On my way back to Latin America, I decided to stop by in Seoul to see some of my clients, meet my boss in person, and of course experience another foreign culture if only for a couple weeks. Luckily, I got to stay with one of my clients too which allowed me to save up some money and catch up on some sleep as well. Hostels can have a real toll after 5 months especially if you start work at 4 am to work.
What you’ll first notice in Seoul, even more so if you have travelled to other Asian countries, is that it is a first world country. Everything is clean, organized, and the presence and use of technology is prevelant. Just some small examples include apartments with heated floors, call buttons on restaurant tables, electronic coupons, a huge subway system with its own app for suggestive routes, and bike lanes that light up at night. There are still busy packed markets and people still have that spiritual and very respectful vibe about them. However, there is more order in the piles of products and people are always walking around in suits. This is something you almost never see down south.
What I also noticed to was the beautiful mountain range and national park just outside of Seoul and neighboring cities. South Korea isn’t a big country, but it has clearly made an effort to distinguish natural reserves. Besides that, the food was the other major thing that stood out to me. Although a lot the vast majority of dishes have meat or fish, the vegetarian/vegan food I could get a hold of was tasty. In Korean culture, one of my clients told me that it’s really important to have harmony in the food that they eat. A lot of different ingredients are put together then in order to deliver a colourful mix of flavours that work together. Also, there is always kimchi served as a side which helps people exit the harmonious taste, to then enter it again with fresh taste buds and perspective.
In regards to my clients and workplace, I was very happy to be able to put a face to some voices after two years. I was also really proud to be their teacher and part of their lives as I saw some of my clients work and the way that they lived with dedication, responsibility, and productivity. They were also very kind and generous. To be this in context, in Korean culture if someone invites someone out, they pay the bill for that person. Separate bills are a rarity. In general though, talking with my clients helps give me experience and perspective on my future although they tell me frequently that I am still young and am doing well travelling. In any case, going in to this next stage of my life I still find myself trying to find ways to reconcile things that are often contradictory in practice.
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