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Monday, May 28, 2012

In South Korea - Completely and utterly lost in translation

Of all the places, I never once imagined that I would come to South Korea. Not even as a tourist. But, here I am for the past 3 months, living in "Asia's Best Kept Secret" as they call it. I would have thought as an Asian, it can't be that hard to live here. Right? Wrong! I mean its not like the hardest thing on the planet. But this is the farthest from my culture, language and normal living that I have ever been.

I am here for work, living in this crowded section of a city called Suwon. Not to the extent that I would have prefered but we Indians as ever, have managed to establish some presence here as well. Proof? 3 Indian restaurants, 10 minutes from the hotel I stay in :-). Well here are a bunch of things I oberved:

1. South Korea is super modernized. It is almost like any western country (by which I actually mean the US). Especially the cities. One would be amazed to see the number of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts here.

2. Fasshhhiiiooon! I have to say the people here are perhaps among the best dressed in the world. The women are super petite and have such beautiful skin. I am pushed to XL size here. Booohoooo! There is a craze for well manicured and fancy decorated nails. I hear that Seoul is also very famous for plastic surgery :|

3. Finding vegetarian food here is literally like finding a needle in a haystack. Vegetable bibimbap (some kind of semi boiled long strips of vegetables with rice) and Sundubu (dubu for tofu) are the few I have tried. Gob bless my furnished apartment with kitchen. Almost every meal in some small way involves meat. They find it incredible that I am a vegetarian and my patience ebbs aways each time I desperately do some hand gestures and try to explain - no meat, no fish and no egg.

4. The people here are nice. When lost, they literally take your hand and lead you to the right way. Its heart warming when they do that!

5. Samsung, the company has a HuuuGE presence here. Going in, you feel like you are entering a town in itself. It is a unique experience to enter their fabs. The security is no less than that of an airport, with passport checks, metal detectors and what not. I must be the only or among the very few who sneaked in with Sambar rice lunch box. :-D. I really have huge food woes in the cafeteria they have.

6. People brush their teeth after lunch. They have huge toothbrush stands in washrooms and office goers diligently brush after lunch.

7. The taxi drivers are a scary lot. They have a GPS plus small television in front of them which they mostly use to watch TV (duh!) while driving!!!! at 130km/hr!!!!!!!!

8. Seoul is simply fantastic. It is a beautiful blend of east and west. Filled with quaint streets with nick nacks, cozy coffee shops and restaurants. Charming is the word.

9. Speaking of coffee shops, there is a plethora of them. Prices could be on par with Starbucks. There is also a craze for bakeries. You would find a "Paris Baguette"on every street corner.

10. "Omma" = mother, "Appa" = father. Two Korean words are almost the same as in my language (Tamil).

What has been the best part of my stay here so far? I have never in my entire life been complimented so often for being beautiful! One lady at the Ginseng shop told me in the same breath - "Indian women very beautiful. Big eyes..."and gesturing towards my middle section "....big hips." I am still confused whether she actually complimented me or not.
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