Before I share with you my thoughts and memories from Korea, a few words of introduction are needed. The trip happened in 2019 and, as always, I took plenty of notes during and shortly after my travel. I started to work on my new website, where the Korean journey was supposed to be one of the first posts published. I also started studying ILM Level 7 Diploma in Executive Coaching and Mentoring which proven to be more time and effort consuming than I planned, especially with the pandemic hitting the world. And in my area of expertise, it hit really hard. There were not too many people moving around the world. Long story short, the website project has been abandoned, I focused on Instagram and Facebook instead. I came back to it only few months ago and “the trip” is, as it was planned, featured at the very beginning of this blog. Though all its content has been already written, it has never been published, so after few brush ups and additions it is still technically brand new. I hope you will enjoy my reflections about Korean culture and life in this beautiful country.
A trip to South Korea was not really on my bucket list. I didn’t know much about this country, although Daewoo – a Korean corporation, invested in my home town to make cars right after the fall of communism, unfortunately, it bankrupted early enough neither make it memorable nor important. If I’d ever decided to go to the Far East, which was highly unlikely since I was never drawn into that part of the world, I would probably choose Japan, like majority of people I know. And then I moved to London…
I came back home one day and saw few pairs of shoes placed right outside the doors of the next door flat. That, and the fact that I could smell fried pork, made me immediately think of my compatriots. You see, we love pork. Pork is the meat of choice for us Polish, and within those few months I have been living in the UK, I have never had so much lamb as I had in my entire life in Poland. It’s only because pork is considered cheap and of a lower quality compared to lamb and beef – though I admit, the smell of British pork is not very appealing. Anyway, my neighbours had pork; they also did not wear shoes inside; they must have been Polish then. To my surprise it was a Korean couple with whom we had a great time sharing our love for food, apart from seafood that is, and drink. So, the neighbourhood transferred into friendship and this is how we ended up with an invitation to a Korean wedding in Daegu, the city where the bride was from.
With long haul flights, there are always two options, it’s either affordable or quick, never both. Since the direct flight from London to Seoul is already around 11 hours, we didn’t want to make it longer than 18 with all the stops on the way. And the fact that the wedding was in August, didn’t help. Summer is always the worst time to look for cheap flights and the final date was not set until the end of July, so we had to wait with the purchase of the tickets. Thankfully! We were horrified watching prices on google flights going up every few days, but when we finally had to buy the tickets, the shortest and direct flight, by Asiana, from London Heathrow to Seoul Incheon was actually the cheapest ever! We paid only half of what the groom had to pay; longer flights were also more expensive. And it was just the beginning of many fortunate events. This was really an amazing adventure for us.
Since I had no idea of what to expect and obviously I didn’t want to bother my friends who were supposed to get ready for the wedding instead of answering my calls, I bought some books on Korean culture and it was not the best idea. I was overwhelmed with information which I didn’t really need, so the closer to the departure time, the more nervous I was. And it doesn’t help when your husband tries to calm you down by telling you that everything is going to be OK because he has so much faith in you. Really?!?! Guilt tripping, are we?!?!
I must say, my friend Melissa from Hahn Cultural Consulting who knows a lot about South Korea, loves this country and is very passionate about it, helped me a lot. First of all, she did what every person should do with a child having a tantrum, she told me to stop panicking and start enjoying the amazing experience I’m going to have. Well, she almost did, because she lives in LA and I live in London, so she actually wrote me a very reassuring email. And it was neatly filled with the amount of information I might need, as well as suggestions I could use. That was a melissa infusion I required for my anxiety at that point.
It’s already been weeks since I came back from Korea and I still miss this place. I think I left a piece of me there and I hope I will come back; I made friends, had some funny failures, I enjoyed my trip. I think that the next few posts may help those of you who would like to learn a bit about this country and maybe you would travel there too. Just a word of explanation before you read further. Whatever is shared here, it is my experience and my impressions only; other people may feel differently and not necessarily either ones are wrong. Oh, and obviously, whenever I write Korea, it’s actually about the republic in the south.
This is the first of many posts about my trip to South Korea, more are already written and part 2 will be available to read the next Monday.