Alex- The little cat that decided to throw in a desk job and leave her home town of Sydney to snowboard in Japan. She’s a writer and adventurer that seeks steep mountains, deep waters, rowdy nights and friendly cats.

Alex has been chasing the wilderness since 2014 and has no plans on stopping.

Our friend Little Cat has just landed in Korea (crazy right??!) for the 2015/2016 ski season, here she shares some of her recent discoveries: 

So I decided to teach snowboarding in Korea this season. Korea, you say? Do they even have snow there? (Yes.) And decent resorts? (Certainly do, I’m at Phoenix Park.) Why on earth did you choose Korea? Why not Japan or Canada?

Now there’s a good question. For a few reasons: it’s new territory for me, it’s a unique cultural experience, it’s cheaper than Canada, and my working holiday visa for Japan is done and dusted.

So far it’s been awesome, pleasantly surprising and kind of weird. Living in Japan taught me that entering a new culture can have a lot of ‘what the fuck?’ moments and Korea has its own special brand of odd.

Here are 15 of the weird and wonderful things I’ve discovered so far during my first week in Korea:

1. Koreans are uber helpful.

After landing, I was waiting a while for my board bag to come around the luggage carousel and was starting to get worried when a man in a suit came running up to me saying, “Miss Parsons! Miss Parsons, we’ve been looking for you!” Behind him was a lovely young lady with my luggage on a cart. I was about to take it when they started off at pace and led me all the way through customs, pushing my board bag around the whole time.

2. No peace signs, only tiny hearts

I was helped out yet again when I was waiting to catch a bus to the resort. My directions put me at a train station exit, ready to catch a bus at 2:00pm. However, there were no bus stops here, no timetables, no nothing. It was just a foot path. I must have looked very confused because a young Korean businessman came up to me and asked if I was in the right spot. I explained my situation and he promptly phoned the bus company, confirming that this was indeed the right place – I was just 40 minutes early! He suggested we find shelter as it was quite cold, and he was early for a client meeting too. Inside the station he picked us up hot coffees and we had a grand old chat and took photos before parting ways. That’s how I discovered how Koreans do photos – by putting their thump and index finger together so that it looks like a tiny heart. Aww. Korean friend love.

3. Sweet Uniforms

When I arrived at the resort I was promptly taken to fill out paperwork and given a tour of the resort before receiving my uniform. Online I had seen photos of an ugly white jacket covered in pink and purple squares, which had me worried. But my manager explained that this was for first time instructors. I’d be getting a sexy little black uniform with a funky puffed collar that made me feel like something between a triceratops and a Victorian lady. As a bonus, he gave me awesome white leather gloves to go with it – brand new with the tags still on. They were worth almost $150!

4. Pet rabbits and goats

While my manager was giving me the outside tour, I spotted something on the snow. He was midway through a sentence when I blurted out – “Oh my god! Look! There’s a rabbit over there!” Sure enough, there was an adorable black rabbit chilling out under the gondola. “Um…yes. We have those,” my manager said and continued the tour.

But it gets better. On my first gondola ride I looked down and – lo and behold – there were goats! Multiple goats! In a pen. Ok everyone calm down. They have pet goats under the gondola. I don’t understand it at all but I love it.

5. Free food and funny meal routines

My manager then took me to the food hall, where we were allowed three meals a day. There’s always rice, some tasty meat dish, a vegetable dish, something else like dumplings or noodles, soup and kimchi. Seriously, every meal has kimchi. I am not even joking.

Anyway, there’s a fun little routine for eating. It goes: pick up tray, chopsticks and spoon, serve yourself too much food to physically consume, sit down and eat until you feel sick, empty scraps into bin and put on conveyor belt, get tiny water cup, fill it with tiny amount of water to swallow, walk to tissue and mirror station near door where you wipe your face and check you still look amazing. Everyone does this, in exactly that order, every day without fail.

6. Stabbing chopsticks

I should also mention that Korean chopsticks are different to most others you have experienced. They’re slender, flatter metal things that look perfect for gently plucking out eyeballs. Come to think of it, I may need some as a…souvenir.

7. The K-style clothing

The next day it was finally time for me to get on the slopes. First thoughts: man, these Koreans are stylish! Everywhere I looked was brand new gear and the latest trends. It was like being on the set of a snowboard magazine photo shoot. Common styles were tall hoodies with low-crotch baggy pants, bucket hats, flannel-look-alike shirts and everywhere shiny new boards I wanted to nab. Admittedly, a lot of these people were of the ‘all the gear and no idea’ variety, but just as many were really skilled.

8. Alpine boards everywhere

As I cruised around and got to know the two runs that were open this early in the season, I noticed something different about the way most people were riding…they were getting real low. I took a look at their feet and saw they were riding soft-booted alpine boards.

I asked a fellow instructor why this was and he said, “People think it looks cool.” But Phoenix Park markets itself more to snowboarders, and its terrain is particularly suited to alpine boarders because it has super wide, well groomed and consistent trails that are perfect for laying down an epic Euro carve.

9. Clever ways to clean boards

After my ride I was about to tap my board on the ground to rid it of snow when I saw a row of people magically cleaning their boards. Turns out Phoenix Park provides over a dozen little air blowing guns so you can clean your board before heading in. Genius!

10. No more wet boots!

I came into the foreign instructor ski school and saw everyone’s boots hanging on a rack. A heated rack. These little warming fist things go inside your booties and dry them out, as well as keeping them toasty warm for when you next need them. (Sure beats hanging them on the ceiling pipes, eh Thredbo crew?)

11. Small class sizes

There’s another great thing about working as a foreign instructor at Phoenix Park – you only get private lessons. You really only look after English-speaking families and couples that have come here on holidays from somewhere else. Sure, most are beginners, but it’s easier than trying to keep track of 12 unruly kids.

12. Extreme night time riding

It’s no surprise that Phoenix Park has night riding, every night from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. It’s a little surprising to learn that you can take lessons from 7pm to 9pm. But what’s really surprising is that on the weekends you can ride until 4:30am. 4:30 in the freaking morning? Are all these people drunk? Why else would you be up that late? I’m going to have to investigate.

14. Super spicy kimchi

I know I’ve already mentioned the kimchi but it deserves its own section. Now, I’ve had kimchi in both Australia and Japan. It’s good stuff. But it did not prepare me for true Korean kimchi. That stuff is spicy. Like, burn your insides spicy. Like, I feel it for days after spicy. Like, when I go to the bathroom I – Ok I think you get the idea.

Considering I’ve only been here a week, I’m sure I’m going to discover many new and awesome things about riding and teaching in Korea. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Keep eating kimchi,

Little Cat

Like stories from Little Cat? Check out her blog here: