Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Seoul report no.1

Today is our fourth day in Seoul and I just woke up from a short nap. B's gone out to wander and we'll go out for a little run when he gets back.

Only four days and I already feel at home. The Korean language has much in common with Chinese, obviously, but it is based on an alphabetical system which makes it seem quite easy to learn. The city is safe, the subway is easy to use and people are very friendly and helpful. On the night we arrived, we were standing in the middle of a quiet street looking at our map, wondering where we were, when a well-dressed man in a posh looking car rolled down his windows and asked us if we needed help. We showed him the address of the guesthouse and he used his phone to call the landlady, arranged for her to come out to meet us, and proceeded to drive us there. We were both very impressed.

Then the next day we went to a Korean restaurant and the waiter spent ages trying his best to explain to use what everything on the menu was. Bit of a struggle, but he was trying so hard. Again, very impressed.

Okay time for some sweeping generalizations about people in this city:

1. 2" high strappy sandals and mules are worn by all Korean women of child-bearing age. These shoes are visibly displayed in vast quantities in all major subway stations. About 50% of them paint only their big toes with nail varnish and leave the rest bare - some kind of undecodable fashion statement. Clothes-wise they are into frilly/glittery tops and layered skirts. There are two hairstyles - long and straight (young women), or short and permed (older women).

2. Korean men wear short sleeve shirts under their suits. Fashion wise there is not much to report. They look like a cross between Hong Kong men, Taiwan men and Japanese men.

3. Bars, regardless of their decor, music and professed theme, all have the same cliente. That cliente being anybody who fancies a drink.

4. Tasteless lagers are top sellers in bars. Some bars also offer a limited range of cocktails and whiskies. Even the imported beers, which tend to be at least twice the price of local beers, are those which are well-known for their tastelessness e.g. Budweiser and San Miguel. Maybe it's because Korean food is so tasty, if they drink tasty beers as well their tastebuds would explode.

5. Koreans like to eat till late in the night, like mid-night late, like on a Monday night.

6. "Etiquette bells" are commonly found in women's toilets in restaurants and department stores. You ring that bell when you fart or shit or make other undesirable noises so you won't have to subject users of adjacent cubicles to the torture of having to hear them.

I can see how Korea is fast becoming a favourite destination for Hong Kong people. They have the same national sports, i.e. shopping and eating out. Vanity, greed, and gluttony. I guess the Koreans are a bit more advanced as plastic surgery is quite big business here. But I'm sure we'll catch up eventually.

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