A Little Piece of Norway in Korea
You might be surprised that one of the most Norwegian places in Korea is an island an hour away from Busan. But the island of Geoje is home to some of the largest shipyards in the world. As a result, many Norwegian companies have had their offshore installations and ships built here. This has brought many Norwegian families to the second biggest island of Korea. A vibrant expat community has made sure that the Norwegian flag is visible from many places on the island, and walking the streets of Geoje, you can stumble across troll figurines and Viking ship decorations.
But moving to a new country is not only about bringing your culture with you. It is also about getting to know a new culture. On Geoje, there is a community of Koreans who have built bridges between Korean and international cultures. One of the members of this community is Miran Bae, who has held Korean cooking classes for foreigners for six years. Originally from Daegu, she has made Geoje her home, and together with her Norwegian husband and their two sons, they split their time between Norway and Korea.
<Why did you start to teach foreigners how to make Korean food?>
I did not think about myself as a great chef, but there was a big demand for cooking classes six years ago, and I thought to myself, if not anyone else can do it, then I can. But I made sure to ask my mum for some advice, because she is the expert.
<How, in your experience, does Korean culture change those who come here?>
For many people, it can be quite a shock to come to Korea, because the culture is very different. Some find the Korean food, such as kimchi, to be very spicy and strongsmelling when they first come, but when they leave Korea, many of them miss it, and they return to visit.
There is always a balance between preserving the old, traditional Korean culture, and adapting to and accommodating the new international cultures. Through food, we have been able to build a community of Koreans and foreigners here on Geoje. If you join a cooking class, not only do you learn how to make food, but you also learn a bit of the language and the culture.
<Many people who visit Korea go to Seoul or Busan. Why should they also come to Geoje?>
Geoje has preserved a lot of nature, which makes it a great place to go hiking. I think that in some ways, Geoje and Norway feel very similar. In addition, there are many beautiful beaches to visit. Because of its nature and beaches, it is popular to go camping on Geoje. It is also a place where you still can witness the traditional way of life, such as farming and fishing. Moreover, because of the international community, not only can you enjoy Korean cuisine made with fresh quality ingredients you can also enjoy food from all over the world.
If you are planning a trip to Korea, and want to experience more than bustling city life, make sure to visit Geoje. Here you can go on a hike and enjoy a view of the ocean from the peak. When you come down from the mountain, you can end the day by watching the sunset on the beach, while enjoying a seafood barbeque. This island will show you that Korea is more than metropolises, and that it can feel very Norwegian and very Korean at the same time.