A Guide for Transportation in Seoul

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and home to more than 10 million people spread across 25 different districts. To say Seoul is a big city is an understatement. That’s why you need to learn how to use Seoul’s extensive transportation system to your advantage.

Getting T-Money

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

The metropolitan area of Seoul encompasses nearly 25 million people. There is way too much history to absorb, traditional cuisines to try, and a raucous nightlife to explore. And you will spend most of your time here. Fortunately, the transportation system here is extensive and affordable.

First and foremost, make sure you have a T-Money card. This card will make traveling easier. Without it, you will have to purchase tickets for the subways, which is just a waste of time and money when one can simply scan the card to board a train instead. Also, unless you have exact change, you can’t board the buses. Just get a T-Money card at a conveinence store and load it up.

Using the subway

Buy a map of the subway system or even get the map downloaded to your smartphone. The subway is expansive and the best way to get around so you need to learn which lines go where and where to transfer.

To make matters easier, the lines are color-coded: line 1 is dark blue, line 2 is green, line 3 is light orange, line 4 is light blue, line 5 is purple, line 6 is dark orange, line 7 is brown, and line 8 is pink. The lines to Bundang, an affluent suburb, and Incheon Airport are yellow and pale blue, but those lines are isolated from the main subway system as they lead out of Seoul.

Image credited to Adam Raoof

Image credited to Adam Raoof.

Here is a piece of good news for you about the subway system– all signs are in English as well as Korean. This includes signs that tell you what attractions are around your subway station and what exits to use. The best way, however, to expand your knowledge of subway system and to find out where the best attractions are is to go with Koreans.

Using the bus system

Another option for travel is Seoul’s bus system. Although this is less favorable compared to the subway, it can be less cramped, albeit occasionally, and can go places the subway does not.

There are five bus terminals in Seoul: Express Bus Terminal, Central City Bus Terminal, Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal, and Sangbong Bus Terminal. All are hubs for buses to travel around the city and also have buses to take you around the peninsula. If you’re traveling north, to Pyeongchang or the Demilitarized Zone, buses from Seoul are a viable option. However, when traveling south, there are better options for travel, especially when traveling further than Daejeon or Pyeongtaek.

Image credited to Erica Thomas

Using the train

Seoul Station is a train hub where subway lines 1 and 4 both meet. It is also where one can board Korail, South Korea’s bullet train. The Korail, referred to as KTX, can take one from Seoul to Busan, the second highest populated metropolitan area in Korea on the southern coast, in three hours compared to the never-ending traffic jam that would be a bus ride from Seoul. KTX also has stops in other large metropolitan areas Dongdaegu, Gwangju, and Yeosu-Expo.

Taking a taxi

Transportation in Seoul and Korea is an enormous system that can be daunting. However, it really is not as difficult as it may seem. If, however, none of these transportation options work for you, there is one option left: take a taxi. Between four people, it costs 3,000 won per person to travel 30 minutes distance in downtown Seoul. You’ll never find a taxi that cheap anywhere else.

Top 5 Italian Grocery Store Treats

Image credited to allison.hare

It’s hard not to be a lover of Italian food. The pizza, the pasta, the gelato—all of it is wonderful! Of course, these are all treats that are well known, and loved, by many. But some of the best Italian treats may be things you’ve never heard of before, ones you might find on the shelves of an Italian grocery store.

In fact, all of the treats listed in this blog have made their way to the USA. Some, at big name chains. Others, you might have to do some digging to find, but a local Italian food mart will definitely have them. Here’s the top five “must-try” goodies:

#1 Chinotto (kee-noht-oh)

This fizzy, dark brown drink comes in small glass bottles, usually in a pack of six. Sounds like classic Coca-Cola right? It definitely looks the same, but the taste is much different. Chinotto has a much darker flavor—it’s less sugary and leans more toward bitter. It also has a hint of orange taste to it. If you’ve ever had chocolate covered orange peels, you are familiar with the taste: sort of bittersweet. The drink is very crisp–an excellent refreshment for a summer day.

#2 Nutella (new-tell-uh)

Image credited to allison.hare

Image credited to Allison Hare

Nutella has become very popular in the USA, but that is not at all where it originated. Nutella’s home is Italy. This hazelnut flavored spread is very rich and sweet, almost like frosting, but not as thick. It’s used a lot like how peanut butter is in the USA: Spread a good sized dollop on some crunchy toast or crusty white bread, and it’s heaven in your mouth. You’ll definitely want a glass of milk on the side for this tasty treat.

Oh, and here’s a little hint: though they probably don’t do this in Italy, try mixing your Nutella with some peanut butter… it tastes like a Reese’s peanut butter cup!

Image credited to Total City Girl

Image credited to Total City Girl

#3 Pizzelle (peet-zell-eh)

These snowflake shaped goodies are very addictive. They are kind of a cross between wafer and cookie–they are very thin, like wafers, but their taste is similar to butter cookies. They snap easily between your fingers and are fun to nibble at. A lot of times, they are covered with powdered sugar to make them extra delicious.

#4 Taralli (tah-rah-lee)

Taralli are comparable to potato chips in America—they come in all sorts of flavors, and they are a favorite salty snack among Italy’s inhabitants. Taralli have a texture similar to bread sticks, but they are shaped in knots. They can range from teeny-tiny to quite large. Popular flavors include fennel and pepper, but you can also find varieties that are lightly frosted if you have a sweet tooth.

#5 Pannetone (pahn-eh-tone-eh)

Image credited to trupastilla

Image credited to Trupastilla

Pannetone is a classic Italian favorite, especially around Christmas time. Think of a giant muffin the size of a round birthday cake. That’s what Pannetone looks like on the outside. The inside is not very cakey, however. It’s more like a bread, but it tears apart well like cotton candy. Pannetone also comes in a variety of flavors, the most common one being filled with spots of candied orange peels and raisins. There are also kinds with hefty globs of chocolate splattered throughout.

Are you hungry yet? Venture out to a local Italian market (or, if you’re bold enough, get on that plane to Italy!) and try some of these treats for yourself!

Russian Manners with Winnie the Pooh

If there’s one place you can make a cultural faux pas, it’s definitely at the dinner table. Today we’ll go over some of the crucial missteps to avoid at the Russian dinner table, with the help of none other but Winnie the Pooh! Just forget about that soft-spoken friendly yellow bear you may recognize from your childhood… Russian “Vinni Pukh” has a totally different attitude.

Winnie the Pooh in Russia

Russian culture is notoriously hard to pin down, but an “us vs them” mentality often prevails. It should come as no surprise then, that where Disney saw a lovable, cuddly, soft-spoken teddy bear, Soyuzmultfilm, the makers of the Soviet cartoon “Винни Пух (Vinni Pukh)” saw a psychologically complex character who constantly fills his head with plans that are too grand for the uncomplicated existence which he lives, causing him to face many comedic pitfalls when his imagination and reality collide.

Unlike his American counterpart, Vinni Pukh shows a streak of wild cleverness as he plots his grand schemes towards honey with the help of his best friend “Пятачок (P’atachok),” that is, Piglet. In the second part of the original Soyuzmultfilm trilogy, Vinni Pukh goes to visit his stereotypically nerdy (right down to the speech impediment), but exceedingly polite, philosophizing friend “Кролик (Krolik),” that is, Rabbit.

Russian Manners

So have you guessed from watching Vinni Pukh what are the biggest mistakes that you can make when visiting Russian friends?

Well, for starters, As Krolik pointedly mentions, you should always wipe your feet before entering someone’s house. You’ll also want to take your dirty, mucky, snow-covered shoes off at the door, and put on a warm pair of comfortable slippers for the house, which your host can almost always provide.

Obviously eating your host out of house and home is not very polite. Know when to take the cue to leave, or your host may feel obliged to entertain you longer than s/he can afford. As P’atachok mentions at the start, people don’t usually go visiting in the mornings, but prefer to come in the evening when there will be plenty of time to eat and relax with a glass of wine (or a few shots of vodka). Taking a moment to wash your hands before coming to the table is a must, and slurping your food is considered rude, as Vinni Pukh finds out when Krolik gives him a shocked look for his rude behaviour.

Of course, destroying your friend’s house during your visit is also not considered very polite!

More Vinni Pukh

Now that you’ve learned the basics of Russian table manners from Vinni Pukh, take a moment to explore the other portions of this charming trilogy from Soyuzmultfilm, which has been the favorite of Russian children since its inception in the late 1950s.

[Thumbnail image credited to 50 Watts]

The Meaning Behind “Alouette” and “Frère Jacques”

Music plays a critical role in both culture and childhood, and the great thing about it is that it can transcend cultural boundaries. On the downside, lyrics might get lost in translation, like in the popular French children songs “Alouette” and “Frère Jacques.”

Translating “Alouette” Lyrics

We all remember playing sing-song games like “Ring Around the Rosy” as children or crooning “Hush Little Baby” to a newborn sibling—songs like these help color those rosy memories of being young and innocent. And the funny thing about being young is you don’t care about what the words behind the song are saying. It’s just fun to sing along with the bouncy rhythms and dance to the cheerful tune.

Perhaps you remember singing the popular French children song “Alouette.” It is a playful melody that consists of several rounds of repetition and rhyming. Traditionally, the song is sung as a group, and children point to the body parts that correspond with the lyrics. It’s a great learning tool for young ones who are just beginning to develop their vocabulary, and it’s fun! But you may be surprised to learn what “Alouette” is really about—plucking a bird in preparation for cooking!

Alouette by Henri Dès on Grooveshark

Translating “Frère Jacques” Lyrics

Then there’s “Frère Jacques,” a song that’s typically accompanied by kids pressing their hands together and placing them to the side of their tilted heads in order to symbolize sleeping. The song tells the story of a sleeping monk who needs to wake up in order to ring the church bells for morning mass. In the US, a slightly different version called “Brother John” was created as inspiration from the original French song. Changes were made in order to maintain the rhyming:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing.
Ding, dang, dong, Ding, dang, dong.

So what did the original French children’s song sound like? Check it out:

So now that you know the meaning behind these children’s classics, go out there and impress your French friends (or their children)!

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