Monday, April 14, 2014

Seoul vs. Jecheon

During my time in Korea, I've visited Seoul several times and have become quite familiar with the city.  Seoul is a great escape when I feel like getting out of Jecheon for the weekend because it's a whole different  atmosphere and it's only two hours away by train or bus.  I know New York City is nicknamed "The City that Never Sleeps", but I think Seoul definitely has the qualifications to take over that title.  Seoul has something for everyone: historical landmarks, every kind of food you could want, an abundance of restaurants/coffee shops/nightclubs/bars, museums, shopping and of course a wide variety of people.

To be honest, my favorite thing about Seoul is the food I can get while I'm there.  The city I live in has no McDonalds, no Burger King, no Mexican restaurants, nothing; so when my friends and I go to Seoul, our top priority is to eat foods that we know we won't have for awhile...burgers, Taco Bell, American-style brunch, etc.  Eating in Seoul tastes like home, and it's always a treat.  Also, Seoul has a few foreign food markets that provide hard-to-find international grocery items.  The first time I walked into one I thought I had teleported into an American grocery store.  It was fabulous.  BUT, there is a big downside to foreign food markets.  While they have items like PopTarts, root beer, Campbell's Soup, Herbal Essence shampoo and a slew of other things, the prices make you want to cry.  One time, I splurged on a 16oz block of cheddar cheese; it cost me $12.  Because the prices are so high, I just try to avoid the foreign food markets unless I'm really desperate for something in particular.

If you love shopping, you would absolutely love Seoul!  There are so many places to shop that it's overwhelming.  No wonder it's quickly becoming one the fashion capitals of the world.  Gangnam (yes, as in the song "Gangnam Style") is the most notorious Seoul shopping district; it is also known as the most high-class too.  The song "Gangnam Style" describes the Gangnam district as the place where Korean fashion trends are born.  Koreans are very fashionable people and usually look very polished.  I don't often see Koreans out and about in grungy sweatpants and T-shirts.      

Seoul is also a very convenient city.  My second favorite thing about the city is the underground subway.  I've ridden subways before, and the Seoul subway isn't really any different from my previous experiences, but I can't stress enough how awesome public transportation is.  For someone who hasn't driven a car in almost eight months, I have to rely on other means of getting around.  Seoul has a LOT of traffic, so the subway is the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to get around the city.  I have a T-Money card that I load money onto and just scan it at every metro station before getting on and after getting off.  There's also a subway app for smartphones that you can type your destination into and it maps out the fastest subway route for you.  The whole process is incredibly quick and simple!

Seoul is also English-friendly.  What I mean is that everywhere you go, there will be an English speaker, an English menu, English signs, and taxis even have free translation services.  This is incredibly different from Jecheon, where I have to rely on speaking the little Korean I know to do daily tasks.  My American friend who teaches in Seoul doesn't know how to read Korean and doesn't know basic Korean language skills either, while I can read it, write it and know enough to kind of get by.  We have both been here for the same amount of time, but I have a better grasp of the language because I have to rely on it everyday, while in Seoul, she doesn't have the same need to use it because the city caters to English speakers.

Seoul really is an amazing city, and there is always something new to experience there, but at the end of the day, I'm glad that I have Jecheon to come home to.    

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