South Korea is a world away from what many westerns are used to when it comes to food, customs, and culture. That’s why it’s one of the most eye-opening and remarkable travel experiences you can have.
You’re guaranteed to leave South Korea with lots of memories, a few great souvenirs to bring back home, and a whole new perspective on life. There are just a few things you should know about this amazing country before you go to make your trip run as smoothly as possible.
Keep reading to find out what you should know about South Korea before you visit.
10 You Might Be Pushed
In most western countries, pushing people in public is considered bad form. But in South Korea, there tends to be a lot more pushing. More than 50 million people live in South Korea so pushing is kind of required if you want to get around.
When you go out in public in the busy cities of Korea, you’ll notice that people tend to push and shove each other just to get by. There’s also a high chance that you’ll be pushed as you get caught up in the ruckus. Just remember that this isn’t a personal attack on you—it’s just the way things are.
9 It’s Better Not To Hug People
Hugging people is the norm in some cultures. Many Asian cultures tend to be more conservative when it comes to interacting with other people, and South Koreans often share that view. One writer for the Matador Network recalled an awkward moment when she tried to hug a fellow teacher in South Korea.
In most cases, don’t assume that the people you meet will be comfortable with a hug. Instead, go for a wave if you’re talking to a young person. When you’re talking to someone older, it’s polite to give a slight bow.
8 Be Prepared For Spicy Food
If you’ve never been to South Korea and you’re not familiar with the local cuisine, then it’s necessary to prepare your taste buds before you go. A lot of the food is seriously spicy, so keep that in mind before you try anything new. Make sure that there’s always some water nearby in case you accidentally set your tongue on fire!
As Travelocity points out, there are also many non-spicy Korean dishes to try, including gimbap, bulgogi, and pajeon. If you’re adamant about avoiding spicy food, then don’t go for any dish that is orange or red in color.
7 Korean Chopsticks Are Different From Other Ones
Korean chopsticks are different from the kind that most westerners are familiar with. They are often made of metal and are a slightly different shape. Because they are flatter and wider than the chopsticks you’d find at a sushi joint, for example, they can be a little difficult to use at first. You might want to practice!
It’s comforting to know that in Korea, rice is eaten with a spoon. This means that there should always be some familiar cutlery nearby in case you just can’t get it together with the Korean chopsticks.
6 It Will Be Helpful To Learn The Alphabet
Having a basic understanding of the Korean language can help you to get the most out of your trip to South Korea. The official alphabet of Korean is Hangul, and though to a westerner it looks as complicated as Chinese, it’s actually easier to learn.
The Culture Trip explains that Hangul is phonetic, so you can sound out the letters to remember them rather than trying to memorize them without any reference. It’s actually very possible to learn Hangul quickly, which will help you understand signs and menus in South Korea.
5 Take Your Shoes Off Indoors
Another custom that you’ll find in South Korea which is also practiced in many other Asian nations is the removal of shoes indoor. In South Korea and elsewhere in Asia, the outside floor is considered dirty. To bring all that dirt in the house with you on the bottom of your shoes is unthinkable for most.
Generally, when you see other people removing their shoes in South Korea, you should do the same. Often, slippers will be provided so you won’t have to walk around completely barefoot.
4 Summer May Not Be The Best Time To Visit
If you have some flexibility as to when you can plan your trip to Korea, then it’s a good idea to avoid traveling in summer. According to World Nomads, the time between June and August is monsoon season in Korea, which means you’ll be in for lots of rain. The weather will also be hot and humid, which can spoil outdoor activities.
Also, the beaches tend to be crowded during this time, and everything seems to be more expensive. If you’re going to travel in winter, remember that it gets seriously cold between December and February.
3 Don’t Flush Your Toilet Paper
For many westerners, flushing the toilet paper in the toilet is just a given. But there are several countries throughout the world where that luxury is just not an option due to older-style plumbing systems. If you flush your toilet paper in South Korea, you risk clogging the toilet.
The best practice is to throw your used paper in the trash bin which will be provided near the toilet. You might come across western-style toilets in public restrooms across the country, but also be prepared to be faced with the more traditional squatting-style toilet.
2 Keep The Noise To A Minimum On Public Transport
Pushing and shoving through the crowds might be acceptable in the busy cities of South Korea, but making too much noise while using public transport is not. You don’t have to stay completely silent on the trains and buses, but if you make too much noise, you risk disrupting other passengers. It’s not common to make noise in public, so if you do, you also risk standing out as a tourist.
To play it safe, save the phone calls until you get off the bus and opt for music or some quiet time during your ride instead.
1 Stay Away From Deluxe Taxis
The public transport system in South Korea is very easy to use, even if you aren’t supposed to make a lot of noise while doing it! You can get a multi-pass subway and bus ticket for a reasonable price, which will make it super easy to get around the big cities. This is a much better option than using the deluxe taxis.
Taxis that are marketed as being deluxe, or are simply black, are more expensive. They claim to offer better services, but you probably don’t need them just to get around. Instead, rely on regular taxis or the effective bus and subway system.