Winter in Seoul

seoul in winter

Seoul in the winter: A brutal, bone-chilling beast. The kind of cold that attempts to freeze one’s eyes open and makes you feel as if your teeth will turn to icicles and make a nice clinking sound, like ice cubes dropping into a glass, as they shatter in your mouth.

To illustrate: I wore a layer of leggings with knee-high socks pulled all the way up, and on top of that wore a pair of jeans, and on top of that a pair of boots. Three layers, two sets of gloves, one thick coat, a scarf wrapped all the way up to my eyes, and a beanie completed the ensemble. Within 15 minutes of walking outside I could no longer feel my legs. They were so frozen that even after returning to the warmth of our hotel room they remained ice-cold and numb for nearly an hour.

seoul in winterseoul in winter
We followed the weather reports obsessively hoping for minute fluctuations in temperature as if that would somehow make much of a difference. The thermometer fell into the negatives but our trusty phone apps told us that with the combined wind chill the weather felt more like -20° F which, in my head, was a temperature usually reserved for Arctic places that received at minimum, ten feet of snow.

In other words, it was cold. Very very cold. When the weather finally rose above 0°F, it felt downright tropical.

“One of the coldest winters we’ve had in a long time,” or so they said. At some point in the not-so-distant future I imagine I will be telling some poor, bored kids, being forced to listen to an old lady ramble on about ‘back in the day,’ about the coldest winter I ever experienced.

“It was so cold … we bought hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors to keep our gloved hands warm.”

“It was so cold … my eyes turned to snowballs and my teeth turned to icicles.”

“It was so cold … we ate nearly every meal bundled in a million layers and huddled over a blazing fire.”

It was so cold that all I could think about — dream about — was that hot, sticky, humid, non air-conditioned mess that is known as summer in Korea. In several months I will pay for thinking such thoughts.

By then I will be dreaming of January in Seoul.

You Might Also Like

  • Kevin
    February 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    I hope everything was intact after the thaw.
    Keeping Good Thoughts…

  • Funnelcloud Rachel
    February 25, 2016 at 12:01 am

    This sounds brutal! My eyes turned to snowballs – ha!

    Have you tried fleece lined leggings? Best things ever – I could live in them all winter! They’re the only thing that keeps my legs warm and cozy. I haven’t tested them in -20 F though!

  • Karen
    February 25, 2016 at 3:50 am

    It is 70 here and we just had a storm go through with a tornado warning (nothing came of it), a severe thunderstorm warning, a flash flood watch and a high wind warning. After the storm passed the sky turned bright blue within seconds – it was so odd. And now temps are dropping and the overnight lows will be in the 20s by the weekend. Mother Nature is a sassy, fickle woman!

    In Alaska I experienced 3 weeks of temperatures not rising above 0, which is actually odd for Anchorage because it’s considered coastal. You are so right – when temps rose again to single digits it felt balmy! And when it was 30 above? I was ready to break out the swimsuit.

    I LOVED sitting in the outdoor hot tub when it was that cold. My hair would be frozen solid in seconds after getting out!

    We have had a disappointing winter – less than 3 inches of snow. I keep hoping for one more storm but in my 15 (!) years of living in the south it has never snowed in March. In fact, I am already seeing some trees bud and even blossom!

  • veronika
    February 25, 2016 at 4:49 am

    Just barely. Even thinking about those cold days is making me feel numb again.

  • veronika
    February 25, 2016 at 4:53 am

    It was soooooo coooollld. And dry. Like being in an ice desert.

    Are the fleece lined leggings thick? I saw some thickish fleecy stockings that I really regretted not buying but now I think I’ll hunt down some leggings. The problem was I wore my leggings under skinny jeans and I could barely bend my knees bc of it.

  • veronika
    February 25, 2016 at 5:00 am

    Ha!Yup, when it was in the 30s I was like, “oh nice, a warm day.” It’s considerable warmer (by like 10-20 degrees) in Daegu where we live as opposed to Seoul. When we returned home I felt as if I could sunbathe on our porch!

    Oh man I LOVE hot tubs in cold weather. It’s the best! Especially after snowboarding. Spas and Saunas are really popular in Korea. Supposedly there’s an outdoor one nearby. I need to check it out before it gets warmer!

    I think I just really love “bad” weather: thunderstorms, blizzards, etc.

  • Funnelcloud Rachel
    February 25, 2016 at 9:29 am

    They’re thicker than regular leggings, but not so much so that anyone else could tell you were wearing fleece-lined ones. Bonus is you don’t have to worry about anything showing through! I wouldn’t wear them under skinny jeans…but then again, I wouldn’t wear skinny jeans! 😉

    The ones I have are from Athleta – pricey, but seriously the most comfortable pants I own. Yup, I’m ok wearing leggings as pants, but not skinny jeans. Hmm.

  • Funnelcloud Rachel
    February 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Now I want to be in a hot tub during a snowstorm! That is seriously the best!

    I went to college in Syracuse and one year I marked on my calendar every day that it snowed. For three months it snowed every single day. I don’t know what I was thinking going to that school. TOO BAD I DIDN’T HAVE A HOT TUB IN COLLEGE!

  • Karen
    February 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

    I constantly forget you were at Syracuse, right up the road from me in Cortland. Probably the same years. Cortland was the worse, looking back. I learned zero that I could later use in teaching. Student teaching was fun.

    I remember weekend trips to the Carousal Mall in the ‘cuse. What a treat.

  • Funnelcloud Rachel
    February 25, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Ahahaha! Carousel Mall. OMG.

    Yeah, if I had a do-over, I would definitely go somewhere with better weather. That sucked.

  • veronika
    February 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    well my skinny jeans are more like glorified leggings with pockets so basically same thing.

  • JJ
    February 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Don’t let Mom read this.

    (lots of upstate NY in your comments… weird, considering I have been running into a lot of people from there lately…who aren’t connected to M)

  • veronika
    February 25, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Hahahaha oh lord. I can see her scrunched face and head shaking.

    I don’t think she reads this regularly but anyway, Mom if you’re reading this it isn’t typically as cold as it was that day, especially down where we live!