Summer in South Korea- the worst things.

I was asked recently to write a “the worst things about South Korea” kind of blog. I’m slightly too positive to do that and actually want to encourage people to come here, so I thought I’d just start off with the worst things about summer.

Don’t take me wrong, after the long winter, summer is more than welcome. You save yourself so much time in the morning. You only have one layer to put on as opposed to the five million in winter. You eat healthier but you drink more beer. Normal people get a tan. Either way, we all get a bit of colour. But after a while, the novelty of the nice weather wears off a little and the not so nice parts start to appear.

Take the mosquitos for example. Not so bad during the day. That’s a lie. They’re annoying any time, but there is nothing worse than getting a mosquito bite at night. Just as you’re falling into a deep deep sleep, you feel it. Then you have to get up, put on the magic medicine, plug in the anti mosquito plug (which maybe you should have thought of earlier). And worse than that is the idea of having to put up a mosquito net to avoid a similar occurrence in the future.  And anyone who has been bitten by a mosquito will tell you that they are not the prettiest bites. So definitely a worst thing about summer.

I know there is a mosquito here somewhere! mosquito

Three showers is the usual amount I take per day in the summer.  Right now, I’m still on two and sometimes one but from next month and definitely August, it’ll be three times. Not really necessary considering the temperature is maximum 30 degrees. But its the humidity that melts me. It can be 80 per cent humidity here during the summer and that makes a perfect recipe for three showers a day.  It’s so difficult to even move, yet alone function and actually do things in the summer because of the humidity. And do you know what three showers a day mean? Extra washing to do.  A definite contender here for the worst things about summer.

I love sleep. Theres nothing I enjoy more than a lie in on a Saturday, Sunday and any other day I can get away with it. Impossible in the summer. The sun rises at 5.30ish and lights up my apartment. I should probably consider buying curtains but…….Then the evening comes and it’s bright until 8pm or later and as a result I generally go to bed later than I usually would. Then, there’s the problem of the correct temperature in your room. Air con on or air con off? (Fan death risk or no fan death risk?) Window open or closed? Blanket or no blanket? It all just leads to a constant cycle of not sleeping.

In Korea, in the summer, there is a special smell. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a delicate mixture of Kimchi, humidity, vegetables, rubbish, soju and vomit. I think that accurately describes it. It’s not everywhere, only some places but once you get that whiff, you won’t be able to escape.

Then, there’s the personal worst thing about summer. Pale skin is coveted here and women use all sorts of lotions and potions to whiten out their skin. Summer, for me, means a certain amount of public mawling. Just because I have white skin doesn’t mean I’m on public display and you can touch me freely. Honestly, I’ve had people run after me on the street just so they could touch my skin. Creepy as hell is what it is. “Don’t touchee me!”

Last on the list is taking public transport. Imagine this. You’ve spent the entire day outside walking around. It’s 30 degrees, 80% humidity. You’re sweaty, sticky and dying to get home for a shower. You hop on the bus only to discover that not only is it packed but that every other person on the bus has the same problem. And it’ll take you an hour to get home. Excellent. Not. Worst thing about summer right here.

Get us out of here!save me!

Apart from that, summer here is the business. I’ve probably forgotten loads of things so feel free to leave your comments!

Dearest mother……

Dearest mother,

I received your letter yesterday and would like to respond to your numerous questions. I feel like maybe you have the wrong impression of this country altogether. We should clear this up before you visit otherwise you’ll be very disappointed.

Despite what you read, South Korea is a first world country so yes, we have clean, running water. It also comes in still and sparkling should you prefer to buy some in the shop. We use a monetary system to acquire our items so best bring some along. No, you can’t get it in Ireland, you’ll just have to wait until you get here.  I know you’re a fussy eater, but seriously, there’s no need to bring your own food, we can buy it here.  Times are tough, but not that tough.  We do have Rice Krispies but I’m not sure if they’re called Rice Krispies because I don’t like eating cardboard. I know I usually write letters to you but honestly we do have internet and phones.

You expressed fear about your Western fashion standing out.  Let’s have a little chat about this. Your fashion standing out should be the least of your worries. When people stare, it won’t be because you’re wearing the latest Dunnes fashion, it’ll be because you’re( sit down for this one) FOREIGN!  Since we have free choice as to what we wear here, chances are that they’ll be at least 5,000,000 people in Korea wearing the same t-shirt/shorts combo as you. And should you still be fearful after you’ve arrived, you can always buy your clothes from any of the 200,000,000,000 clothes stores there are here.

That’s if people even manage to see something other than your head.  There are a lot more people here than in Ireland. I mean a LOT more. Koreans are everywhere. So although I live in the “country” ,I really meant that it was more country that downtown Seoul. There are still a lot of people in Paju. You should prepare yourself for this. There’s no such thing as going out to feed the sheep in the morning. In fact, you would be hard set to find a sheep in my part of Paju so best of luck if you’re trying to feed them.

I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’ll be staying in a space a lot smaller than our house in Ireland. It may only have 2 rooms but it’s what I call “home” so it’ll have to do. If you see a house in Korea, you should take a picture, most people live in apartments.

About the safety thing. Mum, this may be Asia but apart from being half way round the world, it’s not all that different from Ireland. Just do what you do in Ireland and don’t do what you wouldn’t do in Ireland and you’ll be set.  But this image you have of thieves and gangsters roaming the streets is so far from the line, that the line is now just a dot.

Mother, mother, mother, have many times have I told you that there is no reason to fear our pesky friends up North? What would they want with you? Nothing, that’s what. If you were planning an emergency evacuation plan, don’t. You’ll only be here for two weeks and yes, we will go to the DMZ because why wouldn’t we? We’ll have a whale of a time, I tell you.

Anyway, pack well and remember that 20kgs is what I got to start an entire life out here so surely you can pack for 2 weeks and be under the limit. Don’t forget the tea bags and treats.



p.s. Since we have cars and petrol here and roads that work, I’ll pick you up from the airport.