1st birthday celebration in Korea- 돌잔치

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a first birthday party. In Korea, 100 days (백일) and the first birthday (돌잔치) are big events and this was the my first 돌잔치.  Many years ago, it was a big deal if a child survived the first year in Korea so they placed huge importance on a first birthday and continue to do so today.

The location for these parties are usually party rooms. On the way in were beautiful pictures of the child as a baby and with her parents as well as decorations and the like. After saying hello to my friends and their daughter I sat down to write my message to Claire (the baby). The tables were all set for food so we sipped on drinks after which we enjoyed a buffet style meal. The atmosphere was really easy going and relaxed.

entrance claire

After the meal we watched a great video of Claire’s first year after which was the uniquely Korean part called Doljabi or 돌잠이.  The following items were placed on a tray, a stethoscope (청진기), pencil(연필), money (돈), gavel (판사봉), a ball (공) and a some yarn (실).  Whichever item the child grabs is used to predict the child’s future and talents. In this case she chose the gavel which means that perhaps she’ll her future job will be in law.

Choosing the pencil means the child will be scholarly, the string means a long life, the money means that the child will never be poor, the ball means that the child will be good at sport and the stethoscope means that the child will become a doctor. It’s a unique Korean event at a first birthday. Claire also wore a traditional Korean dress.

On the way in, each guest makes a prediction as to which item the child will choose and a winner is given a token.


A traditional gift for a first birthday is a gold ring for their little fingers but these days gold anything works as does clothing, toys or cash.

1st bday

It was such a privilege to be able to join this special occasion and a first birthday here is definitely a lot different to the first birthday’s back home.

9 reasons I love going to the cinema in Korea.

When people back home hear that I’ve been to the cinema here, they are shocked. I’m not sure if it’s because we have cinemas or if it’s because I saw a movie that they also saw but they are shocked.  Going to the cinema here is one of my favourite things to do and here’s why;

1. English Movies; That’s right folks, we have English movies here. If you can see it in Ireland, you can see it here.

2. Great choice of cinemas; Lotte, CGV and Megabox are three of the big cinema names here so if you can’t find your movie in one, you can just go to the other. And they all generally have their cinemas in the same area so it’s fantastically convenient.

3. The price; Back in the day when I used to live in Ireland, a trip to the cinema would cost me about 7 euros for a ticket. That’s about 10,000won. For a regular ticket here, it costs 9,000won. Of course it’s a little more pricey for the IMAX, 12,000won and if you’re going to splash out of 3D it’s about 18,000won. Either way, it’s much cheaper that what you pay back home.

4. Reserving tickets; If you want to watch a movie at a peak time but really want to get good seats in advance you have 2 options. 1. Go the the website of the cinema and try booking it there. Or 2. Go to cineinkorea.com and book it with them. I did this once and honestly it was so easy. It was all in English and they sent me a message with a picture of the seats to make sure they were ok. Amazing.

5. The ticket machines; If you want to buy your tickets at the cinema, you can just rock up and get them from the ticket machines. The machines are in Korean so by just looking foreign and helpless you are guaranteed that a helper will come along and do it all for you. But if you get your tickets from the counter, they had you vouchers with your tickets. Making it look like you’re getting great value for your money.

6. The popcorn; Possibly the best part of going to the cinema here is the popcorn. So many delicious flavours to choose from, onion, cheese, garlic, caramel, regular, the random flavours at the posh CGV’s. And if you can’t decided, you can get a half and half so you can enjoy 2 flavours. Amazing.

7. The movie theater; Always super clean and comfortable. My favourite has got to be the IMAX. I just saw a movie there today and I literally thought I was part of the hunger games tributes, “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE! I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE! PICK ME! PICK ME!You get the idea.

8. The upper hand; Usually the foreigners are the last people to know what’s going on. This changes the second you go to an English movie here. They do have Korean subtitles but jokes just don’t translate well. So, the foreigners are the only ones laughing causing the Koreans to laugh at us laughing and the whole thing is pretty great.

9. The staff; At the end of the movie, when you walk out, there are staff there bowing at you and telling you to come again. Sometimes these staff even give you vouchers. It’s like the perfect ending to the cinema experience. It’s the small things in life.

How do I use my heating?

When you come to Korea, you can say goodbye to the word radiator and say hello to Ondol. Ondol is an underfloor heating system that has been used in Korea for centuries.  Since many Koreans still sleep and sit on the floor, it’s extremely useful in the cold weather. In fact, most winters there’s nothing I love more than throwing my duvet on the floor, turning on the ondol and having a little nap.

But for foreigners who can’t read Korea, it can take a little while to get used to the dials. It’s sometimes a case of trial and error but fear not, here is a little explanation of what the words mean. (Every dial is different but generally the words are the same)



The first picture us much more common than the second. The second is a lot older than the first but if you look carefully, you’ll see the same words on both. Let’s take a look at some now.

1. 빠른온수- Fast hot water

2.  온수온도 and then  고, 중, 저. This means water temperature, high, medium, low. 

3. The wheel says 외출/온수전용. This means the temperature you want to set it to if you go out. Turn it up or down etc.

4.  난방선택 and then 온돌, 실내, 예약.난방선택 is heating choice. 온돌 is the floor heating, i.e. it heats the floor but not so much the water. 실내 means indoors or interior and in my apartment it heats the water and the floor. 예약 means reservation. You can set the heat to come on at a certain time but this has never worked for me so I wouldn’t know.

My tip is to leave your heating on continuously low during the real winter, especially if you go on Christmas holidays. If the pipes freeze and burst, the whole floor has to be taken up and it’s an expensive job. Leave the heating to 10 or 15 degrees. The heating only comes on if the temperature goes below that point so it’s not like it’ll be on the entire time.

I hope this helps someone somewhere! Apologies if my Korean spelling or explanation is useless, as it turns out, I’m foreign. Feel free to correct any mistakes below!