Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

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Cafés, Chicken and Soju – Off Hours in Daegu

It’s been a while since my last post, and that’s not only because I’ve been busy, but also because I’ve been thinking of what I should be posting about..

When I was in Korea previously, every day was a new adventure, even when I was working in Wando because every day my kids would be in a different mood and the experiences would be totally different so there was always something interesting to write about, plus we’d often go on trips and such. Here in Daegu though, every day basically consists of eating, going to class, doing homework and possibly getting drunk, so there’s not an awful lot to write about… We went on a school trip to Andong, which was a lot of fun, so I’ll write a bit about that later, but other than that I’m afraid I just haven’t been experiencing that many interesting things…

The largest part of my off-time pretty much goes to hanging around cafés nowadays, because I just can’t get used to my depressing dormitory room that always has someone else in it. I love Korean cafés, because they usually have a really nice and cozy atmosphere, play calm music and are ideal for dates or studying. There’s not a lot of distractions usually, since the only people that come there are Koreans, so even when they’re talking I can’t understand what they’re saying so it’s easy to see it as background noise..actually it’s kind of soothing to me. A tea costs about as much as a meal in Korea (4,000-6,000 won, about €4 or 5) so it’s normal for people to get one cup of tea and just sit there studying, skyping or even sleeping for hours on end. I’ve found a bunch of nice cafés near the University, and I hang out at them a lot.

Cafe 1

 

Cafe 3

Cafe 2

There’s not as many cute and quaint cafés in Daegu as there are in Seoul (there you could have like three delightful little coffee shops in a single side street) but with the help of my girlfriend and by wandering around aimlessly (another one of my favorite pastimes) I’ve managed to find some. At one of the cafés I go to quite often, the owner noticed me studying Korean and started talking to me in really basic Korean to get to know a bit about me, and since she knew I was Dutch she gave me some free Dutch coffee (which is totally a thing that exists here, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have that at home?) and the next time I went there she gave me some mandarins and talked to me and my girlfriend a bit. In the Netherlands, I never really had a place I visited often enough for the owner to know me (except maybe the comic book store), so it’s actually kind of nice to have a place like that now.

 

Aside from drinking tea, a frequent pastime on the weekends is drinking…other things. Things like honey whiskey beers, soju, or makgeolli.

Beer1 Beer2 Beer3 Beer4

If you weren’t already an alcoholic before coming to Korea, Korea will turn you into one. ‘Hard’ alcohol like soju is cheaper than coke and any night out means you’ll be playing plenty of drinking games. Those tend to be really fun and addicting, leading to the amount of alcohol being consumed skyrocketing like no tomorrow.

Korean beer is pretty bad (it’s modeled after Budweiser after all) but relatively cheap, but the traditional alcohols like soju and makgeolli are where it’s at. On our school trip to Andong (more about that later) I decided to get a bottle of their signature soju which is actually a liquor and freaking delicious compared to the honestly not very good tasting regular soju. Every province kind of has its own soju brand, as I’ve understood, and it seems I was very lucky in Wando where the delicious maple soju was the standard. Here in Daegu the 맛있는 참 is not exactly the most pleasant.. That doesn’t mean we won’t mix it with beer (or bernini, or soda, or anything else for that matter) and have copious amounts of it though.

As many of you know I’ve never been much of a ‘going out’ kind of guy back in the Netherlands, but I actually have to admit I enjoy it a lot here. Usually you don’t just drink, you also eat, and most of the bars and ‘hofs’ are a lot quieter than their Dutch counterparts. Plus, when you’re with the right people, anything can be fun. And I’ve met a lot of great people here that are lots of fun to hang out and get drunk with, so it’s become a very attractive way to spend an evening.

 

Speaking of eating by the way, that is something else I’ve been saving up for you guys.
Because you’re totally ready for a buttload of pictures of Korean food right?
Of course you are!

Food1 Food4Koreans are huge fans of meat, which is nice, because I’m a huge fan of meat too!
There are many restaurants where you can grill your own meat, on a ‘Korean Barbecue’ as the foreigners call it.
As you can see, side dishes are a huge thing here, and even though all you order is a single portion of meat and a bowl of rice, your table will be adorned with as many tiny dishes as will fit on there. It’s pretty unimaginable if you’re used to the way restaurants work in the Netherlands, but if any of those free things happen to run out, you’re free to ask for some more and they will gladly bring it to you without grumbling.

Food3 Food2

Another thing Koreans are big fans of is…I want to say soups but..they’re not even remotely soupy..It’s more like stuff floating around in delicious sauce, I guess? Like a stew? I think they’re totally called stews. Sorry. Anyway, they’re usually brought out boiling hot (like, literally) or cooked right there at your table. A big staple of Korean food is that it is almost always freshly prepared, which is very refreshing compared to for instance a Chinese restaurant in the Netherlands. I’m sure they’ve got the side dishes sitting around in microwavable packets waiting for someone to order though. Stews are pretty much the best thing ever, but they tend to be very spicy. Last time I was in Korea I think I could deal with the spiciness pretty well by the time I arrived in Seoul, but I think right now I still need to build up some more resistance because so far two dishes have had me in tears over how spicy they were…

They were both freaking delicious though.

Food5 Food6The final nail in the coffin of your diet is Koreankind’s greatest creation: The fried chicken.
Forget about that junk you’ve had back at KFC or some shitty friettent; this is what God was thinking of when he created the chicken. Koreans have mastered the art of frying chicken in all kinds of delicious ways, and it’s the food that I missed the most when I went back to the Netherlands the last time. The chicken by itself is already amazing, but when combined with beer (Korean even has a word for it, 치맥 (chimaek), a combination of 치긴 (tjikin – chicken) and 맥주 (maekju – beer)) it’s basically the best way to start an evening out ever.

 

Food8Unfortunately not every day can be heaven, and most of the time we’re stuck in Keimyung eating the dormitory food…
Yeah…
I bet you’re a whole lot less jealous now, huh?

Food9Luckily the meal plan doesn’t include lunches, so we can use any of the cafeterias located inside the campus. They’re all run by the school, I suppose, so the prices are very reasonable and the food quality is a lot higher than at the dormitory cafeteria. For about 4,000 won (€3,50) you can have delicious Korean, ‘Chinese’, Japanese or ‘Italian’ food during lunch break.

 

One last pastime I want to share with you is the student club that I joined. I didn’t expect it when I came here, but Korean Universities actually have lots of student clubs that you can totally join just like in your Chinese cartoons!

When I signed up I kind of thought this club would be like the Genshiken in that they’d just read manga, watch animu and play vidya gaems but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be that easy. They do read manga (the club room has shelves upon shelves of the stuff) but that’s not the main goal of the club. It’s actually a drawing club, and we put out a little booklet of drawings twice a year and a big book once a year. It’s a good kick in the arse for me to draw a bit more, and it’s a lot of fun being part of a club for the first time in my life. All the other members, except for my 형 Derek, are Koreans too, so it’s a good opportunity to meet some people and practice speaking Korean since most of them don’t speak English very well. They’re all pretty interesting (we do share the same interests, after all) and most of them can draw really well.

Manhwa Club

We’re free to use the clubroom whenever we want for drawing, talking, doing homework, sleeping or just hanging out, and that is what most members use it for. There’s almost always someone there, so if I learn to speak Korean decently it really will be like Genshiken. So far though I’ve mostly been asked to help people with their English homework, and luckily all the club members do their best to accommodate us by trying to use what limited English they know. There’s some members that speak English a lot better though, so it’s easier to talk to them.
Even though my drawing skills are not exactly anything to write home about, I’m happy my drawings will show up in our little booklet, and I feel like it’s pretty cool to be part of a club instead of being just another foreign student studying Korean. This coming week we’ll have a school festival where the club is doing a café, so I’ll definitely try to help out with that even though my Korean is pretty limited. I’ll let you guys know how that goes, naturally.

 

So yeah, that’s basically the gist of my free time here in Daegu.
A lot of things have changed from when I was in the Netherlands. Most importantly, I guess, is that free time is pretty precious here. I used to be able to text people and post on here a lot, but in between all the school work and meeting with friends and seeing my girlfriend I’m dead tired by the end of each day and there’s barely any time to do anything else. That means I also don’t have any time to play video games, something that was a huge part of my life before. A lot of games have been released recently that I really, really want to play (like Wasteland 2 and Alien Isolation) but I just can’t find the time to sit down and play them. I could’ve done that tonight maybe, but if I had then I wouldn’t have been able to write to you guys!

Choices choices.

 

Next time (next month!?) I’ll write about our school trip to Andong and maybe our outing to Yeungnam University on the other side of Daegu for a rock festival.
Don’t miss it!

 

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One comment on “Cafés, Chicken and Soju – Off Hours in Daegu

  1. Ghislaine Groenewegen
    10 November 2014

    Damn I’m hungry now.

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