Culture Shot: Pepero Day

If you thought Valentine’s Day was a farce of a commercial holiday, then Korea will once again prove your Western assumptions wrong. Ladies and Gents, I present to you Pepero Day.

Pepero Day is the celebration of a Korean snack food of the same name. These snacks are bread sticks dipped in candy and come in a variety of flavors. They do not sound altogether appetizing, but let me tell you, I managed to put away a sizable amount yesterday…

Pepero

These gifts came from my friends at Muay Thai. One guy even made the ones in the cellophane!

As Valentine’s Day has it’s roots in a celebration of a saint, it’s hard to criticize Hallmark et al. for cashing in on it’s Capitalist potential. Pepero Day on the other hand, has no such origin. Instead, it comes from a 1983 news story, in which two school girls exchanged Pepero in order to become tall and thin like the Pepero sticks. These superstitious, and wildly misguided, girls exchanged these gifts on November 11th, the date that looks most like Pepero sticks. To a simple reasoning, or a homeopath, this logic is sound and the trick should work. Sadly, it doesn’t. I woke this morning at the familiar 5′ 8.5″ (that half is very important to me), and I believe I may have even gained weight in the night!

From Christal

One student even took the time to personalize the box!

I digress, however. So seeing that this could be turned into an incredibly marketable phenomenon, the parent company had the day enshrined in the commercial calendar. Now, you can buy Pepero everything, from gift-sets to plush toys. According to Wikipedia the Pepero company make 50% of their annual sales on this day! Not that the same isn’t true for florists and their ilk back home on V-Day I’m sure.

As you can see in the pictures, everyone gets some Pepero on this day, from friends, form teachers, from students. It’s all very cute, which makes it even more Korean, as almost everything here is either cute or for couples, or in this case both!

So now you know folks, the rest of the world also have holidays as outrageous as Valentine’s Day! Gooooooooo Capitalism!!!!

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Seoul Day 1: Stress and the City

It may have taken me just over four months, but I’ve finally done it, I have visited Seoul for longer than the minimum amount of time required to get from one airport to the other. I’m going to file this success away with other small triumphs, like never having worn odd socks while living here (that however is another story). Visiting Seoul has been one of those things that just kept getting put on the back-burner, sometimes it was too expensive, other times it was just inconvenient, but this time I was hell-bent on getting there and so J had no choice but to accompany or be left behind like a Busan bumpkin.

Busan to Seoul bus tickets

Thanks to my co-workers getting bus tickets to Seoul was less of a hassle

It was thus that we rose bright and early on Saturday morning and leapt onto the bus bound for the capital of the Neon Republic. I may have been ever so slightly naive about just how long 4 and a half hours on a bus could be and so I did burn off most of my excitement in the first two hours and ended up mired in enthusiastic, yet sleepy limbo for the remainder of the journey. Luckily for me though, the rest stop about an hour before our destination put the spring back in my step and I was once again ready for our trip to the big smoke.

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Culture Shot: Mind-Boggling Menus

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I am still in the process of learning to read and speak Korean, albeit a process more akin to glacial migration than serious language acquisition, but I’m a busy man. I mean those jelly beans don’t eat themselves! I digress, however, and return to today’s theme: reading menus.

Usually, when I am in a restaurant I can pick out what is tasty based on the picture which is conveniently located next to each menu item. What happens when those pictures aren’t there and the menu is not provided with convenient English subtitles? Well, let me tell you now.

What does this even MEAN???? I think it says “Go to McDonald’s”

Guesswork. Lots and lots of guesswork
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Four Months in Photos

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To this I arrived those 4 months ago…well after some redecorating

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I got to know my ‘hood

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At first I wasn’t sure if this was a first aid tent or a restaurant… It’s both.

The Diamond Bridge shines so bright Rihanna would be proud

The Diamond Bridge shines so bright Rihanna would be proud

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Costco Korea: Wholesale Sure, Wholesome? Maybe Not…

I often think of myself as a culturally-enlightened being, wise to the ways of the world, never baffled by other cultures or what I find there, and then I will experience something that plants me firmly back to Earth with a large thump. Making me realize just how sheltered a life I have lead in Ireland.

Luckily for me, however, I am now in Korea and broadening my previously narrow horizon to encompass all the world’s nuances, one experience at a time!

What was today’s lesson?

Well folks, today, thanks to a great friend (with a membership card), I finally got to experience the Mecca of all expats:

 

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Culture Shot: The Naked Truth… About JimJilBangs

Emmet: Hey dude let’s get naked!

J: Erhm… I’m not sure about this. It seems kinda weird Emmet.

Emmet: Jamie, come on, it’ll be a laugh and so relaxing.

Finally, he relented and agreed to get naked and come to Spaland, Shinsegae. One of the best jimjilbangs (naked bath houses to the uninitiated among my readers) in Busan.

So, bright and early, at 10 AM, we got on the subway and made our way to the baths. Because, for afternoon teachers, 10AM is basically still the small hours.

spaland
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Scene Unseen: The “Cannot Be ‘Unseen'” Korea

You know what my life was lacking here in the big city? Open space. I mean, it’s very nice here in Busan, and in my Dong (neighborhood, although that’s some pretty stellar foreshadowing), although there are many parks and some open space, it’s no Ireland, where one is never further than 10Km from the nearest farm.

In order to combat this longing for the countryside, I signed up for the Korean Bus Tour Adventures trip to Samcheok.

Samcheok is about 5 hours bus journey through much of Korea’s arable land as well some pretty lofty, yet completely forested mountains, which is unsurprising given that the World Bank quotes a massive 64.08% of Korea is forested!

Why go 5 hours away to see green land if you are driving through fields and forests the whole way there anyway? Well… Samcheok is very well know for its sculptures as well as it’s parks. As I’m sure you can see below.

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All credit goes to Matthew for this picture. Really captured the spirit of the art!

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