|From our hotel room. Jensen looks out on his new city!|
First impression of Korea:
1) It's a lot more European-feeling and a lot less "foreign" than I thought it would feel. Granted, we've mostly been hanging out in the Itaewon, the international district of Seoul. But there are coffee shops, french bakeries, craft beer, wineries, and every kind of international food you can think of here. Also, most people in this part of the city speak at least enough English you take your order pretty easily, so that is helpful.
2) They love babies here. Jensen is getting a LOT of attention here. Like.. a lot. They are just a lot more friendly with little kids here. I have a hunch that he's getting a little more attention because he's also a Western-looking baby too. At one point we had no less than 6 hotel employees that had stopped while we were waiting for an elevator and were making funny noises and faces at him to get him to laugh. It's a good thing he's cool with strangers and is basically a little flirt anyway.
3) They don't really move out of the way on the street. When walking opposite directions, I feel like I'm always the one moving out of the way. James was told in his cultural briefing that it's no big deal to bump into each other. It's not considered rude. You don't even have to say "excuse me," you just keep going. So I find myself wanting a little more space as I'm coming up on someone and it feels rude to me when they don't move, but really it's just because they don't expect to need as much buffer as I think there should be. Unless we are walking Roxy, our 75-pound German Shepherd mix. Which brings me to number 4..
4) A lot of Koreans are terrified of our big dog. Roxy and our cat have been staying at the base's animal kennel which we stay at the hotel. We took her out walking in the city for the first time and got a lot more space than we were getting without her. It seems like it was a generational thing. Older ladies were not shy about all-out scowling at her and moving as far away as possible. One women (I think a Grandma) was walking with kids and almost violently pulled one of the kids to the other side of the sidewalk. I mean.. she basically looks like a smaller black German Shepherd but she was happily wagging her tail. She wasn't that scary looking. On the other hand, we stopped a cross walk with three little Korean grade school-aged girls who were very curious about her and not at all afraid.
5) Speaking Korean is kind of intimidating. I took three years of high school Spanish and I have been to Italy a couple times. Saying hello in those languages is really easy ("hola", "ciao"). One or two syllables. "Please" and "Thank you" are also very easy to learn. Saying hello in Korean is 5 syllables "an-yong ha-say-o."
6) The beds are uncomfortable. I guess I'm basing this only on the hotel bed we stayed in and now on the loaner bed we have in our apartment on base. But Koreans like to sleep on the floor, so I'm guess our beds are pretty typical. I thought our mattress that we own was pretty firm, but I was wrong. There's firm and then there's like, stone floor firm. So besides having a jet-lagged baby waking up in the middle of the night, we were pretty uncomfortable for the firm week. We just spent some money on a really nice mattress pad though and it was the best. decision. ever.
7) Koreans are just really friendly. I've not met a rude person here yet. Everyone we've met has been really gracious towards us English-speaking Americans.
Anyway, I'll write more about our apartment and such soon!