Living in Korea as a foreigner is no easy task. As we enjoy our lives as expats, teaching, engineering, doing business or even just traveling it’s very easy to miss the little things from back home. Many of us English-speaking expats come from Western countries so I’ve decided to put together a short list of some of my favorite local places here in Changwon for when I catch a case of the homesick blues.
1. High Five
This American-style burger joint looks like it was stolen straight out of a movie scene and dropped into the stylishly Korean Yongho-dong neighborhood. Modeled after what we’ve come to think of as a traditional American diner, it’s one of the best places in Changwon to get a handmade burger and fry combo. You can order a breakfast stack of pancakes or even a plate of chicken and waffles with some of the most deliciously battered and fried chicken I’ve tried this side of the Pacific. Syrup comes on the side and if you’re like me, there won’t be much left to share. The booths and tables are authentically American and there’s even Coke memorabilia hanging around to complete the portrait. Like the sign says in neon, “Burger is Life.” (So are the shakes, by the way. If you miss out on them are you even living?)
Facebook –> Find High Five on Facebook HERE
2. Dino Brewing
The success of the microbrewery industry has long since hit Korea as well as the rest of the East. Here in Changwon we have homely addition in the form of Dino Brewing. Formerly known as Bright Brewing, being addressed in English and by name by the friendly staff reminds me of being at one of the many locally run microbreweries in my hometown. The selection on the rotating menu is excellent and diverse featuring some of their most popular mainstays like the Sangnam IPA or the Treasure Island Yuja Gose. The beautifully polished brew kettles and conditioning tanks are visible when ordering as a reminder of how fresh the beer really is. There’s a balcony with tables overlooking The Fountain of Sangnam and they even do live music shows occasionally. Coming here for a session or even a date feels cozy, familiar and like the start of a great night.
Facebook –> Find Dino Brewing on Facebook HERE
3. English House (영국집)
This super popular spot on the café street is famous amongst Koreans but maybe not as well known amongst the foreigner community. Walking into this building can feel somewhat like a strange dream. Picture this. You’ve finally made it back to your house in an upper middle class neighborhood after a long day at work. You walk up the pavers and throw open the front door to see that an entire café and bakery have magically opened up from your kitchen. Somehow while you were gone they installed a professional espresso machine on your shiny marble counter and a window full of freshly baked goods. English House is exactly what the name entails; an upper middle class house in England or in North America, complete with sofas, coffee tables, multiple living rooms and even a large and very finely detailed model ship in one of the sitting areas. Upstairs is partially a museum and partially a knick-knacks store with interesting Western, handmade and local goods. Wandering up here must be part of the mystique because every bedroom gives me the impression that I’m invading someone’s personal space. The basement is similar but much more stylistically oriented. Here you’ll find an alternate entrance, the amazing bakery and sitting areas reminiscent of a dialogue scene from a Wes Anderson movie.
Facebook –> Find English House (영국집) on Facebook HERE
This is a unique kind of late-night bar in Korea. For one, I’ve never seen another place quite like it in this country and it may even surprise me back home. It’s as if someone tried to smuggle their favorite local dive bar on the plane into Korea and then tried to stash it on the second floor of an unassuming officetel in Jungang-dong. You would never know what was going on in there or what lay in store until you ascended the stairs in the center of the building and arrived at what must be the only graffiti-covered door for miles. Walking inside, there are no windows, the entire space is painted black with either incredible graffiti art, glow paint or even fake blood covering ever square centimeter of the room. The lights are low and the atmosphere is laid back. Just like home, you’ll find a couple of arcade games and a beer pong table with a plaque of house rules overlooking the game space. There are some old oil drums for drink tables and even a low bench for the inevitable 5AM party-napper. The music gets loud and the dancing happens over the Twister game board painted onto the floor.
Facebook –> Find Biskachy on Facebook HERE
5. Next Bar Pizza and Obrien’s
If I had to imagine a living room where I would invite a bunch of my friends to drink, play beer pong or even setup a Super Smash Brothers game, it would look a lot like Next. Next and Obrien’s are across the hall from each other in Jungang-dong and have been a staple for the foreign community in Changwon long before I arrived. They regularly throw parties of all kinds and styles and Obrien’s is the local Irish bar. There are plenty of books available to borrow in Next, beer pong as well as TVs and projectors showing sports from home. Obrien’s features a full size pool table with a steady stream of challengers and players who call it home not far from a classic cork dart board. Both places serve excellent Western style meals and snack foods while Next’s pizza is the real deal. You’ll find Guinness on tap at Obrien’s as well IPA’s and lagers on draught in both. If you weren’t aware of these places and you’ve been living in Changwon, you’d probably be better off asking for forgiveness over a pint.
Facebook –> Find Next Bar on Facebook HERE
We can all get a little homesick from time to time no matter how much we enjoy living abroad. As long as you’re a local in Changwon, you’ll find a piece of home in any one of these great spots and you may even find me there as well.
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