Things to do… On arrival to Korea

13 05 2010

If you are coming from India then the first thing you need to do is that convert your Indian money to dollars. You cannot direct convert Rupee to Korean Won while in India. If you are carrying huge amount then you can carry travelers check which can be en-cashed in any of the banks out here.

The day you land in Korea you need to do the following things:

  1. Convert your dollars to Korean Won at the airport.
  2. Keep some coins with you to make calls from a public phone.
  3. Make sure someone is coming to receive you from your office.
  4. If no one is coming then  you can go to the bus terminal and take the bus to your destination. The executives at the bus terminal are very helpful. You get limousine and city buses to Seoul and other places in Korea. Avoid taking cab / taxi on all costs. They are very expensive.
  5. On reaching you can buy a T-Money card.  Go to any 7-11 store and say “Yogiyo, T-Money Cardu Chuseyo”. It will cost you around 3000 won ($3) and you then need to recharge it by 10,000 won so you can use it for your day to day transit through Subway lines and Buses. T Money card can also be used for paying Taxi Fares, making calls from a public phone and buying things from 7-11 shops. You can recharge you T-Money card at any Subway Line station or in a 7-11 shop.
  6. Make sure you apply for your Alien Card in the first week of your arriving to Korea. You will be able to open your bank account and procure a cell phone only if you have a registration card. For Alien Card Registration you’d require your office registration document – Mandatory and 2 passport size photographs.
  7. Next you can purchase an International Calling Card to help you make calls back home. International Calling cards are available in 7-11 shops. For India you need to ask that you need calling cards for Indo (India is referred to as Indo in Korea).
  8. Get a subway map from the tourist information center. It will be extremely helpful to you in the first few weeks in Korea.
  9. Make sure you get a copy of Lonely Planet Phrasebook or any other phrasebook with basic phrases to help you communicate in Korea. People don’t speak English here. So it would be wise to invest in one of these phrasebooks available easily in various bookshops in India. You can order it online from Landmark.
  10. If you are bringing your laptop from India then your 3-pin charger might not work. You’d need a 3-pin to 2-pin adapter for charging your laptop which is easily available in any electronic shop in Korea. If you visit a mall then it is available in the electronic section.
  11. Another thing which you could possibly look at investing in is a rice cooker. If you are planning to cook at home then it is a must. I am not talking about the pressure cooker from India, for cooking rice you would need an electronic rice cooker. And if you are a bachelor then you have to purchase one at all cost in Korea.
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India Temple in Korea – Krishna Korea

16 04 2010
Hare Rama Hare Krishna

Krishna Korea Temple in Haebangchon, Seoul

Located in the heart of Seoul, at Haebangchon is the only worship place for Hindus – Krishna Korea Temple.  There is one more at Ujjengbu which is in the outskirts of Seoul.

This temple was opened 2 yrs back, to spread spiritual awareness amongst people in Seoul and give knowledge about Hinduism in general. Everyday after the daily pooja (worship) the temple reads verses from Bhagavad Gita. Anyone who wants to attain liberation from this materialistic world must attend these sessions regularly.  The temple reads Chapters from Gita to helps us understand ourselves better and to offer a medium to help us connect with our God.

I came to Seoul almost a 4 months back but started attending temple regularly only a month back and that is my biggest regret. I should have followed this temple immediately. This temple for me is a home away from home. And it has really helped me to meet many a good people here from all parts of the world – Indian, Korean, Foreigners alike.

What I best like about this temple is that apart from the festivals they conduct regular workshops, games, puzzles, quizzes for kids to make them aware about Hindu Culture and Hinduism. And this according to me is the best practice to reach the tender minds of kids rather than boring them with long lectures. There are even workshops conducted for adults like yoga, korean classes, cooking classes, etc.

The temple offers prasadam on Sundays and on various festivals in the evenings. And it also accepts donations for the same.  Devotees please understand that the temple is run by donations and it is in our hands to ensure that the temple operations runs continuous and smooth. The temple has gone through a lot of hardships and tough times in the past but as per the blessings of Lord Krishna it is still standing and will continue doing so in the future. The temple is a platform for all of us to come together, make new friends, and most importantly remain attached to our roots.  The temple is a door to spread the wisdom about our Hindu culture to the world, embrace the lost souls and give them a purpose in life. So please come and take the blessings from Dear Lord.

If you are coming for the first time then you can visit this link for directions.

Alternatively you can mail on: krishnakorea@gmail.com for any of your queries / suggestions.  Or, visit the temple website. Or, join on facebook for future updates on events and festivals.

|| Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare ||

|| Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare ||





Seoul Allergy Clinic

2 04 2010

While in India, I tried many a doctors – from ayurvedic to homeopathic to dermatologist for diagonising and treating my skin. I used to get this itching sensation once in a while all over my body. It was more like unconscious scratch and if I ignored it for a while then it used to get a bit untolerable. Most of the doctors I visited gave me some anti-allergen pills and some lotion/cream for applying. These were temporary treatments and the doctors somehow could never put a finger on my problem and tell me as to what could have triggered this itching.

After coming to Korea I visited Teng Teng Skin Clinic at Sinsa. The most hopeless  and unfriendly doctor I have ever met. He too like others gave me some anti-allergen pills and some lotion and never had answers to my questions. But he never told me about the side effects the pills would have on me. After 2 weeks I got constipated, thanks to his pills. And when I asked him about the same he told me to have more fruits and drink plenty of water. Which on my behalf I was very punctual about. I drank almost 1.5 litres of water and had healthy food. Had oats n cereals for breakfast, so there was no reason for me to get constipated and no reason for me to visit him again.

The saving grace for me was Seoul Allergy Clinic, close to Apgujeong and just about 5 mins walk from my office at Sinsa. For a change, this doctor did not give me any pills or lotion. They dioganise patients for food allergy and they did the same for me. After the first round of blood and allergy test he put me on an elimination diet. For the first week he told me to have only limited food and completely cut down on meat, diary products, certain vegetables, alcohol and packaged food. On my part I followed his plan and it worked for me.

The second week he told me to have meat, diary products but not the packaged food. This too worked for me. One day when I was not carrying my lunch I had some packaged (flavoured) bread and it triggered my itching again. So that really helped me to nail down the cause of my allergy (pseudo allergy as my doctor would say) – food additives, preservatives, packaged food with chemicals, artificial colors, flavors, essence, MSG (mono sodium glutamate used in Chinese food) etc.

Now I have completely stopped eating food from packets and cans, and this has helped me get rid of my itching for ever. In case if you are suffering from the same you can try the option above – eliminate packaged food,  chips and crackers, flavored breads, alcohol, sugar (replace it with honey), vitamin supplements, beverages, canned food, ready to cook food, coffee sticks (expresso or americano would do), pizza, burger, pasta and you will notice the difference.

If no, then please visit Seoul Allergy Clinic. You can also visit this this link.

For details you can contact – Kim Seol Ran 272ran@naver.com / +82-2-540-4905

P. S. – The doctors speaks good English, has a very helpful staff and is very friendly.





Useful Websites – Seoul n Korea

14 03 2010
Useful Blogs:
  • Marmots hole and Korean Beat are like Korea insiders.. Korean Times and the other English news paper available in Korea is pretty dry and news published is more or less filtered. If you really want to know what is happening around you check these websites with articles from Korean Newspaper translated in English.
  • Seoul City Blog – This blog is maintained by Seoul Global Centre and has very helpful information for foreigners on most of the things.
  • Kimchi Crew – This blog has interesting info on Korean Language, Kpop and youth culture in general. Kimchi Crew also offers Korean and other language exchanges classes on weekends at Meeple Cafe, Sinchon.
  • Kiss My Kimchi – This blog has info on Culture, Entertainment, Food, Shop, Teach, Travel, Clubbing and everything in general in Korea. So before you are planning to visit any part of Korea you can just do a quick search on his blog to get some useful info for the places he has visited and blogged about.
  • Brian in Jeollanam-do – Brian has been contributing articles to Korea Herald, Korea Times, Joongang Daily and has around 2500 posts on his blog about the culture, educations, news and events in South Korea. I specially enjoy reading his articles on Love Motel in Korea.
  • Recruiting in Korea – tells you the Honest truth about recruiting English Teachers in Korea.
Newspaper and Magazines:
  • 10 Magazine – Events, Movies, Workshops, Art Cafes, Music,Theatre, Parties in Korea.. one of the widely read English Magazine in print. Copies available at Kyobo Bookstore and other places frequently visited by foreginers:
  • Groove Korea – similar information as above. Available in Print. Mostly covers the music scene in Korea.
  • For the list of Korean newspaper in English available online click here.
Online Entertainment – Dramas, Movies & Kpop
  • MY SOJU – the mecca of Korean Dramas and Movies. These guys do a very good job of uploading drama episodes with English Subtitles. Most of the foreigners who watch Korean Drama owe their viewing to MySoju. Apart from Korean Drama and Movies it also has Japanese and Taiwanese Drama and Movies.
  • KoreanMusic.tv – does a very good job of uploading KPOP videos with useful info about the band and the artist.
Online Shopping
  • Gmarket – you need an Alien Card to register your self and then you are on. This is by far the cheapest place I ve come across to buy your things. They offer almost everything and had various options to chose from. And most of the goods you order they deliver if for free.

Adventure

  • Seoul Hiking – has a group on facebook. You need to just join the group and every week they will mail you details about the hiking conducted by them. With so many mountains surrounding Seoul this one is not to be missed.
  • Adventure Korea – offers very interesting packages on weekends for exploring Korea in an adventurous way. Skiing, Ice Fishing, Rafting, Mud bath, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Temple Stay, Jeju Island they have travel packages on almost everything.
Photography
  • Seoul Photo Club and Flickr in Seoul are the two most commonly used group on Flickr where people from in and around Korea submit their photos and offer constructive comments.
Other Listings
  • Craigslist in Seoul – Buy / Sell / Rental / Dating / Events etc in Seoul. These listing are very popular amongst the Foreign Community in Korea.




Lost in Translation

3 03 2010

If this is the first time you are visiting Korea and you are planning to stay here for a long time then it is important for you to visit the Seoul Global Center.  SGC was launched recently keeping in mind the problems faced by foreigners who come to Korea for job or a short visit.

The common problem faced by every foreigner coming to Korea for the first time is that they get lost in the Translation. They cannot speak Korean and most Koreans cannot speak English. So at that moment they need a mediator and that is where SGC comes into picture. Not necessarily to help you in your day to day translation but to help you get settled.

SGC can help you in many a ways. They can help you in resolving your conflicts, teaching you Korean language, give you some orientation on Korean Culture, help you in buying a mobile, making new friends etc. etc.

You can visit their website for more information: http://global.seoul.go.kr/

And you can also read their blog where they have very informative article: http://www.seoulcityblog.com/





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.




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

___________________________________________________________________

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.