Yesterday was a social day, meeting two of my old language partners. The first for 샤부샤부 lunch, the second in the afternoon and for 삼겹살 dinner in another part of Seoul.
The lunch place was the first I have ever been to where I had to take off my shoes. Look at the difference between my pair of sandals bought in Italy and those bought in Korea. Which ones are easier to slip off at such a restaurant?
At lunch my friend insisted on ordering (he told me he picked non-spicy options to ensure I wouldn’t be overwhelmed) as well as putting things on my plate whenever I ran out of food. This was something, which surprised me so he made sure to tell me that if I ever date a Korean guy and he doesn’t serve for me, I should consider it a big. red. flag. I don’t mind the serving part if that really makes their day, but I’m not sure I would necessarily notice a lack of serving since I’m not used to it in the first place, and I’m not so sure either that I would entrust just any guy with ordering food for me. Especially considering how quickly my friend then proceeded to ask me why I hadn’t eaten live octopus yet…
Acknowledging that I need to get around and to have access to some sort of map system, and I’m the kind of person who keeps the number of apps on my phone at an absolute minimum since I loathe that 98 % of them require access to everything on the phone, I figured maybe I should get myself a Korean phone where I could download all the app recommendations that were thrown at me. My friend was game. Let’s go hunting for a phone! So far so good – or so I thought…
A telecom company told us that unless I had an alien registration card, it simply wouldn’t be possible – unless we went directly to Samsung/LG/pick-a-brand, which would be able to sell the phone without signing me up for a plan. My past couple of phones have been Samsung, I’ve been really happy with them, and my work will give me an iphone for work purposes, so we went to the Samsung shop. The selection wasn’t overwhelming, but I found one that I liked, the clerk assured us that it would work with foreign sim cards too if I needed it, and he found a purchasing contract for me to sign. It would appear that this would be the end of that story, but no; this is really just the beginning.
As soon as he had looked intently at us and given us the “no way back now”-nod, opened the box with surgical precision, and opened the the phone, he realised that my sim card is a standard sim card whereas the phone requires a micro sim card. Thankfully my current Korean sim card is a combination sim card where a micro version can be pressed out of the center of the card. It FIT! However, the phone still didn’t work…
Did I have a pre-paid sim card? erm, yes… I’m a foreigner, I’m here on vacation, and that was why it was so important that the phone was unlocked and compatible with other sim cards. At this point my friend decided to try and lighten the mood by suggesting that I just use it as some sort of art installation at home in case they couldn’t make it work. Very helpful…
Apparently the issue is that buying phones without plans, and using pre-paid sim cards is not only a strategy used by harmless tourists, but also people whose career paths would have a tendency to cross paths with law enforcement. I was told that in order for the phone to “eat my sim card”, it would have to have a regular sim card with a plan first. Essentially it’s a way to ensure that people don’t buy a “burner phone”. However, I have to admit to having a slight difficulty seeing that problem as I had to show my passport in order to even get the prepaid sim card and sign a receipt including my home address and home phone number to get the phone, but alright.
Ever the problem solver, my friend pulled his own sim card from his phone. Alas… his was a nano sim card… The clerk therefore asked if I had another sim card that he could try to cut into micro size? I pulled 4 sim cards from my wallet which made both my friend’s and the clerk’s eyes go wide. He was only 80 % sure it would work, so I opted to keep my Danish sim card safely tucked away.
Just like he promised, it accepted other sim cards (it’s currently hosting an old British sim card, the new British one living in a third phone), but since that isn’t a Korean sim card, it didn’t have the desired effect, and I therefore have to use the Korean sim card in my regular phone and then use that phone as a hotspot for the new one. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, although it sure can look a little shady to pull out various phones and start shuffling around sim cards.
I made the mistake of trying to log into my kakao account on the new one without having some sort of back-up ready, which just deleted every chat and picture I have exchanged… whyyyyy???! getting the new sim card didn’t cause anything like that so I’m quite annoyed about that part.
Dinner with my other friend was great as well. It was rather hot in the restaurant because of all of the grilling going on, but it was a really great experience. Here is what the grill looked like: In the center you have the charcoal, and on each side you can insert spears with meat and mushrooms. Delicious!
The restaurant was structured a bit like an old car workshop with various tools stacked different places. Customers who had to wait to be seated were given these tools to indicate where in the queue they were – the bigger the tool, the longer the wait!
This also marked my first trip to 강남 😉