Christmas in Korea

It’s Christmas Eve!  Or, it is in Korea.  I’m not sure about your side of the world, but a happy holiday to everyone.

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The Christmas tree my co worker and I assembled for the school

This past week, I’ve taught my student’s how to write Christmas cards.  My 5th graders watched some clips from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  They made Christmas cards.  I was very happy to see that many of them were addressed to parents and friends.  It’s nice to see them write messages of thanks to friends and family.

As interesting  a typical North American Christmas can be, that is not what is in the air in Korea.  Christmas here has a lot more Cupid involved than Old Saint Nick.  It’s a couple’s holiday, where everyone goes out and leaves the kids at home.  And just like New Year’s, if you are single, it’s a pretty depressing holiday.  There’s a lot of pressure to have a date.  Of course, it also matters on who you are.  If your the type of person to be bothered by all of your friends asking if you’ve got a date, it’s going to be annoying.  If you don’t care about the teasing, it’ll be just like any other day.

As for me, I’m a little oblivious to Christmas here.  I know the holiday is here, but there hasn’t been any of the traditions that usually precede Christmas.  I did get a little teary eyed when I heard the Mannheim Steamroller clip in Home Alone.  My family always plays their music around this time of year.  It’s a constant presence-more so than any Bing Crosby music has been apart of our traditions.

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A Christmas light installation by the Daegu Bank

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Notice the DG logo in the center of the display.

Korea’s family oriented holidays are Chuseok(Korean Thanksgiving) and Seollal(Lunar New Year).  From what I’ve seen and heard though, Korea starting to get hooked on the concept of a commercial Christmas.  It’s a bit different.  The Hyundai Departmant store in Daegu was decorated in Kakao Talk characters.

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If you ever thought Korea wasn’t serious about Kakao, guess again.

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Dancing Bears at the Hyundai Department Store

Dancing Bears at the Hyundai Department Store

A giant, electronic Christmas tree was placed outside.  For 500 won, you could have it play your favorite Christmas song, along with a light show.

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The tree as they were setting it up in November. Surprisingly, the commercial Christmas season starts very similarly to North America.

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas season!

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Coffee Shop Culture

I know, I know.  It’s been forever.  I owe you guys big time.  So let’s talk about Korean cafes.  There’s definitely a Korean cafe culture here.  image It seems like people come less for the coffee and more for the socializing.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about Korean housing situations.   Unless you’re married or live outside of your hometown, you most likely live witb your parents.  It’s not viewed negatively here (although I’ve met individuals who don’t enjoy it), but it can fet in the way of socializing.  Imagine trying to talk with your adult friends with your parents going about their business.  Also, some places are very cramped.  I live in a 250 square foot apartment, and I’ve seen families of four coming out of one apartment.  Cafes are a convenient solution. You can study or just hang out for hours, and not worry about your family getting in the way.  I suppose in North America cafes serve a similar purpose, but there’s a different vibe to it.  In North America, it’s more of a work or lunchtime chat sort of place.   In Korea, it’s a break from everything else.  I’m not sure how to define it.  Since coffeee often comes in second to atmosphere, its sometimes not brewed properly.  I know, I sound like such a coffee snob, but drip coffee really isn’t a thing here.  It’s an Americano or some type of Latte.  No 2,000₩ cup of joe.  image Here’s a menu from one of my favorite cafes in my neighborhood.

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And here is my crude translation for those interested.

They actually make a smooth cup of coffee and have Dutch coffee on the menu.  That’s drip coffee for Americans.  But you will also notice it’s pretty pricey.  It’s 3,000 for the basic Americano, and prices just go up from there.  Thus is not unusual.  In fact, this is pretty reasonable. Other coffee shops will charge 4,000 or 5,000₩ as a base rate.  Needless to say, I still spend a lot of time in Korean coffee shops.  The atmosphere is very cozy.  Most cafes have a very sophisticated or super cute style, and it’s just a nice place to talk. I hope that answers any questions you may have had.  If there’s any more, I’ll be happy to answer comments!