One. Recycling: I hated this concept when I first moved to Seoul. Having to keep cartons and bags of trash in my small studio apartment for a couple of days before bringing them down for recycling, made my studio unsightly. The fact that no instructions were given to foreigners who had no inkling of the concept of recycling, made it confusing and frustrating in the beginning. There are 7 different categories of plastics for example, and it takes experience to be able to sort them correctly. A very common mistake is to think that snack wrappers are made of plastic instead of foil and to treat tissue paper as paper for the purpose of recycling, when it should be considered trash.
L-R: General trash, food scraps, light bulbs /batteries (there are another 10 bins in the basement of the building for plastics, paper, metal, glass, cloth etc)
Over a couple of months, I was horrified to discover just how much trash a single person generates, and began to appreciate the benefits of recycling. Now, back in Singapore, I still retain the habit of recycling at least 70-80% of my trash. It can be difficult at times, as recycling is encouraged but not enforced, and the recycling bins available are are not conducive to serious efforts.
At hdb estates, they have one huge blue recycling bin where you dump all recyclables without having to sort them by type. At my current apartment though, they have these tiny cylindrical bins with mini slots/holes at the top, created specifically only for sheets of paper, plastic drink bottles, and metal drink cans. Nothing else fits into them.
Although I am now a convert, my potential move to Japan next year might see me bitching about it again. Anything that is strictly enforced becomes a chore. Add the threat of a fine for incorrect sorting of recyclables, and it becomes a stressful chore.
Two. Four seasons: Coming from a country where it is hot and humid all year round, being able to experience the changing of seasons was such a joy. Watching the leaves change from green to amber then brown, walking down the streets in natural air-conditioned comfort, seeing icicles hanging off bare branches, then seeing nature come to life again in Spring was just mesmerising.
Haneul Park in Autumn
Namsangol Hanok Village in Winter
Buchon Hanook Villlage
Four. Tons of skincare shops and free samples: The Faceshop, Skinfood, Tony Moly, Missha, and tons of other Korean cosmetic stores were not only everywhere, there were usually 2 or more branches in the same area. Prices are at least 40% cheaper than in Singapore, and you get tons of freebies and samples. Not to mention, membership cards for point collection and redemption of free gifts.
The 3 items in the middle were what I purchased, the rest were free gifts.
The bottle on the right was what I purchased, the rest are free gifts.
Five. Cheap train fares and cute t-money: Train fares from one end of Seoul to the other costs no more than W2000 (which is about (S$2.20). Most single trips cost a standard W1000 and you get a discount of W100 by using t-money.
Angry Bird and Hello Kitty T-money
Six. Economically perorated kitchen rolls: Kitchen rolls are perorated so that each piece is half the normal size of that you'd find in Singapore. If you can't picture it, each piece is basically half a standard square. If you happen to need a bigger piece, all you have to do is to tear it at the second perforation line, but I like the fact that I am given an option.
Seven. Yummy flavoured popcorn and bbq squid as cinema snacks: Think Garretts. Cheese and caramel, and berry and white chocolate popcorn. Not to mention piping hot bbq squid you eat with your fingers. Oh, did I mention downing cans of beer while watching a movie too?
Gourmet Popcorn at CGV
Eight. Ingenious idea of having see-through garbage bins in train stations: As opposed to the situation in Singapore, where there are no bins in the subway stations due to the potential of a bomb threat, the Koreans have come up with the ingenious idea of having bins lined with clear plastic. No more carrying of trash in your hand or bag throughout your journey, should you happen to finish that last mouthful of water or snack, just as you enter the subway station.
Bomb-deterring garbage bins
Nine. Extremely nice people: This is not specifically about Koreans, but the cosmopolitan crowd in Seoul in general. You never realise just how self-centred, aloof and superficial Singaporeans are, until you've experienced the genuine warmth and generosity of strangers from different countries.
Click here to read about what I hate about living in Seoul.
Click here to read about applying for a D4(1) student visa.
Click here to read about applying for an Alien Registration Card in Seoul.
Click here to read about studying the Korean language at Hankuk University and Sogang University.