5 ways to survive the rainy season in Korea

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1. Get prepared

This seems obvious, but first things first you’re going to need an umbrella and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet like plastic boots or sandals. Some people recommend cheap disposable plastic rain coats, but these can be more hassle than they’re worth. They make you incredibly hot in the humid weather, they are a pain to take on and off if you’re going inside, and the buttons pretty much always break off. If you really want a rain coat it would be better to buy a better quality one for long-term use. However, even when it rains the weather is very hot and humid, so you’ll probably be more comfortable wearing just your shorts and short-sleeves.

If it’s raining really heavily, your arms and legs are inevitable going to get wet at some point even if you have an umbrella. Carry wet tissues(물티슈, you can buy them in any convenience store) around with you to wipe off your arms, legs and feet (In fact, it’s worth carrying 물티슈 around with you at any time in Korea, they will save your life in a thousand ways). The final supply is a fan, either a hand fan or mini electric one, most people use fans on the hottest days during the summer, but the absolute most humid time is just before it rains.

2. Eat right

The most popular Korean foods in the summer are icy noodles (naengmyeon/냉면) and shaved-ice desserts (bingsu/빙수), eaten in desperate attempts to cool off on hot days. But what about when it’s rainy? Of course, Korean pancakes (jeon/전) and rice wine (makgeoli/막걸리) are most people’s go-to choice on rainy days. But if you don’t feel like getting drunk or like eating jeon and makgeoli every day, hot but refreshing noodles are the next best thing. The weather can get colder when it rains, and naengmyeon and bingsu lose a bit of their charm when the weather’s gloomy. Instead, noodle dishes such as kalguksu(칼국수) or just good ol’ instant noodles (ramyeon/라면) can be the perfect way to warm up after the rain while simultaneously feeling refreshed from the humidity.

3. Experience cafes 

Korea’s cafe culture and the array of themed, aesthetic, and interesting cafes is no secret. Some people spend days cafe-hopping and seeking out different cafes as a hobby year round, but almost everyone uses cafes as a way to escape extreme weather. Whether you’re hiding from the cold winds in winter, desperately sitting next to the air conditioner in summer, or wanting to get out of the house but not wanting to traipse around in the rain during the monsoon, chances are there’s a cafe that will be perfectly designed to keep you entertained.

When it rains in Korea, it rains all day long. ‘Experience cafes,’ which offer fun things to do alongside just drinking your coffee, can be a fun way to pass a lot of time so you don’t get bored just waiting for the rain to pass. Try painting, board game, massage chair cafes and more for a more productive way to spend your cafe time!

4. Choose museums and art exhibitions > Temples and fortresses

Ancient temples and fortresses, such as Jogyesa(조계사) or Gyeongbokgung(경복궁), are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Seoul, and for good reason. These beautiful historical places are definitely amazing places to visit in good weather. However, most of your time at such places will be spent walking around outside for long periods of time, which isn’t so much fun during the monsoon, especially since the gravelly ground covering around these sites gets muddy on rainy days.

Instead, seek out museums and art galleries for a good way to get a glimpse of Korean history and culture whilst also avoiding the rain.

5. Wait it out or just enjoy it 

The saddest sight I’ve ever seen was a man with a bicycle but no umbrella completely stranded on the island of a small wooden pavilion in the park near my house during torrential downpour. He was there for almost an hour and he looked so bored. He alternated between doing push-ups against the side of the pavilion, sitting and rocking on the floor, and wistfully looking outwards, presumably wondering when the rain would stop. Sometimes you just have to wait it out.

Other times you can try to enjoy it. A lot of people do actually like rainy weather, but where I’m from rain means cold winds, wet clothes, and dark skies. Often when it rains here it’s still warm enough to wear your shorts and sandals and drink iced coffee, even at night. It can be fun to go for walks in the rain not worrying about whether your shoes, socks and clothes will get wet or your extremities turning to ice. At least enjoy the rain sometimes, because the winter months are so dry here you’ll be begging for some of the humidity of summer.

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