My 5 Korean Phrases to know for your first trip to Seoul – 당신의 첫번째 서울 여행을 위해 알아야 할 5가지 한국어 문장.

Hi Guys, and welcome to d-5 of my countdown to my first EVER trip to Seoul. I’m very excited and while I have been preparing for many months, I wanted to share with you the final 10 days before I head out. Starting with, 5 useful phrases to know while you are in South Korea.

For this post I will be assuming that you already know how to say ‘Hello’ (안녕하세요), ‘Bye’ (잘가요), ‘Yes’ (), ‘No’ (아니요) and ‘Thank You’ (감사합니다) (고마워요), so these are not included in my list. I will also be talking about manners and etiquette in later posts which are more focused on particular elements of your trip. So, now that I’ve explained all this to you, without further ado, here is my list of 5 useful Korean phrases to know for your first trip to Seoul.

1) 실례합니다! – ‘sil-rye-hab-ni-da’ – ‘Excuse me!’

Imagine this. You’re by yourself in the Mapo district in Seoul, you are in Seogyo-dong and you want to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace. You don’t know how to get there and your phone has died so you can’t look at a map. You need to ask someone for directions. How do you get someones attention to ask them where to go? You say “실례합니다!”

This is a polite way of attracting attention that should get who ever you want to ask know that you want to talk to them. It’s also better manners than tapping someone on the shoulder or on the arm, and is far more respectful than talking to a stranger without introducing yourself. But, by starting with 례합니다 you can then introduce yourself and ask for help.

2) ‘— 어떻게가나요?’ – ‘—e-o-ttoh-ke-ga-na-yo?’ – ‘How can I get to —?’


‘—가려면어떻게해야하나요?’ – ‘—e-ga-ryo-myon-o-tto-ke-hae-ya-ha-na-yo?’ – ‘How do I get to —?’

Okay. So you got the attention of a friendly ajumma (아줌마). Now to ask how to get to Hapjeong-dong. You would say “경복궁에 어떻게 가나요?” or “경복궁에 가려면 어떻게 해야하나요?” which means “How do I get to Gyeongbokgung?” or “How can I get to Gyeongbokgung?” Either of these are fine and should be clear enough for you to find out where you need to go. And, if you need to ask to go somewhere else you simply change the destination at the beginning of the question. For example, to ask how to get to Sinchon you would say “신촌에 어떻게 가나요?” If you needed to get to the closest subway station you would say “지하철에 어떻게 가나요?” (지하철 = subway station).

If you don’t know the Korean for left, right, ahead and back then it may also be useful to know that  ‘left-ways’  is ‘왼쪽에’, ‘right-ways’ is ‘오른쪽에’, ‘ahead/across the street’ is ‘건너편에’ and ‘behind’ is ‘뒤쪽에’ or ‘뒷쪽에’.

3) ‘이것은얼마인가요?’ – ‘i-gos-eun-ol-ma-in-ga-yo?’ – ‘How much is it?’


이것은 몇원인가요?’ – ‘i-gos-eun-myod-won-in-ga-yo?’ – ‘How many won is this?’

When you finally get to Gyeongbokgung Palace and you get to the ticket office, you don’t see any signs telling you how much a ticket costs. In order to make sure you pay the correct amount you need to ask how much you need to pay. You can do this either by asking “이것은 얼마인가요?” or “이것은 몇원인가요?”.

4) ‘—-주세요.’ – ‘—-won-do-ju-se-yo.’ – ‘—- won more please.’

If you go to Gyeongbokgung Palace wearing Hanbok you can enter for free. However, if you need to buy a ticket an adult costs 3,000 won and a teenager costs 1,500 won. Imagine if once you asked how much a ticket costs you only had 5000 won. You pay with your note and the person in the office only gives you 1000 won back. For those of you who are maths whizzes you can probably tell that this isn’t the correct change. To ask for the remaining 1000 won you can say “1000원 더 주세요” or (chon-won do ju-se-yo). You can also use this phrase when at a restaurant, in a shop or in a market.

5) “–어를아세요?” – “—o-reul-hal-jjul-a-se-yo?” – “Do you speak — ?”

And finally, in my opinion, the most useful phrase for me to know. If all else fails, you can ask if they can speak your first language. If I wanted to as if someone spoke English I would say “영어를 할 줄 아세요?” Below I have listed as many languages as possible in Korean so that you can learn what you might need to say:

영어 = English

독일어 = German

프랑스어 = French

이탈리아어 = Italian

중국어 = Chinese

일본어 = Japanese

스페인어 = Spanish

As I mentioned before I will be talking about lots of other elements of a trip to Seoul, including money, transportation, food and many other things. So if there is something you wanted to know that hasn’t been included it might be included in the next 9 days.

Let me know if there is anything that you want me to include in my trip. If you have any questions leave me a comment here or on my Instagram feed, or send me a tweet.

여행에대해무엇을알고싶은지알려주세요. 질문이 있으시면 여기나 인스타그램 의견을 남겨 주시거나 트윗 보내 주세요.

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga 

Tidy Space, Tidy Mind – 정돈된 공간, 정돈된 마음

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

Albert Einstein

I have never been someone who is hugely organised. I used to find it so hard to find enough time in the day to include everything, and when it came to work I often procrastinated up until the point I was pulling all-nighters in order o meet my deadlines which often meant my work wasn’t the highest quality.

But when my mental health was at its worst, this lack of organisation spread. My room was a mess, I left dirty dishes in sinks or hoarded used plates and glasses in my room. It even got so bad that I’d find it hard to even do the basic things to look after myself like showering or brushing my hair. Even getting out of bed was a challenge. And wasn’t this wasn’t laziness, as is often misunderstood by those with no understanding of poor mental health. The best way I can describe it to those who haven’t experienced it is that I cared so little, thought so little, of myself and my everyday life, and assumed others didn’t care either, that I didn’t see the point of doing anything to care for myself or my environment.

This led to a damaging cycle of self observation and opinion. My space was a mess, so I was a mess. I had no grasp of order, accomplishment or pride in myself or my space.  Studies have shown that clutter and mess can drastically affect ones mood. Around 90% of Brits feel that a messy environment makes them feel unproductive, or worse still, unhappy. An untidy house can also impede our willingness to socialise, which in turn can cause loneliness, and increase the likelihood that you argue with those you cohabit with. Mess breeds mess, whether that’s physical or psychological. If we are surrounded by an environment that looks unorganised, unattractive and unwelcoming, this can feed into how you think about yourself, how you think about others and how you assume people think about you.

Those who described their living spaces as “cluttered” are more likely to be depressed and fatigued than those who describe their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” Cluttered homes also lead for higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol for those who live in them, and the visual cortex can be overwhelmed by clutter, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently. Mess can stop you from finding ways to feel better.

However, there is also evidence to suggest that a messy environment encourages creativity. I began with a quote from Albert Einstein at the beginning of this post, championing organisation. And yet Einstein also said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” Einstein had a notoriously messy work space, but he was undeniably creative in his work. If you want a more modern example of clutter breeding ingenuity, look at Steve Jobs, his desk and office were both disaster zones, and yet his creativity made him one of the most successful business men in history.

2018-02-04 14.52.36This doesn’t mean you should trash your living and working spaces in order to be successful. Neither do the statistics I mentioned earlier mean that you should become obsessive about the neatness of your home or desk. Neither of these mindsets will help you feel better, neither is an entirely healthy alternative.

What I suggest is that you find a healthy medium. Don’t become so that your spaces become impossible to navigate, and don’t become so clutter free that you don’t clutter free that you have nothing that you need. Too much or too little is stifling. What I suggest is if you are finding yourself feeling unhappy in your environment, try to figure out why, and establish a new habit from there.

If you feel like you have little or no control over the things happening in your life, or your over your thoughts, try keeping your spaces more tidy. People who make their beds every morning are 19% more likely to feel well rested, and therefor happier. People also reported benefits from having clean sheets — specifically, 75% of people said they sleep better in fresh bed sheets because they feel more comfortable. The physical act of cleaning can provide great mental health benefits, because of the endorphins that are released by working up a sweat. Tasks such as vacuuming, ironing and gardening can burn between 150 and 300 calories – that’s about the same as a Zumba class!

If you feel trapped by your everyday life, and you desperately want a bit more freedom and choice, I suggest doing something spontaneous and messy for fun, but don’t go too wild. Leave a wet towel on your bedroom floor for a day. Try a new recipe where you get your hands (and your kitchen) dirty. Try and exercise what I call organised chaos, for example if you don’t want to hang all your clothes up at the end of the day, place the clothes you know you want to wear again on a chair, or in a specific spot in your room. Find a creative, messy outlet where you can effectively give a metaphorical middle finger to the things making you feel you need to fit a certain mould.

For me, I find that keeping a structure and a routine gives me piece of mind when I feel27718315_10215657011608512_919096536_n I have little, to no, control over the other aspects of my life. Having a sense of reliability, comfort and order helps me to feel rooted and like I fit in the space. I feel ready for the day once I make my bed, and I feel more organised and productive with a tidy (but certainly not empty) desk. I also try to actively have more messy periods too, I cook and get the kitchen messy, or I sketch or draw using chalk pastels and get my hand all colourful and dirty. I also make sure I exercise and get all gross and sweaty, and then when I shower and change afterwards I feel so strong and accomplished. I try to find a simple, harmonious solution to a problem I face or a struggle I feel. But these are that work best for me. I encourage you to try finding new ways to make your environment improve and strengthen your mental well being.

Who knows? You might end up becoming as productive as Einstein.

Do you prefer a neat and tidy space, or organised chaos? Is there anything you might try to see if your mental health improves with a new environment? Please comment below.

정돈되고 정돈된 공간을 선호하나요, 아니면 정리된 무질서를 선호하나요? 새로운 환경으로 인해 정신 건강이 개선되는지 보려고 하는 것이 있나요? 아래에 코멘트해 주세요.


List of international mental health support hotlines 


Sources used

Psychology of Cleaning –

The Powerful Psychology behind cleanliness –

Psychology Behind Messy Rooms –



Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga


Surviving a Masters – 석사 학위를 따는 방법

In early summer 2017 I decided to apply for a masters. This was not something I had planned to do when I finished my undergraduate degree, as I am not the most academically inclined. Writing my dissertation for my undergrad was a real challenge, and I have never been great at exams or essays. But after a year of trying to find work and struggling to get hired, I realised that there was something I wanted to learn and specialise in. So, after advice from many of my peers, I decided to apply for my MSc. I’m now halfway through my masters course and its been interesting and fun, but it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a struggle at times. I know I am not the only person to feel this way so I asked some of my friends who are also doing, or have done, a masters course, in various fields, for their best pieces of advice for anyone considering or starting a masters course.

“My biggest piece of advice would have to be: be willing to push yourself and make mistakes, its hard work but definitely worthwhile!”

“Make sure you do something regularly that isn’t work to keep sane. I started playing water-polo and the regular sessions meant I got some exercise, had to leave my room and made friends with people outside of my accommodation and course. I’d never played it before I did my Masters, so it was nice to have something completely different to do!”

“I agree. Find a hobby or society and try and break the monotony. Post grads, especially research ones, can be isolating so push yourself out of it”

“My advice would be to back up your essays, dissertation and lecture notes on an online storage unit (Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc ) – or better yet, save your work directly on the online storage unit. Stop thinking your computer is invincible!

Don’t rely too heavily on your computer. Back up your work!

That shit is going to crash on you, and you will be left with nothing to submit to turnitin!! (With student subscription of Microsoft Office package, students get 1TB of One Drive storage unit. Make use of it). Personally I am not a fan of USB or external hard-drives as units for backing up because they can break or get lost – or stolen. I use them for the memory of my computer, but they are not my ride or die kind of storage, if they are lost I have the online storage.” 

“man we had a whole lecture on that…”

“Listen! I know people who have literally failed their degree because their computer containing their dissertation was stolen and had no thesis to submit! People need to stop playing! It’s not even a master’s thing, just life thing. [laugh]”

Keep up with your social life, remember to have fun

” I’d say, keep up your social life or you will go insane. Make sure you go to your lectures and don’t be afraid of the impending breakdowns… bring tissues”

“and coffee”

“Umm probably get into a routine. Have a set time you wake up everyday and go to bed every day. I really struggled because my days were a big old blur unless I had to go somewhere. So make sure you go somewhere everyday too [laugh]”

Thank you if you gave me some of your masters advice. You guys are da best!

So I guess all that’s left is for me to give you my own tips, from my own experience. Here goes:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need a lecturer to repeat something ask them to. If you want someone to check your essay sounds right, ask a friend or classmate. If you are struggling or you’re having a hard time, ask your tutor what you can do. Most Universities now have systems in place to support their students in whatever way they need whether that be writing skills, financial issues or problems at home. Ask someone for help and you will find it.

2. Take regular breaks. It might feel like you have so much to do and barely any time to do it in, but taking breaks will not only help you not to get to stressed, but will actually make you more productive. Engage your brain in a different way, avoid looking at screens, and then you can get back to work feeling refreshed and alert.

3. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Get plenty of sleep. Drink plenty of water as well as coffee/tea/gin. East healthily and do regular exercise. Have time to wind down and relax. Looking after yourself looks after your mind, which benefits you and your academic work.

4. You don’t have to be best mates with everyone on your course, you don’t even have to like all of the teachers. If you do, wonderful, lucky you. But if not, find the people who help you feel happy and comfortable and know that you have them when you simply have to deal with that person who frustrates you. That’s being a grown up I’m afraid. You will have to spend time with people you might not like that much. It’s an opportunity to learn professionalism and resilience.

5. Know you can say no. You don’t have to volunteer for everything, do all the jobs and go first in every presentation. Saying no is healthy, mature and it shows you know how to keep on top of things. You don’t want to end up juggling too much at once.

6. Be proud of yourself. You’re doing a masters degree. That means you are pretty darn smart. You have achieved a lot to get here and you are working at a very impressive level. Well done you!

7. If it’s all too much, you can stop if you need to. Whether you need to stop completely defer a year, or even change your course, it’s fine. A masters isn’t for everyone, you’ve done great and worked very hard to get here. Take life at your own pace. It isn’t a competition.

Be proud of what you have achieved.

A masters course is meant to be hard work. It shows that you are a ‘master’ of your specialised area, and is unique to you. No-one will have a masters degree like yours, as no-one will specialise in exactly the same area as you. It is as unique as you are. So keep going, continue to work hard, but rest hard and play hard just as much. A masters degree is a great investment into your own development, but it doesn’t define who you are entirely.

Keep it up, well done so far.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 당신의 의견을 저에게 알려주십시오. 코멘트해 주세요!

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga 

My 7 Tips for Learning the Korean Alphabet – 한국어 알파벳을 배우기 위한 나의 7가지 조언

1. Use phonetics to learn the basics

When learning a new alphabet it is SO useful to start learning using sounds in your own language or alphabet. For example, learning the sounds for ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ and ㅅ I started by pronouncing them phonetically; Kuh Nuh Duh R/Luh Muh Buh and Suh. It sounds daft, but I found the romanisations really difficult to read, especially when trying to distinguish between sounds like ㅂ, ㅍ and ㅃ. I only learned the difference by sounding it out myself (Buh, Puh and Buh). I used underlining to indicate heavier emphasis on a sound.

ㄹ was also a difficult sound for me to figure out. The best way I can describe it is a sound that’s halfway between and ‘L’ sound and a ‘R’ sound – which I spelt phonetically as R/Luh.

They do also have their own individual names, which might be useful for you to learn, but at first focus on how they sound and then what the letter is called.


2. Flash cards

Flash cards are one of the most effective tools when learning a new language. And learning to read an entirely new alphabet is challenging. which is why you need to re-train your brain to recognise these new symbols as a series of sounds. You need to re-program your brain!

Flash cards engage ‘active recall’ which creates stronger neuron connections for a memory trace. And because flashcards can so easily facilitate repetition, they are the best way to create multiple memory-enhancing recall events.

When you reveal the answer side of a flashcard to see if you were right or not, you are essentially asking yourself “How well did I know (or not know) it?” This act of self-screenshot-monicareflection and assessment is known as metacognition. Applying metacognition tends to ingrain memories deeper into your knowledge, as well as motivation you to work harder to learn. You compete against your past self.

Because flashcards can be self made and exist separately from a book or document, you are able to separate them into piles based on whether (or how often) you need to study them again as well as categories of learning best suited to you. For example I separated my vowels and consonants into separate piles, and then sorted them into corresponding sounds. This practice of confidence-based repetition has been proven to be the most scientifically optimised way to improve memory performance.

27661472_10215657539021697_319622855_n3. Sound it out

Konglish (콩글리쉬) is the Korean version of English words. For example paperclip in Korean is 클립 or Keul-Lip. There are lots of words in Korean that sound similar to English, and if it helps ‘Koreanise’ other words to learn how to pronounce those letters. Your name is a good place to start with this, once you know how to spell your name in Hangul, you will always know how to pronounce those letters.


4. Learn, and practice, writing properly

My teacher taught me to write Hangul “like a Korean” which has meant not only do I now think about how the letters are written, but I can see why they are written that way and how the sounds of these letters relate to one another. It has also made my hand writing look sooo much neater.


5. Listen and spell it out

If you have language learning apps  like Duolingo or Memrise  to assist your learning – if not, download them, they’re really useful – you have the opportunity to listen to Korean being spoken and then learning how to write out the spoken phrases. This is an exercise that I use when listening to music or watching Korean TV or movies. If I hear a word I recognise or if a phrase or word stands out I will try to spell it out from sound and then check it afterwards.

This helps you learn and memorise useful words and phrases as well as learning what letters are used for what tense and word. Often words sound similar, but are spelt differently. For example 아빠 and 아파.

6. Learn songs (and use subtitles)

If you are into Korean music, learning the lyrics to a song or two will not only help you to read the letters, but it will also help you pronounce them when combined into words. It’s also a quick way to learn phrases and words that you may use in the future. *korean unnie link*

You can also do this when watching Korean TV or movies by watching with Korean audio and first using English subtitles and then in Korean. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on English subtitles because this will stop you from being able to learn how to listen to and understand Korean.This will also introduce you briefly to Korean sentence structure and grammar.

There are plenty of YouTube channels which are dedicated to helping you learn Korean in an effective way. I recommend Korean Unnie as she speaks both English and Korean in her videos and makes learning Korean fun and easy. Wass’up #DongDongSquad? 안녕 동동’s


Learning an entirely new alphabet is hard, it takes time to learn how to speak when your a child and so learning another as an adult can be a struggle. It is going to be difficult but don’t give up and keep practising. In fact, think about how you learned the alphabet as a child, or how you would teach a child the alphabet and use the same techniques.

It’s going to take time but you will get the grasp of it in no time. And after that, you will feel so chuffed with yourself. For example, I went to a movie with my father and there was a scene where we saw people all over the world, in different cities, watching news reports on TV. I was so excited when I saw signs that I knew were in Korean and I was able to read what they said aloud. That was pretty cool.

Keep it up guys. Work hard, you can do it! 화이팅!

Are you learning Korean? What tips do you have? Please comment them below.

한국어 배우고 있어요당신의 조언은 무엇입니까코멘트  주세요.

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga 

Book Review – 서평

The Nakano Thrift Shop:

By Hiromi Kawakami

Translated by Allison Markin Powell

In the ‘about me’ section of this website, I explain what my favourite quote is. For those of you who can’t be bothered to go to that page, do not fear. My favourite quote is this:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

― Alan Bennett, The History Boys

The Nakano Thrift Shop takes a while to get into. You have to really try to read it. Or at least I did. Because the characters and the narration are just so every day. It’s all very normal. There are no attempts at making things seem extraordinary, or ‘special’. While this starts off as difficult, eventually I found that it was this ‘every day-ness’ that was at the centre of this books charm.

There were so many instances where I was reading, where I had to pause and re-read the last paragraph or so, because I hadn’t fathomed that someone would be able to capture such fleeting, natural experiences and thoughts in such a clear and accurate way. I recognised myself in Hitomi, the narrator of the book, even though we don’t have that much in common (because I’m not a 30 something year old Japanese woman). I felt a sense of oneness with her, and recognised feelings which I had thought special and unique to me. The characters are offbeat and all have flawed personalities, and as they live, work and interact with each other, what we see is an accurate portrayal of human relationships.

The Nakano Thrift shop is full of objects for sale, as ordinary and un-extraordinary as the staff and customers that work with them. But each object, and each person, has a story. Whether fresh and trendy, awkward and not quite working properly, or old and falling apart, the reader is able to explore the significance of the initially insignificant. Mr Nakano frequently makes it clear that his shop isn’t for antiques, it’s just for stuff that people don’t want or need anymore. The objects aren’t of any obvious worth, and probably won’t create a significant profit. Each object in his shop holds many secrets; and you end up seeing the value in each of them if you provide a space to look for it.

One of my favourite parts of the book was where Hitomi, the young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano’s thrift shop, and Takeo, her reserved co-worker, spend the night together. So, books these days try to show how important it is that the characters are having sex by describing it in such explicit detail and uses such erotic language that it creates the opposite effect. It loses its significance. Instead it become titillation, smut. Where often what the author was attempting was to describe the symbolic or emotional importance of the act of having sex. Whereas Kawakami chooses not to describe it. There are so many examples of purposefully noticed details throughout the book; The observance of someone’s posture, the movement of someone’s adam’s apple, the formation of ice on the ground. All of which gives an indication of how the character feels or what they are noticing. We see what is significant for them. Which is why, all that is said about Hitomi’s engagement with Takeo is this:27718417_10215657021168751_610967232_n

“We had sex, briefly.”

Which, in my opinion, was far more exciting and engaging as I paid so much more attention to the descriptions before and after this short sentence. I focused on how she described the process of them removing their clothes, and how she watched for his expression and response afterwards. It also left far more to the imagination, which is always a far more effective tool for writers to use than over-description.

Another worthwhile thing to note is that it is undoubtedly Japanese in its tone and style. It is quiet and self-contained; dialogue isn’t overly scripted and contrived, but rather takes an organically rambling path. I say rambling over flowing because it often isn’t a smooth path of conversation. There isn’t much “action” in the plot, however by the end, you feel that you and the characters have gone through a lot emotionally, even if in reality not much time or action has passed. It’s almost like an act of meditation. You focus so much on the little, repetitive actions that you find significance within them, as well as the occasional realisation.

In Japan, there is a word, omote, which refers to the public, formal, and conventional aspects of behavior – where and how one stands, how to greet one strangers or business partners etc. There is another word, ura, which refers to the private, informal, and unconventional aspects of culture. This mode of behavior is seen as more valuable and meaningful, however, one only acts this way with close friends or family members. The Japanese value outside appearances very much. This is not to say that they do not value what is private and hidden, but much importance is placed on one’s presentation and appearance. In The Nakano Thrift shop, we are given an opportunity to witness omote but experience ura. 

27661436_10215657538141675_284076083_nThis book is captivating because it tells a story. In fact within the story, there are many smaller stories. It’s a work of fiction which identifies and highlights the significant aspects of human relationships and how, to a stranger or after a great period of time, symbols of these relationships seem insignificant. But one can find importance in the unimportant.  The beauty of this novel comes from the fact that it is all so refreshingly ordinary.

As I said before, it is difficult to get into at first. But as you grow accustomed to the routine of the workers and customers of The Nakano Thrift Shop, you fall into the same rhythm as them, you walk the same steps, and you find the beauty in the every day little things.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 당신의 의견을 저에게 알려주십시오. 코멘트해 주세요!

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga