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Last goodbyes

Yesterday I stayed in late and watched TV for a very long time, keeping myself entertained and avoiding the heat outside (since the rain stopped last week it has been burning hot).

I headed outside for a late brunch and said one last goodbye to Gwanghwamun, to Chenggyecheonno.

I went back to my hotel again and cooled down with ice cold water and comedy shows on TV. I had plans later in the evening; a last meeting with my Korean language exchange partner and her husband, whom I was to meet for the first time.

When I finally arrived, having successfully taken a bus (which is quite a miracle as I have never been very good with buses) they invited me out for my last dokkbokki in a store close by. We had a nice talk and once the meal was done they invited me to their home.

It was just a slight bit bigger than what I had thought of an apartment in Seoul. I know that rent in Seoul is very high, so, for a rather young couple big apartments are quite unaffordable in Seoul. They invited me to some tea that they had bought on their trip to Jeju-do (a beautiful island south of Korea) as well as apples from my language exchange partner’s parent’s apple farm. I enjoyed both and then discovered a Korean style wedding album.

I have to be precise and call it a Korean style wedding album, because weddings and wedding albums are very different in Korea compared to in Europe. For one Koreans usually have two weddings on the same day, one western style and one traditional style. This means that the weddings are very quick and short, as they have to complete two weddings in one day. The albums are also quite different as the pages are thick with beautiful pictures taken in a special Wedding photo studio that show the couple in many different outfits posing for the camera with various themes, such as old baroque, new modern, etc. It was very fun to see and it got us talking about some of the biggest differences between Europe and Korea.

We talked about family and Business (in Korean with a few English translations needed for more economical terms such as collectivism, for example). We talked a lot about how most, and almost all, Koreans feel that they have to stay at work as long as possible. Even if they finish their work early, they will stay in the office for hours and hours, until their boss leaves. However when their boss finally leaves they will often go out for dinner together and rejecting their boss’ dinner invitation is seen as an impossible idea. They seem to be unable to leave work early, thinking that only lazy people leave work early, even if they have finished all of their work on time. This is of course a huge problem, as the efficiency of their work becomes lower, but the main problem lies in that the government praises themselves for this accomplishment of many work hours, hence encouraging this sort of workaholism to continue to spread and not addressing the problem at hand: the low productivity.

Only five years earlier Koreans still worked on Saturdays as well, so they still seem to be completely dumbfounded when it comes to relaxing, as they always feel like they have to look busy and have to look like they are doing something. Relaxation is an unknown word.

We continued on this track for a while until I finally had to leave. They gave me some specially famous tea from Jeju-do and accompanied me to the subway station.

And believe it or not but the song that I am currently listening to just had a line that went: ‘don’t wonna say goodbye, I don’t wonna say goodbye.’ It seems that my iTunes is able to read my mind with it’s random, yet fitting, selection of song.

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