Ever wonder what it is like to move to a foreign country, one with a completely different language, culture, sense of fashion, musical styles, and more? EatYourKimchi is a site started by Simon and Martina, who have documented and blogged about their lives as foreigners in South Korea. They talk about music, restaurants, shopping, and other everyday experiences with a unique South Korean twist. I reached out to Simon and Martina to ask them more about their ventures, the community they have created, and the fans of their site.
So you two originally made your way to Korea as teachers, was this a culture and location that you two were both interested in beforehand? How did you decide South Korea, of all countries?
We've always been interested in Asia and Asian culture, and knew we'd end up in either Japan or Korea after University. Martina has always wanted to live in Japan since childhood after she grew up with a Japanese neighbour who opened her sparkling eyes to Japanese culture. She's that girl that saved up money to purchase imported manga, and dressed up as Sailor Moon and other characters you didn't know for halloween! As for Simon, he used to work at a Korean learning centre in Toronto, and his experience with the Korean students and Korean food was very super awesome. The last push to move to Korea was when we were finishing our Bachelor's of Education: we attended a workshop about teaching English in Korea, and we were really impressed. We spoke with the presenters afterwards, and they convinced us that we'd have a great time in Korea. They were right :D
Who came up with the idea to document and blog about your experiences, and what was it like initially entering a country which you spoke little to none of the language? And what was the most surprising (or very different than what you were used to) feature about Korean culture that you found out about early on?
It's hard to say who came up with the idea first, because we were blogging about being in Teacher's College for the year before we came to Korea. Only then, it was just for family and friends to document our exciting life as newlyweds. Not that exciting, by the way. Before we came to Korea, our families were terrified that North Korea would attack and we'd never be seen or heard from again, so we promised them to keep them up to date with everything that's happening via our blog. We posted our first video the very same day we arrived in Korea, looking all sweaty and sexy after a 14 hour flight. We awkwardly tried to order food off a fully Korean menu (there were pictures) and we flailed around trying to explain what was happening at the table as we ate. That video sucks. Haha!
Moving to a country in which you're completely an outsider, both in language and appearance, is to some people uncomfortable, but to us it's such a wonderful experience. Now that we've been here for a few years, we really look back on our first few months here with envy. Everything's so new! You can't read the signs, you can't understand what's happening around you, and there's novelty in everything. It's like you've become a child again, stumbling through a world that you don't understand, trying to figure out what's happening around you, eating strange things, so on and so forth, and - for us at least - we had that same childish glee that comes with it. And not being able to communicate verbally can really improve your skills in charades.
The most difficult thing to adjust to in Korea, for us, is the density. People everywhere, and rush hour on the subway is very very squishy. In comparison, North America is so empty! And so vast! And so grassy! You need to get in your car to drive to the supermarket, and then drive to your friend's place, drive to this, drive to that. Here, we literally have everything we will ever need for the rest of our lives within a 10 minute walking distance: two grocery markets, a bunch of local markets, a shopping mall, a subway station, plenty of schools, uncountable amounts of restaurants, dry cleaning, pet hospitals, hairdressers, a central park, a hospital. You name it: it's here. Due to its lack of land, Korea builds vertically and stuffs as much stuff into one building as possible. Goodbye driving!
Moving on to your website, you guys have been able to garner almost 200,000 subscribers to your youtube channel, and have an enormous following on your Twitter and Facebook pages as well, what do you guys think it is about your site or videos, that hooks in so many people wanting to watch more?
This is something that confuses us to this day. Ha! If I were to guess, though, I think that we're just light-hearted people who want to share their quirkiness and whimsy with the world. We're a young (29 is still young, right? RIGHT!?), married couple, and we're showing people a fun and bubbly stress-free marriage which the world seems to be lacking right now. We're living in another part of the world, which is what a lot of people would like to experience. We pretty much travel, goof around, occasionally hang out with Korean music idols, make fun of ourselves, and just have fun all the time. Regarding Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and all our other social media outlets, we think it's really important to post different and special material to each outlet in order to give people a reason to want to follow all your different sources. We have inside jokes with our Tumblr audience, and our Twitter fans tend to get more photos, and so on. It helps to build a relationship with your viewers, and that creates a dedicated audience.
You guys receive hundreds of comments on your articles, and even personally reply to many of them. Is direct engagement with your audience a specific goal of yours, or do you two just feel more natural answering your fans any chance you can?
It's a little bit of both. In making a career out of social media, we need to be social people. We know a lot of blogs that just repost their content on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere, but they don't really engage with their audience. For us, engagement is the cornerstone of our site. We've designed the site so that people decide what Kpop video we're going to review on Monday. They decide what question we're going to answer on Wednesday. They pick the winners of our random competitions against each other. They're engaged with the creation of our content as much as we are. Also, we're still quite thankful that people watch us and actually take the time to read our blog, watch our videos, and leave their comments and thoughts. We don't want to ever take our audience for granted, so we try speak with them in the comments to our videos to say, "hey, we're reading what you're writing, this isn't a faceless blog".
Our latest version, Disqus 2012, was available to the public only recently, but you two decided to switch over immediately. Were there any features in particular, in Disqus 2012 that you guys liked, and wanted to implement into your website?
Aesthetically, it's really pleasing. It just looks so much sexier! Is it wrong that I'm describing a plugin as sexy? Nah. OOOoOOohh…sexy.
Haha plugins can definitely be sexy. Well that about does it! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, do you have any last comments or thoughts that you guys would like to share?
You guys are Disqus! You're huge! We're shocked that you wanted to feature our site, and we're totally honoured. Thank you!
Thank you so much to both of our guests, Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi. Take a minute and check out their website and social media links:
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