I'm sorry. I already know this kind of post is a little lame, but I just have to say.... I'm a Texan. And, although I lived in New York for six winters before I came to Korea, it's safe to say it's a pretty different ballgame. I've had to learn how to cope. I still am. So.... for all of you who are not mid-January t shirt wearing Canadians, here are some things that have made my winter life in Korea a lot easier. Only nine. Because top ten lists are just annoying, right?
Everyone knows that ondol is drying as fuck. And the air outside isn't much better. My first winter in Korea saw me sitting on a train between two of my Western male friends listening to them swap moisturizing tips. Because they were becoming girly boys? No. Because their fucking face skin was peeling off. They had no choice.
A humidifier is not really an optional luxury here, in the winter. It's pretty much a necessity, and it will help not only with your reptilian skin situations, but also with your dry throats, irritated lungs and inflamed sinus cavities. We're (mostly) teachers, and our voices take enough of a beating on a daily basis. Sleeping next to a humidifier can do wonders to keep you from gagging at the front of the classroom for ten straight minutes, while your students stare at you in awe and wait for you to continue the 'listen and repeat'.
2. Sleeping masks.
See afore mentioned reptile reference. Everyone knows about moisturizer, but something I've only recently discovered is the wonder of sleeping masks. They're like heavy duty industrial strength moisturizer that you can apply before you go to bed and wash off in the morning. Since I started using one, I don't have to reapply moisturizer several times throughout the day. Once in the morning is enough. Of course, we're not into the razor sharp icy winds portion of the season yet, so we'll see how it holds up.
Boys, don't get goosey about it. No one here is going to judge you.
3. 현미녹차 -- brown rice green tea.
Dirt cheap; available everywhere. I keep a box on my desk at work and just steadily drink it all day every day to help with the cold hands created by insufficient office heating, while also keeping my throat in tact for teaching. You may have come around to the mix coffee, but nobody wants to suck that shit down all day.
4. Fleece lined tights.
Again, guys.... just calm down. They're worth it. I promise. And you can buy them in a manly package designed for men. In fact, I buy the men's version for wearing around the house under my sweat pants, because they're longer and a bit thicker than what's available for women. They're all over the place at the marts right now, available in a wide variety of colors, including dark brown, dark gray and black. Well. They're not very fashionable, okay? But they're warm as fuck. Warmer than pants, in fact. And you can't tell the difference without feeling them.
5. Big ass circle scarf.
Yes, those huge long thick knit scarves that are showing up all over the place this winter look appealing. But what the fuck are you going to do with that thing once you make inside the crowded coffee shop, bar or restaurant? Give it its own seat? Let it dangle over the back of the chair, soaking up spilled beer off the floor?
The best thing about a circle scarf is that, once you take it off from around your neck, you can just slip it over either shoulder and turn it into a wrap to keep a little warmer inside without your coat on. And if it starts to snow and you're caught without an umbrella, you can pull it up over your head to cover your hair.
I'm still not very good at dressing for winter -- there's always something I don't think about. But my 20,000 won circle scarf from Homeplus has seen me through a lot of situations.
6. Down comforter.
I honestly didn't even know you could get these so easily in Korea. The Korean bedding shops are great, and all, but I've missed having a big puffy homestyle blanket. I should've just checked the back of the housing section at Homeplus, though, because there they were: a range of plain white comforters of different sizes and qualities for decent prices.
7. A low table and floor cushion.
I'm sorry. I'm going to say it. When winter comes around, I move to the floor in my home. Sitting (or sleeping) directly on the floor can help you keep your energy costs way down, while also staying warmer. When you're literally on top of the heat source, you don't have to turn it up nearly as high.
8. My toaster oven.
Last winter, my mothers' class hauled me down to the local recycle (second-hand) shop and battered the helpless ajeosshi into giving me a lightweight, small toaster oven for 25,000 won. It's small, but gets the job done. Being able to bake cakes and cookies and homemade breads and loaves, as well as pasta dishes, meat, vegetables.... it's all pretty important this time of year. And it's light enough to carry to school to use for projects during winter camp, as well.
If you don't want to buy an oven, then do some reading up on what your rice cooker can really do, including acting as a slow cooker for meat stews, cooking pasta dishes, or even making breads and cakes.
If you do get an oven, and need a lot of other stuff to go with it, Claretea just recently let me know about the baker's market in Jongno. But you'd be surprised how much you can find in the homeware section of your mart these days.
9. 편의점 snack sausages.
What? Not for eating. For your smart phone. Here. Seriously though. Don't eat them.