So after spending a couple days in China and having ample time to reflect upon our stay in Korea, I felt it would be best to share some of my reflections about the beautiful country I visited.
Clean is the word. If ever there were a word to encapsulate the essence of Korean culture, it might be clean. From hand sanitizer at nearly every building entrance to the absence of littering, everything in the country seemed to be clean. Perhaps no instance was more indicative of this as something we encountered in Suwon (a suburb of Seoul). Walking through a residential neighborhood and unable to open a trash dumpster, an old lady walked up, took the trash from Alex’s hand, and then walked away with it to throw it away at her home. She spoke no English but just smiled and thanked us.
- Love is in the air. Another thing we noticed about our time in Korea was that there are couples everywhere. Despite having heard that Korea was having troubles maintaining a healthy reproduction rate (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/could-south-koreas-low-birth-rate-really-mean-extinction-n190151), everywhere we went we saw couples walking hand-in-hand. From the zoo to places like Seoul Tower where you actually took pictures holding letters that spelled out love… everywhere we went, Korean couples were sure to appear.
- Healthy people. Jumping off on where my first point started. Korea is also incredibly healthy. From their food to way people stay active throughout the day, we hardly saw any overweight people in our whole stay. And once we visited a few parks and say fitness gyms scattered every couple hundred feet, we quickly understood why.
Korean, not English. Despite being such a developed nation, I was a little surprised to realize almost no one spoke English. Maybe it was just because we avoided tourist trap locations, but in general we talked to very few Koreans who cold hold a conversation in English. As we found out, many more people study Chinese in school and often time people only were fluent in English if they studied in the US. We did not mind the language barrier very much, but it did lead to some funny clothing translations!
- Plastic is cool. From the subway to sidewalk, city to suburbs, everywhere we went we say ads for plastic surgery. However boasting the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face), it should have really come as little surprise. And yet even after seeing the ads, I am still not sure I understand how or why plastic surgery is so ubiquitous in Korea. Unlike the US, the vast majority of the surgeries are for facial alterations with some of the most popular being a jaw slimming operation, a nose job, and the infamous blepharoplasty (the double-eyelid surgery where the insertion of a crease in the eyelid to make the eye look bigger).
So whether you agree with it or not, the billboards everywhere tell us Korean plastic surgery is clearly a thing that’s here to stay.
- Friends forever. Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention how incredibly kind the country of Korea was. Its people were truly some of the most hospitable, I have ever met and despite a pretty significant language barrier, we made many friends along the journey. So thank you Korea for your kindness, for me personally I know it is a big part of why I can confidently say not goodbye, but until next time. 감사합니다 안녕 한국
– Robert Yeagle