Nicky Kim is an International Korean blogger who grew up in England, United Kingdom, and now is living in Seoul. I had the pleasure to talk to her about her own blog “Neon but More”. Throughout the interview with her, I’ve learned a lot about Korean culture, where to visit in Seoul to check out good eats if I was there for a day, and have been told to check out the outskirts of Gangnam, Itaewon, and Hongdae. Nicky, a communications enthusiasts at heart has been maintaining a consistent weekly-updated blog, and have recently ventured into the world of social media. It was super cool to meet Nicky, and check out the interview with the Korean-brit below.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Nicky Kim. I am a Korean-Brit currently based in Seoul, working as a writer, teacher, broadcaster (and blogger).
I was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to England when I was three years old. Even though I was young, I still remember that flight to England, which changed my life.
After graduating university and doing various jobs in the British media industry, I asked myself if I wanted to live here for my whole life. I felt that I should gain some life experience living in Korea and reconnecting with my roots.
Now, I have been happily living in Gangnam for over a year, and I think I made the right decision!
What’s the motive behind starting your own blog “Neon but More“?
I like everything to do with communication. I was already reading and writing for myself, but I noticed that there weren’t many English language blogs by Koreans in Korea, let alone Korean-European bloggers.
I thought I could share a different perspective of life in Korea. While I can speak and understand Korean, I have also been exposed to international ideas. Also as a Korean-Brit female, I thought I hit a few interesting niche topics that were worth discussing.
But most importantly, I just wanted to challenge myself and see if I could maintain a weekly blog…and so far so good! I haven’t missed a week since.
Other than blogging, what ventures do you have as you expand your online and social media presence?
Honestly, I never planned for my blog to get noticed or read. For a year I never told anyone about my blog and I was quite satisfied just having it there for me.
After a while, I started getting approached by brands who wanted an insider and outsider view of Korea. Then I started meeting wonderfully talented creatives (journalists, artists, anchors and of course bloggers), and they told me every day for about 6 months to start social media…so I started a few weeks ago. Wish me luck!
What’s the coolest thing about writing about Korean culture?
Unlike England, Korea is developing so fast. There’s always so much happening and new things and trends being made.
There is always something new to talk about, however, it’s not all glitz and glamour (hence the name of my blog ‘Neon But More’ – as in the bright neon lights of Korea are fun, but there is so much more). I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, so I write about it all.
Tell us about Korean heritage and your British citizenship, how do you value both identities?
This is a very strange topic for me. You would think that my identity is something that I could decide, but in reality, it is out of my power. People choose to see what they want to see.
I value both my Korean ethnicity and British citizenship equally. I am a proud Korean, with a long and fabulous Korean family ancestry. At the same time, I am grateful for my British life, education, and the international exposure I received in such a developed society.
I am neither a native Korean or a native Brit. I think of myself as an international Korean.
For someone traveling to Korea for the first time, where should they visit?
Personally, I don’t think you should go to any of the tourist hotspots, like Myeong-dong or the palaces, (unless there is a special event being hosted). I have been living in the city for a while, and none of my best memories have been at these places.
If you are like me and you like a good atmosphere, I think you should go to the outskirts of Gangnam, Itaewon, and Hongdae (not in the centre!). Korea has a huge community of hip and artistic millennials that are making their own unique boutique cafes, bars, and shops. But because they don’t have a lot of money, they huddle around the edges of these three hot districts.
If someone is in Seoul for a day, recommend three restaurants (breakfast, lunch, dinner), one coffee shop, and one pub/bar for them to check out.
That’s so hard! It really depends on your style, but here are some places that I personally love.
Breakfast: Are you ready to feel like royalty? In Yeouido (one of the most richest places in Seoul – its nickname is the Wall Street of Korea), on the top floor of a huge glass building, there is a restaurant called ‘All The Mornings Of The World’ or ‘All the Breakfasts Of The World’(새상의 모든 아침 /‘Sesang uee modeun ah chim’). It’s like entering into a tropical paradise with beautiful crisp white architecture. The food is European brunch, with a selection of delicious cakes. The servers also wear adorable outfits.
Lunch: If you like novelty restaurants, you have to try Witch’s Kitchen (마녀주방 / ‘ Manyeo Joobang’) in Gangnam. This underground restaurant is hidden away and is decorated from head to toe with spooky decor. The ambience is so surreal and fun! You would expect the food to be overpriced and taste bad, but actually, it’s one of the best Italian fusion restaurants in the area! The pizzas, risottos, pastas…all delicious! The best thing is the IV-drip cocktails, where an IV-drip bag and stand is hooked to your glass!
Dinner: Dinner time is barbecue time! I don’t think I can recommend just one restaurant in Korea because barbeque is always delicious. There are lots of famous barbeques restaurants around Korea, so search social media if you are in the area.
Coffee: When I think of coffee shops, I think of Garosugil (the trendy road in Apgujeong). There are so many beautiful and luxurious coffee shops down this street. The cafes are furnished beautifully and all them have their own unique ‘theme’. I would recommend a cafe called C27, which is a cafe that specialises in cheesecake. The coffee shop is so big and beautiful. There are 4 floors of stunning furniture and even vintage games! At the door, you are greeted by a huge floating plate of cheese.
Pub/Bar: In the heart of Itaewon (the International District of Seoul), there is a lounge club called ‘The Fountain’. It’s quite hidden as you must go up some stairs, but once you go inside, it will take your breath away! The whole bar/club looks like a Greek temple! One huge wall is a marble and it is all decorated with green ivy and television screens. (And ladies! They provide free makeup!). The drinks are also made professionally and taste fantastic. 5 out 5, would recommend.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for people moving to Korea/Asia for work? What strategies do you have for them to adapt?
Korean work culture is intense, to say the least. It will depend on the job and company, but a Korean office with stable and good pay will want you to work very hard and very fast.
The best strategy…is prevention. Choose your job wisely! I choose to work for long hours and work hard because I love my job, and I like the lifestyle it gives me. But, if you already have a job and just want to adapt, I say embrace the work and be as creative as you can with it.
What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?
I am really outgoing and love new experiences and people, so I go to open events happening in the city. Sometimes the events are for foreigners and sometimes they are for Koreans. I very rarely go to the same place twice, because I always want to try something new!
Other than that, I really am an internet junkie. I like chilling and finding out what people are talking about online. I love alone time too.
What is your favourite travel destination?
Before I moved to Korea, I always said my favourite travel destination was Seoul. But, now that I live here I don’t know what to say. Everyday I am finding more fun things to do in the city, so is it cheating if I say Seoul again?
What is your current favorite English App, and favorite Korean App – and why?
I know this sounds really weird, but I love the Korean app ‘Kakao Bus’. Ok, hear me out. Yes, it is a bus app, but it is so amazing for people who are like me and need to travel several times a day. It tells me when all the buses come with an exact countdown to the last second, and gives me notifications telling me where my bus exactly is. I am super busy, so thanks to this app, I can calculate my daily movements so conveniently!
I use way more Korean apps than English apps, but I would say my most used ‘English’ app is ‘Soundcloud’. I love music so much, and I need to have a soundtrack to function. My earphones go with me everywhere, and I honestly think that I would more likely leave my house without shoes, than without my earphones. I listen to all genres, but most recently I have been loving chillwave and deep house.
What is one tech gadget/device you can’t live without?
That is like Sophie’s choice! How can I choose?! I can’t live without my MacBook, phone and iPad. I would rather you cut off my leg than choose one.
If you could learn another language, what would it be?
Another language? Korean and English will do it for me, no more thank you!
If Nicky Kim were to be a brand, other than your current website, what would you like the brand to be?
I would love to write or publish self-help books. One of my hobbies is studying psychology. I am just fascinated by the emotional brain, and how personalities are created and shaped. I think this is the reason why I love working in the media and communication industry because I like to know how people think and react.
I think mental health is so important, and I am even more passionate about breaking into the human psyche and analyzing how it perceives and judges surroundings now that I live in Korea. I would really like to create something that helps young Koreans, who are being put through hell by society.
Check out Nicky Kim’s blog Neon but More!