One of the many cool things about living in Korea, where nothing ever stops (there are other cities that claim to ‘never sleep’, but the residents of these cities have not lived in Seoul), is just that… nothing stops, for any reason, ever. Well, almost.
The burger restaurants in my street are open until 2am, 7 days a week, and if you feel like having dinner after that, there are always Korean restaurants that never seem to close. Across the street from my apartment is a typical small Korean grocery store, operated by an elderly Korean couple. It is open every day, from roughly 10am until 2am – this old couple (who are often there at the same time) keep their store running around 112 hours a week. Very rarely they take a day off, and once every year or two they close the store for two days. I always quietly worry that one of them might have died…
Of course, when I feel like a beer, the pub across the street is always open ‘til around 4am (sometimes 8am), and next to that there’s the 24 hour convenience store that sells beer and encourages people to stay and get drunk there by providing plastic tables and chairs for customers. Koreans simply do not stop.
It didn’t surprise me in the least then that a delivery guy arrived at my door today with a Seollal gift from my university. It’s Sunday, but the packages aren’t going to deliver themselves. Seollal is the Korean celebration of the Lunar New Year, and like Chuseok (Korea’s other major national holiday) I usually receive a gift from work. This year yet again my wife was less than impressed with the ‘Premium Gift Set’ of gim (seaweed – actually that’s not too bad), and two more packages of dried ocean-borne material that is so eloquently referred to in my home as ‘dirty pussy’. Personally, I don’t mind it (the dried octopus I mean).
These twice-annual gifts are always different but tend to run along a general theme. I’m looking forward to Chuseok again in six months, when I’ll get a day or two off work, and another ‘Premium Gift Set’. Korea is also well known of course as the only place in the universe where people present each other with expensive gift sets of spam. There are reasons for this, but anyway… A bit of dried seafood and spam a couple of times a year are obviously far more personal and thoughtful gifts than, say, a pay rise, which I last got in 2007. Happy Seollal (for next week).