I promised to write a post of things I like about living in Korea after my very negative and critical post about the bad sides of Korea. When you live in a country for a some time you will start to see and recognize the not so nice parts of the place and culture you live in, but there's also many things I love about Korea that make living in here many ways better than what it would be in where I came from. After all, I still love Korea and consider it as my home country. When I travel I feel home when I land back to Korean ground. Sometimes I wish that I could still see everything as naively and excitedly I saw when I came here for the first time, but I have still often those moments when I think that Seoul is a super cool place to live in. My opinions are based on a life in Seoul, so people living in a countryside or smaller cities in Korea might have totally different experiences and disagree with me.
Getting interested of the language was the reason why I got interested of Korea. For me Korean is that Asian language I feel easiest to listen to and easiest to get a grip on. I think Korean is really interesting and beautiful language and even if you are not into Korean popular music I think it's very suitable language for rapping and has a really nice flow (other language I think sounds really nice rapped is Swedish)! Thanks to King Sejong Korea has very simple alphabets and I think it's pretty cool to know more than one writing system.
Being able to see the mountains wherever you go was part of the reasons why I fell in love with this country. I know many foreigners complain that you can't see much green in Seoul, but I feel that the mountains keep the nature close. And if you go outside of the city there's lots and lots of green! There's also some nice parks in Seoul and many beautiful places you can reach by subway and go to enjoy the nature, like the surroundings of the Seoul Grand Park Zoo. Also the cities by the sea seem to be gorgeous, and if that's not enough there's Jeju Island which is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Korean food is amazing and eating out is really affordable. Most of the Korean food is spicy, but really delicious. There's restaurants in every corner and even if some tiny restaurants managed by local old ladies can look a bit sketchy, many of these restaurants offer really delicious food with a very cheap price. Certain areas of Seoul have also lots of foreign restaurants so you don't need to get bored with Korean food. You can find pretty much any type of food from here. I've tried so many new foreign foods while living in Korea. Unfortunately foreign food is usually more expensive than Korean food. You can also get almost anything delivered to your home, perfect for lazy days!
Coffee shops in Korea are not just for drinking coffee. I feel like they can work as an extension of a home. They are of course a meeting place with friends, but they are also so much more, and they are everywhere! Many coffee shops in Korea are huge and no one will ask you to leave if you want to spend your whole day studying there. Tired students even take naps in cafees and that's not a problem. Some coffee shops are open 24/7. If you don't want to drink your coffee in a big chain coffee shops there's also huge amount of cute and small independent coffee shops all around the city specialized on different kind of treats. Seoul is also the city of different kind of theme cafes. Some cosmetic brands have their own cafees, then there's different kind of animal coffee shops (for example dog, cat and raccoon), board game cafees, silent study cafes, dress up cafes where you can try a hanbok or wedding gowns, different kind of character cafes like Moomins, Hello Kitty, Kakao... The options are endless! Unfortunately coffee in Korea is kind of expensive compared to the prices of food.
There's so much to do in Seoul! Karaoke rooms, PC rooms to play computer games, and all the theme coffee shops mentioned before. Most of the stores stay open very late. Then there's markets where you can shop even at night. Some of the museums are free or really affordable. Visiting a palace is really cheap too and if you want you can do it by wearing traditional Korean clothes, hanbok. Hiking, summer activities around Han river, indoor sports... If you want to do something, you can probably find a place to do it in Seoul.
Public transportation works well, takes you everywhere, is cheap, clean and safe (if you remember to hold on something). While traveling in Europe I've noticed that many subway stations are dark and a bit scary, trains might be dirty and like in Prague all windows were scratched. In some cities going to subway stations certain times of a day can be even dangerous. But not in Seoul! Subway stations have bright lights, trains and stations are clean, and you don't need to be scared of your life to use subway in the evening time. Most of the busses also go very frequently.
Korea is a country where old architechture meets the modern and new, and I think it looks really fascinating. Old Korean traditional buildings are beautiful and something totally different than what I have used to see in Europe.
Even though I complained about the rude older ladies most of the Koreans are very polite people. If you are a tourist you will surely get help if you ask. I've got help to carry my luggages in stairs without asking. Some lovely old people might offer you some free food with your meal, fruits while you pass by, or a seat in a subway. If I've needed help at my university my fellow students have been kind and helpful if I have just open my mouth. Koreans are also used to share and will take good care of their friends and treasure their family. Koreans might be a bit reserved and let people mind their own business which I, as a quiet Finn, personally like, but I heard that for people from more open and loud cultures it can feel distressing.
Most of the things in Korea happen very fast. Things with banking, reneving Visa, and other viral office visits that would take weeks to be dealed in Finland can be done in that exact moment in Korea. Need new eye glasses? Ready in minutes. Need to see a doctor? Wait few minutes. Need a translation of a document? Done immediatelly under your eyes. Food comes fast too. And if you would need to wait a long time you can just go to somewhere else where they will deal with it more efficiently because there's so many places providing similar services.
Anything can happen in anywhere and there's always bad exceptions too, but compared to many other countries Korea is pretty safe place to live. Seoul has more than 50 million people and still it's the only place where I've seen people reserving seats in coffee shops with their handphones! Or leaving their phones to be charged next to strangers while their own seat might be even in a different floor of the building. If you need to visit a toilet it's totally normal to leave your stuff, including your laptop, to wait unguarded. I don't feel scared in a full subway that someone would steal something from my pockets. It's of course better to be safe than sorry and have some common sense because surely there is some bad apples in those 50 million people, but I'm most scared of being hit by a car. You can walk here safely carrying your expensive dslr-camera.You don't need to try to pretend not to be a tourist to be safe. If you are a woman I would be careful to walk alone at night (in every country of the world!), but I don't think you need to be more scared in Seoul than what you would be in your home country. At least I felt more insecure in my supposedly safe home country than in Seoul!
I wrote before that appearance in Korea is too important, but because of that big part of the younger generation dress up really well in here. You will see lots of nicely cut hair looking like straight from the shampoo advertisements and lots of people dressing really well. You can see that many people plan their outfits very carefully. I feel that Koreans have only few styles where to choose from, and most of Korean clothing stores sell totally same stuff, but I personally like Koreans' sense of style. There's not much personal space in Korea so at least it's nicer to be surrounded by clean people who take care of themselves. I think that in general people in Korea dress up better than people in Finland, but my husband with totally different view of style appreciates Finnish more individual style to dress.
I and my skin love Korean cosmetics! New world opened to me after learning about them. Life is so much easier when you can just walk to a store and buy what you need instead of ordering it from another side of the world. Korean cosmetic business is really innovative and there's so many brands to choose from. There's something for everyone. Some brands do better with color cosmetics, some do better with skin care. I'm the laziest person ever to take care of my skin and still I get sometimes compliments about my skin. I think that I need to thank Korean cosmetics and make up for that. It's also really easy to find affordable products. One of the greatest things is that many Korean brands don't do animal testing and it will be totally banned by 2018! It's just better to remember that if you want to use 100% cruelty free brands you should use brands that don't sell their products in China because China requires all cosmetics to be tested with animals.