South Korea, the land of kimchi. You will get it served at every restaurant together with a spicy noodle soup. Everything is spicy, which takes a bit getting used to for a Swede that usually season the food with only salt and pepper. However, there are some non-spicy, very delicious foods that I have tried during my stay here, gimbap (Korean sushi roll), mandu (dumplings), Korean pancake and Korean BBQ to mention a few.
I have stayed in Korea for about 2 months now. I am a visiting scholar at the Sustainable Building Research Center at Hanyang University ERICA Campus in Ansan. I am working on my PhD project focusing on Sustainable Construction from a Life Cycle Perspective.
How would I explain Ansan? According to Wikipedia Ansan has a population of about 700 000, a little bit bigger than Gothenburg. However, you do not really get the feeling of a big city, because the city is quite spread out with several small city centers. If you ever visit, I would recommend getting of the tram at Ansan station, wander around these multicultural streets, and visit the market. You will find food from all over the world, fresh bread and vegetables to a fair prize.
Working at a Korean office is a bit different from a Swedish office. Coffee brakes, which is holy in Sweden, does not exist. I am doing my best to introduce at least morning fika, or pika as the Koreans pronounce it. Yesterday we had Västerbotten cheese and dried reindeer together with crackers and apple jam for morning fika. My colleagues really enjoyed it and we actually sat down together for 20 minutes chatting. We do not even sit chatting during lunch, it is more focus on eating and when the last person puts the last bit of food into their mouth everyone gets up to leave.
In general, it is a stressful environment working at a Korean office with high requirements on performance and availability. I have pondered over the Swedish fika culture and our one-hour lunch sit-downs where we discuss personal and work related topics, and compared it to my Korean office experience. Of course, I will not understand the Korean office culture perfectly in just 2 months and I do not speak their language, which is an obstacle for chatting. But I really miss the Swedish fika/chatting breaks. A selection of non-scientific sources says that a fika break makes us more efficient, innovative and happy and I can recognize this. I will continue my mission to leave a legacy of fika breaks when I leave the Sustainable Building Research Center office in July.