Q: What are summer’s in Korea really like?
Korean summers are HUMID and RAINY. Temperature wise it’s not very hot, in my opinion. I think the highest it’s gotten to so far is in the 80’s (fahrenheit), but the humidity of it is NO JOKE. The moment you leave your house it’s like the water in the air envelopes arounds you and never lets go. When it’s not humid, it’s probably raining.
Koreans and foreigners alike die under the intensity of Korea’s summer heat, so I thought it would be a great idea to compile a list of things that I’ve noticed and started to do as I try to survive these months.
#1- Always have the fan or AC unit running.
Back in America, we have central cooling and heating systems that allow us to set the temperature to a certain degree and when it hit that degree it will automatically shut off. Here in Korea, room air conditioners are far more common.
These conditioners have to be manually shut off or they will keep blowing at the same temperature no matter how cold you get after a while. So either you snuggle under a blanket or you just run the fan. Since I didn’t grow up really using the air conditioner all the time back home, running the fan feels more comfortable to me than keeping the AC on 24/7. This works perfectly for when I had to go to school because the school building as well doesn’t run on central AC but room conditioners so I learned to get comfortable with the fan on or the windows open. I usually only turn on the AC when the kids are in the classroom or when it’s unbearably hot. I think Koreans prefer fan over AC as well because it’s always way warmer in the Korean teachers classrooms than it is in the foreigner teacher’s classrooms.
#2- Needing Portable Fans
I don’t like carrying things in my hands usually, so when I was told that I should probably invest into a portable fan, I wasn’t to thrilled at the idea. I tried to avoid it as much as I could but one day after buying some sunscreen and cleanser products from a makeup store, I ended up getting one for free. Even though it only provides very minimal, temporary comfort, it still feels good to feel cool air on a warm day. It’s pretty common to see people walking around with those in hand as well.
#3- Constant Use of Umbrellas
When it’s not humid, it’s raining. And I mean, it RAINS in the summer. Koreans have a word for it and I think translated its monsoon season, and during this time it just rains and rains and rains, like the sky is mourning over something. It rains so much, so irregularly, and so frequently that people just walk around with umbrellas because then never know where they are going to be when it will start to rain. I’ve been told that monsoon season usually only lasts for like a week and it gets intensely humid afterwards but this summer it’s rained pretty consistently for about a month straight this summer. I never used to walk around with an umbrella, but now I don’t leave the house without it. Those random rain scenes in Korean dramas are REAL, but far less romantic. 😒 This year, rain has been coming down in torrents and terrible flooding is occurring in certain areas. It’s alarming.
#4- New Food
Before coming here, I heard of this dish called “cold noodles” (냉면) that is commonly eaten in the summer. At first I was turned off to the idea of willingly eating my noodles cold in an icey broth, but after trying it for the first time, I got hooked. It was surprisingly good! I thought cold noodles would be crunchy or soggy and weird but it’s not. I’m not sure how they make it but it has great texture and preserves all the flavor of the noodles. I would definitely recommend everyone trying it.
Bingsu is another dish I love to eat. It’s like a premium snow cone. With real fruit or beans and ice crushed so finely that the bingsu melts into your mouth like fallen snow on a not so frozen ground. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever had. It can get a little on the sweet side, but it’s a nice delicacy to eat occasionally, you know, as a treat to yourself.
There is this one dish, that Koreans normally eat in the summer, called Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup (삼계탕)). It is something that is eaten on a day called 복날(buknal) and it’s a whole chicken that is cooked in a pot and eaten on one of the hottest days of summer. I’m not sure of the details of this tradition or anything, but I’m told it’s really good. So maybe, if you eat meat, you can give it a try.
I don’t think I had a chance to experience a real Korean summer yet, but these are some things that I noticed people did around me and ended up going myself because, why not? “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, right? If it makes living here easier, I’m down for it. The hardest thing for me to get used to as a teacher, is the short summer break that we have here. Granted it could be due to the fact that I’m working and no longer a student. 🧐 Who knows?
Anyway, those are some things that I’ve tried and ways that I’ve coped with Korean summers. Maybe next year it’ll be different.
Until next time,
See ya around, friend~~