In recent years, the world has been hit with a surge of Korean culture (also known as Hallyu), ranging from Korean cuisine to Korean traditional artists, to the increasingly popular K-pop. In fact, Hallyu has become so global, it has even arrived in a small island called Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria is a Spanish island off the coast of Morocco, and a major tourist site as it is known as the “Land of Eternal Spring.” The culture revolves around chill beach days, unique gastronomy, and its biggest pride - UDLP (the soccer team). Although the population is around 850,000, an outstanding 4,000,000 tourists visit the island every year. With a cheap standard of living and many tourist attractions to accommodate all visitors, Gran Canaria has become a holiday home for many people.
A Bit of Korean-Canarian History
Koreans have become more than mere visitors, and many families have settled down there. Gran Canaria is home to one of the biggest Korean communities in Spain, making up 4% of the population in the 1970s; and their influence is so prominent, it has the only Spanish Koreatown. In the seventies, Koreans moved to Gran Canaria to flourish the fishing business; now they come for business and entrepreneurship.
Although part of Spain, and with its own culture, too; Gran Canaria has many places that can give you a sneak peek of what South Korea is really like.
When two cultures with big culinary significance are mixed, you can expect outstanding quality and special local twists. Here is a list of amazing Korean restaurants worth going to:
Restaurante Mandu is a quaint restaurant by the seafront. It is quite small, yet popular, so getting a table without a reservation is quite hard. However, if you eat here, not only will you have amazing food and great prices, you will get a view of the stunning beach of Las Canteras. Whether you eat in the daytime or at night, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the place. On top of that, the restaurant is near a famous ice-cream shop called Peña La Vieja, a Canarian favorite.
If you cannot decide whether you fancy Korean or Japanese food, but still want a feel of an East Asian restaurant, Ginza is the place for you. Run by Koreans who have an appreciation for Japanese food, this place offers authentic food from both nations. You can choose to eat at the tables, where a TV broadcasts Korean television (quietly, so you can still converse if you prefer); or you can try out the tatami-style dining.
If going to the north of the island is a hassle, the south offers Asian Dinner—a restaurant that offers all sorts of Asian food. Although not solely Korean, the restaurant has very good ratings and it exceeds most expectations. Also, as opposed to most Canarian restaurants, it opens at 12:30 p.m. (instead of 2:00 p.m. for lunch, and 8:00 p.m. for dinner), offering visitors who are not accustomed to eating as late as the Spaniards an earlier lunch or dinner.
K-Pop Canarias is a group that organizes K-pop-related parties for all lovers of Korea. Recently, the most noticeable events were K-arnavales and the April Fiesta Light/Night. K-arnavales is a K-pop-centred party in March, during the islands’ biggest festival—carnival. The event includes giveaways, sake, and a lot of dancing.
Kimchi, V Festival de Cultura Canaria is the result of mixing Comic-Con with Korean culture. The event invites locals to discover and explore South Korea through karaoke, workshops, shops, hanbok rentals, exhibitions and much more. It’s hosted every year in October, and as of now, the entrance has been free.
On the top of a hill covered by palm trees stands the Full Gospel Las Palmas Church (also known as Iglesia Coreana de Altavista), a church built by and for Koreans. All the services are done in Korean, and many concerts are held here. Not only this, but it also serves as Saturday school for the children and teenagers, so they can study Korean, despite being born and living abroad.
Gran Canaria also has a King Sejong Institute, these are schools established by the South Korean government in countries all over the world. There are currently three in Spain, and the main one is in Gran Canaria. The school is not only for Korean citizens but also for anyone who wants to learn the language.
There are many places in Gran Canaria that have been directly influenced by South Korea, and although there was a noticeable decrease of this after the nineties, Hallyu is starting to take over the island, and more Canarians are taking an interest in the culture. Next time you are looking for a holiday destination, and cannot afford to go to South Korea, consider visiting the Land of Eternal Spring, and experience both Canarian and Korean culture.
Do you live near a heavily Korean-influenced place? Have you been (or heard) of Gran Canaria? Would you like to visit? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Lucille Bamber