Seoul’s Got Soul

My wife, Lesley, is a flight attendant with United Airlines and every once in a while we get to take advantage of her benefits and do some traveling of our own. Last week we had an amazing time…my daughters and I tagged along on a trip she worked with a 3 day layover in Seoul, Korea. I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations, but it was a free trip so I figured, what the heck?

I have to say…Seoul was really, really fantastic. It’s a very dynamic, modern city. Just to begin, the airport is the most modern facility I’ve ever seen! It’s gorgeous! Everywhere we went was very upscale and affluent. We stayed at a large Marriott in the city that was the nicest inner city hotel I’ve ever been to. If you sat down in the rather enormous lobby a waitress greeted you and asked if you wanted food or drinks. Every one of them was wearing a floor length gown. That went for the lady bartenders as well. I’d say 75% of the people we saw were extremely well dressed. I was the only man wearing blue jeans for three days. Some other observations:

* There seems to be a cultural imperative for men, regardless of age,  to have their shoes shined at all times. I’ve never seen anything like it and it caused me to clean up my own act.

* The women, again regardless of age, were VERY well dressed, hair and makeup flawless and very, very stylish. It all reminded me of what it was like here when I was a kid. Everybody dressed well.

* Young teenage girls like a sort of unusual fashion accessory…they all seem to wear eyeglasses. We saw several large groups of young girls all of whom had glasses on and at first we thought Koreans all had vision issues…until we saw some girls buying frames with clear plastic lenses at some street kiosks we walked by. Sort of funny…it’s cool in Seoul to wear glasses.

* The subway was the cleanest public transportation I’ve ever seen. I thought these trains were just put into service last night! Spotless floors and walls. The seats, which appeared to be velvet (couldn’t be, right?) were spotless. No stains or marks of any kind. There’s 9 lines that crisscross central Seould…9! SF has one BART line under market street. Some of the lines had to be 300 feet underground requiring 2 separate escalator rides to get to them.

* I’m really not sure why this is, but there didn’t seem to be any trash on the streets anywhere. There also were very few trash cans! I couldn’t really figure that out…I guess people simply hold on to their trash until they get home or to work? When I bought a coffee  and carried it out I would always seem to hold onto it forever until I found a trash can to dispose of the cup in. Again…there’s no trash on the streets anywhere.

I love traveling like this…and I also love discovering just how much we have to learn from other cultures!

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