#3 – Gyeung Lim’s Wedding

The much anticipated THIRD blog post (since the big update) is here! Not particularly surprising it has taken me this long, because I am officially the world’s most terrible blogger ( in terms of frequency that is!). I have actually been writing a lot, but for other people, and I am actually being paid to do it! So all I need to do now is get someone else to write my blog, and then I’ve basically made it is a blogger – I think that’s how it works anyway. The reason I don’t write often is because people each post turn’s into a bloody dissertation that takes me at least four hours to write. Remind me never to attempt a novel, even just for your own self interest, because I WILL force everyone I know to read it!

Apart from writing and teaching, I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, especially now the weather is finally not crap. The sun has been shining, so I’ve been doing a fair bit of hiking and have explored a few of the island’s many beaches. I’ll write a post about my spring adventures soon, but this one will be dedicated to my new friend’s wedding that I attended a couple of weekends ago. Korean weddings are quite different to those in the UK, and I thought you would all find it interesting to learn about the wedding culture here. I would say that there are some things I prefer about both, neither being necessarily better than the other! I’ve been lucky enough to attend three weddings already, which a few of my friends here are pretty jealous about (sorry Emily!). So here’s a summary of my thoughts on the wedding culture here, and a few pictures from Gyeung Lim’s wedding. She met her husband at middle school, 15 years ago, and her husband is her bestest friend!  I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed being part of their special day.

EVERYONE is invited

The number of people invited is probably about triple that of an average UK wedding, and they invite a lot of their friends, plus the parents of the couple invite their friends/family too.  I think it’s a lovely idea to have a huge wedding, but obviously if we did this in the UK, everyone who got married would have to remortgage their house just to afford a simple wedding. But it works here for a few reasons. First of all, every guest that attends gives money rather than gifts. So in theory, your guests pay for your wedding which is a pretty nice idea, and probably better than getting a load of appliances and towels ( my knowledge of wedding gifts in the UK is limited, but I assume this is pretty accurate). Although, it’s possible that the families pay for the wedding – I would have to check this. Either way, some money to spend on your new married life is pretty great too! Secondly, food and drink is a lot less expensive here, but still great! After the ceremony, everyone goes to a village hall for some very traditional Korean dishes, plus some soju and beer.  Soju and beer are so cheap here, with pretty much the same end result (well everyone’s drunk, but not dancing to the Macarena with their tie on Rambo style. They have more class than us, that’s for sure). When I originally wrote this post, I didn’t think that Korean weddings involved a party, but after speaking to Gyeung Lim today, I realised I was mistaken! The day before the wedding, the groom had a big party with family and close friends, and then the bride had a meal and party on the day of the wedding (see below photo!). Also, whilst the majority of guests only come to the meal for a short time, the couples closest friends stay for the whole day AND they have quite the party! I only stayed for bit, hence why I didn’t know the full story before!

This is a photo of the couple’s friends serenading them, which I thought was a lovely touch. I wouldn’t mind my friends doing this for me, but not sure any of them can sing. And even if they could, they wouldn’t tell me for fear of actually having to perform in public. Silly, awkward, British people.


The bride hires her dress, and also wears traditional Korean hanbok

Can you imagine the looks of horror you would get from your loved ones if you said you wanted to hire your wedding dress?! Or am I out of the loop, and everyone does that now? Either way, it makes so much more sense to hire a dress you’ll hopefully only wear once. I guess you could hand it down through the family, but do you really want to force your poor offspring to wear “vintage”. As much as I love my mum, I’ve seen her wedding dress, and whilst it was cool back then and she looked beautiful, I would look like I was going to a fancy dress party if I wore it now. Because Gyeung Lim hired her dresses, she could afford to wear a white (and absolutely stunning) bridal gown, before changing into a traditional Korean dress, called hanbok. All hanbok are gorgeous, but this has to be my favorite and it really suited her. Also, talk about hairspiration – simple but very elegant.



Korean couples take their wedding photos BEFORE the wedding

This isn’t just a Korean thing, it’s quite common throughout Asia to do a professional photo shoot before getting married. This is something I don’t understand, purely because it breaks the tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding! Maybe I have seen too many movies, but that bit where the groom sees his bride for the first time, and he basically falls in love with her all over again. Sigh. I think this just shows I am not at grips with the reality of love, but still, I look forward to looking like a princess and everyone I know telling me how beautiful I am. Call me an ego maniac if you want, I’m just saying what EVERY girl wants. That said, I am totally renting my dress, because as much as I want to look awesome, I don’t want to bankrupt myself. I really want to know how much a UK wedding costs compared to a Korean wedding, I think the difference would be a shock.

The bride’s mother cooks her an awesome feast

Now, I only found this out because I was spying into the bridal dining room, and even managed a couple of covert snaps. The bride’s mother makes a delicious buffet for the couple, and then the groom feeds the bride some cake, not for eating but for a photo. I guess this is similar to the cake cutting, which Koreans also do but during the ceremony part of the wedding. They have a huge cake, which they don’t even eat! It’s not handed out in napkins for the guests, or maybe it is and I just didn’t get any. I asked my friend, and she said they don’t eat the cake, it’s just for the photo. I am morally against wasting cake, so this was a bit upsetting! To ease my mind, I have told myself that they just ate it after the wedding, or they gave it to the hotel staff as a thank you. If that cake went in the bin, I’m setting up a campaign – Justice for Korean Wedding Cakes. Let’s not allow these cakes to perish any longer, make a stand against cake wastage! Here’s my secret snap I took of the happy couple tucking into their feast, both looking very cute!


Guests dress nicely but modestly – no hats and posh dresses!

Korean weddings are not a fashion show, and it’s the best thing ever for us girls! Imagine if you didn’t have to buy a new dress, heels, and matching accessories every time you attended a wedding. You could just go in your wardrobe, pick out a nice LBD or a trouser/shirt combo, and you’re all set. Korean wedding guests still look awesome, because most Koreans (the younger ones usually)  dress impeccably every day of their lives. Even when they take out the bins, they look the business! Oh also, I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about Korean couple outfit matching. I think it’s in my top five fave Koreanisms. As I type right now, there’s a couple at the table next to me wearing matching clothes. It’s quite cute but if I had a boyfriend and I did this, my friends would either laugh at me excessively or assume I was doing so ironically. I just couldn’t pull it off, I’ve perfected my cynical persona over the years and it just wouldn’t fly. When I next get the chance, I will post some examples of this couple matching, or you can just search it on Google.

Back to the wedding – here’s a picture of me looking not too shabby without having spent hundreds of pounds in Coast. Although that said, my friend who I went to the wedding with was wearing Coast,  inadvertently ruining my joke! Having a look at the photo now though, my nail game is terrible. Most Korean ladies have perfect manicures or gel nails, all the time. How they afford it, I don’t know!

All the guests arrive early to greet both the bride and groom

This was my favorite part of the day! The bride was in her hotel room, and we all went upstairs to have photos with her and treat her like a princess. This was exactly what I mentioned earlier, the part where everyone showers you with compliments, and I am so happy Gyeung Lim got her moment! It was pretty chaotic but in a good way,  and we all queued up to get a photo with her – this is the closest she will ever get to feeling like Cinderella at Disney World. Forgot to get her autograph though, dammit. And I didn’t take a picture, but I will ask Gyeung Lim if she has the photo that the photographer took and add it soon!

It’s a great place to try traditional Korean dishes

Finally, the food is an experience in itself, and the perfect opportunity to try traditional Korean food. I sat next to an older Korean guy, and he poured me a glass of soju. In Korea, it’s very impolite to say no when offered food or drink, so I accepted his kind offer even though soju is not an afternoon drink in my opinion. Unless you get the flavoured kind, then it’s actually not bad. I quite like the ritual of drinking shots with friends, it’s definitely a form of bonding in my opinion. There’s something quite wonderful about your matching grimaces as you neck that fourth tequila, and the shared knowledge that you will all regret this tomorrow.

You’ve made it to the end! 

So there we have it, my review of Korean wedding culture, plus a lot of unnecessary (but hopefully amusing) commentary too. I was so happy to be invited to Gyeung Lim’s wedding, and it’s just one example of Korean people being so welcoming and inclusive of us expats. Some of the teachers at my school don’t speak to me very much, but this is purely because they lack the confidence to converse in English, and I feel sad that I can’t speak more Korean. I would have a lot more Korean friends here if I did. But the ones I do have are awesome, and I will really miss them when I leave. So thank you Gyeung Lim, for making me feel welcome and included, I wish you and your husband all the happiness in the world!!!!!!

#1 (and #2!) -Lunar New Year

Seeing as I had spent all my pennies in Australia, I didn’t have many plans for the four day Lunar New Year celebrations. Luckily, I have already made some awesome friends on Jeju and they invited me to go hiking on the East side of the island on the Saturday and Sunday. We were supposed to leave pretty early but as it is so cold and our beds are so lovely and warm, we were all running late. While I was waiting with one of the guys from the hiking crew, we stumbled across a new hotel complex and managed to wangle some free coffee. We were told if we returned later that day we could watch a really awesome ska band called South Carnival for free too! Everyone loves free stuff, so we were game and told them we would definitely return later.

On the Saturday we hiked Olle trail 2 , and the weather was beautiful.  For those of you not familiar with Olle, they are a series of trails that stretch across the entire coast of Jeju. There are 21 routes in total, and this is my first one! We picnicked in the grounds of a temple, and I managed to sneak in a cheeky little nap. Here is a view from the top of one of the oreums we hiked up.

oreum-view

We finished the 10km trail around 4pm, just in time to make our way to the free gig. If you haven’t had a chance to see South Carnival yet and you happen to live in Korea, make sure you do! They are a Brazilian ska band, and they have heaps of energy. It’s very difficult not to want to dance around when they start playing, as my fellow hikers soon discovered. Luckily, no Koreans were injured by one particular persons flying limbs – I won’t mention a name but he knows who he is! Whilst at the gig, we got chatting to a lovely Venezuelan guy and his Korean wife, who have just opened a restaurant in the complex. Their speciality is arepas, which are delicious corn pancakes filled with all sorts of savoury delights. They invited us back for a FREE breakfast the next morning, all 10 of us! The hospitality in Korea never ceases to amaze me, everyone is so generous and kind. A few months ago, a lady my friend knows let us go and pick tangerines from her orchard and sent us home with bags of the things, all for free! And when I was in Seoul with a friend, this man came up to us and gave us free ice creams. I could literally write an entire blog about all the free things I get here, ha ha. Anyway, back to the arepas! If you do find yourself down in Seongsan, make sure to go check out the Arepa Grill, you won’t regret it. Prices start at around 6,500 won – cheap as chips!

After a long day, we retired to our air bnb for the evening, for a night of wine drinking and board games. Tomorrow would be an even longer day, with around 6-7 hours of hiking, so everyone was relatively well behaved and sadly I have no drunken debauchery to report!

We did try to start early on Sunday, but sleep is just the best and we didn’t drag ourselves out until around 10am. The rain really wasn’t helping, but the thought of our free breakfast eventually managed to get us all out of the house. And OMG was it worth it! The arepas were awesome, I had one filled with chicken, avocado and a fried egg with this amazing hot sauce too. It was literally heaven in my mouth! They even made a vegetarian one for Larkin, and she was super pleased as you can see.

larkin.jpg

The couple who run Arepa grill, Elonys and Sophia, are the nicest people ever, and if it wasn’t so far away from my flat I would literally eat there every weekend. Please go fellow Jejuites! Also, there is a super cute puppy that lives on the grounds of the hotel. He is a bit grubby but he is well fed and gets all the cuddles.

puppy

After breakfast, a few of us waited at the start of Olle trail 3 whilst the others dropped the car off at the end of the trail in Pyeosan. Whilst waiting, I noticed something moving out at sea. Having incorrectly identified a seagull as an albatross ( it was huge!) on Saturday, I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up so I kept quiet until was 100% that it was what I thought it was. But it really was, it was DOLPHINS! We all ran down to the end of the pier for a better look, and there were at least 10 of them. We weren’t quite close enough for a photo, but it really was a special moment. I have been informed that thanks to my ability to get us free food and identify cool animals, I am now invited to future hikes – thank goodness.

The second hike was a bit tougher than the first, but it was worthwhile for the views. The best bit of the whole walk was walking across a big sandy beach at the end. Here are the surviving members of the gang,  tired but happy. By surviving, I don’t mean that others perished on the way. They just went home early!

gang

All in all, it was an excellent weekend – great company, food, scenery and banter. I can’t wait for the next hiking adventure, which I am informed will be a girl’s only hike up Hallasan mountain. Not sure we will see any dolphins up there, but hopefully there will be lots of snow still!

 

Return of the blogger.

So after a very long break from writing my blog ( no excuses, I am just a lazy toad) – I am back!!! I am really very sorry that I didn’t write about Vietnam because it was definitely my favourite country. For a very quick overview, the scenery is excellent and so varied, the food is great and there is a huge range of activities and day trips to take part in. My highlights have to be Hoi An, travelling with a lovely couple from Leeds, and the scenery in Phong Nha. Here are a couple of pictures for your enjoyment and as an apology for no posts!

I’ve decided to reinvent my blog as you’ll see from the title change. Instead of writing about each place I go to, I am going to write 500 posts, each one a diary entry for a particular day. They won’t necessarily be consecutive days, just days that were particularly exciting and fun-filled. And also ones where I learnt something, or where everything went wrong. Or even if just something really, really hilarious happened. Who knows, it will be a random mix! I stopped writing my blog partly because I am lazy but also because I felt like it didn’t have enough direction or identity. I think this new idea will help me to focus and hopefully make a good read! It also means I can carry on the blog after I eventually return to the UK ( not for a while yet!).

To catch you up on my current whereabouts, I have now been living in Korea since August, after finishing four wonderful months backpacking around SE Asia. I had to refuel my funds, so I am teaching English at an elementary school.  Well, I’m at least attempting to teach them English – I am not always successful! But more about that in one of my upcoming posts. I live on a tiny beautiful island called Jeju, in a small city called Seogwipo. I am definitely still adjusting to life in the slower lane after living in London for so long, but I am very much enjoying it. The kids are great, as is the food and scenery. I’ve also just returned from a wonderful trip around Australia, visiting family and friends. It was so nice to recharge my batteries and have a small break from Asia, and now I am back and ready to kick the next six month’s butt!!

My next two posts will be a look into my typical weekday and a typical Saturday or Sunday. That way you’ll get a pretty good idea of what my life is like in Korea! I’ve definitely had a bit of trouble adjusting to routine again but I have lots to look forward to and goals to aim towards, as I will be back on the backpacking route in September. I still have a few more Asian countries to tick off before I head home for a bit. I really hope you enjoy reading about my life in Korea for the next few months, it’s not every day you meet someone who lives here! I am also on a mission to improve my eating and fitness, so there will be some posts about that as well. And there will definitely be a post about the awesome food here, its incredible and so so cheap! Perhaps I will still be writing this when I am 80, and I’ll change the title to 5,000 Days of Steph, ha. Anyway, here is a photo of the view from my balcony – not bad ay!

my-view