Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Selina living in Seoul

Hi Sigur Center and Asia on E Street readers!

This is Selina with a quick update on what the living conditions are like in Seoul. Rather than culture shock, I think I was more shocked by living conditions. The living conditions are quite different from the US. I've recently moved into my own studio apartment closer to Korea University where I will be studying in the Fall. Just some things to note for people coming to South Korea. The biggest difference are the bathrooms. In Korea, there are no separate shower areas! Granted my dormitory at Sogang University had a separate shower, most studios, which are called one rooms, simply have a shower head attached to the sink. The picture below is from the guesthouse I stayed in when I first came to Korea.

For anyone going to study in Korea and interested in living off-campus, there are different room type options. I choose to live in a one room because it offers private bath, kitchen and laundry amenities. Its very comfortable though it is a smaller room compared to my dorm back at GW. As you can see in the picture below, in most one rooms and officetels the washing machine is right under the stove. Most apartments, even houses, do not have ovens.

 It is also incredibly hot and humid in Seoul. Although the temperature may be similar to DC, it is much more humid in Seoul. I don't think I have sweated so much walking down the street before. Many shops, shopping centers, and residences lack central air conditioning as well. So its not uncommon to find stores that only sell fans or portable air conditioners. Which reminds me of the Seoul Metro system. Yes this metro system can take you anywhere! But the stations are very hot and also do not have air conditioning. Yes the lack of cool air makes living tough for me. The trains however are usually pretty cool. Interestingly, there are some train cars with signs saying the temperature is 2 degrees celsius higher. This is because of laws that were passed to conserve energy. And Koreans are strict on adhering to these energy laws despite the heat. In my dormitory, you could not turn the AC lower than 24 celsius, and most days you could not turn the AC on between 1-5 pm because these are peak energy times.

 The last living condition that has shocked me since coming to Korea is how many hills, mountains, and stairs there are here. What I miss about DC metro are the escalators! Unlike DC, Korean metro stops will have multiple exits, and usually only one or two of the exits will have an escalator. Living in DC, and growing up in a beach community, I rarely go uphill, but somehow in this program I've managed to climb three mountains. At the end of my trek I found this pile of stones seen below. The words etched on top means health. Quite appropriate!

But despite some of these shocks in living conditions, Korea still has some pretty fun things! Like the Gangnam style teddy bear I ran into at the Teddy bear museum at Namsan tower!

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