I figured that overwhelmed feeling wouldn’t last too long. I really just needed to get oriented, have a beer or two, and talk to some people. I still haven’t learned anything more than “hello,” “thank you,” and “beer” in Korean, but I’ll make an attempt to learn a few key words and phrases (I’m told the Korean alphabet isn’t difficult to learn).
I had Monday off from work for Memorial Day (the advantage of working for a US company), so I had three days to explore Seoul. In hindsight, I should’ve traded the day off for another week so I could’ve traveled outside Seoul — felt weird trying to plan a weekend away on my first full weekend here, which is why I stayed in the city.
After work on Friday I decided to wander a nearby neighborhood — the guidebook that was in the my apartment suggested Dongdaemun (I didn’t realize I had already wandered that area). The history and culture park is nice — there’s an archaeological site surrounded by a futuristic building that made me think aliens had landed in Korea. It’s certainly the most interesting part of the neighborhood.
The rest of the neighborhood is full of clothing shops and street vendors selling cheaper versions. This wasn’t anything I was interested in. But as I kept walking, I began turning down alleys (I had to be careful because I had no map) and found a lot of street food and small restaurants that I will have to try. Then I found the highlight of the evening: a coffee shop that set up plastic tables outside and served beer. They also had a baseball game on a projection screen. To top it off, the beer was only about $2.50 for a pint (it was only Cass, but I can’t complain when watching baseball outside in a foreign country). I left the game around the 6th inning as it got rather cold and windy — I headed home to try the more local places.
I decided to try a self-serve beer bar around the corner from my apartment. These types of bars are all over Seoul — they have fridges stocked with a variety of beer, and customers can go up and take what they want. At the end of the night, they’ll count up what you served yourself. I chose the HiteJinro Black Beer Stout Lager — it’s a confusing label. The beer is definitely not a stout, but rather a schwarzbier. For less than $3, it’s definitely worth drinking.
The beer was more worthwhile as I met some friendly Koreans who spoke a little English and invited me to drink with them. Unfortunately, it ended with me helping them finish their bottle of Jose Cuervo (I’m not a fan of tequila, and that’s really bad tequila compared to what I’ve had).
Needless to say, it was a rough Saturday morning to go to my coworker’s neighborhood — she was going to help me get a SIM card for my phone, but I forgot my passport because tequila. But it’s alright because despite some language barriers, I managed to get a local phone number in my neighborhood (though it was about twice the price of Taiwan).
Nonetheless, I had pleasant afternoon walking around a residential part of Seoul — we walked along a tributary until we came to the Han River to enjoy the hazy view.
Having someone around — even if you only see that person once a week, if that — can improve the experience of visiting/living in a new and slightly confusing place.
How long does it usually take you to adjust to a foreign city? Have friends/acquaintances helped you adjust?