I’m very impressed with Seoul, and Korea in general. From the little I’ve seen in the short time that I’ve spent there, it strikes me as a great place to live. With the Olympics and the World Cup held there, the city’s really well built and generally looks very modern and convenient, though completely “Asian”. Just like the way I like it.
A person arriving from Taiwan can’t help but constantly compare Seoul to Taipei and although there are some striking similarities I would say they are quite different.
Some quick notes about Seoul and Koreans:
- The depreciated Won makes Taiwanese based tourists very happy. I’d even say that right now general goods (food, clothing, transportation) are as cheap if not cheaper than Taiwan.
- It was freezing cold, some nights dropping down to –5c with the occasional snow. I really enjoyed it.
- The Koreans I was in contact with didn’t speak English, and I’m talking about service providers in shops and restaurants. You thought Taiwanese are shy about their English? Try Koreans. How odd.
- Chinese is alot more common in Korea than I expected. Chinese signage is everywhere and many time I could use Mandarin instead of English to do basic bargaining or ask basic questions.
- You can count the number of western looking foreigners I saw during the whole trip using one hand, and I’ve went thought some central busy tourist attractions and business areas.
- But, the number of ethnic Chinese (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan) and Japanese tourists was quite remarkable.
- Everyone drives cars and street food is mostly indoors, but that could be a seasonal thing owing to the cold weather.
- Still, in general, I would say the Koreans are more stylish and fashionable than both Taiwanese and Hongkongnese. It was quite shocking to see girls insisting on their insanely short mini skirts when it was snowing around them. Makeup, suits, brands and general appearances, for both people and buildings, seem to be slightly more important for Koreans than to Taiwanese and Hongkongese.
More on that trip coming up…