Last night I went to a wonderful restaurant in the Hanok Village - the old part of town which is a fascinating tourist site. There were three car loads of us that went after class - and I was shocked to discover that this was to my first time in a traditional Korean restaurant where we sat on the floor.
For a start, I'm always a bit concerned about my shoes - what if someone takes one (or both) as a souvenir? It will be impossibly for me to buy a replacement pair here as Koreans have tiny feet. Anyway, I was glad to find them waiting for me as we left, so that was not an issue last night.
But sitting on the floor is not easy for me. So I did my best to look comfortable with my long legs stretched out under the table. The food was great - so much of it - and the last dish was a chicken soup with a whole chicken in it - and we all got one. I thought I was going to burst! But it was tasty with mushrooms and ginseng in it. The other dishes were great too - but always, always, too much. And we never ever eat it all. I am surprised at the amount of food wasted.
By the time I was eating my chicken my bum was sore and stiff from sitting on the floor - I long to get up and walk around and give it a massage, but it was impossible. No, I don't like sitting on the floor and will continue to avoid these restaurants. Actually most restaurants have an option - you can choose floor seating or at "normal" tables. This one offered no alternative. The food was excellent though.
One thing I love is the double glazing on the windows of my apartment. I do leave the window open a little for fresh air, but it surprises me how quiet it is in the apartment, despite the fact that the window juts out over the roadway. Cars park under the overhang - but I seldom hear a car. Occasionally a food deliverer on a bike will toot (or "horn" as they say here), but otherwise it is amazing to see the foot and motor traffic that passes so close without making a sound.
I love the underfloor heating. There are pipes of hot water under the floor - and one can adjust the temperature, but they keep the apartment cosy. At least the main room (bedroom/sitting) warm. It can be freezing outside, and warm inside.
I am surprised about the traffic - it too is quiet on the main roads, but the chaos is fascinating. It appears that taxis and food deliverers on motor bikes do not have to take notice of stop signs or pedestrian lights. So one really has to look in all directions when crossing a road - even if you have the green light. And no one seems to mind. There is no "tooting" or "horning" as near misses occur.
"Near enough is good enough" - I think would be a good motto for workmen who make concrete paths, or put down pavers. They really are a joke, as the pavement, or any surface is so uneven. I know pavers can move - but there are gaping holes in pavement so you have to look forward to find out where you are going and down to make sure you don't trip in a nasty hole or uneven section of the paving. It's everywhere.
The governments, so it reads in my "manual" is so meticulous when it comes to rubbish removal. There are "strict" rules about how to dispose of your rubbish, and high fines for those caught breaking any rule. The reality is that there is rubbish everywhere and there seems to be indifference about it. Some of my Korean friends have even proudly told me how well Korea does about removing rubbish, and they like to think they are cleaner than China, but I think there is a huge opportunity for improvement. What I see sometimes is disgusting.
What is incredibly clean is most restaurants. And corner shops. We in Australia could learn a lot from this! They are meticulous.
The big supermarkets are amazingly clean and tidy. Again I think better than in Australia.
Kindness and gentleness of the people. I don't read the newspapers, but I do get some Korean news and the impression I get is that they are a much gentler people here. The police do not carry guns, and they don't have to face the violence that we see in Australia so much. Everyone has been extra ordinarily kind to me.
Workplace health and safety. Not! It is not anything that is considered here. I see somethings that would fairly freak me out and I would report if I was in Australia, but there seems to be little concern about things. Like the uneven pavements, and the curious things sticking up in the paths where one walks, and the lack of fire safety things. No smoke alarms. No fire extinguishers. Surprising. Even at the university when I was talking about O H & S, and I sent students to look for the First Aid Kit in the 15 story building, there was none.
Addresses - it is curious as you cannot work out an address. I don't know how the postman works in out! Street names are not easy to follow and the numbers in the street are not sequential. So house number 12, will be next to house number 453, as houses are given numbers according to when they were built. Imagine being a taxi driver!!! Which is why I have to get the taxi to the hospital, as the taxi driver knows where that is!