First days in Korea: shiny, new, unknown

So after my first days in Gwangju (광주 in hangeul) and approximately ten cultural shocks per day, I began to settle a little bit. I met some people (most of them foreign exchange students like me), got introduced to new classes, local cuisine and some of the customs.

– Spoiler alert: This post will be about food.

Speaking of food, this was my first meal in Gwangju:

Cafeteria meal

Cafeteria meal, photo taken with my old Samsung phone

It may not seem that appetizing (and it wasn’t), but I was so eager to see what Korean food looks like that I would eat almost anything. You can see some pork meat marinated with red pepper (on the left, served with rice) and some rice cakes in a soy sauce (on the right) followed by indispensable kimchi, cabbage with red pepper paste. Now kimchi is a story per se and I could dedicate a whole article only to  importance of kimchi and its omnipresence in Korean cuisine so for now I will just tell you this:

  • it is extremely spicy
  • it is an acquired taste
  • it is very healthy
  • it will be served with any Korean meal at any time of the day and during all four seasons

So I’ve heard so much about kimchi and whenever I will mention it to any Korean person I would meet, they will tell me something like “Yes it’s spicy, but very good for you”. I started to think how can I learn to love it; if it is so omnipresent I cannot avoid it forever.

I heard (or read on the internet, who knows) something like

“if you eat any food for three days in a row, you will learn to love it”.

I decided to give it a go so for three whole days I eat nothing but Korean food.
I got up early in the morning and ate fish soup, kimchi and meat at 8 am (they serve almost the same food for breakfast as for lunch), then for lunch I would take the spiciest soup they have and even mix different spices to get accustomed to them. For the dinner, the same thing over and over again. By the end of the week, I would go nowhere without a bottle of water and tissues:
the spicy food makes you breath really hard and you need to stop and cool with some water. Also, it makes you sweat so the tissues are a must-have.

After these few days, I decided to stop and see how I am going. I heard there is also a cafeteria in my campus that is serving “western food”, aka Korean variation of it. I decided to give it a go and went to eat there. This is what was served:

2013-03-06 12.26.31

Variation of a “western food”, photo taken with my old Samsung phone

Though this food wasn’t bad (deep-fried steak with sauce, with some pickles on the side), I realized I am missing something. I had a craving for something sour and spicy, maybe some cabbage…maybe some kimchi? I couldn’t believe myself, I was actually missing kimchi! I decided never to go again to this cafeteria, not because it was bad, but because I don’t want to eat “western” food while I am in Asia, no matter how spicy or weird-taste the Korean food was for me. I actually managed to teach myself to love Korean food!

Even now, I have a deep craving for chicken dakkalbi or tobboki or any kind of Korean barbecue. I am planning on going to Zagreb soon to catch some Korean food because for me now is one of the best food I have ever tasted!

So yes, you can teach yourself to love certain things. For me it happened the same with Korea: with food, with lifestyle, with a country itself.

In next posts, I will write about lifestyle in Korea, coffee culture and Korean streets.

Love,

– Unemployed Princess

5 thoughts on “First days in Korea: shiny, new, unknown

  1. One of the best ways to learn to understand a different culture is by tasting food. I like the part when you start missing certain elements of local food while giving a try to some kind of western food. I’m not sure if Korean (or other Asian) restaurants in Europe offer the original tastes or just some kind of adaptations.

    Like

    • There are some with quite the original tastes yet still missing some of the main meals I have enjoyed there..Mostly what is around is the Korean barbecue. Nothing however can be compared with the sweet, exotic taste you have in the “original setting”. I hope you will soon have a chance to try some nice Korean meals so we can share impressions 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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