35 Fun Facts About Life in South Korea
35 Fun Facts About Life in South Korea
It’s already been two whole months since I’ve packed up my life and moved to Korea! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. In between meeting new people, trying to decipher the language and getting settled in my new home, I’m already learning loads about the culture.
Here are 35 fun facts about life in South Korea I’ve found to be the most interesting
1. Korea is a very safe country to live and travel.
I have never felt unsafe walking around my neighborhood or Daegu at night. South Korea actually ranks much higher than the United States on the Global Peace Index so fear not friends and family, I’m in a good place!
2. Teachers and students brush their teeth after lunch at school.
This was such a shock to me on my first day of school. Hoards of people were lined up at the sinks after lunch with their toothbrushes in hand!
3. Toilet paper is usually kept outside of the stalls.
I can not tell you how many times I’ve rushed into the stall only to realize I forgot the TP. I now carry tissues as back up.
4. In Korea, you are actually 1 or 2 years older than your Western age.
At birth, you are considered 1 years old and everyone gets a year older in the New Year. So my Western age is 25 but my Korean age is 27. This article does a great job explaining it – find your Korean age here: www.waegukin.com
5. As a sign of respect, people are often addressed by their profession.
So that’s Brittany teacher to you!
6. Kimchi and rice is served with every meal – often even breakfast.
This one blew my mind. Kimchi, for breakfast?
7. When meeting new people, it’s very common to be asked personal questions.
Questions like…How old are you? What is your profession? Are you married? What is your blood type? In Korea your blood type can be an indicator of your personality, very similar to your astrology sign!
8. As a non-Korean, people often automatically assume you’re American.
I’ll walk down the street and hear often hear ‘migook’ in passing, which means American in Korean. This assumption of course works in my favor, but my friends from other English speaking countries often are mislabeled as American.
9. South Korea is 70% mountainous.
This place is a hiker’s paradise!
10. In Korea, you do not tip any service employees.
The price you see is the price you pay!
11. At restaurants, you press a buzzer to get service.
It’s very loud and still shocks me every time I press it.
12. There are no open container laws.
You can take your soju to go!
13. Most personal bathrooms are wet rooms and do not have a separate shower.
Which means everything in the room gets instantly soaked every time I shower. I still haven’t gotten used to having soggy feet all morning after I shower!
14. There are squatter toilets here.
Not everywhere but they are common. I’m going to come home with quads of steel!
15. In a lot of public places, you’re not allowed to flush toilet paper.
There are special waste containers next to the toilet where you’re expected to put used toilet paper when you’re done.
16. Garbage disposal is very complicated.
Apparently each type of waste has it’s own bag and own disposal process. To be honest, I have yet to figure it out. I’m waiting for the day when an angry neighborhood comes knocking on my door to let me know the error of my garbage ways.
17. The people are very kind and helpful here.
There have been numerous times when we were unsure how to order, eat or pay for items, and the people are patient and go out of their way to explain using exaggerated body movements and Korean I can’t understand. It’s so nice!
18. Collectivism is an integral part of Korean culture.
In the land of the morning calm, extended family members often live together, communal meals are huge, and people value community over individualism. As an American where the opposite is true, it’s a nice change of pace to see aspects of collective life.
19. Foods or snacks you’d expect to be savory are sweet, and things you’d expect to be sweet are savory.
Sausage pizza with sweet glaze? Sugar coated corn dog? Yes please.
20. Plastic surgery is huge.
I’ve even been asked – what do you plan on having done while you’re here?
21. Eating or drinking on the street doesn’t seem to be a thing.
And around town you will be hard pressed to find an actual garbage can to dispose of such items.
22. Tiny hearts are all the rage when taking photos.
You cross the top part of your thumb and index finger to create a tiny heart and violà – you’re camera ready!
23. “Korean Surprise” is a real thing.
Some days I come to school and will be told five minutes before class that the lesson has changed. It’s not uncommon here for things to be done last minute. You just have to be open to going with the flow and rolling with the punches! Just today I was told the English lesson I’d spent an hour planning is now an impromptu tug o’ war training for our school’s upcoming sports day!
24. Korea is a land of high rise apartments.
With a population of 50 million living on a landmass the size of the state of Indiana, it makes sense there are high rises are all over!
25. Wearing outdoor shoes inside is a big no no.
We even wear special slippers while inside the school. My apartment has a separate area for shoes, and entering someone’s home while wearing your outdoor shoes will surely shock and insult your hosts.
26. Students are responsible for cleaning the classrooms.
This is genius in my opinion.
27. When you sneeze, the practice of saying bless you or gesundheit does not exist.
Cue the awkward silence each time I sneeze and expect acknowledgement. After living here I’ve come to realize maybe we’re the weirdos to expect attention after a sneeze – right!?
28. Respect is huge.
In Korea, Confucianism is an integral part of the culture, meaning there is a social hierarchy and each person has their designated spot on the social totem pole depending on age, gender, social status, profession, marital status etc. It’s important to figure out your ranks among society and don’t forget the proper formal language and the 90° bow to those above you!
29. Food delivery service is unreal.
Even places like McDonald’s and KFC have delivery. Take out is often delivered on real plates and containers that are picked up later that evening after you’ve finished your meal.
30. Air pollution is an issue.
Just recently Seoul has been named one of the most polluted cities in the world and the locals have been taking precautions. It’s recommended to wash your face and change your clothes as soon as you get home and to keep your windows closed.
31. Education is taken very seriously.
Korea’s educational system and job market are VERY competitive. Even elementary school kids have crazy schedules including the normal school day, private tutoring after school and various different lessons like piano etc. Young students often stay up very late and come to school very tired!
32. Korean – Chinese relations are currently not so good.
The installation of the U.S. backed THAAD has caused China to ban many tours to Korea, Korean music and entertainment in China, and more.
33. Going to the doctor is actually affordable.
What a concept! I came to school with a mild cold one day and everyone asked if I’d seen a doctor yet. Blew my mind!
34. Korea’s economic success is impressive.
A country devastated by war only a short 64 years ago, the economic growth the country has seen since then is truly incredible. I think the cultural attitude of the people, the idea of collectivism and importance of education has played a huge role.
35. People seem fairly unconcerned with North Korea.
My friends and family back home express more concern about North Korea’s actions than my peers here! I think it’s important to remember that Korea has technically been at war for years – the rising and falling tensions with the North is nothing new to them, especially around S.K.’s election time and the annual U.S. – South Korea military drill. Let’s hope their calm is justified!
Of course these are just my humble observations and aren’t applicable for every person in South Korea! Have I missed something or observed it inaccurately? Share your comments below!