Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Little Guide to the Rain in Seoul


I'm sure all of us know how to use an umbrella and get around their town in the rain. You look out for puddles and wear proper gear. But it seems surviving the rainy streets of Seoul, can add on a few more challenges. I've come to realize these nuances over the course of living here four years, and thought I would share them with you. Not as a way to complain about life here, but just to divulge my observances. Here we go...

1. Puddles and Splashes:
I've noticed quite often that puddles seem to accumulate on one side of a sidewalk. When this happens you of course want to avoid them, and so end up trying to steer around them. Generally, I have come to see that puddles are random throughout the walking experience, and some can be surprisingly deeper than others.

Splashes can occur if you walk really close to the edge of the sidewalk where it meets the road. People driving their cars don't seem to really notice the big splash they make when they glide past the side walk. This causes whoever is standing there to get a soaking that can occur from knee down, depending on your height. Because I've noticed other people getting soaked and heard tales from colleagues, I've learned to stay closer to the other edge of the sidewalk. In addition to this, you might want to stay a few feet behind the edge of the sidewalk when waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. Cars turning right certainly are closer to the edge and can't help but cause a splash.

2. Umbrella Etiquette:
In America, even when I lived in San Francisco, people tried their best to give you and your umbrella room. It's a tricky thing to walk down a crowded street with an umbrella hovering above your head that makes the width of you more round. Ever since living in Korea I have experienced the daunting challenge of trying not to get bashed in by other folk's umbrellas. I don't think they mean it intentionally, but people here certainly don't try to avoid you and your umbrella. Now, this is not all the time, as I do experience the occasional dodging of each other's umbrella.

But the typical case is that your umbrella will bump with others and you can sometimes be hit on the shoulder or head by the edge of them. Certainly, it's tricky business to have lots of people get through a crowded and narrow sidewalk, with umbrellas in hand and not have a few collisions.

My advice is to be hyper aware and cautious. Also think about your height and in this case I find being shorter than most people here to my advantage. I can just lower my umbrella a little and glide underneath everyone.

3. Footwear:
In the past year or so fancy-rain-footwear has become more prevalent in these parts. I'm talking about rain boots.
The fashion ladies of Seoul would probably have a hard time walking down the drenching streets in heels. So I think they have turned to cute or fashionable rain boots. I for one am starting to feel interested in getting my own pair.

Otherwise, it seems difficult to figure out a pair of shoes that will get you through the day without your feet getting soaked. It's not just the rain that falls down on them, the general sidewalk ends up being it's own mini-splash zone.  When it rains in the heat of the summer I usually just truck by, wearing sandals and dry off my feet once inside.

4. Bus and Taxi Embarking and Exiting:
As with the challenging umbrella dodging, getting on or off a bus can be tricky as well. As you know, busses in Korea don't wait for you to take your time folding up your umbrella or getting it ready for when you want to get off. You have to be quick, no matter what the weather is like. This means you often get a little soaked entering a bus or exiting it.

What I find also happens is that if you walk past a bus stop, and there happens to be a bus unloading people. That those people will pop open their umbrellas in your direction. So watch out!

Also I could add how it's tricky to keep your soaked umbrella from touching yourself or others while clinging on to the bus or train. Thankfully some places you visit along the way have plastic covers.

Let's hope the rain this summer won't be as drenching as last years (seen above). When no matter what umbrella or shoes you wore made a difference. However, I'm thinking Seoul is very prepared now just in case this happens again. 

Rain, Rain...go away...or stay...or linger...

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