Made the China- The result

I’ve always thought that there was a direct correlation between mass-produced products and the words “Made in China”. Heading in to this challenge, I didn’t think it would succeed in changing my opinions on products but now that I’m on the other side, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

When I first started, I went through the clothes in my wardrobe looking for those” Made in China”. Some of my clothes were and some of my clothes weren’t. Those that were made in Philippines or Vietnam made me wonder whether they were any better or worse than the ones made in China. Who are the real people behind the clothes?  A few years ago, I watched a fascinating documentary as they went under cover to some of the factories in England where clothes for a major brand were being made. These sweat shops were full of Asian women brought into the country to work 12 or 13 hour days sitting at machines in dark rooms to produce the clothes that we all bought for 6  or 7 times what the received in wages. So just because some of my clothes weren’t made in China didn’t mean that they were made under better conditions. But when you start to think like this, when can you stop? You can’t boycott all the clothing chains in the world because you somehow suspect that they’re labour conditions aren’t up to scratch but it certainly opened my eyes the possible conditions in which our clothes are being manufactured.

After writing my first post about the challenge, I received a comment to say that I should post my findings on this website. An entire website dedicated to products not Made in China. Who would have thought? Not me, that’s for sure. If you’re looking to boycott Made in China for longer than a month, this is the place to go.

So, after my month of no Made in China, how did I do?

Food; This was too easy. Loads of food stuffs is either made in Korea or another country but easy to avoid China here.

Clothes & Shoes; A mixed bag . It’s easy to find Korean made clothes in small independent stores. It helps if you’re the same general size as Koreans or if you’re happy with “free size” products. For fitted or Western style clothes, you’ll have to look harder but not that hard. During October, I bought a sweater dress from United Colours of Benetton. It was made in Korea. I literally couldn’t believe it. I also have a Mountain Hardware jumper that was again made in Korea. It goes to show that you don’t have to give up your labels if you’re not buying Made in China.

If you want to but a pair of shoes though, you have to look everywhere.. Honestly, every shoe shop I went in to had their shoes Made in China. Even the expensive stores. Eventually, my friend Janet, found a store  , and bought some shoes (which I then bought from her) and they were made in Korea. Woop! Success. Of course, I can’t guarantee this of all the shoes they sell, but it was the case for my pair.

Cosmetics; The easiest thing to buy. All the big brands, Faceshop, Missha, Etude House are all Made in Korea so you can buy as much makeup as you like.

SAM_9447

Some of my Made in Korea purchases.

Handbags follow the same line as shoes.  All the big brands make their bags in China. This really bothers me. Take an expensive bag, an Orla Kiely for example. Bags from this label are extremely beautiful, there is no question of that. The designer is originally from Ireland but now based in London. So when I thought to check, I expected that they were made in Europe at the very least. No. Made in China.  It surely defeats the purpose of marketing this well thought out, well designed bag to an audience that has money and style ( average bag is about 100$), if it’s made in China. Surely. It ultimately means that there’s no difference between that expensive bag and the one I picked up in a market for 10$ if both are made in China.

The greatest disappointment of the project was this computer I’m writing on.  I bought it a few weeks before the challenge started, its a Samsung Ativ. Being Samsung, a Korean brand, I looked at the tablet and keyboard dock expecting to find them made in Korea, only to find that they were both, Made in China. The disappointment almost made me give it back for a refund. Almost.

In good news, I rediscovered that Baush and Lombe contact lenses are made in Ireland. Hurray for Ireland! In all honesty, I’m glad this challenge is over and that I did it. I’m much more aware now than I was at the start.  While Made in China is not as prevalent as I expected it to be in Korea, there are still products out there that you would struggle to find made anywhere other than China (cups, plates, socks)

As ever, feel free to leave your comments below.

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Shauna & Janet on the “Most useful phrases in Korean”- Part 1

It’s always useful to have a few phrases in Korean before you come to Korea. Right? That’s what we thought anyway. And by “we”, I mean Janet and I. Janet is the person behind the janetnewenham.wordpress.com blog.She’s also Irish and living in Paju so we thought we’d try a vlog over some Barry’s Tea. Since we want people to be involved, we let our Facebook followers choose the phrases we put up. Here’s what they came up with;

1. Hello– 안녕하세요. Anyeong ha sayo.

2. Thank You– 감사합니다 Gamsa ham ni da

3. Yes– 네 ney

4. No– 아니요 ah ni o

5. Where is the ___________? ________ 이 어디에 있어요? ___ o d eh is oh yo?  For example, “Where is the bathroom?’ The word for bathroom is 화장실( hwa jang shil) so the sentence becomes 화장실이 어디에 있어요?

6. How to I get to _______? _________ 어땋게 가요? o ddeok kay gay yo? For example, How do I get to Seoul is 서울 어떻게 가요?

7. I’m sorry– 미안해요. me ann ham ni da. There are a few ways to say I’m sorry. You can use this for any situation where you should apologize for something.

8.Discount Please, 갂아 주세요. Gakk ah chew say yo. This can only be used when the price isn’t set. For example at a market or somewhere.

9. Simmer down/calm down; 침착해요. Chim chak hay yo. A great one if you’re out and about and someone is bothering you or something like that.

10. How much is this? 이거 얼마예요? e go ul mah eh yo? (이거 being “this”).

11. Directions; 직진- jik jin,  Straight

오른쪽 oh ruhn chuk, Right

윈쪽 wen chuk, Left

여기 세워 주세요. yoh gi say woh Chew say yo, Stop here please

12. Really? 진짜? jiin ja? I love this word! Even these days when I can’t follow my student or whatever I just reply “진짜”?

13. One moment please, 잠깐만요. Jam can man yo, . You can use this when getting off the subway, bus or just to say “wait a minute”

It’s not very much fun just reading it here is it? No. That’s why Janet and I put together a little video of how to pronounce it and we loved it so much the memory card ran out of space. So this video is part one and we’ll post part 2 next week!

Since we’re not Korean we probably made mistakes in spellings so apologies. If you want to see us do any more videos on Korean or life in general in Korea or whatever, leave us a comment or tweet us, @iamshaunabrowne or @janetnewenham.

Sitting TOPIK and asking myself why…..

As I sat there, the red-headed beacon in the sea of monochrome hair that was the TOPIK ( Test of proficiency in Korean)exam hall, I asked myself if it was all really worth it.  The weeks of stress, the nights of Korean vocabulary filled dreams, the nightmares of not having filled the self-imposed daily study quota, was I sure I wanted to be part of this?

In my four years living here, nobody has ever stopped me up on the street and asked me what my TOPIK level is. In fact, most people I know don’t even know what TOPIK is. If I burst out a simple Korean phrase in my everyday life, sometimes as simple as hello, Koreans fall over themselves telling me how amazing I am. Great. Fantastic,so smart!  What was that grammar point for disputing a statement? Oh ya,(ㄹ)…하기는요. I remember because it’s the only one I get to use on a regular basis. So why do it? Work,study at work, home, dinner, study, bed as a routine for months and months makes me question myself. During those months, I wake up in the middle of the night to check a certain word, is it 행동하다 or 동행하다  and if the one I didn’t need is actually a real word what does it mean? This is how it goes for months.I revise and practice previous questions with my teacher where I learn the most useless vocabulary. Why does anyone need to know the Korean word for the soon to be married couple?Why? Why I ask you? Can I slip this into everyday conversation? I think not.

As I look around, I’m desperate to see someone who looks like they might be in the same boat as me. But in that room of 40 hopefuls, there are no other native English speakers. In fact, every other person in the room is from Asia, the realisation of which causes an appearance of the awkward turtle.Sitting away in the corner, Paddy Irishman.  As soon as I arrived at the centre, the whole thing took a turn for the worst. I sat alone in my car doing some last-minute revision when a coach load of candidates pulls up and they all enter, not a book or notebook in sight, looking as if they were doing the test for the good of their health. Maybe they were. Maybe that’s why some people do the TOPIK.  My friends, who are Ph.d students in a university in Seoul, do the exams because they have to. They must pass a certain level in order to receive their degrees.  They take classes in Korean and receive very generous scholarships so that’s a pretty great motivation to get their TOPIK. For me though, honestly, it’s so I have something to aim for. I won’t study properly if I’m not working my way toward a goal. For all the stress and randomness, TOPIK is that goal so that’s ultimately why I sit the test. Well, that and the whole thing will give me something to talk about with my friends.

Sitting there wondering if I look Korean enough to blend in, I can’t help but laugh as my thoughts roam to the person who’s going to be unfortunate enough to be correcting my test. I can read Korean as fast as a 4-year-old can so by the time I’ve read and answered questions 31-45, I have about 20 minutes to questions 45-60. So it’s a case of looking for some words whose meaning I don’t know, looking at the answer, finding a few of the same words and guessing the answer.  When did I think it was a good idea to sit this level and is there a limit on the amount of times you can sit this test? This is pretty much how I look during the exam…….

Crazy

On the bright side, there are some super interesting characters in this room. The people who don’t understand what “don’t open the test paper yet” means, the yawners, the gum chewers, the clickers and the guy behind you who keeps passing gas, it all adds up to the silver lining.

So that’s me and my TOPIK thoughts for now. Ironically, my next blog is going to be the 10 most useful Korean phrases! As ever, leave your comments below ( preferably in Korean, we all know I could do with the practice!)

My 10 favourite things to do in Korea.

Someone asked me what my favourite things to do in Korea were.  I have a lot of favourite things to do so I narrowed them down to 10. Before we read, I think we should listen to Julie Andrews and her favourite things, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_PjaKkmTgQ

My list isn’t half as interesting as Wild Geese that fly with the moon on their wings but here it is anyway;

1. Drink tea with my friends; Monday to Friday is a haze of school and study and randomness so when the opportunity arrives to sit down, drink tea and have a laugh, I take it.  I have so many great memories that have stemmed from all of us in one apartment drinking tea and having the craic. Since your friends are your family here and thankfully I’ve got some great friends, tea time is a great catch up time.  As you can see in the picture, you never really know what’s going to happen at tea time……….

teatime

2. Play at a session; I love to play to my walls and I’m sure my walls appreciate it but there’s nothing like playing with real people. Having a few pints, a bit of craic and playing a few tunes is the most ideal way to spend any Sunday afternoon.

session

3. Be a  tourist; There are loads of places I’ve never been to in Korea. I love nothing more than heading off to some museum, exhibition or random city, getting lost, play the tourist and encourage the people to practice their English. ” This picture was taken at Chuseok when we all headed over to Paju Samneung to check out the tombs. Just us and our cameras and Spuddy.

Tourist

4. Fly Kites in Imjingak; Imjingak is an area with a park right before the border with the North. Tours to the DMZ usually stop there are there are interesting things to see like the North and stuff but the park there is fantastical. It’s a giant  green area with a stage, some statues and it’s an ideal place to pass a day. It’s an even better place to fly kites. My friends and I went there recently on our day off and spent a wonderful afternoon picnicking and listening to the free concert. No kites in the pictures below I’m afraid but we look like we’re having a great time anyway.

iMJINGAK INJIN

5. Eat Galbi; Has anyone ever noticed that the most epic conversations always start over some delicious Galbi? Delicious meat, lots of side dishes, good people, random conversations. Galbi is where it’s all at. The picture below is as close to a Galbi picture as I could find.

Galbi

6. Sing at the Norebang; I don’t know one person who doesn’t love the Norebang. Actually, I do, I just choose to ignore them (more singing time for me!) A night out is never really over until you’ve hit the Norebang. Cheap, cheerful, you can play the tambourines, dance, sing. You can sing in English, you can sing in Korean or Japanese or just play the tambourine. If you are at a luxury Norebang you can eat the snacks. Good times. I’d like to thank Cindy or Leana or whichever friend took this photo of our last trip to the Norebang.

norebang

7. Go to the cinema. For everyone who asks, yes the movies are in English. Well the foreign ones are. Apart from all that delicious popcorn in all those flavours, the thing I love best is being the only foreigners in the theatre. It’s 50 or so Koreans and 5 expats and you can tell because only we get the jokes (I guess they don’t translate well) so while we’re falling around laughing, the Koreans are laughing at us laughing.

8. Have random conversations; I’m not one for talking to strangers but sometimes you just can’t help it. You’re sitting on the subway and suddenly the person next to you wants to practice their English. I’ve spoken to some great characters. The adjummas who think I’d be a great match for their son, the old guys who tell you stories of the war, the adjusshis who are a little disappointed that you’re from Ireland and not somewhere they’ve actually heard of, the other adjussis who actually know loads about Ireland. The list goes on. Good times. Like the guy below. I met him in Malaysia, he was all over the red hair. Shame he knew nothing about “Iceland”

chinese man

9. Learning Korean; I do complain about having to memorise all the vocab and grammar and so on but learning Korean is a hoot. Koreans are so shocked that you can say 안녕하세요, Wow amazing! I said hello. Imagine that!  After 4 years, I can say hello. For my next trick I can speak an entire sentence.  When I do my homework on the subway, Koreans will chime in when I make a mistake making it look like I magically got all the answers right all by myself. More good times. No pictures because I actually study as opposed to taking pictures of my books and posting them on FB.

10.  Bombing around in Spuddy. I simply adore my car. Not because it’s a Porshe or anything just because it’s mine and it fits everywhere. Honestly, you could lift it up and bring it inside it’s so small. In fairness to Spuddy it’s deceiving big. On the last road trip to Daegu we fit 4 adults, 3 overnight bags, a harp, a whistle, a concertina, a bodhran in there.  That whistle really took up all the space……

spufdy

I also get a 50% discount because I drive an awesome yellow car ( or because it’s a 경자). Whatever,  my reason is better.  AND it’s yellow so I can find it in that sea of monochrome. Win win right there.

Then there’s Norecar. In the morning on the way to school, I throw turn on some music and just sing as I drive. Great times. (for me, not for anyone who may be unfortunate enough to hear me!)

If you live in Korea, let me know if there’s anything you would add to the list. Otherwise, leave your comments below!

Made in China- The October Challenge

A little while ago, I read an article about a family who had gone a year without buying anything that was “Made in China”. He is a link to an article about it. (In fact it’s a book) http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/06/28/us-books-madeinchina-idUSN2425061320070628

That got me thinking. With China as our closest easterly neighbour, how easy or difficult would it be to refrain from buying anything that was “Made in China”? How much of an influence do they have here and how many items that I use everyday are actually “Made in China”? After mentioning it to a friend, we decided to go without buying anything “Made in China” for the month of October. I honestly have no idea how easy or difficult this will be as I have never put too much thought into it before.

The other rule is that as far as possible we must support the home market, in this case Korea or if at all possible our own home markets, Ireland and South Africa.

So that’s it, the October challenge. I’ll write another blog on the results and observations of this challenge in November.

Shauna1