to transfer to, and even what doors lead to a faster transfer. The unfortunate thing about the subway is that some genius decided to put what we affectionately call “stroller bars” in the middle of the entrance to the escalators at some stations to prevent strollers from being able to go on them. With a jogging stroller, Austin and I can safely keep that thing upright and not really in anybody’s way. With the stroller bar, we have to take elevators. Sometimes there are not elevators. That is unfortunate. When Austin is with me, PHEW! we can just take an end of the stroller and trudge up the stairs. When Austin is not with me, I must heft the 50+ lb awkwardly huge stroller up and down the stairs by myself. I’m sure it is a sight to behold. Sometimes people go out of their way to help me by taking a part of the stroller and helping me down, but if they aren’t familiar with the best techniques, it can sometimes be harder with a stranger helping. Also, the fast transfer turns into a snail-slow transfer when we have to wait for elevators. We think the elevators in the subway are designed to deter lazy people who can take the escalator from taking the elevator. They are SO SLOW. Given, they are designed for the handicapped so the doors take forever and a day to close. It is kind of annoying.
|Don’t worry, we have not gotten lost yet!|
We are so grateful for the subway system, however, because that means I can get basically anywhere in the city from our hotel. We live on top of a subway station that has 3 lines. Usually if we are going towards downtown we take the airport rail because it has less stops and goes faster.
7. So many times while we were here, I was like, “WOW! Why don’t we have this in America?!?” I am trying to think of all the innovations that caused me to say this, and I can think of a few. On our trip to Jeju, we had an hour flight on a discount airline. Since we were renting a car for the duration of the trip, we brought our carseat but checked it because Landon was a lap baby this time. Instead of just throwing it on the belt haphazardly like I was expecting from a dirt cheap discount airline, the check-in counter lady wrapped it neatly in a sturdy plastic bag, tied it up, and placed it in a plastic carton to go to the baggage handlers and get on the plane. When we got to the gate, the gate agent took our stroller and put it in a stroller bag. You definitely have to buy a stroller bag if you want your stroller in a bag in the US.
|Also, parking garages have women only spaces that are wider… I think for pregnant ladies|
Parking garages- in the parking garage at our hotel/mall/international airport, as you enter it tells you how many empty spaces there are on each level. Then, each space has a green light for empty, and a red light for full, so you can quickly glance down an aisle and see if there are any empty spaces. GENIUS! Unfortunately for everyone, the spaces here are extremely tiny and most people back-in to spots to they have more room to get out? We don’t really know why everyone backs in but some people who are worried about door dings have foam bumper things attached to their doors.
8. TAYO- Tayo is a South Korean cartoon featuring 4 buses. What could be better, really, for a toddler obsessed with buses? It is free on Youtube in English for those who want to check it out, but they also teach good lessons like what to do when you get lost and being a good friend. Tayo is really popular here and Landon even has a beach ball with Tayo buses on it. He loves it.
Another neat thing is that they painted some of the actual buses in Seoul with different cartoon faces so Landon loves to point out the TAYO BUSES that we see while we are out and about.