K Beauty: The Reprise

We’ve already talked about the immense industry that is Korean Beauty but now I want to tell you about the particular products (and where I buy them) that I have found indispensable.

You may or may not know that I am a creature of habit. I don’t like to change things unnecessarily and I did have it in my head that I would continue to bring my favourite face washes, creams and general skin care routine from home on our many visits back to London. Also, Boots has recently opened in Seoul (you can even shop online if you speak Korean) which one would think would help me (certainly it will for Soap & Glory and Boots Tea Tree Oil ranges which I will continue to purchase in tandem with the Korean stuff) but – and it’s a big one – skin care products from home don’t cut the mustard here.

On a lot of my female oriented Facebook groups, you read about women who’ve had major breakouts and issues with their hair upon moving here. Partly its the change in water, but also I think it stems from the fact that products you bring from home don’t target the specific issues that your skin will have here. It has definitely taken some trial and error to figure out what suits me and my sensitive, eczema-prone skin best, so I’m sure that you’ll go through a similar process but here’s a list of my faves as a starting point. DISCLAIMER: I don’t follow the actual 12-step Korean Beauty Regime that is famous-world over but do a bit of googling and you’ll find no end of videos and blogs dedicated to the routine!

Face Wash & Scrub 

One of my regular beauty stops is Innisfree. You’ll find concessions at every large supermarket that you go to and there are standalone-stores in Square One, opposite Daiso Sinsong-Ro and in NC Cube. Everywhere. One of the assistants in the store opposite Daiso Sinsong-Ro speaks some English, so you can (and should) sign up for the loyalty card – she just needs your mobile and ARC to help you do it, and although I haven’t figured out how to use the points yet, I know that every time you spend 10,000KRW, you get a discount of 3,000KRW. As at many skin care stores, whenever you buy something they give you some free samples of other products in the range or things that they think you might use based on what you’ve bought so it’s a good way to try out new things!

I’ve started buying the Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam and Scrub Foam from Innisfree. About 8,000KRW won, they do leave you feeling squeaky clean without over-drying (So important, especially in winter) and ready for the rest of the routine. I don’t often bother to Google Translate the directions for use on these things, and just use them as I would products from home and that seems to do the trick.

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Another scrub that I totally loved – and smelt good enough to eat – was the Tony Moly Black Sugar Face Mask Scrub. This one I did translate – apply to dry skin and leave on as a mask for 10 minutes and then rinse off in the shower. This scrub was really nice and exfoliating, but I found it left a bit of a yellowy residue on my face, even after rinsing. It was nothing some swipes of toner couldn’t cope with, but it probably isn’t ideal if you are in a rush in the morning. Also, a couple of the branches that I popped into recently have been out of stock – I don’t know if this is a permanent thing or not, but it might be. Apparently SkinFood do a Black Sugar Face Mask Scrub that is highly rated as well and is probably a good substitute.

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Toner 

Not a lot to say on this front – toner is toner. The simplest one that I’ve found is from Nature Republic (again, you’ll find branches everywhere and it’s a great spot for buying sheet masks in bulk – usually a buy 10 get 10 free deal to be found) that comes in a nice pump bottle. If you’re a Micellar Water fan, you can get a pretty huge bottle from Lotte for about 9,000KRW. I don’t have a picture of it as I’m still working my way through my London stock but it seems to get pretty good reviews.

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Serum

So I understand that face serum is considered a solution that is used to cure specific problem. There are some people who use it to reduce the fine lines, dark spots and wrinkles. Other than this, it is also used to prevent acne and bring the brightness to facial skin. I never used to use it and actually stumbled across this one when I was looking for a local dupe for Benefit’s Porefessional Primer and, although it doesn’t work as a primer (actual substitute found below), I don’t feel quite right unless is layered on under my moisturiser. This serum is from Etude House – more of a makeup store than skin care, but again, with some fun lip balms and nail polishes that make it worth a visit.

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Peeling Gel

Is anyone else as weirdly obsessed with Peeling Gels as I am? I am seriously fascinated by the amount of dead skin that gently falls away and it seems that no amount of exfoliating can match this simple process. Couple with the fact that, at least in Songdo, you don’t seem to be able to get proper extraction/cleansing facials, I find a peeling gel invaluable in giving your skin a bit of TLC after all the dust and pollution from the outside world. For years I’ve used Obey Your Body peeling gel – as instructed, apply to dry skin with fingertips in a circular motion, leave to sit for a while and wash off. There is debate as to whether one should use it at night, as you can end up with dead skin stuck to your face but I use it pre-shower when I am washing my hair – I figure the shower makes sure that any dead skin is washed off properly and that none of the product is stuck in my hairline. Anyway, this was one thing that when I introduced it into my regime actually gained me compliments on my skin so I was happy to stick to importing it until it mysteriously went out of stock everywhere, and seems only to be available on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Luckily the fact that Korean skin care is such a big deal means that there are a lot of reviews in English online and lo and behold, Tony Moly proved to be my saviour with this little gem:

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Primer 

So yes, Benefit Porefessional is available here, but it costs so much more than it used to at home that it hurts me to buy it. But, Primer, right? So again, I hit up the English reviews online and Innisfree seemed to stand out amongst the crowd. A little goes a long way with this guy making it great value for money and whilst it isn’t as instantly awesome as the original, it is certainly a good dupe that’s kind to the wallet and skin!

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Face Cream 

Each to their own on this front but I’ve tried a lot of different creams – some are too watery and thin, some are too drying etc and this moisturiser from Innisfree (told you the loyalty card was worth it) seems to be perfect for me. It’s a bit on the heavy side – great for winter or when the A/C is on full blast drying you out but I use the tiniest amount post-serum and stay skin-hydrated all day. The other thing I do more regularly here is, on a day that I’m not going out, use coconut oil instead of moisturiser for some deep hydration – whilst that would have been too much for my skin in London, it is actually a good skin-boost every few weeks here.

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Trouble-Shooting

Korean women have flawless, poreless beautiful skin that you could stare at for hours (no, just me? OK then…) but in the event a blemish should rear its ugly head, spot patches are a big thing here – and available in supermarkets, skin care stores, and even Daiso! Of course it is a bit weird when you first clock one on someone’s face, but by and large they aren’t noticeable and can be covered up with a little foundation or concealer if you really want to. Especially great on the under-the-skin-cystic-acne-type spots, if you put it on clean dry skin overnight, you’ll notice the patch has gone cloudy when you take it off and the spot is noticeably reduced in size. For any white heads, my fail safe still is and will always be Mario Badescue’s drying lotion – I buy it on Beautybay.com who ship to Korea reasonably fast.

 

Makeup

Make-up is a tricky one. You do get all the big name brands here, MAC, NARS, Bobbi Brown etc and things which aren’t quite so skin tone specific are readily available – lipsticks in a range of colours, highlighter, bronzer, blusher but when it comes to foundations, BB creams, concealers etc, the Korean standard of PALE PALE PALE skin prevails and I’ve been told that even the fairest of fair people can struggle to find a true match here. In store, assistants tend to push you towards colours that make you look fairer as well, so personally, I’ve been doing my make up shopping abroad. The same products are also slightly cheaper outside of Korea, yeah, sorry, I can’t help much on the make up front!

Well that’s that for what I use from here. I am still using up my charcoal face mask from home (also, origins is available here and their Clear Improvement Mask is still the best I’ve ever tried) or I try out the various sheet masks that come free with my other purchases, so I don’t have a steady recommendation on that front… yet!

Aside from the specialist skin care stores mentioned here, you can also check out Olive Young, Watsons and LOHB for both products that you might be more familiar with from home and local goodies!

Next week…. Foot Peels – not for the faint-hearted or squeamish as I fully intend to give you a day by day photo diary of what happens to gross feet to make them beautiful again!!

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Daiso

Aren’t I just on a roll with these posts **pats self on back.** Well, I’ll let you into a little secret – I’ve actually been in London since my post about going to the cinema and have pre-written and scheduled several posts to publish on set dates. I love discovering new things about WordPress that make it easier for me to see this blogging thing through.

Anyway, I actually can’t believe that I have been in Korea for 22 months and I still haven’t told you about the little slice of heaven that is Daiso. I think that it might have been to do with the fact that I believed my infatuation with the store was overrated, but time has led me to understand that everyone adores this chain of shops as much as I do, and it isn’t in fact unreasonable for me to include it on my ‘things to do in Songdo’ list when we have guests.

Daiso is actually a Japanese Store and I understand that there are branches in a few different Australasian countries – so far I’ve spied (and shopped in) those in Korea and Australia and the best way I can describe it is a Pound/Dollar store, but better. It’s a one stop shop for pretty much everything – whenever I’m in doubt as to where I can get something, the first place I will check is Daiso. Sitting at my dining table and looking around the apartment, I can see cookware, cleaning products, whiteboards, a banana stand, canvas bags… and the list goes on, that I’ve found there. It actually is a great place when setting up your home in Songdo to find all those little bits and pieces that you didn’t think to include in your container but suddenly just cannot live without.

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When I decided I was going to do a spot of crafting and make a tea light holder, everything (except the glue – this was before I found the stationery store) came from Daiso.

 

I also love to get weird and wonderful little Korean gifts for friends and family from here. Well, I say I like to get, we’ve sort of gifted everyone to the max already but on that first trip to London last year, it was where I bought things like Korean sheet-masks, creams, spoons (yes, you read right – these are my favourite things from Daiso) and other random things.

One more great thing (haven’t I sold the store enough already?) about the store is the price. Most things are between 1,000 and 5,000KRW, although I have once or twice paid up to 10,000 KRW for something I really really really needed. (Probably didn’t need at all. But, you know, Daiso.) I usually pop in for one or two things and leave having bought a new reusable bag that I have filled and still only spent about 25,000KRW. It’s one of my shopping habits that doesn’t give Raj a minor heart attack every time he gets the text about what I’ve just spent, so win-win really.

A few weeks ago, I was perturbed to find that my regular Daiso was closed. Now, it isn’t uncommon for stores and restaurants here to shut up shop quite suddenly and be replaced by something equally wonderful or even more so. But the thing is, I can’t think of anything that I would prefer to do than stroll through Daiso but lo and behold, what returned was an EVEN BIGGER (and therefore better) Daiso. Happy Ish. We can stay in Songdo.

Right, so where can you find this wonder-place. My favourite store is on Sinsong-Ro but there are Daiso concessions to be found in Lotte, GS25 Supermarket and Homeplus Songdo (Technopark Station). Further standalone stores can be found at Incheon Bus Terminal Station, right by the ticket gates, and I’ve heard that the newly opened Daiso at Triple Street is one of the largest in Korea – I’m yet to go there, but I’ve told Raj that I’m expecting a Daiso / PF Chang Date Night once I’m back home… Last but not least, earlier this year, an EIGHT STOREY Daiso opened in Myeongdong in Seoul. A piece of advice – don’t go on a weekend, it is mental. The recommendation is to take the lift up to the 8th floor and then walk down the stairs checking out each floor on the way. When we went, the queue for the lift was out the door and even the 1st floor (Western ground floor) was so rammed with people perusing the wares was not possible. I did get a free fan with directions to get back there though… score?! (Ps. even the socks you can spy in the picture of the fan are impulse-Daiso-buys. I actually couldn’t exist without this place.)

Daiso Locations

So off you go and Daiso to your heart’s content. ♥

Eating Out in Songdo

If you are regular reader of this blog, one thing you know about me for sure is that my life is very Food Centric. Mostly because I love to eat good food, especially when someone else will make it, but also because I live with a vegetarian in Korea – otherwise known as the land of meat, meat and some BBQ for good measure.

With this in mind, it is both surprising and unsurprising that I haven’t written about local eateries of note sooner. Well one reason is that the restaurant landscape is ever-changing in Sondo. Apparently high rates often make foodie ventures untenable for owners to maintain so where there was once a Cheese Melt (Cheese Toasties for the Brits amongst us) Shop, has also been a Tiramisu Place and now is, I think, a Sushi restaurant. Secondly, not all the restuarants offer veggie options and I don’t like to sit and eat while Raj watches (except when it comes to Ribs. I can eat Ribs all day long. Yum.) and even when they do, there is usually only one item on the menu that is veggie, so it can get a bit boring. Another is defamation laws in Korea. Woah boy are those strict. So strict that you basically can’t post a bad review whilst naming an establishment online, for fear of being sued. And even if you don’t overtly name the establishment, but allude to it in such a way that it can prove your review was responsible for losing it buisness, you can still get in trouble. Bearing this in mind, I’m only writing about the resturants that I like to go to in Songdo. I have by no means been to all the restuarants so feel free to add your favourites in the comments but there are certain ones I’ve left out on purpose.

Oh, and from your time in Korea you might have also noticed that the way the locals number their floors is different too. What we in Europe (not for long for the UK…sob!) call the ground floor is the first floor here, and then it carries on from there: European First Floor = Korean Second Floor and so on. On my map, I’ve given the Korean floors so that if you have to go up you know what button to hit on the lifts!

Banes Taco

Located on Central-Ro nearer to the Convensia-Daero end is a little Mexican joint that is perfect for a quick lunch or some after work beers and tacos while watching the sun go down. My favourite thing to eat here are the chimichangas (incidentally, also the name of the first Mexican restaurant I ever went to and the first Mexican dish I ever ate) and they do cater reasonably well for veggies. Try the Guava Soda too – it’s a hit of sugary deliciousness 🙂 I believe the owner speaks English as well, so they may also be able to cater to any trickier dietary requirements.

Burgerroom

Only the chips are veggie friendly here, but I often send Raj to get me a takeout and make veggie burgers for him at home, so we can eat same-same-but-different. The burgers here are big and meaty and juicy and yes, I feel really fat after demolishing one of these bad boys. Always with Bacon and Avocado. Always.

Café Hilo

A tiny cute little lunch spot that is perfect for paninis, salads and even some pizza.

Café Jarb

On the second floor of the G-Tower, this is the easiest option for GCF Staff. Aeran, the owner is super friendly and depending on how busy they are, she is willing to accommodate particular sandwich or salad requests. In fact, her latest menu has a sandwich named after one particular person in the G-Tower (not GCF I think) who always asked for a combination that others would copy!

Cave Beer

The best pizza in Songdo, albeit a bit on the pricier side. They do take out as well and is a tried and tested option for movie night!

Dominos 

Everybody needs some Dominoes goodness once in a while. If you speak Korean, you can order delivery, but we tend to turn up and take out – it’s just as easy!

Gianni Napoli

Located on the first floor on NC Cube – I think it is in winter, but if you walk along the Arts Centre Daero Side of NC Cube eventually you’ll come across it. Or you could just check the store guide at the start, whatever. Yummy pizzas and lasagne, with a limited wine list. They also do take away pizzas too. If you are a large group, you are recommended to book as the restaurant, much like many others in Songdo, isn’t huge but you’ll likely need a Korean speaking colleague to help you with the booking! Either that of get off your ass at lunchtime and take a walk – it’s good for you after all!

Impasto

Possibly our favourite Italian in Songdo with a chef who was trained oversees. Their steak, pastas and salads are all yum and in line with restaurant pricing in Korea generally. They don’t do takeaways unfortunately but service is quick and friendly so it’s no hardship to eat here!! 1st Floor, near Awesome International Mart.

Korean BBQ

OK. Obviously there are NO END to the BBQ restaurants you’ll find in Songdo. Seriously, just go for a walk and I dare you not to find one within 10 minutes. But there are two that I have been to and are our go-to restaurants for when visitors arrive. The first is the Beef BBQ restaurant on the corner of our street and Convensia Daero (ish). Order the Wagyu Set and cook away. The second is the BBQ in the Hanok Village in Central Park. Now the beauty of this place is the setting – its super pretty and also, when you call up to book a table, you can (and must) pre-order a hot vegetarian Bibimbap which by all accounts is super tasty. I understand that if you don’t pre-order for veggies, you can only get a cold Bibimbap which, whilst nice, is altogether less satisfying.

La Campagne

Another Italian with a deli counter for when you want to close your eyes and buy real cheese or sausage no matter the cost! Pizzas are big and filling and when the weather is pleasant, it’s nice to sit outside and watch the world pass through the park.

La Casa

Our top choice for Mexican food in Songdo. You WANT a house Margarita to accompany your meal and the owner speaks English, so adjusting to different tastes isn’t a problem. They at getting more and  more popular however, so book in advance for groups or get there early to snag a table!

Old Songdo

I’ve lumped Old Songdo together largely because I don’t know how to show these places on a map. There is (usually) always a logic behind  my actions. I’ve eaten at a fusion Arabian-Indian Restaurant called Arabesque, a Korean BBQ with a red sign and the altogether fancier Nostalgia. The BBQ restaurant can’t cater for vegetarians, so if you have one, feed it in advance of heading there!

PF Changs

I was super thrilled to discover a PF Changs in Seoul last year during Chuseok and even ore so when I found out that a branch has been opened in Triple Street. Whilst we are yet to eat at the local branch, I have no doubt that it will be every bit as delicious as the fake-Chinese-food I have come to love over the years. Mmmmm #beefwithbroccoli

Saint Augustine

Apparently this wonderful little restaurant has been in Songdo longer than us yet I only discovered it recently. Simon, the owner, speaks English and is great at suggesting dishes that can be vegetarianised. The sticky thai fish is my favourite and if you go with me, it is likely I won’t share. Unless you order something equally delicious in which case the more the merrier! Located in Dream City on the 1st floor, there is parking in the basement – apparently you have to pay for the parking but we haven’t figured out how to do that yet (I think the pay to park stops after 8pm. I think.)

Swagat

The only Indian restaurant in Songdo that we like to eat at. Located on the 3rd floor, near the drive through Macdonalds. Parking in the basement can be a little tricky but persevere and you will triumph and be able to gorge yourself on Lamb Saag and Mango Lassi. They also deliver (Over 30,000won – so I order extra food and don’t cook for two days!) or you can go and pick up.

Toulon 

A French restaurants vetted and approved of by actual French people (Hi AnaMatt!) On the 1st floor of the same building as Swagat, I had the duck and the crème brulee, which I would totally have again. Nothing for veggies except dessert and like a lot of restaurants here, closed on Monday.

I’m sure I’m missing a couple of places but equally sure that when he reads it, Raj (hello!) will point out my omissions. He’ll probably also have a lot to say about my attempt at marking places on a map, but I know that I’m broadly in the right areas at least and anyway, it’s good for you to discover these places for yourself, so actually, I’m just being helpful! Where more than one restaurant is marked by a cross it is because they are super close to each other and I can’t fit enough Xs on the map! (ed. It’s possible that all this writing about food has left our blogger in a state of delirium, so don’t mind her and we’ll pack her off for some lunch now!)

Bon Aproveché!

Restaurants

Update 18/10/2017: Here’s a Brucey-Bonus for you (Sidebar: How long until that catchphrase dies out? RIP Mr Forsyth!) Opposite Central Park. on the Korean 2nd floor, on the Burgerroom side of the street is a new Indian restaurant BombayBrau. A chain (we’ve seen them in both Busan and Seoul) the food is tasty and the home-brewed beers complement it well. Definitely one for the revisiting list but a word of caution: If you don’t do well with spice, it is worth asking them to tone it done when ordering!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Screen

Recently, there have been a lot of new arrivals in Songdo and I’m realising that things I have taken for granted are things that they would still like to know about. One of these things is how and where to go to watch a movie in Songdo.

It’s worth noting here that most international movies here are screened in the original language, with Korean subtitles. However most animated movies are dubbed into Korean, so try to do your research before you book just in case!

Following a couple of new malls being opened in the local area there are a few different choices of cinemas. When we first arrived, somehow we managed to use the cinema websites to reserve tickets online. After that first experience, the ability so-to-do has vanished. Now, one of the easiest ways to book tickets, other than making the trip to the Cinema in person, is using www.cineinkorea.com

Through this website, you can book tickets at one of the following chains:

CGV

There are CGV cinemas at Square One (Incheon Yeonsu) Incheon Bus Terminal (Incheon Terminal) and even the airport for a pre-flight film. They have a helpful FAQs page and an online survey-form if you want to double-check that you are booking at the cinema nearest to you as well. If you want to look at the maps they have linked to, as with many things here in Korea, you need to open the site in Internet Explorer only – the maps won’t even work with Edge.

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Lotte

This is a slightly nicer chain than the CGV usually and the closest one is in the Lotte Department Store by Incheon Arts Centre Subway Station (Incheon on the website).

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Now our most recent discovery for those important movies (Star Wars, Marvel and I will grudgingly add DC Comic but only because Wonder Woman rocked my world) is the Charlotte Theatre within the Lotte Cinema. The Charlotte Theatre is a screen within the cinema that has its own ticketing desk and is FANCY AF (sorry Amma. That’s the only way to suitable describe it.) We went to one in Myeongdong (Seoul) to see the most recent Spider-Man and it was an experience. The softest leather seats with a full recline, a free drink (well at 35,000 a ticket, it’s the least they can do) and the seats are sectioned off in pairs so that you don’t have to see other punters at all!

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Megabox 

Last but not least is The Megabox Cinema (Songdo), at the Triple Street Mall (behind the Hyundai Outlet Mall at Technopark on the subway). Megabox.png

The easiest way to pay for the tickets is to pop along to the G-Tower and make a bank transfer. You can pay with an international PayPal account, but following a recent change in Korean Legislation, you can no longer use a domestic PayPal account to pay for goods or services within Korea. (This was particularly annoying, as it took me 10 months to set up my Gmarket account and be able to use it, but now I rely on doing wire transfers from the ATM for most online things.)

Now if you don’t want to take the easy option to satisfy your movie-viewing desires, you can go to the individual websites and they all have an English Option. Just open the site in Internet Explorer on your PC (I wouldn’t try it on a phone or tablet for the first time) and hunt around for the “English” button at the top right or middle-bottom of the page and away you go.

Happy Viewing Folks!

 

What (Not) To Wear

When you think about the Asian Fashion scene I am sure that the Harajuku girls of Japan (whether you know them by that name or not) is one of the first images that comes to mind. That, and impossibly skinny and impeccable women made up to perfection. I feel like Korea didn’t really make a big impact on the global fashion scene until the 00s but more likely it was a combination of watching Gucci’s S/S 2013 trunk show in Seoul online (Sidebar: I worked in a really cool agency and my boss opined that creativity begets creativity so watching a superbly produced fashion show counted as research) and the fact that Raj first planted the seed of South Korea in my mind in 2013 that made me sit up and take notice of the country.

Of course I went into overdrive researching the country, the dos and don’ts, trying to find out as much as possible about Songdo – for which there was limited information online, hence the birth of this blog – but one thing that I didn’t think about was clothing beyond the practical i.e. lots of warm layers for the ridiculous winters.  Turns out there are a lot of unspoken rules about what one should wear to minimise* the staring as you go about your business. A quick note – my tips below don’t cover a working environment be that in an international organisation where the global standard of dress tends to apply,  or a Korean organisation, where as far as I can tell high heels are the only acceptable shoes for women.

(1) Keep ’em covered.

Generally speaking, exposing one’s shoulders and anything with a low décolletage is frowned upon. Spaghetti strap tops and dresses are sold here but girls will tend to wear them over a t-shirt – and this rule is adhered to by even the youngest of society. Now I feel like the shoulders rule is of less import but if you are blessed in the bust department and a sleeveless top almost inevitably means a bit of cleavage on show, perhaps its better to keep those tops in your holiday wardrobe. You’d probably get away with it fine in Songdo due to its international composition but in both the smaller and larger cities in Korea, a t-shirt helps avoid unwanted attention. Songdo is beyond safe but many stories of local men being a bit creepy towards foreign women flood Facebook (I haven’t been subjected to this personally however, probably because I’m usually in the company of Raj / in a large mixed group).

(2) When it comes to hemlines, the sky is the limit

I have a former boss who used to say that rising hemlines are sign of a rising economy. If this is true, the Korean economy is BOOMING. Whilst knee length is probably the norm for more formal occasions, you will see women in itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-shorts, skirts and dresses on a day-to-day basis. In winter these will be paired with thick, decorative tights for warmth but short short short is still the order of the day. As it can get breezy, I’ve seen women wearing cycling shorts (or similar) under their skirts and dresses to avoid a Marilyn-moment – and if you are of average European size, this trick also helps with the dreaded chub-rub (as does hacking a pair of tights into shorts along the gusset line).

(3) Footwear is key

In summer, I am guilty of slipping on flip flops to run my daily errands but a Korean woman will always be well-heeled. Be it trainers (sneakers), pumps, sandals or heels their shoes are well cared for and chosen with care to work with their outfits. Many fancier bars (very strict on- and off-line defamation laws in Korea prevent me from naming names) won’t allow you in wearing open-toed flats (even if they are actual sandals and not flip flops) and keep a stock of heels for women to borrow.  I’ve even seen trainers for hire at outdoor festivals for women who make the mistake of wearing their heels to such events. You’ll find no end of footsie socks, cute trainer liners and fancy tights in all the subway stations to accompany your shoes too – and as with most things in Korea, the cuter the better!

(4) Game, set and MATCH

The phenomenon of couples wearing matching clothes is HUGE. It’s something that I am yet to get Raj to do but you’ll see tons of couple wearing his’n’hers t-shirts, sweatshirts, coats even! I’ve also seen a couple wearing matching skirt (for her) and shorts (for him) and taking about a million selfies to document the outfits obviously.

Now a whole separate post is needed about how women always look immaculate here but even if they are going grocery shopping in tracksuit bottoms and uggs, their faces are flawless and hair is neat and tidy. Long gone are the days that I had the patience for such things but once in a while it is fun to try 🙂

So there you have it. A simple set of tips for what (not) to wear in Korea if you want to fit in or at least, not stand out quite so much.

*Minimise. That’s all you are going to be able to achieve so it’s worth putting on your thickest skin before you get to Korea. Society here is pretty homogenous and the emphasis on how a person looks is high. Deviate from the norm – perhaps you’re bond, or tall or have green eyes – in any way and you will earn the open stares of passers by. A group of girls might look in your direction and laugh – for no reason other than you are a foreigner and  I’ve also heard tell of ajummas (older Korean Women – think your neighbourhood grandma) who thinks nothing of adjusting a bra strap/ fingering the material of a dress  on a stranger sitting next to them on the bus.

 

Aaannnddd Reee-lax

UPDATE: As of 30th September 2017, Mr Kin has closed his shop and now only does House-calls. You can use the same contact details as before…

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a bunch of stereotypes in your mind before you make the move over to Songdo and you’ll very quickly be disabused of most of those. I mean, some of them – Asia being the land of multi-story buildings with lots of bright lights for example – do prove to be true in Seoul, and even other areas of Incheon (Bupyeong comes to mind) but not so in the manicured streets of Songdo. Dream city is the closest that you get to that view of Asia in South Korea, but even still, its pretty tame – at least compared to my imagination.

I also expected cheap mani/pedis – **imitates buzzer** and in fact, the nail treatments here are more expensive and without all the nice soak in warm water / foot scrub elements that you have come to expect from home. And massages. I really thought we would be able to get good, firm massages regularly without paying an arm and a leg. Well, yes, places exist, but to be honest, when Raj and I went to look at them, they all felt a bit on the seedy side and we weren’t so comfortable trying them out. Plus, all my back issues mean that I need a reasonable level of English to be spoken so that I can make the various aches and pains clear. The other option, massages at the spa in the Sheraton, are supposed to be good, but definitely comes at a price.

Well not so any more. Through all my various Facebook group memberships, I glean a lot of (not entirely always useful) information but then popped up this gem:

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I had heard about a place near Cinder Bar / The Prau that was good for massages, so when I saw this post, I decided it was meant to be. Post-board-meeting-massages here we come. I called Mr. Kim and made the appointment for a Saturday morning at 1030. Now, whilst his English is excellent, there was a bit of confusion about the timing, as when I showed up for my appointment, he thought I had said 12. No matter, he rallied and was there with his partner in about 10 minutes but knowing this, I’d probably advise people to send a text or Kakao to confirm the appointment.

We had opted for 1 hour Swedish Massages and, he threw in some hot stones as well – Uh-May-Zing! I didn’t even realise how much time was going by and really felt thoroughly beaten into shape post massage. You can specify whether you want to be in a single room or don’t mind sharing and as promised on the poster, there was a 10% discount for having a morning appointment.

So what are you waiting for? Get on the blower and book a massage – you’ll thank me later I promise!

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We followed our massages with a weekend in Seoul – the Louis Vuitton Exhibition at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, burgers at ShakeShack, Dinner at Julios, a movie at the Charlotte Theatre in the Lotte Cinema (Myeongdong) and a visit to an 8 STOREY DAISO made for a great weekend… and another post for another day!

Sometimes…

Even I run out of things to talk about. So one of my tasks today was to write a blog post, but sitting here (well, lying here, as today I am adult-ing from my bed) I actually don’t have a lot to tell you folks about. My draft posts either (a) bored me when I was writing them or (b) need a lot more information than I currently have to hand to make sense. It isn’t like I’ve been sitting around Netflix-ing either. I’ve actually had days where I haven’t even put the TV on. I went to Singapore for a weekend to meet a friend *Hi Raj Mistry* and last weekend there was a Ski Trip organised by IFEZ to Pyeongcang – home of the winter Olympics 2018. At the start of February I finally signed up to PT sessions (with an English speaking trainer) and am working on my strength and mobility (and hopefully some weight loss as a bonus) but that’s not an interesting journey for anybody except my older brother and my sister-in-law (shout out to my personal fitness cheerleaders in Vancouver). I recently applied for a 6 month contract position as an events consultant, but more on that if and when I find out what the process is like. The baking has stopped in honour of our ‘get healthy’ regime but I’ll pull it out for special occasions. I continue to Instagram pictures of food. Oh, and I started a secret project that I obviously can’t write about because then it wouldn’t be a secret. Also, even when it isn’t a secret I am not sure I can write about it because, well, its complicated. Let’s forget I said anything.

I guess I could tell you a little about the weekend’s ski trip to Pyeongchang, but there isn’t a huge amount to tell. As IFEZ organize everything, the sum of your responsibility is to turn up to the G-Tower for the 4 hour coach journey to Pyeongchang and choose the activities that you want to do (Ski lesson, snow board lesson, just hang out etc.) On the return, we stopped at the Olympic Ski Jump venue which was awesome but my general lack of attention span means I didn’t listen to the tour guide and just wandered about and looked at things. The main thing I learnt is that this particular resort has a high level of English, so if you wanted to book a weekend trip there, it wouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. Here’s some pictures to keep you going:

Ok, one of my daily tasks from the trainer is to get out of the apartment and hit 6000 steps daily, so I better get going on that. Luckily, it is starting to warm up outside so the thought of a stroll through the park isn’t too arduous.

Happy Tuesday everyone – and I promise I’ll come up with more interesting things to write about soon!