Observations about Korea

26 02 2010

“Show me a curious kid and I will show you a successful man” ~author unknown

I am a person whose mind is curious like a child’s mind. I’d like to observe and absorb as much as I can from my surroundings and localize myself to the Korean Culture. This article is not about Korean Culture per se.. but it is more about my acute observations as to how different I find things here in Seoul as compared to my native city Mumbai.

Well here goes my list…

  1. Books – Koreans are well read people. It is a nation of readers I can say. Every time I am travelling in a subway or a bus I always see people around me with their faces buried deep inside a book or a news paper, but in Korean.
  2. Pets – Korean like heavy petting. You will find many a shop which sells puppies and food for pets. There are shops which specalize in pet care – they provide everything from clothes, accessories, toys to small pet houses. Koreans like to dress up their puppies to the T. And the puppies look very cute. Another common thing I find in many a subways is that the ajummas selling cute bunny rabbits. Mostly these ajummas are crowded by the younger college going girls who like to play with these pets.
  3. Restaurants – Korea is full of restaurants every where. Sometimes I feel that every family in Korea owns atleast one restaurant. Mostly Koreans avoid cooking at home and they tend to have their meals in a restaurant.
  4. Drinking rounds – Normally when you go out for drinking with your Korean friends, you just don’t go to one restaurant, have food, drink and go home. Here you have your meal in one restaurant, get high in some other restaurant and finally have fun by singing out loud in a norea bang (karaoke rooms). You have more than 3 rounds of drinking and normally you set out for home the next morning.
  5. Saunas – visit any sauna (in my case the Mens section) and you will find that the guys out there roam about completely naked. I was not surprised coz I had read about it earlier on various other websites. But experiencing it personally made me a bit uncomfortable in the beginning.
  6. Punctuality – be it office, college or school. You have to be on time (or rather before time) if you want to avoid being looked down by your subordinates. Being late is like a crime in Korea and it really helps for lazy people like me. No wonder Korea has been such a progressive country.
  7. Breakfast and Dinner – is normally the same in Korea. You have rice for breakfast, rice for lunch and rice for dinner too. If you don’t eat rice then it is considered as good as skipping a meal in Korea.
  8. Ajummas – are normally the middle aged women typically of our aunts / moms age. They are the most friendly and the most helpful species in Korea. You can approach them without hesitation and they will help you by going out of their way. And yes don’t be surprised if you are in crowded place like a bus, subway or a lift and an ajumma standing besides you tries to wipe off the dirt  or mend the folds of your coat. It is just how they are. Caring like our mother.
  9. Photography – surprisingly I have seen more females using (or rather flaunting) DSLR cameras as compared to guys. And Korea is one place where you should be carrying your camera with you everywhere you go. Even to work 🙂
  10. Art and Beauty – as with the youth of any other nation, Korean youth is also obsessed with beauty and looks. And frankly speaking they are the best at maintaining their looks and being fit. You will be surprised to meet so many younger looking Koreans who are actually in their thirties.  Another thing which I have commonly observed in Korea is Art. They are the best in everything from paintings, to handicrafts, to live performances, to movies, to architecture. Koreans in general are very artsy and they are highly knowledgeable about art as compared to their Indian counterpart.
  11. Guys wearing Golden Boots – and bags. It is very common to see guys who like to accessorize themselves in shiny materials and wear jackets, bags n shoes in golden fabric. And trust me it looks really cool on them.
  12. Gifts – Koreans love gifting. This is one way of showing that they really care. Be it any festival like Christmas, Valentines day, Lunar New Year etc and you will find the entire city marching around with nicely wrapped gifts in their hand. Its a part of the festivity and a delight to watch.
  13. Love Birds – I find it really amusing and cute to find many a young – college going – korean couples wearing matching jackets or T-shirt. They look very cute and I personally believe it is a very cute way of expressing your love.
  14. Lollypop – it is pretty common in Korea to see people of all ages enjoying (n savouring) a lollypop candy in their mouth.
  15. Music and Bands – mostly at public places like subway stations, parks, malls etc I see  musicians performing live and promoting their music or album. If you like their music you can buy their CD album from them over there. I have seen these musicians performing live at the Hongdae park, Euljiro il ga station and the Jonggak shopping area.
  16. Hiking – with Seoul surrounded by so many mountains, most of the koreans on weekends go out hiking. And they are so many hiking clubs which promote the same.
  17. Murses – or Male Purses / Bags. It is sometimes difficult to tell between a male purse and a female purse in Korea. Guys with murses is a common thing in Korea.
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Cost of living in Seoul, Korea

25 02 2010

Indians who are coming to  Korea for the very first time can find the information below very helpful. I have written this article keeping Seoul in mind but if you are visiting some other city or province this information would still be helpful to you in giving you a fair idea about living in Korea.

The Cost of Living in Seoul Korea can broadly be divided into:

Accommodation

  • Deposit – Rs. 2 lacs / 5 Million Won approx ($5000)
  • Monthly Rent – Rs. 20,000 / 500,000 Won per month approx ($500)

Maintenance

  • Winter – Heater / Gas / Electricity / Water – Rs. 2,000 / 50,000 Won per month approx ($50)

Food and Grocery

  • If you cook at home – Rs. 8000 / 200,000 Won per month approx ($200)
  • If you eat outside – Rs 16000 / 400,000 Won per month approx ($400)

Travelling using public transport

  • If you travel by subway or bus – Rs. 3600 / 90,000 per month (including weekend travelling) ($90)

Communication

  • Local calls using Mobile – Rs. 900 / 23,000 Won per month ($23)
  • International Calling cards – Rs. 600 / 15,000 won per month ($15)
  • PC to Phone – Rs. 800 / 20,000 won for 3 – 4 months.
  • Internet – Rs. 500 / 13,000 Won per month

So per month you would be spending approx – Rs. 36000 / 900,000 Won per month. ($900)

Accommodation (and maintenance): The cost of accommodation depends upon many a factors – whether you are staying alone or with family, location of the house, room sharing etc.

If you are staying alone in an officetel or a studio apartment then your monthly rent can come to – 300,000 – 350,000 won per month ($300 – $350). For certain officetel you need not pay any maintenance like electricity, water, gas, heater separately. It is all inclusive (including dinner). But since it is occupied mostly by Korean students for studying you would not be allowed to invite your friends over or talk inside the room.

If you are sharing your room then your monthly rent as well as maintenance can come down to – 300,000 – 350,000 won per month. You are likely to share your room with a Korean family, Korean students or some other foreigner. Maintenance and food is separate but it will be shared between the room-mates.

If you are staying with your family then your monthly rent will be minimum 500,000 won per month ($500). Maintenance separate.

Alternatively you can post your requirements for an apt/room sharing on Craigslist and you will have people contacting you directly.

The cost of accommodation may vary as per location. Places which are 40-50 minutes distance via Subway trains in Seoul would charge you lesser rent as compared to places in the proximity of Seoul Metropolitan area. For more detailed information you can read this article at KMK’s blog here.

Deposit (Key Money) – Except for officetel, for other apartment or studio you would be required to pay Key Money or deposit before you sign the lease. The key money / deposit could range anywhere between 2 Million won to 5 Million won ($5000).

Furniture – Most of the studio or apartment are sometimes furnished, but you can check for the following things before you accept the offer

  • Bed with blankets
  • Refrigerator
  • Washing machine
  • Microwave
  • Gas stove for cooking
  • Chair and desk
  • Room heater facility

Officetel are normally furnished with a bed, chair and desk, refrigerator. They may share a common kitchen, bathroom and washing machine.

Water – Water is a bit hard in Korea so some Indians may not find it suitable for drinking. You may chose to boil it before drinking or use mineral water which is approx. 600 – 800 won (Rs. 25 – 35 per bottle in a department store) for a 2 litre bottle.

Food – Certain food items like milk, bread, butter, jam, yoghurt, corn flakes, ketchup, tea, coffee, noodles, egg, raw chicken, Korean rice, onion, potato, fruits and vegetables are easily available in Korean department store. If you need to do shopping for Indian Grocery items then you need to visit the Foreign Shop and Marhaba at Itaewon. You might not get everything but you would get many Indian spices, pulses and food items for cooking. These shops does not cater only to Indian but also Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Nepalis, Mangolians and others. There is also a Nepal Street in Dongdaemun. Dongdaemun is considered as mini Nepal as it has many Nepali shops and restaurants.

There are many Indian Restaurants in Korea but they are a bit expensive. Other eateries like Mc Donalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza hut, Paris Baguette, Papa Jones, TGI Friday, Subway, Quiznoss, Sunshine Kababs and many other burger, pizza, hotdog and kabab joints are commonly found in Korea. Eating in any of these eateries can set you back by approx 4000 – 5000 won per head. And sorry no vegetarian food available. Most of the food items would contain beef or pork but you will get chicken items too in any of these outlets easily.

Travelling – Public Transport is highly efficient in Korea. From Subway lines to buses you can chose anything for your daily mode of transportation. All you need is a T-Money card to travel. T-Money Card is widely accepted in buses, subway trains, taxi, Seven Eleven shops, Public telephone booths and many other places. T-Money card is available in any Seven Eleven shop for 3000 Won which you can reload with money from time to time as per your requirement.

Communication – For calling India you can get an International Calling Card from the foreign shop as mentioned above or any other roadside or subway shop which displays the following board – International Calling Cards. This card is like a scratch card. It has a Card No. which you will have to use for making International Calls from a public phone or your cell phone. The card has around 110 calling minutes and are available from various companies for various denominations. Sky and Very Good are amongst the commonly used cards. Other economical option is to use pc to phone services – for Rs. 800 or 20$ you can get 1000 minutes of talk time to India. For calling other countries you can check their website.

Doctors – You will find English speaking doctors mostly at Haebangchon and Itaewon, but you will find English Speaking doctors in other areas too. Look for International clinic when you visit Korea. And it is important to have a health insurance else a visit to a doctor could be very expensive.

E commerce – Internet is the fastest in Korea as compared to any other country in the world. And Korea is very tech or net savvy. Ecommerce is a big business in Korea and you can shop most of your items from G Market – http://www.gmarket.co.kr/index_eng.asp. But to use this website you need to have your Alien Registration Card and a cell phone.

Alien Registration Card – Every foreigner after landing in Korea is required to apply for Alien Registration Card. This card enables you to open a bank account, procure a phone and do other important activities in Korea. You need to visit the Korean Immigration office with your passport, employment agreement, passport size photo, and 10,000 won for stamping.

You can visit the site below for additional information:

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto

Please note: 1000 won is considered equivalent to $1 for easy computing

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If you want to meet more Indians living, working or studying in Korea then you must visit Indians in Korea website and register with their yahoo group.

To Subscribe in IIK group, mail to
indianscommunityinKorea-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Group Link:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/indianscommunityinKorea

Here in this group you will find more than 10,000 Indians working or studying in Korea. So if you are not able to find answers to your query you must register on their yahoo group and post you queries on the group to get it answered by Indians living in Korea.