The Search for Kim, Mee Hwa

Reading through my file again (that fortunately my parents requested when I was younger before the law changed) I noticed that my birth mother had left her actual name; for some reason that had never clicked with me before.

Recently I asked for a copy of my file to be sent to me from my adoption agency but it just contained all the information that I already had; they had removed all the papers that explained more about my birth mother’s history (again they can’t share this information anymore due to the new law), and they had deleted their names from the file (luckily I already had them. Thanks mum and dad!) The laws surrounding adoption have changed in Korea and now biological parents names are blacked out from your file; you are not allowed to know them. Like so many other adoption laws, this was done to protect the birth parents. Shame no body thinks about the adopted children; who has our best interests at heart?

In the majority of cases, birth mothers left a fake name so I am not even really sure this is actually her name. Steve always tells me though that if she is anything like me, then she would have had the heart and integrity to leave her real name.

I have spent hours searching these names on Facebook. Holding up profile photos next to my face and asking Steve ‘does she look like me?’ or ‘maybe this is her?’ It’s become somewhat of a game. Sometimes I will just pick a random person and ask Steve just to see what he responds.

‘Does she look like me?’

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But jokes aside, Mee Hwa Kim is only 46 years old, she could be very well on Facebook, right?

The search so far has been far from easy. It’s taken nearly a year to get where I am now and I am none the wiser as to the whereabouts of Mee Hwa Kim. As I was adopted in to Australia through Eastern Child Welfare Society, I had to go through the Australian Government to complete all my paperwork and kickstart the birth family search. Having this middle man has proved extremely time costly and very ineffective – but hey, that’s the law. We Aussie adoptees have it the worst so I learned at the IKAA conference; everyone else can just go directly to their adoption agency to start a birth family search. Due to the fact that my parents moved around a lot within Australia (Melbourne, Perth and Sydney), it took 6 months for the Government to actually locate my Order of Adoption. It was supposed to be in the state of Victoria as my parents were living in Melbourne at the time, but they didn’t have it. I was then re-directed to Western Australia where they eventually found my record. More annoying was the fact that each state has their own paperwork – I can’t tell you how many forms I have filled out over the past year! In order to see my file or obtain any information about my adoption I must go through this process. When my adoption agency in Korea successfully receives my application/request for information, then there is another 3-6 month waiting list for them to begin a birth family search. My record and file then gets to sent to Korean Adoption Services which is a Government affiliated organisation and they will try and match the names with the most recent address for both my birth parents. This can also take between 3-6 months.#thestruggleisreal.

For the last 3 months, whenever I chased up my adoption agency on the whereabouts of my request, my emails would go unanswered for weeks, or they would just tell me to speak to the Australian Government again. A mentor at the IKAA conference said ‘Maree, you need to stop being British about this and go Korean on their ass! Demand to get your file and for them to start the search!’ So that’s what I did. After numerous emails back and forth with my adoption agency and social worker, another lot of paperwork, and me telling them that I plan on going to their office and demanding to know what’s happened if they don’t reply, I finally received confirmation today that my file has been sent to Korean Adoption Services – the last step in this drawn out process.

I’ve been told many times that as I have a lot of details like dates, names etc that my search shouldn’t take that long and should be relatively easy. Korean Adoption Services will try and find the last recorded address for my birth parents (using the names that they left at my adoption agency) and send them a message informing them that I wish to get in touch. They will send a translated version of the letter I wrote for my birth mother which is on my blog. They will also send a photo (I sent my wedding photo). So we shall see; for now all there is to do is wait.

So what have I learned from all of this? I don’t think the Korean adoption agencies were prepared for the influx of returning adoptees, demanding to know their history. At the time, they just wanted to get us babies shipped off to our new homes as soon as possible. This led to shoddy records, poor documentation and ultimately huge knowledge gaps in the lives of adoptees. Little did they know that we would all come back to our motherland demanding to know our past and how we came to be. I learned at the IKAA conference that upon relinquishment, most birth mothers were told ‘you will never hear from them again so do not try and get in contact’ – they wanted the process to be seamless and clean. Many adoptees I have spoken with said that when they did eventually meet their birth parents; what was on their file was so far from the truth.

To anyone going through the same thing my advice would be:

  • Each adoptive country, agency etc has their own paperwork, rules and process. Whilst the Australian process is notoriously known to be long, I have also spoken with adoptees who’s agencies were extremely helpful, kept meticulous records and found their birth parents within a few months. I guess it’s luck of the draw. Where possible insist that you speak directly to your adoption agency or orphanage. Do all the paperwork and whatever is asked of you throughout the process – things are very bureaucratic here so unless you have filled out the required documentation, no one will help you. Even if that means filling out the same form three times!
  • That being said do be realistic about your search. Know that it’s going to be hard. Bear in mind that some say the success rate is only 15%. Do the search in your own time. When I became overwhelmed with it all, I took a break from it for a couple months before Steve or my mum or dad would gently remind me that I had yet another form to fill out and the ball was still in my court.
  • Try to understand your birth mother’s situation. The culture here in Korea is still very against teenage pregnancy and single mothers. Until recently adultery was illegal and so finding out your partner had a child years ago that she relinquished can in some cases be grounds for divorce.
  • Be pushy, but polite! I was writing my emails to my adoption agency like this: ‘If it’s not too much trouble, it would be really helpful to have a copy of my file or as much information as you can give me. If you could I would really appreciate it’. Time to be direct! ‘Please send through a copy of my file as soon as possible.’ Done. Not only did I find that they responded more to this but nothing gets lost in translation.
  • Reach out to an agency like GOAL (Global Overseas Adoption Link). They have a birth family search team that help adoptees – https://www.goal.or.kr. I really admire the work that GOAL does and recently became a member of them (I would encourage you to do the same). They help adoptees returning to Korea, conduct birth family searches, Korean language scholarships, mentor program and provide a lot of mental health help and resources. It is actually run by Korean adoptees so there is a definite understanding of what you’re going through. I have also sent my file to them to do a separate birth family search incase their process is quicker.
  • Speak to someone! Speak to your friends, speak to a mentor, reach out to other adoptees. I thought it was just me that was going through this but then I met more Australian adoptees equally frustrated with the system. Or reach out to me – I’m always happy to help. Above all, when possible, speak to your mum and dad. I find it really sad when I hear that adoptees feel they can’t talk to their parents about their birth family search in fear of making them feel threatened. I know I am extremely lucky to have parents that are so open about my adoption and I do not take that for granted. Together with Steve, they have been my biggest support and fighters throughout this. There have been times where I just thought ‘I can’t be bothered anymore with this search’. They have been the ones to pick me up, dig out all my papers and insist I keep going. That resilience, I know, is something I get from both of them.

 

Skinfood

SKINFOOD Haul

Last week I went in to the Skinfood in Garosugil to get a tub of my favourite scrub and ended up coming away with a whole bag of goodies. Story of my life. SKINFOOD prides itself on using natural ingredients in their skincare and make up ranges and is very popular in Korea. They have numerous lines focusing on the beneficial properties of a particular ingredient, i.e. broccoli, peach, salmon, tomato and many more. This brand couldn’t be any more up my street. Food for your skin? Sold.

I’ve been using the Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash off for a few years now as my exfoliator of choice and absolutely love it. In this Seoul heat, it’s been great at keeping my skin fresh and smooth. It is probably their bestselling product and reminds me a lot of the Fresh Brown Sugar Scrub (but at a fraction of the price!) You are supposed to use it as a mask (leave it on your face for 10-15 minutes) then wash off but I just use it as my exfoliator twice a week. The scrub smells heavenly, a little bit citrus-like and because the sugar dissolves when mixed with water, it does the job whilst not being too abrasive for your skin. WIN. There are other scrubs within this range like the strawberry and rice but I always come back to the Black Sugar one.

Another product I bought was the Peach Sake Silky Finish Powder. A lot of Korean beauty bloggers have been raving about this on social media and many of the SKINFOOD shops I went in to, it was sold out! But I finally found it and had to buy it. I have been a loyal user of the Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder for years so was intrigued by this one. First of all, the packing is so sweet and the puff it comes with is really good quality.

The Peach Sake Silky Finish Powder is essentially a make up setting/sebum reducing powder that keeps your BB Cream/Foundation in place and creates that flawless finish to your make up. It is comparable to the Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Powder. You only need to use a little bit and I tend to only use it on my t-zone. If you use a lot you will look like a ghost in photos! It is incredibly lightweight and easy to use and helps keep your make up in place throughout the day and evening – essential in this Seoul heat! I forgot to set my make up with it the other day and definitely noticed the difference.

The best thing about this product is the smell. God bless Korean beauty products – I always find they have this unique, fresh scent to them that I absolutely love. There have been mornings where whilst doing my make up, I’ve just shoved my nose in this powder because of the smell (although white powder around your nose is not a good look so I wouldn’t recommend that!) But seriously, the smell is so lovely.

The next product I got was a similar cult product here in South Korea and that is the Salmon Dark Circle ConcealerNow I know what you’re thinking. SALMON concealer?! But like I mentioned in my post ‘What’s the deal with K-beauty?’ Koreans are the best at skincare innovation and sourcing all the latest ingredients to utilise in their products. This little concealer contains Norwegian salmon oil that is said to have anti-aging properties (salmon oil contains over 18% of Omega-3 fatty acid DHA and EPA) therefore it helps boost your skin with lots of nutrients. It also contains the salmon roe which is, again, full of nutrients as well like retinol and Vitamin E. I don’t tend to get dark circles under my eyes but I like the idea of using this concealer to brighten up that area nonetheless. I have used many concealers before and I always find that they either look a bit cakey or show up fine lines and creases. Not this bad boy. This concealer blends so easily and really brightens up the under eye area. It doesn’t feel drying at all and is very lightweight. I will just dab my ring finger in the little tub and gently dab under my eye area for an instant pick-me-up. The only downside is that it doesn’t smell of anything (though this is a benefit for some people, I just like my products to smell pretty!) But it doesn’t smell like fish though in case you’re wondering!

On to the next product. Another product from the Black Sugar range is the Black Sugar Perfect First Serum. This serum comes in two varieties – normal (for dry skin) and light (for combination to oily skin). As you can see I opted for the light version. Again this product is very popular here in South Korea and they actually had a promotion on at the Skinfood store I went to in Hongdae – for 16,000 won (around £10) I got a big bottle of the serum, 2 deluxe sample sizes of the serum and a box of their high quality cotton pads. This bottle is going to last me a really long time as you only need a few drops of this serum.

For the past two years I’ve been using the Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum but was interested to give this one a try due to its popularity. I have been using this now for about a week and whilst I like it, it’s not blown me away. I pour a few drops of the product in the palms of my hands, rub together and pat gently on my skin before applying my moisturiser. It has a more watery consistency compared to the green tea seed serum by Innisfree; the first time I used it, it completely seeped in to my hands! I personally prefer a thicker, gel like consistency for my serum. It does feel very nourishing and I have noticed my complexion improving over the past week although I’m not sure I can attribute that directly to this product. Perhaps I need to keep using this in order to see the benefit longer term. Another point to make about this product is that I found it quite scentless which I didn’t like. The one thing I love about the green tea seed serum is the fresh smell – it makes me want to put it on my skin. This serum, for me, just felt a bit ‘meh’ but I know that there are thousands out there who beg to differ.

Too Cool for School Black Sugar Perfect First Serum

Finally at the checkout, I purchased two items – the Miracle Food 10 Solution Eye Patch and Mask Sheet and the Egg White Perfect Nose Kit. I’ve tried the Miracle Food 10 cream before so thought I would give the mask sheet a go – you can never have too many sheet masks, right? The three-step nose pore pack I wanted to try because so far none of them have blown me away – I’ve tried the Innisfree and Etude House blackhead packs but wasn’t too impressed by either. I have heard that the Holika Holika Pig Nose Blackhead Kit is the best so will have to try that soon!

The great thing about beauty shopping in Korea is the free samples. Pretty much every store will give you free samples with every purchase. And I am a sample JUNKIE! I have boxes upon boxes of samples, I love them. The lady at SKINFOOD was super nice and gave me a bunch of stuff to try. I got:

  • A full size tub of the Aloe Vera Soothing Gel. This is supposed to be a great lightweight everyday moisturiser (although it would be great on sunburn). Nature Republic have their cult aloe gel which all the other Korean beauty brands followed so interested to try the SKINFOOD one.
  • Lettuce and Cucumber emulsion and essence sample.
  • Another box of the cotton pads
  • 2 x Watermelon face mask pack
  • 3 x Waterbury Ampoule and Cream samples
  • 2 x Fresh Apple essence samples
  • 3 x Royal Honey Essential Queen’s cream
  • 2 x Black Sugar Perfect First Serum (included in my full size purchase)

Too Cool for School Samples

That’s it for this haul. I’ve got an Etude House, Innisfree, Banila Co and Too Cool for School haul coming up as well. If you’re in to K-Beauty let me know what your favourite SKINFOOD products are so I can try them out 🙂

Life in Seoul – Week 1

Having finally settled in to our flat I finally have time to write about our first week in Seoul and also about the IKAA conference.

In the lead up to leaving the UK I was beyond excited; I could not wait to get here. I didn’t feel nervous or apprehensive, I was like a little kid on Christmas Eve. So excited was I that I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight over. I listened to KPOP, I learned the Korean alphabet hangeul, I watched a K-drama and I put on an Innisfree face mask – I did anything I possibly could that was Korean to prepare me for my arrival in Seoul (eh hem *GEEK*).

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We landed at Incheon Airport on a hazy Saturday at around 2:30pm in the afternoon. As soon as the airplane door opened and I stepped outside, an overwhelming waft of humidity greeted me. I started to panic. ‘What the heck am I doing here? I don’t even speak the language’ was the first thought that came to mind. I felt totally unprepared. An old man barged past me in the doorway, jolting me back to reality.

Queueing for immigration, the first two thoughts that entered my mind were:

1.) everyone is very pale here compared to me

2.) Koreans do not queue. A girl in stilettos barged past me in the queue, smirked and tottered in front of me and I was so angry I wanted to ram my suitcase in to her heels (but I didn’t). Must be the British in me. We love an orderly queue.

We got the Korean Air Limousine bus to our hotel – the Lotte hotel in Myeongdong. The hotel was incredible and we, as adoptees, were lucky enough to get a substantial discount at this hotel (otherwise there was no way we would have been able to afford it!) The hotel also has THE most incredible food court. God help me, I love a food court.

Determined to stay awake, we immediately met up with our good friends; the only other British Korean adoptee to join the IKAA conference! We had some yummy street food in Myeongdong then went to a cocktail bar for a few drinks. And that’s when I started to crash. We went back to the hotel proud of ourselves for staying awake until 11pm and hoping this would see us through until morning. We were wrong.

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Last time we were in Korea it took us a week to get over the jet lag – this time it was exactly the same. We tried everything we could; we had a little nap, then tried staying awake till late hoping we would sleep in until morning. Didn’t work. So we didn’t nap and stayed awake all day until 12pm hoping to sleep until morning. Didn’t work either. We went to the gym hoping to knacker ourselves out. Didn’t work. We went on a big night out and drank soju shots until 4am hoping we would sleep in until mid-morning. Still didn’t work. Fortunately we had a few days to kill before the conference started to get over the jet lag which was predominantly spent exploring Myeongdong, eating, and complaining about our lack of sleep.

 IKAA (International Korean Adoptee Association) Gathering 2016

The conference is held every 3 years and is a gathering of 500+ adoptees from all over the world. The week consists of a mixture of social activities, culture sessions, workshops and presentations on various topics relating to adoption. This year the theme of the gathering was ‘Connecting Communities and Looking Towards the Future’.

IMG_1805Despite the large number of adoptees present, it was at times quite difficult to meet people. Many were in ‘adoptee clubs’ back in their home country and therefore a lot knew each other prior to the conference and stuck together throughout. Steve and I sat at a table a couple times to be told ‘sorry this is reserved for the [enter club] adoptees’. It was a bit like being back at high school!

That, or you would have a fleeting conversation with someone over breakfast only to never see them again throughout the whole conference. An exception to this was a wonderful couple we met from Washington. We sat with them for breakfast on the Tuesday and had both signed up to the tour that was planned for that morning. We both headed over to the meeting point at 9:30am… only be told that the tour had changed to 9am and the bus had already left! Unperturbed we decided to do our own tour of Seoul and hopped in a taxi (take that, bus wankers) to Gyeongbukgung Palace to witness the changing of the guard. Steve forgot to put on sunscreen so he copied all the other Koreans and got a brolly out 😂

Korean War Memorial

We then took a taxi to the Korean War Memorial which is a huge museum detailing the military history of Korea, in particular, the Korean War. This museum is massive (allegedly 20,000 m2) and took us a good few hours to get around. Exhibits range from the Three kingdoms in the early part of last millennia, invasions from Mongol and Japan in the middle ages, through to the modern age including, the big crowd puller, the Korean War.   The Korean war section in particular is curated perfectly (albeit relatively biased) and is a very engaging experience. The museum is free entry but donations are welcome and is a must see. Korea has had such a sad history and actually listening to the video clips and stories does make you understand the modern Korean mentality of pride, hard work and sense of achievement to pull itself out of hardship and shield itself from vulnerability.

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KBO Baseball Game, Jamsil Baseball Stadium

We called our tour a day after the war museum and headed back to the Lotte Hotel for a quick nap before the baseball game. For those don’t know, baseball is huge in South Korea; they practically consider it a national sport. The majority of teams, rather than being named after cities are named after businesses or conglomerates like Samsung, KIA etc. The game we saw was between Doosan Bears and LG Twins (both Seoul based teams that actually share the same stadium in Jamsil). Baseball games in South Korea are somewhat of a spectacle. Fans sing loudly the numerous chants of their club (many of which were to Lady Gaga songs which I didn’t quite understand). There are girls dancing on podiums like KPOP bands encouraging the crowd to partake. Spectators bring in Korean Fried Chicken and lots of soju and beer to drink throughout the (very long) game. Baseball in Korea is very good value for money with seats in the outfield starting for as little as 7,000 won ($7) going up to 20,000 ($20) won to be sat in the chanting section! Most games you can simply turn up on the day and pick up tickets but it gets busier at weekends and public holidays. For end of season crunch fixtures, booking in advance is recommended.

With LG Twins being marginally up in the 4th inning (and this was after 3 hours), we figured we had experienced enough and went to Itaewon for some drinks with some other Korean adoptees.

Feeling the Seoul Heat

The next day was the hottest day in Seoul so far this year. Even Koreans were complaining about the heat (so imagine how we felt). The humidity here is unbearable. You know that desired Korean skin glow that you hear about?

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Well let me tell you something, that glow is just SWEAT. I now see why it’s so achievable here. Trust me, if you lived here, you would have it too. I’m fairly sure the Koreans had to think of a way to describe this sweat in a desirable way and therefore have marketed it as the infamous ‘Korean glow’!

We had signed up to the ‘Amazing Race’ which was like a treasure hunt around Seoul. Each team was given a list of tasks to do/things to find throughout Seoul and record them. We had to complete as many of the tasks as possible before 2:30pm. It seemed a fun idea at the time… when we naively signed up….in England. Despite the heat, we decided to go through with it and were lucky enough to have a fun group of other like-minded adoptees. None of us we were in it to win it, we just wanted to shelter in the air con and eat cold noodles! We completed 6 out of the 10 tasks which as far I was concerned was pretty good considering it was 36 degrees with 90% humidity. One guy on our team said ‘I went to the Amazon rainforest last year during the summertime. This is far worse!’ Splendid. Many companies here hand out fans on the streets advertising their latest product or service. I saw a woman handing out fans in Myeongdong, grabbed one and started to fan myself down. Only to realise that on the fan was WONDERBRA written in huge yellow letters. Sod it, I didn’t care.

Whilst we were melting in the Seoul heat, the other half of the adoptees at the conference were wise and stayed in the air-conditioned hotel watching films on adoption. Fortunately I had seen all three films before – AKA Dan, Approved for Adoption and Twinsters. AKA Dan can be watched on YouTube. He was there at the conference and gave a Q&A on his documentary film series which is about how he found his twin brother who was still in South Korea and was not adopted. The second film ‘Approved for Adoption’, is a French animation film (Couleur de peau: Miel). It tells the story of Jung, a South Korean orphan who was adopted in to a family in Belgium and describes his childhood being stranded between two cultures. The memoir uses a mixture of archival film and animation and it is just heartbreakingly wonderful. Please watch it, it is simply incredible.The third film Twinsters is on Netflix and is also good. It’s about a set of twins (duh), one who was adopted in to America and one who was adopted in to France and how they came to find each other. I think I’ve told most of my close friends to watch this!

10 Things I’ve Learned about South Korea

In the first few weeks of being here I’ve already learned a lot about my motherland. Some facts are quirky and others are just darn right impressive. Here are 10 facts I’ve learned about South Korea – I am from a weird and wonderful nation.

1. North and South Korea are still at war

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Officially the Korean war has never ended. In the 1950’s, the Korean war conflict lasted 3 years before both sides signed a ceasefire. The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches 2.5 miles wide and 152 miles from the East Sea to the Yellow Sea. Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, upon visiting the DMZ described it as the ‘scariest place on Earth’. Having visited there, I agree!

2. Blood types are a big deal

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At birth, South Koreans are classified according to their blood type which is very important in Korean culture. People here believe that your blood type determines your personality (similar to zodiac signs in the Western world). The idea of bloodlines is very strong in Korean culture and even extends to compatibility – a Korean film was even made about it ‘My Boyfriend is Type B!’

3. Plastic Surgery is very common

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Plastic Surgery is extremely common in South Korea and highly praised. There are advertisements on the television, on the subway, leaflets will be handed out to you on the street. It is estimated that between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 women in Seoul have gone under the knife for at least one cosmetic procedure – double eye lid surgery, nose job and v-line surgery being the most popular. It is rumoured that many wealthy South Koreans receive the double eye-lid surgery for their sweet 16th birthday or as a graduation present. Whilst many Asian women are deemed attractive in the West, here they want to look as caucasian as possible with whiter skin, a higher nose, rounder eyes and a smaller chin. Following surgeries, many will be praised by colleagues, family and friends on their new look. Plastic surgery is quite cheap here in Seoul and goes under the guise of ‘medical tourism’. This helps make it one of the biggest players in plastic surgery in the world with many foreigners flying to Seoul each year on a medical tourism package deal. (I have a lot of strong feelings and experiences about this which I will talk about in another post.)

4. Say Kimchi!

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When having your photo taken, we say ‘kimchi’ instead of ‘cheese!’

*Enough said*

5. Koreans can DRINK

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I thought I could drink. Until I moved here. Korea’s national drink soju (which is a mere £1 in 711) is the best selling liquor in the world for the 11th year in a row! It outsold vodka which came in second (and by a considerable amount!) South Koreans also hold another impressive record – we top the list worldwide in terms of liquor consumption. Forget those hard Russians shotting their vodka, South Koreans drink roughly 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average which is the most in the world. Out of 44 countries analysed by Euromonitor, no one even came close to us. Russia was second with a measly 6.3 shots per week. See guys, it’s in my genes!

6. Poop fascinates us

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I don’t know the background to this but Koreans seem obsessed with poop. Turd shaped waffles are common, there’s a poop themed cafe where you sit on toilets, there are poop keychains and I hear there is an entire museum entirely devoted to poo. Whilst we are on this poop theme, the toilets here are also ridiculously complicated. There are often several types of bidets, a spray, a bidet and a horrifying jet steam that seems to go up your bum that quite frankly scares the living daylight out of me (I believe it is an enema button). There is a button to warm you toilet seat, background music should you wish to drown out your poop noises and a massage button.

7. Beware of the deadly fan!

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Stories dating back to the 1930’s started this misconception but many Koreans believe that if you leave the fan on during the night, there’s a high chance you will never wake up. Or if you leave the electric fan on when there are no windows, it will be game over.

8. You are age 1 when you are born.

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9. South Korea is the world’s most wired up nation

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We have the world’s fastest wireless speeds on the planet here in South Korea. In fact, the wireless on the subway here is 3 times faster than our flat in London. Upload speed is 25 times faster as well. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop with 95 mbps download speed per second. No more waiting for movies to download or buffering, the average download speed here is nearly three times the average of second fastest Hong Kong. Everywhere you go, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping malls, subway you will also find fast wifi.

10. No matter where you are or what time is it there are always food options*

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Walking down the street I am amazed there are so many places to eat. Seoul is a mecca for foodies. When we were jet lagged and wide awake at 4am, we just walked down the street to one of the most famous restaurants here in Seoul and had some delicious ox bone soup. Back home after a night out, the options for ‘drunk food’ are fairly limited to Chicken Cottage or a dodgy kebab but not here in Seoul. Many places stay open at all hours and operate 24/7 delivery service. Need a Mc Donalds at 4am after a long session? No problem, it’ll be there before you know it. In a park and fancy some fried chicken? Not an issue, a man on a motorbike will come to wherever you are in the park and give you your KFC (Korean Fried Chicken).

*this one makes me so happy

Settling in to Seoul

We’ve arrived! It has been a whirlwind of a week but here is a sneak peek of what we’ve been up to.

It took us a while to get over the jet lag and the week long International Korean Adoptee Association conference (IKAA) was quite tiring – but amazing! We moved in to our flat a few days ago and finally have had time to upload some footage of our first week here.

More to come!

What’s the deal with K-beauty?

Many people have said it before but hands down Korea nails it in the beauty department. Most people know Korean skincare to be about the 10-step regimen (more on that later) but let’s be honest – who has time for that shizz. Korean Beauty (or K-beauty as it’s affectionately called by it’s fans) is about attaining and accentuating flawless, glowing skin, therefore minimising the need for heavy make up. Korean women, and also men (who spend more on skincare than any other nation), are obsessed with skincare and work hard to attain this ultimate beauty ideal (see I can’t help it guys, it’s in my genes).

The beauty industry in South Korea was valued at $11.6 billion last year and is expected to grow to $13.1 billion by 2020 according to Euromonitor. Furthermore, given the nationwide aspiration and dedication to skincare and beauty, the industry in South Korea is highly competitive; meaning companies strive to discover the next ‘it’ ingredient (snail extract anyone?), invest huge amounts in research and development whilst keeping prices competitive for the consumer (by competitive I mean super cheap by western standards). Such is the popularity and faith in K-beauty, experts estimate Korean skin care innovation is 12 years ahead of American and French counterparts. The first thing I noticed when I tried these products was that they actually did what it said on the tin – hurrah!

Anyone that knows me can confirm how crazy I am about beauty products. Be it hair, skin, face, make up I completely hold my hand up high and say I am obsessed. I have multiple boxes in the closet filled with bottles, sprays, tubs, creams, samples etc

* guilty as charged *

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When I went to Seoul two years ago I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice, quality, and products that were on offer. And for so cheap! I bought lots of goodies back to share with and show my friends – so excited was I over this revelation.

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For me it was also a link to my birth country; a link that I loved and a link that I knew something about. It may sound stupid, but in an alien land where I couldn’t forge a link to my culture through the usual means of language, people or customs – so be it, Korean beauty products it was. When I first visited Seoul, I was frustrated that I couldn’t speak the language, I didn’t take to kimchi, and I was tanned = I felt like the worst Korean ever. Shallow it may sound, but discovering K-beauty products was like dipping my first toe in the motherland pond. Years later I am still hooked.

Espoir Make up stylist