7 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days
At least that’s how long it took me. One morning you just wake up and there is no longer a sense of urgency to explore the city. The markets have been shopped at, the street food has been eaten, and the grand palaces have been photographed. All of a sudden it’s easier to say, nah, I’ll just stay in and be lazy – nevermind that David Guetta is playing a live concert in my neighbourhood. My hood, people! (Then again, my electronic/dance music days were a short lived high school phase, so I can’t really blame the Parisian DJ…I could blame the ticket prices.)
Has Seoul lost its charm?
I can’t say it has. I can now work my way around the city without the use of a map, and it’s a wonderful feeling. I know where to find the best hotteok and what stores actually carry shoes in my size. I know what underground shopping center sells the cute girly dresses and where to find the best scoop of wildberry cheesecake and sangria sorbet. I know where the giant Garfield mascot hangs out luring people to the cat cafes, and I also know what subway stations have real toilets versus squatters. Pshh, I’d make a great guide around town!
Things feel different, but that’s what happens when you hang out in a place for this long; it becomes familiar. And while the initial allure may be gone, I am now fonder of the Seoul than I was during my first few months which were spent running around Gyeonbokgung, taking part in parades, and exploring what I then believed to be Myeongdong (yeah right! I was nowhere near the shopping mecca). My exploration pace has gone from short-term-tourist to, dare I say, localite?
Korea may frustrate me with its strange work politics and lack of flexibility, but at the end of the day, it has been good to me. When it comes time to say farewell, I know I’ll miss the old men playing baduk in the park, the ajummas selling their vegetables on the sidewalk, the cardboard collectors hauling their carts down the street, the teenagers trying to practice their English with every waegook, and the stares I get from toddlers who have probably never seen a tall foreigner before.
There are still a few things I want to do in the city over the next few months, so it’s time to get mon arse off the couch. Next Saturday is the day people! Unless it’s raining, or it’s cold, or…no, I can do this!
How long did it take you to feel like a local in a new place?