My Trip to the city of S(e)oul
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Seoul, South Korea. I had visited the city once before, but it was only for a mere 48 hours. Although this visit would be short as well (four days), I was determined to squeeze as much in during my time there as possible.
I spent my days visiting the typical tourist attractions such as Changdeokgung Palace and the Seoul Tower, but I was also able to visit the Korean that I met on my last visit to Seoul. Visiting them for just one night had considerably changed my Seoul experience. They allowed me to experience Seoul as a local instead of an American tourist.
While there, my friend Sol invited me to meet him at his job. He teaches English at a private school. (I joked and said I would give his students a pop quiz!) I was surprised to learn that the students in Seoul study more than 10 hours a day. Students would attend school for the same amount of hours Americans do, however afterwards they attend a different specialized school for further education. It isn´t until 10:00pm or so that the student is able to finally start on homework to prepare for school the next day.
When his class ended, we went next door for some genuine Korean cuisine. We sat at a table that had a pit in the middle with a grill rack on top. We chose pork and the server brought out a hot stone and the meat for us to grill right there on the table. It was marinated in sweet soy sauce and tasted great with a small cup of sake.
Over sips of sake, I asked Sol about the myths about Korean drinking. Why did it seem like getting obliterated was encouraged among business partners? He laughed and explained that it was more the act of the shameless embarrassment one gets from a binge that actually bonds the person with their other drinking partners. It becomes sort of a fraternity-like hazing ritual that allows coworkers to let their guards down and become friends with one another.
After dinner it was a bit late and I thought it was the end of my visit with Sol. But then he asked if I had a chance to go shopping. He told me that if I wanted to do any last minute purchases that he could take me to a couple different malls that were open until 4am! Intrigued I said yes, I would love to check it out. We drove to the mall on his scooter, zipping around traffic, and we arrived at a bustling shopping center full of people… and it was midnight!
I always feel very lucky when I´m able to travel and visit with locals in a foreign spot. It gives a lot of insight into what the culture is truly like as opposed to just seeing the typical tourist attractions. Next time you´re out in a new place, I encourage you to talk to the locals and get their own personal recommendations. You´ll never know what curiosities you´ll find.
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