There’s a myriad of places you can visit in South Korea, but one of the most popular destinations by far is the busy capital city of Seoul. I recently had the chance to visit it, and although did not have a lot of time to go sightseeing, I did take a trip to several shops to make sure that I got at least several souvenirs for friends and family.
Upon stepping inside such a shop, I quickly found out that Korean souvenirs are like no other. Many Americans and Europeans who have no Asian friends might have little to no knowledge when it comes to the cultural differences between one Asian country and the next. The fact of the matter is that Koreans definitely stand out from the crowd, and that’s because they have unique customs.
Although it is hardly characteristic to Korea, the first thing, I purchased when I got there was a brand new chinchilla wheel. Don’t get me wrong — it was hardly my intention to go scouring pet shops. However, I had my daughter in mind when I decided to get something nice for her pet, which seems to be her whole world right now. My wife and I decided on a chinchilla because it was considerably more low-maintenance compared to a dog and, as long as our daughter cares for it properly, it can live a long and happy life.
Getting back to what you can get for friends and family while you’re visiting South Korea, I would say that one of the most common things you might come across in many shops is dried seaweed. Everywhere I went, people kept adding it to soups or eating it as a snack. Something I wasn’t aware of, until my trip, was that seaweed is jam-packed with vitamin K, calcium, iodine, iron, and copper. It’s also low in fat and calories, which is definitely a plus. So, I made sure I bought a bunch of them even though I heard they were also available in the United States.
Bowls and cutleries are also rather popular if you want to make sure that your souvenir will make an impression. Something that I particularly enjoyed was sifting through the many options available in tea shops. I was in awe with the plethora of cups and kettles I stumbled upon. These people sure take their tea seriously.
Yet another gift that I didn’t fail to be impressed with was Hanji. What this term actually refers to is handmade paper. Some of the designs I saw were downright breathtaking, and upon having a talk with a seller, I found out that this type of paper is sometimes crafted from natural materials such as barks of the mulberry tree. Nowadays, artificial alternatives are more common, but they are still largely utilized to create stationary, hanging lamps, paper dolls, and a variety of other decorative and functional items.
It would be a shame not to eat pasta while in Rome, so I had to try out kimchi. Available in a broad array of varieties, this snack or side dish is a uniquely fermented type of cabbage that contains a plethora of natural probiotics, which is why it is particularly healthy. Koreans eat enormous amounts of kimchi per year, and it has recently become rather popular in the Western world, as well, and that’s mostly due to its nutritional value.