Journals from Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea
2013-04-30 Spring Season Bloom
Cherry Blossoms in Sincheon
One of the best parts of spring in Seoul (and other parts of Asia including Japan) are the cherry blossoms. Suddenly out of the cold and windy weather we get some occasional rain and to really indicate that spring is arriving are the beautiful pink flowers that take over many trees in the city. For those who really want to see a sight, there’s the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival which takes place every year in Yeouiseo-ro in April and includes flowers such as azaleas, forsythia, royal azaleas and other flowers appropriate for spring and celebrates the approximately 1,400-1,600 Korean cherry trees, attracting tourists and locals from all over. If you go at night, the blossoms are illuminated and various street performances in addition to art exhibitions take place, making it ideal for day or night and the place is absolutely filled with photographers as it’s very scenic. If you’ve seen Asian (more specifically Korean or Japanese) TV programs/dramas, you’ll have seen the scenes in spring where the blossoms blowing in the wind looks like snow especially during a really dramatic or happy scene. Well, I was sitting in a café enjoying my coffee while looking down on Sincheon and there was a slight breeze and the cherry blossoms basically flew threw the room, landed in my hair and it was pretty magical in real life as well, so I got my cliché movie scene.
As I mentioned before, Seoul is a very good place to be in a relationship, and with the cherry blossoms arriving, it is definitely not exempt from being one of the most “romantic” places for couples to spend time together, especially in the realm of taking pictures--which Koreans do without shame, literally everywhere (subway, street, restaurant, clubs, etc). At home we at least try to be subtle or hide that we may be a tad bit vain and want to take good shots of ourselves, but here there’s no such thing; it’s completely socially acceptable to take pictures of yourself and your friends or significant other quite literally everywhere. Although showing breasts or cleavage is very uncommon here, women wear shorts that can be ridiculously and unbelievably short, which is completely okay, whereas exposing the midriff is not. Social norms here to the average westerner may be confusing and a tad bit strange but you get used to it.
Another random piece of social etiquette is that you never throw toilet paper into the actual toilet after using it; you have to throw it in a dustbin in the bathroom. For an American, this is literally the last thing I expected. I actually never could have imagined it, and getting used to it was very strange but after a while you accustomed to it because you don’t want to clog the toilets. Seoul’s sewage system is quite old, hence the outdated toilet paper etiquette. Another part of social etiquette I found very hard to get used to was the pushing and shoving in public areas and subways; there is no reason to be shy and attempt being polite, because there are so many people commuting on their own schedules who also have no time to go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. If you are clearly a foreigner, don’t be surprised if locals take pictures of you; if you don’t like photos taken you’ll have to specifically ask for them to not take snaps. It’s important to get these rules down, or else you’ll be wandering around Seoul completely confused and dazed which is not what anyone should be doing considering all that the amazing metropolis Seoul has to offer.