That Gangnam Life

Since the blog is fresh, I wanted to take the time to share a little bit more about myself, my social life, etc.  As I mentioned, I live and work in Gangnam near Seonjeongneung Station. I work as an after school English teacher at a nearby school in the afternoons. It’s a nice 20 minute walk to work.

Gangnam literally means “South of the River,” the River being the Han River that divides Seoul. The northern part of the river is older Seoul, where everything began. Gangnam development only really began in the 1970s (ish) as it was allllllllllllllllllll farm land then. It was developed specifically to be the new business area.  Gangnam is technically Gangnam-gu (gu = District), Seocho-gu, and even Songpa-gu, so what Seoulites consider Gangnam is quite large.

Gangnam itself is about 1-1.5 hrs from Incheon Airport depending on traffic/where you’re coming from. To Myeongdong it’s about 40 minutes by bus. To Hongdae, 45 minutes by subway. Gangnam is in the Southeastern area of Seoul.

The best part? You can literally get ANYWHERE in Korea from Gangnam. Well, except Jeju. Express Bus Terminal is in Gangnam, offering buses to other cities like Busan, Gyeongju, and Daegu.  The SRT high speed train also opened recently at Suseo Station, allowing us to get to the same cities by high speed train. It’s closer than KTX for us and even slightly cheaper.  Gimpo Airport is only 30 minutes by Line 9 Express, but bring your patience, because Line 9 is craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy crowded.

Allllllllll the major businesses are here, so it’s teeming with office workers during the day. It’s also known as the place for THE best education in Korea, so there are many families packed into high-rise apartment complexes and small apartments surrounding the schools.

Gangnam is viewed as the “fancy, super expensive” neighborhood, which it can be, but that is not my Gangnam! I happen to think of my neighborhood as VERY normal, but better in some ways. It’s extremely clean with Nazi-like trash men, street sweepers, trash trucks, all that stuff.  Not only do the trash men sort the household trash for collection, they even go as far to sweep the streets of leaves and general debris every morning!

Here are a few shots of my hood. The main streets around it are covered in offices, businesses, traffic. What you’d expect as it’s the newer part of Seoul.

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Sunny Afternoon in the ‘hood!

When you move off the main street, you find tons of residences all around you.  The giant apartment towers/family complexes are self serving with everything in one central location. Most single people live in small buildings with several one room apartments. The streets are narrow and dense with buildings and car traffic.

Somehow, despite all of this, my neighborhood is PIN DROP quiet. Like I still don’t know how it manages to be this quiet. People are all around, but you wouldn’t know it!

 

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Typical Gangnam Neighborhood Street (Not Sure Who Put Up the Soju Cut Out, But I Love Them)

There are several meat restaurants, izakayas and Korean style bars in my neighborhood. I stay around my house when I want a quiet night out. Fried chicken, meat, seafood, it can all be had within a short walk.

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My Neighborhood Pork Place

 

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Moksal, Pork Neck, which has a nice, crispy fatty edge. Perfect with just a dash of salt! Real meat needs nothing else!

And below are just two of my favorite Japanese places nearby. Yes, I know, it’s Korea, but Japanese bars and food are verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry popular. The first place is a nearby izakaya that nails the decor!

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100 for Authentic Vibe!
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Nagasaki Jjampong – The broth is similar to Japanese Pork Ramen, but it’s full of seafood, noodles and DELICIOUSNESS.

Below is a Japanese “fish cake” bar. This place is always so busy I couldn’t get a seat for almost two years….only ten seats in total! By cake, I mean they form fish and flour together. In Japan, they call it kamaboko. In Korea, we call it Odeng or Uh-Mook.

 

 

BUT for true nightlife, I head just one (express) subway stop away to Sinnonhyeon Station. THIS is real Gangnam nightlife. And not douchey club Gangnam. Normal Koreans, meeting friends, eating, drinking, singing the night away.

My next post will be devoted to my home away from home (and where I do most meetups and tours), Sinnonhyeon Station!

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The Beginning (Or, Who The F Is This Guy?)

Well, finally, the website has actually started! It’s been a long, lazy, stressful, challenging year….but I did it, folks. In really slow baby steps.

While the purpose of The Real Seoul is to meet visitors and show them an amazing time, I do have to tease you with blogs, blogs, blogs: amazing food write ups, activities, and other things that are The Real Seoul.

But first, before all that, I want you to know me. Where I come from, how I got here, all that. So let’s do this!

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My name is Michael Hollifield. I’m 33 (34 in just two weeks to the day). My last home in America was Atlanta, GA, but I grew up in Spartanburg, SC. I moved here in August 2011 on a whim. I was previously working in marketing in and loved it. But, I worked for a small business and was laid off. It was a perfect time as my apartment lease also ended. I searched around the world for teaching jobs.

Did I care about teaching? Absolutely not. I just wanted to live in a new country. In all my search, it turned out that my friend’s co-worker previously worked at the same academy in Korea that wanted to interview me.

I moved to the suburbs of Seoul and worked at a kindergarten and elementary school English academy for three years. It was hard, I busted my ass, but every day I loved life here more and more.

In 2014, I moved to Seoul for a change of pace. I lived in Itaewon, studied Korean, and prepared to apply for business school by taking the GMAT.  I got another teaching job. Unfortunately, after two years of trying, the business school plan was not meant to be.

As I stayed here year after year, I realized that I needed more than teaching. That I really wanted to make Korea my forever home.  So, I started the process to become a true resident of Korea and get a residency visa that allows complete freedom and independence.  More on that later.

So here I am, residency visa in hand. It’s fresh, too, from August! I’m still teaching by day, but I’m focusing more and more on this website and business every day.  Once I realllllllly get going, say in one year, I hope to make this my permanent full time job and say goodbye to teaching!

I currently live and work in Gangnam. Yes, that Gangnam. I LOVE my neighborhood. Not for Gangnam Style, not for fanciness. But it’s the best damn neighborhood in Seoul. I can live cheaply, eat cheaply…. and have the best transportation options, cleanest streets and quality infrastructure at the same time! I can’t wait to show off my neighborhood to you.

Oh and since you might have come here for Gay Nightlife info….yes, I’m totally gay. Living with, obviously, a Korean boyfriend! We definitely still go out to the gay bars and I absolutely can show you a great time there.

It is my goal that you love Seoul as much as I do in the short time you are here. That I can share with you what I love and what Koreans are so damn proud of. That you can love soju as much as I love soju.