OinK: Only in Korea Jjimjibangs & Gangnam Style

jjimjibang spa in South Korea

OinK: Only in Korea Jjimjibangs & Gangnam Style

Now that I’ve been here a little while, I’ve noticed that many of my first impressions still hold up to be true. Only in Korea or OinK–  good, bad and indifferent. I am enjoying my new temporary home and getting as acclimated as I possibly can. But almost immediately, you realize a lot of what you see and do can only happen in Korea.

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OinK

Jjimjibangs & Gangnam Style

I love South Korea. The country has great food, interesting shopping, and many temples, festivals, and cultural festivals to attend. But there are also quite a few things you’ll see and do in Korea that you cannot do anywhere else on the planet.

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Short Skirts and Long Sleeves

The girls don’t like baring their shoulders but will wear some of the shortest skirts and shorts you could imagine. So much so that they were considering legislation that would effectively ban the mini skirt. But opponents thought it sent an authoritarian message in a somewhat new democratic country. I’m told that they’ll wear those short skirts all year round.

Coffee Culture

They still drink coffee all day long. You can toss a pebble from one coffee house to the next one. However, Oink do they consider coffee to be a dessert. Only western coffee chains are open in the morning. Korean coffee shops open around 11 and stay open until the wee hours of the morning.

Corn, Snow Ice & Red Bean Paste

Ok, corn. It’s a vegetable, a fruit, a drink, you can get it on a stick, or frozen on a stick. It goes in salads, on pizza. Sugared and grilled on a BBQ or added to a fruit cup along with cherry tomatoes. You can get iced sweet corn tea too and I’ve even found it under my fried chicken. I’m still not sure about the obsession with corn. It appears on the least likely of things.

I will never forget the first time I was served some snow ice. It was gigantic. Snow Ice is a very popular dessert in the summertime. It typically consists of shaved ice, condensed milk, ice cream, small rice cakes, and sweetened red beans (or azuki bean paste). OinK, will you find a variation on this dessert? The shaved ice grains are so fine that they feel like snow powder rather than crushed ice. I can’t accurately depict how light it is. You’ll have to try it for yourself.

JJimjibang

A jjimjibang is a large, gender-segregated public bathhouse in Korea. It has been an integral part of their society for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. A Korean bathhouse is more than a place to take a bath. It is where Koreans go to rest, relax and socialize after work and on the weekends. The more elaborate jjimjibangs have restaurants, swimming pools, high-speed video gaming, hair and nail salons, and karaoke rooms in addition to the usual hot and cold pools, saunas, honey pot, and scrubbing services.

Driving is Very Random

The Koreans are still horrible drivers. OMG are they terrible drivers. The race from green light to green light. Sneak up to red lights, pause and drive through them if no one is in the crosswalk or that light doesn’t have a camera. They park anywhere, and I mean anywhere. And I’ve never ever seen anyone get a ticket for any of the above.

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K-Pop and Gangnam Style

I hate K-Pop. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. However, I’m not a fan of electronic music either. But OinK can both be widely heard. Head to the Noise Basement in Gangnam to dance to the dance song in the neighborhood satirized by the popular video. While the majority of the clubs in Seoul tend to play more of the electro music, NB plays both hip hop and well known commercial songs. Note South Korea does not censor its music, so don’t be surprised to hear some fairly raunchy lyrics.

Matching Outfits

And what’s up with the matching outfits? But apparently, it’s a thing for newlyweds to coordinate their outfits. There are several stores that make this 80s thing a modern reality.

The Walking Dead

While I can’t say it is okay, locals are fixated on their cell phones. They are still telephone zombies walking into you and fixed objects. I am at a loss for words; they never seem to walk in a straight line. Sometimes, trying to get around them can be a task. And for some reason, they prefer crossing in front of you to crossing behind you. If one person in a group of 5 decides to switch course, they will follow him or her, like a flock of migrating birds, instead of waiting until you pass. One guy probably regrets that move as my heavy wedge sandal found its way atop his lightweight cotton loafer. I turned just long enough to see him scream out in agony, and then we both continued on our way.

Sharing Food

They share their food at restaurants, which is cool. We do too. I asked a waiter a few days ago if the selection was enough for two. He had the audacity to say it was enough for two Koreans, but probably not enough for two Americans.

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They Like it Spicy

I like spicy, but I have learned not to go above one pepper spicy. But Koreans have taken it to a whole other level. Some places have 4 or 5 peppers. The food is so hot, all you taste is the melting flesh inside your mouth. That’s probably not a wise idea for non-Asians.

Taxi Drivers

I will probably never be able to converse with a taxi driver. They seem hell-bent on not understanding a word I say. But I’ve come to understand it a little better.

The Korean alphabet is not a true alphabet as we know it. Its a grouping of sounds, so even if you understand the word, trying to say it is garbled if you don’t pronounce it spot on. It’s like me asking you to take to SHY CO GO instead of CHI-CA-GO. I think this will get better as more foreigners invade… travel to Korea.

But I did have a bonding moment with one while we both watched a Korean soap opera in the dash of his taxi while he drove me home one evening.

Tour the DMZ

By going on the Demilitarized Tour (DMZ) from Seoul, tourists can safely cross the border from South Korea into North Korea and come back. How is this possible? In a town that borders both South and North Korea called Panmunjom, you can enter the Joint Security Area building, half of which is on the South Korean side and half of which is on the North Korean side. By stepping into the North Korean side of the building, you will actually be standing in North Korea.

Walk on Water

There are a ton of festivals in South Korea. One of my favorites Jindo Sea Parting Festival. It will take place from April 26th through April 29th. Are you ready to walk on water? I’m not joking, the Jindo Sea Parting Festival is part of an annual tidal phenomenon that takes place off the southern coast of South Korea where participants get a chance to experience a once in a lifetime Moses-like event. You’ll have 90 minutes to make the journey there and back before you’ll be swept away by the returning tide.

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