Koreans increasingly travel abroad to experience a different lifestyle rather than just tick off the major tourist attractions. Some choose volunteer or job-training experiences, all with the aim of getting a brief taste of what it is like to live like a local.
Kim Hyun-ho (31) went to Paris in April, but instead of waiting in line to climb the Eiffel Tower, Kim took a course on choosing French culinary ingredients and cheese.
“I was totally surprised to see not a single Korean tourist when I went to the markets in Paris,” Kim said. “I felt as if I was a Parisienne.”
Jung Hyo-sun (26) went to Bangkok for her summer vacation last month and took a course in the country’s famously intricate fruit and vegetable carving with a Thai instructor. She went to local markets in Bangkok with her instructor to purchase the fruit and veg. “For a brief moment, I felt as if I had become a Thai housewife living in Bangkok,” she said.
And foreigners who come to Korea are looking for similar experiences. Jared (30) from America spent two hours in a Korean home in Seoul learning how to make japchae or stir-fried cellophane noodles with thinly sliced beef and a variety of vegetables, gimbap or rice rolls, and geotjeori or fresh kimchi eaten without fermentation.
After preparing the food, Jared and two Chinese guests feasted on their creation with shots of soju. “I could have eaten the same type of food at a restaurant, but I wanted to experience how ordinary people live in Seoul,” Jared said.
According to tourism industry insiders, Korean home cooking lessons are the most popular programs among visitor experiences here, but other programs include shopping and dressing tips in the trendy Garosu-gil in Gangnam and Korean pottery making.
A growing number of websites are hip to the trend. Airbnb started offering local experience programs in 12 cities around the world in November of last year, and their number has grown from 500 to 1,800.