How to Fit a Large Chicken in a Small Oven (& Other Tips for a Great Christmas in Korea)

on October 31, 2017

Like toppings on pizza (sweet potato pizza anyone?), Christmas is another thing that Korea didn’t really get the full memo on, but they do have their own interpretation of the celebration. Whereas we see Christmas as very much a family orientated day, Koreans see it largely as a holiday to be celebrated by couples. So if you are in the dating game, jump on the band wagon and do something romantic. If you’re not, there are still plenty of things to do over Christmas while teaching English in South Korea.

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Restaurants, ice-skating and missing yorkshire puddings

Many Western restaurants in neighbourhoods such as Itaewon will have Christmas meals lined up. Ice skating on the frozen lakes is a great experience. Keep your eyes and ears open for events near you that will make Christmas a unique experience abroad. Just FYI, Boxing Day is not a holiday in Korea, so sometimes you’re lucky and Christmas might fall on a Friday, but if not, be warned to go easy on the eggnog (read Soju).

-15 in Korea on Christmas

For those of you from the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas in Korea will come both as a delight and a downright ice-cold shock to the system!

No matter what you do, it’s really just about having someone around, and the more the merrier! There probably won’t be a Yorkshire pudding in sight, and it’ll never be Christmas like you have at home, but embrace that from the beginning. A bonus for the Saffas and Aussies is that for maybe the first time in our lives, we get to have a white Christmas like in the movies instead of kicking it poolside with that Christmas food baby. Enjoy the snow, throw on an ugly Christmas sweater and make the most of it – you’re sure to have a Christmas like never before.

Homesickness, matching pyjamas and that chicken

Although having Christmas abroad can be new and exciting, being far away from home in the holiday season is probably when it becomes painfully obvious that you are miles away from home and the friends and family that are usually by your side wearing weird hats and cooking up a storm. But Christmas away from home need not be a sad affair. It won’t be normal, but it can be blast.

Enjoying Christmas in South Korea with friends

Your friends will be your salvation in Korea! We all headed for Seoul, hired an AirBnb and donned our most Christmassy attire to wash away those homesick blues

You can bet your bottom dollar that your parents, if they’re anywhere near as technologically inept as mine, will fire up the computer for a Skype convo and both put their faces far too close to the screen, screaming “Can you hear me!?” for 2 minutes before wishing you a merry Christmas. It’s not ideal, to be away from your family, but anyone that has lived abroad will confirm that your friends become your family when you’re abroad. Everyone will be on the same boat on Christmas, so get organized in advance and plan a great Christmas for everyone.

During Christmas weekend last year, I was lucky enough to have various celebrations. The first one was in my city of Anseong, with 4 of my close friends. I was in charge of the Christmas meal – I tracked down some brussel sprouts, made roast potatoes like my mama taught me and shoved a very large chicken into a very small oven (the residents of Ian Village Apartment block will never know how close they all came to losing their earthly possessions). But all in all, the chaos of the meal was not unlike home on Christmas. Everyone brought a gift to swap, and one thing led to another and one mad character in the bunch decided we all needed matching pyjamas. which we proceeded to go out to town in, perplexing locals at every turn.

The Christmas chicken in Korea

So this is what remained of our chicken after its accidental near-cremation in our tiny oven. I think we did alright. So to answer the question, if it won’t fit, just chop it up!

I’d advise getting your Christmas plans sorted well in advance, so the dread does not set in and the thought of being alone on Christmas is eased because YAY you have plans and something to look forward to!

With this in mind, on Christmas eve, I headed to Seoul. This was the big one that was planned about a month or two in advance. About 16 of us rented an Airbnb in the city and luckily this time the cooking was left in the capable hands of 2 Australians. Secret Santa was organized over a Kakao group (it’s like the Korean version of Whatsapp) and we worked out a price range to buy gifts. After dinner, the most teacheresque amongst us explained the rules of the Secret Santa and the festivities got under way. Everyone got a meal, everyone got a gift, and we were all together on Christmas.

Christmas in the classroom

So speaking of being teacher, for us in general, Christmas is a glorious time. Not only because it means vacation, however brief, is on the horizon and you’ve made it to the end of the year in one piece with your sanity (more or less) intact, but because it means lesson plans are a walk in the park. And this is no exception to English teachers in South Korea. MILK IT. You’re there to teach English, but you’re also there to teach more pertaining to the West, including the culture behind it.

Christmas with friends in Korea

For pretty much 2 weeks prior to Christmas, I made Christmas activity booklets, put on some classic snazzy Christmas tunes (Michael Buble makes his annual appearance) and did a lot of fun Christmas activities and crafts. There are so many choices online for Christmas activities and a quick scour of the internet will give you loads of great options to add some festivity and merriment to your classroom. Decorate your classroom, slap on some reindeer ears and show your kids a good time.


Interested in Teaching English in South Korea? We’ll send you more info!


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About Grace Martens

Grace is an enrollments coordinator at TravelBud signing people up to our many programs and helping them get all the answers to the questions they may have about taking the plunge and going overseas for amazing teach English abroad adventures.
Filed under  South Korea 


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