Surviving a Korean Summer!

by Anne Ladouceur, 04/07/2009

July and August normally account for around 50% of Korea’s total annual rainfall. We’re not seeing notices in the newspapers any more telling that ‘monsoon season starts today and I don’t expect we’ll get one telling us when it’s over either. The weather has become too unpredictable in recent years from that kind of precise announcement.

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One thing I’ve learned to count on since coming to Korea is that while there may be little or no rain in July, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get very wet in August. Whether it rains or not, the weather is sure to be hot and muggy over the summer.
If you don’t have air conditioning and/or a dehumidifier running regularly, you’ll want to invest in disposable humidity absorbers stocked by supermarkets and convenience stores. Look for a box with a hippo half full of water. They come in a variety of sizes and can be placed in your shoe cabinet (you’ll want to put them where you have anything made of leather), in kitchen cupboards (prevents the damp from affecting your food), in your closets, dressers, etc. To use, remove the silver foil but keep the white paper one; place the ‘hippo’ where you want. Once your ‘hippo’ box is full of water, you can throw it away and put it in a new one. You may also see charcoal ‘boxes’ next to the hippo on some grocery shelves that accomplish the same purpose.
You may find yourself going through a number of umbrellas over the summer – you’ll want to carry one with you most of the time as well as keep a spare. The rain also falls so hard and for so long, you’ll want to make sure you have footwear that can withstand getting very wet.  Some people wear rubber boots (available in a variety of colours and styles these days). There are also rubber and plastic shoes available almost everywhere that will withstand the wet better than most leather shoes. However, if you prefer to wear your regular shoes, you may want to make them water resistant before you venture out. NB. Don’t use an umbrella if you’re outside in one of the frequent thunder storms we get.

You’ll probably acquire a number of plastic raincoats over the summer. A lot of events and businesses hand them out to patrons. They can be carried with you (in a purse, etc) and take up very little space and they’ll keep you dry, but wearing them is like being in a sauna. To figure out how to dress or to know what’s in store for you weather-wise, you can check out the 5-day weather forecast on the homepage (to the right above the yellow sand meter) – the forecast does change quickly so you’ll want to check it daily.

If you’re walking, be extra careful. The pseudo-marble/stone steps areas in front of my stores can become slicker than ice in the rain. You’ll want to make sure your footwear has some kind of grip and that you watch your step in the rain
If you’re driving, switch to a lower gear and make sure you go slowly – despite what other drivers around you are doing. The roads get very slick. Be careful where and how you park as well. Road can turn into streams in no time during a heavy rainfall.

The subways and buses are air-conditioned though, as is just about every place you go. This is a great time to go to the movies or hang in department stores. Some of the banks keep the ATM areas so cool, people stop by just to cool off for a few minutes. And of course, there’s the fountain in front of Seoul City Hall among others. Another 'cool' option is the Ice Gallery Museum.

Finding imaginative ways to stay cool and dry can make summer a lot more interesting and much easier to bear for those who don’t come from tropical climes. Feel free to share some of the ways you’re managing to survive this Korean summer on the K4E Forum.

Photo Korea Times

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