Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How to Survive a Winter in Seoul

The view from inside my apartment--snow and ice and frozen socks and towels that we placed there to try to absorb the perspiration from the windows.  It's been a cold winter.
One thing I won't miss about Korea is the freezing cold winters.  We're talking negative temperatures here on a consistent basis.  Today's high?  -7. (And I'd also like to point out that tonight will be -16.) Even though New Jersey and Germany both have their fair share of cold weather, I can't seem to get the chill out of my bones here.  Seoul is cold, make no mistake about it and to make matters worse, our Officetel has terrible heating.  We have ice all along the INSIDE of our windows.  We've asked management to look at it... six times.  They said it's normal, yes, even the ice.  So what to do to survive this unbearable cold?  The following are my stay-alive-in-the-cold tips for living in Seoul.

1)  Electric Blankets
Seriously, a god send.  I bought mine for around 40,000 KRW ($40) at my local Lotte Mart.  Without it, I would have frozen long ago.  Get one.  There's no excuse.

2)  Fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear...
Anything fuzzy and synthetic, and doesn't breath (like cotton) is likely to keep your extremities warmer.  Fuzzy socks, hand warmers, leg warmers, pajama pants, the list goes on and on, you can find these items just about everywhere in Seoul, from Daiso and on the street for less costly items or in standard stores if you don't mind paying the extra premium for them.

Korean women are always fashionable, even in the bitter cold.  I noticed lots of women walking around in fuzzy robe-like polar bear fuzz this winter, like the first two women are sporting.

3)  Break a sweat...
by eating one of Korea's many super spicy soups.

Pretty sure he's not eating Korean food, but he looks as if he is.

 4)  Make it a steamy night
When I just can't shake the cold, I take a super hot shower and as a result my skin kind of burns for a while afterwards.  It brings my body temperature up just long enough for me to get cozy upstairs in my loft under my electric blanket before bed.

5)  Jim-jil-bang It
Don't want to rack up the water bill? Go hang out for a day at a Korean sauna, otherwise known as the Jim-jil-bang.  With a one time entrance fee, you can stay warm and relax the whole day long and enjoy a hot meal while you're there too.  Just a warning for the modest among you,  you will be expected to strip and go naked in the gender separated hot tub areas.  Koreans have no qualms about this and you shouldn't either.  It's actually a pretty liberating feeling.

Our snazzy uniforms that you wear in the co-ed areas.  This was me back in January 2006 (seven years ago!), back when I was visiting Korea for two weeks.

 6)  Let's go to the mall... today.
Since our heating doesn't work, and we're only two stops from Gimpo Airport, we spend a lot of time wandering around the Lotte Mall there warming up on someone else's dime.  Seoul has TONS of indoor malls scattered all around the city, there's bound to be one near you.  Enjoy feeling toasty for a little while.

Co-ex Mall, Gangnam, Seoul.

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