fredag den 30. november 2012

Traffic and stuff in Seoul

Hello there gentle people.

After having been in Korea for some time now, some of the things in the Korean society really stand out compared to back home. The following contain different things related to the traffic in Seoul, that I could recall from the top of my head.

Traffic in Seoul:
Have you ever been to Paris? Seoul is just the same. The driving regulations are different, a lot different. To the untrained eye of a foreigner, this may seem like random chaotic movements integrated into each other and magically avoiding accidents. Of course this is just the normal regulations from the government regarding the traffic, but it is still baffling when being a person from one of the Nordic countries.
 It seems like everyone here has agreed to drive in completely different ways from the ones known to foreigners, unless they are from France. 
Cars drive in between each other with no lights to show if they are changing lane or turning. If driver A sees an opening spot between driver B and C, driver A will take it. If this means that driver B have to pull the brakes, it is B's own fault for allowing space between him and C. Had driver B driven faster there would never have been room, which makes it driver B's own fault that a car "slipped" in front of him.

Metro system:
Since driving may be a bit inconvenient due to the heavy amount of traffic, especially in the second biggest metropolitan area in the world (23+ million inhabitants), it is luckily also possible to move around Seoul in other ways. Another popular method of transportation is the Seoul metropolitan system (metro/in-city train - system).

It has 326 stations and is 406 km in total accumulated length. Compared to the Danish S-train and metro service which only has 84 stations and is 170 km in

Korean metropolitan system
Copenhagen S-train and metro system
On average 357.000 people utilize the S-train and metro system in Copenhagen every day. In Seoul the amount of users every day is 7 million. I takes around 3-5 minutes between every station, with the exception of rush hour (2 minutes).

Avoid rush hour

Some random stuff:
  • As a pedestrian you get approximately 30 seconds to cross the road and then the second the pedestrian light changes to red, the cars will start moving. The waiting time is then  2 minutes and 30 seconds until it becomes green again. 
  • In the subway you will rarely see people not looking at a screen of some sort, or be on the phone. Even couples will a lot of times sit right next to each other without uttering a word, but look on their own respective phone.
  • You do not simply take your bicycle and bike around on the roads of Seoul, which is why people often bike on the sidewalk. Scooters and motorcycles also drive on the sidewalk from time to time.
  • Because of the waste collecting/recycling system they have in Korea, trash is simply put out on the streets in plastic bags to be picked up on certain days. This way can make the streets really smelly when people put out trash on days when it is not picked up.
  • The smaller streets do in fact look like the "Korea/China towns" seen in movies

torsdag den 15. november 2012

The weather and what it brings along

When I arrived in Incheon airport back in august, compared to the danish weather, the heat was almost unbearable. Coming from a country with an average of 20 degrees Celsius during the summer and 1-2 degrees during the winter, this change was particularly noticeable. 

The summer in Korea varies depending on region, but in Seoul and the surrounding areas, the temperature during day time was usually hovering at about 30 degrees Celsius every day. During the night time it could come close to plus 25 degrees. I must admit that I to some extent was pretty annoyed about the heat, being sweaty and having to remember to drink loads of water all the time was a hassle. It reminded me of my second trip to the states - hot, humid and a lot of sweaty t-shirts. To all you gentle people reading this, remember to bring extra pairs of shirts and shorts during the Korea summer. I only had 2 pairs, and that was no way near enough.

The heat during the summer naturally promotes sales of cold drinks, ice cream and what ever that may follow in that category. When talking about ice cream, I should perhaps mention a popular Korean way of overcoming the heat. It is called Patbingsu (팥빙수), and is really popular in Korea. It is made by crushing ice into small pieces and putting them in the bottom of a bowl. Here after it is topped with various fruits, ddeok, red bean paste, frozen yogurt and maybe some jelly bits and cereal flakes.
Many different types of Bingsu are made, and therefore appeal to a lot of different people.

Ice cream stores do not close during winter, and from what I have noticed on the street and in class, people also continue eating it during colder times. This, compared to danish customs, may seem a bit weird since ice cream sales are seasoned in Denmark, but here it is considered somewhat normal.

There is one store near the campus with people always waiting in line to eat Patbingsu, unfortunately I have never had the experience of going there. Keep in mind that the sales of seasoned food of course diminishes, but it is never completely gone.

This was how it looked literally every day during the summer. 

And this was how it looked every night during the summer.

Last week the school turned on the heaters in the class rooms. Everywhere in Korea they are very keen on saving energy by turning off automatic doors, not turning on the heaters until November, and many other things. Some also might say that they are a bit too keen on saving energy, since you have to sit with your jacket on in class to not freeze you ass off.

This morning I went out running, and my breath was visible. It was -1 degrees outside last night, and will not be warmer than 5-7 degrees from this week and onwards - from what I have heard. Compared to the gradual decrease in temperature back home in Denmark, it dropped from about 20 to 5 in just a month here in Seoul, Korea.

Talking about this morning and the weather. When I am out running, I usually take a route on the small mountain just behind campus, which brings me to hiking. Seoul is surrounded by mountains so hiking is natural thing to do, either with family or along with friends.

06:00 in the morning

Since the temperature started dropping, there has been a steady decrease in young people out hiking, but the elders stay strong, even at 06:00 in the morning. The following pictures are from this morning.


Temple places like this are found all over Korea, not just in the mountains

You can actually see the forest line

These exercise grounds can be found everywhere, since walking up the mountain is not enough

Sorry for the late updates, will improve in the future!