Favorite Things About Korea–Part 3 of 3

8. Carrying pizzas/watermelon
So, this might be a thing in other cities, but I’ve never lived in a city big/dense enough where people walked everywhere.  Here (everywhere in Korea), when you buy a pizza “take out”/to-go, they wrap it up in a pretty little ribbon…like so:

It acts as a handle for when you carry the pizza home.  Pretty nifty!  😀
Same for watermelon:

Here’s a link to show you them in action.  Thanks to EatYourKimchi for the video 😀

And one more that’s related:

Also related to the trashbag/all plastic shopping bags/etc. post—In Korea, all shopping bags (paper or plastic) cost an extra 20 cents or so (except in won…not cents obviously).  Also, re-usable canvas bags are a pretty big thing here.  Anyway, yay for environmentally friendly things!  😀
I still pay the 20 cents for the bags, but it encourages you to use less of them…but even if I use them a lot, I still re-use them for my garbage.

9. Food Delivery

^^Menus that are often taped to doors or left in mailboxes

You can have just about anything delivered to your door here…pizza, noodles/Korean food, McDonalds, etc.
Yes yes, I know we have delivery in the US too, but I just think this bit is interesting.  Some places (usually Korean food restaurants) will bring plates and dishes for you and you just leave them outside your door when you’re finished.  Later, someone will swing back by and pick them up.

I like the idea, but I also think it contributes to bugs, and considering I had a pretty long stint with cockroaches, I don’t know how I feel about this anymore.  McDonalds delivery is still pretty cool…imagine having breakfast delivered to your door.
My Korean isn’t strong enough to order anything off the phone, but it’s my goal.  I just want to order a pizza and then I’ll be the happiest little lady on this side of the Atlantic.

The motorbike guys do the deliveries…much faster than cars because they can (and do…) zip in and out of traffic.

Korean Food Delivery Video:
Start at about 2:00
Thanks again, Eat Your Kimchi 😀

10. Baseball games

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

I love going to games in the US, but Korean baseball games are preettttttyyyy fantastic.
Here’s a mini-list why:
1. You can bring food into the games–Pizza?  Yes!  Beer?  Yes!  Chicken?  Yes!  Candy?  Ice Cream?  Fruit?  Yes, yes and yes!
There are actually food stalls outside the baseball stadiums where people will sell you food before you go inside.  (Or you can buy it inside…either is ok.)  This brings me to point number 2…
2. FOOD IS NOT OVERPRICED.–Food costs about the same as it would if you went to the store to get it.  No $10 beers here.  So, it doesn’t matter if you buy the food inside the gate or outside of it.  There’s just more selection outside of the gates.
3. Cheering Section–Each stadium has a cheering section where the cheers originate.  People are super into the games and it’s not much of a sit-back and relax atmosphere.  Well, unless you want it to be.
There are songs for each players and different chants to sing.  There are cheerleaders/dancers, mascots (same as US) running around, etc.  It’s a lot louder.

4.  Team Names are Different–I separated this one, because it’s a difference but not one that I particularly care for.  In the US, the teams are named after the city: LA Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, etc.
In Korea, different cities have teams (some big ones, like Seoul, have more than one team), but they’re named after companies: Samsung Lions, Hanwha Eagles, LG Twins, Lotte Giants, Kia Tigers, etc.

This one is pretty simple.  There are no overdraft fees at the bank.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this.
If you run out of money, it will pull you to zero, but nothing further than that.  Then, once money is back in your account, it will automatically withdraw the money required from your account.

I really hate the whole concept of overdraft fees.  I have had a few experiences with them and it drives me insane.  Obviously I don’t have the money, so you’re going to charge me more money that I don’t have.  Oh, and another day went by where I don’t have money…there’s another fee.
So if you’re off by even $1, you could be -$100 before you know it.  Especially in this age with automatic withdrawal and such.
I try my best to keep everything well above zero, but when you’re broke (as I was before), it makes it even more difficult to keep your head above water.

12. Land of the Free Samples

When you go to the grocery store, there are free samples on nearly every endcap and also in the aisles themselves.  Samples for watermelon, bananas, milk, juice, mandu (dumplings), coffee, wine, etc etc.
I was at the store the other day and a lady was sampling the pasta sauce so she had made a big pot of a cream pasta and was giving samples of it.

Free samples also extend to makeup stores.  They give free samples when you enter the store and typically more when you buy stuff.  Usually they’re like facemasks and creams and such.

13. Service (“ser-be-suh”)
This ties into the last one, but it’s free stuff just for buying stuff.  When I was at the baseball game, we bought a pizza, chicken and beer (chicken and beer is a HUGE thing here.  Sort of like hamburger and fries or pizza and beer? in the US) and the vendor gave us a free water with our purchase.
If you go out for Korean BBQ, sometimes they’ll give you an extra plate of meat (rare, but sometimes).
Or if you go to a noraebang (singing room, or karaoke room) they’ll give you an extra hour for free.

It’s supposed to act as a thank you for your business.  🙂

Noraebang (노래방)
Norae= sing/singing
bang = room
(The “a” in bang is more of an “ah”, like you’re at the dentist.)

Bring a group of friends (typically after the bars) for a few hours of karaoke in your own room.  Microphones and tambourines included.

Korean BBQ

Ahhhh…I don’t remember if this was on my list…but it should be.  Anyway, it’s yummy and you cook your own meat at the table.

Whew.  It’s on the list.  🙂

ANNNNND finished.

My Favorite Things About Korea–Pt2

I’m in need of this post today.  Feeling a bit homesick and just blah.  I’m on summer vacation, but just feeling annoyed with this and that.  Not sure if that technically qualifies as homesick or not, but there it is.  I really wish fruit wasn’t so expensive here and also that it wasn’t sold pre-packaged.  Sorry Korea, but I don’t need 6 apples, especially when those 6 apples cost about $7 and when things seem to mold and go bad so quickly.  It’s hard for me to eat that much fruit in such a short amount of time.  I’d also like to buy 2 tomatoes, not a box of 12.  Even if the boxes are buy one, get one free.  I don’t need 4kg of tomatoes.  ESPECIALLY when they are also $7 a box.
Ugh.  I’m actually thinking about getting into a bit of indoor gardening to minimize costs.
I’d like to plant some tomatoes, but I need a bit more space for that.  I might start with basil as it’s a bit easier to manage.

Anyway…to the good stuff, right?

5. Transit Cards: Buses, Taxis, Subway
Korea’s public transport system, as I’ve mentioned before is cheap, punctual and very convenient.  Did I mention cheap?

I don’t take the bus very often because I prefer the subway, taxis and walking, but the bus is a very popular mode of transport in most Korean cities.  You can use a transportation card (T-Money card) to pay quickly as you board.  The cost is just over 1000won.  You also get a discount on subsequent buses if you use your card when you travel.

More on transportation

Subways are clean and typically well connected to train stations, intercity bus stations and other popular areas.  I love that I can get from one end of the city to the other for under 2000won ($2).  Pretty nice.
Taxis are also pretty cheap–2,300 won (I’m 99% sure this is the basic fare as of 2014, but don’t hold me to it.)  This is also for the city of Daejeon.  It’s a wee bit more expensive (maybe 2,500W) in bigger cities like Seoul and Busan.  Basically $2.30-$2.50 and an extra 100 won (.10) every 30-40 seconds or every 140-150 meters.
I try to avoid taking the taxi in cities like Seoul and Busan unless I’m with a group of friends because then we can divide up the cost, but here in Daejeon, it’s pretty reasonable.  In those other cities, I’ll just take the bus or the subway.  Again, cheap, clean, punctual and well-connected.  The cost for taxis goes up to about 2,600 won after midnight (about 12-4/5am, and adjust accordingly for the other cities).  Still, not bad at all.

More on taxis here.  Ignore the price information though as that isn’t accurate, but everything else looks good.  Also, Seoul and Busan (bigger cities) have a bigger variety of taxis, but they’re still EVERYWHERE.  Unless it’s raining.  😦  haha
Just an example, but I can go from my apartment to the train station (about 15 minutes drive) for about $8.
Public transportation tends to shut down around 11:45pm-midnight and taxis run all night.
Taxis also accept the T-Money (transportation cards), which is nice and convenient if you don’t have cash.  You can load them up at subway stations and some 7-11 convenience stores.  I stick mine in my phone case behind my phone and I can tap it quickly while going on the subway or bus.  No messing with paper bills or coins.  Some bank cards also have an option where you can use that card as your T-money/transport card as well as a bank card.

T-Money card variations–card and keychain styles

T-Money card reloading machine in a subway station and a place to buy individual tickets.

Turnstiles at the subway–place your card on the reader at the top to go through. Money is automatically deducted from your card. No card? You can get a chip from one of the machines after you pay with cash at one of the other machines.

6. Colored District Trash Bags
Each district (gu 구) within a city has a different color trashbag (which you can pick up from some “marts” or convenience stores and all grocery stores.
The thing I like about this is that you can use these plastic bags as grocery bags and then turn around and reuse them once you get home as trashbags.  Same bag.  No extra waste or plastic.  They come in a few different sizes for any size trashcan you might have.

Note:  Food waste and plastic go in separate containers.

Trash bags

Food Waste Tub–looks a bit like this

7. Public Bike-Sharing Program–“Tashu”
I love, love, looooove this.  This is a newer program (from what I’ve read) and I’m grateful that it’s here in Daejeon.  There are stations set up throughout the city and you’re able to basically rent a bike for however long.  Typically up to a few hours, but to each their own.
You find a bike station (typically in well populated areas, but they’re scattered throughout the city) and each bike station has 10+ bikes (depending on the city and how populated that particular area is.
Again, you can use your T-Money card for this or have it added to your phone bill.
Anyway, you check out the bike and you can return it to any bike station in the city.

More info here.
Prices are on the website, but up to an hour it’s free and (up to 3 hours) it’s 500won (.50) for every additional 30 minutes.  Over 3 hours it’s 2000 won (about $2) every 30 minutes.

Bike Rental Station

Also, there are goverment/city workers that come by and repair bikes as needed.  Also, if a bike needs to be checked out or repaired, there is an option for that on the checkout machine and someone will come by to take it to the repair shop.

Remaining Topics:
*Carrying pizzas/watermelon
*Food Delivery
*Baseball games

My Favorite Things About Korea–Pt 1 of 3

I’m sure I’ve griped a bit about this and that enough while being here, but I wanted to make a post about the things I really enjoy about Korea.

1. Table Bells
At the traditional Korean restaurants, you’re seated like at a normal restaurant, but each table has a little red buzzer/bell that you push whenever you need anything.  Personally, I still really like having waiters/waitresses and especially when you have a good one, you never need to ask for anything.  However, this is still pretty cool.  They only come to your table when you push the button.
Push it if you need an extra set of chopsticks (although there is a box of chopsticks and spoons on the table), push it if you’re ready to order, push it if you need an extra water pitcher or if you’d like to order something else.

At other restaurants, you just flag the waiter/employee down by raising your hand or shouting out (ahhh! I still can’t do it.) “Cheogeo!”.  That basically means “Over here/Excuse Me”.  You have to do it or you won’t get served.  I hate shouting in public, so I’m still terrible at it even after 2+ years here.  haha.  Probably another reason why the buzzers rock.

Table Buzzers–Korea

2. KakaoTalk

KakaoTalk was/is one my favorite disoveries since arriving.  KakaoTalk is Korea’s version of the app called WhatsApp, which is a FREE texting service.  It works basically like the old AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), except you can get it in app form for your phone.
FREE TEXTING.  It’s an app and you don’t have to buy a texting plan with your local phone service provider.  Seriously.
People in Europe, South Africa and several other countries use a similar app called WhatsApp, but they’re essentially the same thing.
I got both my mom and grandma to get it and I can text them both for FREE on the other side of the planet.  Pretty nifty.  You can send pictures and video clips and do group chats too.  Oh, and you can download it on your PC too, so you can text people faster if you happen to be at your computer and prefer that method instead.
I feel like a salesperson, but I’m so shocked that (at least with people I know) that this sort of thing isn’t really used in the US.  It’s FREE, UNLIMITED TEXTING.

KakaoTalk Screenshot (not mine :D)                       cxvk

WhatsApp Screenshot

3. Banking–Specifically: Bill Paying and Money Transfering

Checkbook?  Checks?  What are those?
I posted a video awhile back on my Facebook about what it’s like at the ATM here and it’s pretty great.  I can pay bills (or they have a special machine inside the bank and I just insert each bill (and my card) and it pays each of them right then and there for me.  Instantly.)
One main difference is that all bills have an account number printed on the statement and that’s the number that you send the money to when you’re paying the bill.  It’s the same for online shopping.  They give you an account number (and it has a matching corresponding name and the name of the bank it’s going to so you know it’s going to the right place) and you type in the information at the ATM and send the money off. (Or you can pay with a credit card, but the online shopping places tend to give you about 7 days to pay).  You could buy the item, wait the two days til payday and then go to the ATM and send the money over at your convenience.

Anyway, this is also great because if you owe a friend money for something, you can just get their bank number and send it directly to them.  That way you don’t have to withdrawal a large amount of cash and travel around with it.  It’s really safe here, so nothing would likely happen, but I personally don’t enjoy walking around with a lot of cash in my pocket.  Also pretty nifty if they live in another city and you don’t know when you’ll see eachother next.  Or, if they sign you up for a race/festival/etc, it makes paying people back simple as well.


4. Travel
Traveling in Korea is extremely cheap and affordable.  Many Koreans think it’s expensive, but it’s really not when you have a few other places to compare it with.
There are 3 major train classes/companies (a few other smaller ones, but they don’t go to as many places) in Korea: the Saemaul, the Mugunghwa and the KTX.
The Mugunghwa is the slowest train (makes more stops at the smaller cities along the way), then comes the Saemaul and then the KTX.
The Mugunghwa (Moon-goong-hwa) is the “slow train” but it’s also the cheapest.  From Busan to Seoul (about a 5 hour journey–basically one end of Korea to the other.  Busan is in the Southeast and Seoul is up at the very top of the country, near North Korea), it’s about $28.  These trains are a bit smaller and you can also save even more money if you want to choose the “standing” ticket.
Standing is cheaper and good for shorter distances–if you get to the platform early enough, they usually have folding seats in between the cars that you can get. 😀

Inside a Mugunghwa train

Mugunghwa Train

The Saemaul is next.  Not much difference between the Mungunghwa and the Saemaul, but the Saemaul doesn’t have the standing passengers and the seats are a bit bigger with more legroom.  Same trip: Seoul to Busan on the Saemaul (less than 5 hours–beginning of the line to the end of the line)–about $42 (these trains aren’t as frequent)


The KTX is Korea’s bullet train reaching speeds of 305km/h or 190mph.  It makes stops less frequently than the other trains and can get you from one place to the next in usually half the time of the other two trains.  These trains have more legroom and are generally nicer.  All of the trains in Korea are nice though.  Nothing really to complain about–there are bathrooms on board, a snackcar, no traffic and you get to see the lush, Korean countryside as you zoom through.  Or you can take a nap.  😀
Seoul–>Busan (Roughly 46,000won for standard class and 86 for first-class).  First class has even more space and is more for the business travelers or for people with money to burn.
I love taking the KTX, mainly because it’s faster and I also don’t live nearly as far from one place to the next because I live in Daejeon, which is in the middle of the country.


There are also buses (luxury coach style buses) that you can take, which are also a bit cheaper, but I like the trains because I see more of the country and because of the bathrooms on board.  Oh, and no traffic.  😀

Daejeon train prices:
Daejeon–>Seoul (about 2 hours+ in a car)
Mungunghwa: 1hr 50 min: 10,000won (about $10)
Saemaul: 1hr 45min: 15,000won (about $15)
KTX: 50 minutes (23,000won (standard class), 33,000won (first class))

Daejeon–>Busan (about 3 hours with minimal traffic)
Mungunghwa: 3 hours 15 min. (17,000won//$17)
Saemaul: 3 hours (26,000won)
KTX: 1 hour 20-1.5 hours (25-33,000won-standard/47,000-first class)
(The length of the journey and the price depend on when you buy and what time you’re traveling.  It can be cheaper if you buy earlier too.)

Ok, I’m going to make this a two-part post because this is getting pretty lengthy.  I haven’t felt like writing in awhile and now it’s like spilling out.
Anyway, to wrap up the travel bits, I also love that nearly every major city has a subway system that connects to their bus and train stations, so after you get off the bus/train you’re able to explore the city without ever needing a car.
And if you DO need a car, you can hop in a taxi for super cheap.
Example:  A 20 minute ride in a taxi is about $8-9.
Tons of taxis everywhere and trains are also incredibly frequent.  I can get a train out of Daejeon nearly every 10-15 minutes.

Part 2:
-Subway systems
-cheap food
-delivery/food at home/returning dishes
–buses/wrap up public transportation
-colored trash bag system
–city bikes