Things I know after living in Korea

Hell has been let loose, and I’ve fulfilled my dream to stay in Seoul. Do I like it? I couldn’t say no, but I can’t say yes confidently too.

It’s been 3 weeks since I lived in Seoul, and being around something new is what I need to adapt myself to. It’s true that I’ve dreamt of being around Koreans, surviving in between them, ride the bus, take the subway just like them. But me, as an introvert living in another country is like struggling hard to control myself not to freak out in all these new situations which I need to cope with. All the people around me are like bombs that I’m afraid they might explode right beside me anytime.

I still need to say thanks to all my friends cum co-workers for helping me and taught me so many things while I’m here. And these are the very few things that I have found out after living here.

  1. Anyone can sign on your behalf when paying with credit / debit card – Yep. ANYONE!
  2. Actual signature is not required for credit / debit card – I only draw a line.
  3. Wet tissues are for cleaning, except dishes and cloths.
  4. Housemates doesn’t sleeps until it is 1am or later – They will think I’m in depression mode if I sleep early.
  5. You pay for garbage. Wait, what? You need to buy garbage bags, with correct DISTRICT printed on it. You can’t just use those you got from markets.
  6. Bus is better than subways – At least I have a place to sit everyday.
  7. Daiso and/or E-mart is your life saviour, things are pretty cheap at these marts.
  8. Free wifi is hard to get – Everyone knows this… So use Wifi-Korea! Sounds like I’m promoting them too hard.. 😛 But they are reliable though.. 🙂
  9.  It’s way too hard to find oats in Korea, except in Cotsco.
  10. Rain in Korea is annoying. It just rains, erm, more like drizzles the whole freaking day! Most times!
  11. Creepy crawlies are just even uglier – They need plastic surgeries badly.
  12. Watching movies in Seoul is EXPENSIVE – It’s 10,000 won for a movie (exclude pop-corns & drinks), which I can watch at least twice back in Malaysia!)
  13. If you see Korean girls (or guys) scream when they see pigeons, like they came in contact with a T-rex, don’t freak out. They say pigeons are the dirtiest animal in the world. Seriously?
  14. Sam-so – It’s short for Sam gyup sal + Soju. Soju is a must when eating sam gyup sal.
  15. When you expect to cool your body heat in the subway station after a LONG HOT walk in the sun……… They got no central aircond system in there. Duh!
  16. Winds just came from nowhere, every directions, out of a sudden. I hate it when I’m with an umbrella.
  17. Koreans brush their teeths after EVERY meal. Even in the office. Hmm…..
  18. Even if you don’t pay electricity, you still can use it, with limited capacity. In Malaysia, it’d be dark until you paid the bill.
  19. Deposit for houses starts from 1 million won, and rental will depends on the deposit. For 1 million won, monthly rent will be around 500,000 won. Rent reduce if deposit is more.
  20. Electricity & water bills are bank transferred to an account specifically for that unit.

This is just my personal experiences and opinions.

 

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What NOT to do in Korea

Hundreds, or not thousands of “what-to-do-in-Korea” posts one could find out there but less about “what not to do” or any negative stuffs about a place or products. Humans are born curious, while most of the times, curiosity arouses towards things they didn’t know about. That says, me included.

Though I’m not a Korean local, however, curiosity had successfully led me towards loads of researching, K-dramas as well as countless visits to Korea, with that, I exposed myself to their cultures to the extend that I could basically call myself a local? No… I’ll just be my humble self and reject that statement, yet, many Koreans would tell me that when I’m with them.

I tend to think of when travelling to one’s country is literally like taking a visit to someone’s home. Thus, utilizing my knowledge, I’d like to share some of my insights on what you should try to AVOID in Korea.

  • Do not flush toilet papers into the toilet bowl.

Korea has narrower piping systems compare to most countries, so it gets easily jammed up if you’d do that, and that’d be gross, if you get what I mean. Always throw in the bin that they provided instead.

  • Do not pour a drink for yourself if you’re drinking with others. I meant alcohol.

Koreans are heavy drinkers, colleagues get along together every week or month to drink, probably to release stress? However, pouring a drink for yourself is a big NO NO! Maybe it relays the meaning of “being lonely”?

Remember to ALWAYS accept a drink with both hands!

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  • Do not talk loudly or talk back, disrespecting an elderly.

I hate to say this but I think Korean cultures are still kind of conservative. Of course, respecting an elderly is something people should be doing, but in Korea, talking back or shouting (unless they have hearing impairment) at the old folks, it’s consider as disrespectful.

  • Do not tip.

Tipping in most countries are a norm, however it is NOT in Korea, some restaurants even banned customers for tipping their staffs. I remember once a Korean girl told a vendor to keep the change and walked away, the store owner was actually furious and swearing non-stop at her. Hmm..

  • Do not reject a drink if being offered, unless it’s a stranger.

I personally thinks that Koreans are a sociable group of people when you get along well with them. When being offered a drink, just take a couple of sips even if you can’t drink much instead of rejecting them directly. It makes you more sociable and friendly in my opinion.

  • Do not start eating before the eldest of the group starts first. (Remember, respecting an elder.)

As in point #3, respecting an older person is a culture that every Koreans bare on their minds. Therefore, it’s normal for an older person to start eating first before the younger one does. To them, this is a form of respect.

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  • Do not talk too loud even in public places (I meant other than in subways or buses).

I remember once that a friend of mine talking ever so loudly and got HUSH! by an ahjumma. It’s an open space and I’m very sure it’s not a closed space! So my advice is that you better keep your volume a little low as it might irritates the Koreans (especially the older people).

  • Do not ask the restaurant staff for utensils until you have searched under the table.

Usually, if you couldn’t find utensils on the tables, it’s most likely stored in a slide out drawer beneath the table, along with tissues, or serviettes if you call it that way. It’s a smart move in my opinion, clean and tidy.

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  • Do not talk loudly in cafes.

It’s true that there are hundreds of cafe all over Korea, but there are even more students in the whole Korea. Korean students are basically known as hardcore students as they tend to study day and night during exam periods, even in cafes. Make sure you keep it low when you are chatting with your companies or you might get caught in those killer glares. It’s gonna be awkward you know.

  • Don’t dress inappropriately.

Inappropriately as in too overly “exposed” of your body, especially girls wearing something that shows too much of your cleavage. If an older person saw you in that shirt, you’re gonna get nagging (not sure about scolding and yelling yet though) from them. Even if they didn’t know you personally. (Bikini is ok, just don’t walk around the city wearing it.)

  • Do not pay money back to your Korean friend if they treat you for a meal.

Instead, pay them back with a cup of coffee! I think this is a way that they stay in contact with each other, when a Korean treat you a meal, you treat them with a cup of coffee or something to drink in return. But I don’t think I’m able to adapt myself with this culture though.

  • Try to avoid eating on the go.

The reason: It’s hard to find garbage bin on the sidewalks! It’s really inconvenient to hold your trash and walking all around with it, especially if you’re a photography enthusiast like me! Though lack of bins, you hardly find trash anywhere on the roads though, and that makes Korea looks really clean.

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Things to see in Seoul during Chuseok

Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving is just one day away. If you have read online about travelling to Seoul during Chuseok, you might find that most shops and places will be closed during this huge celebration. Nevertheless, in order for tourists to keep their days occupied, Seoul city had some great events to offer to those who will be in Seoul during this festival.

If you are an historical junkie, you might be glad to hear that few of the palaces in Seoul will be open despite this huge celebration such as Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung and Jongmyo Shrine. Huwon is closed though. I also heard that it will be a free admission but I cannot confirm it as I read somewhere that says you need to wear the traditional Hanbok in order to gain free admission. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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Say, you aren’t fond of history? Instead, you prefer walking and exploring the city? Not to worry, there are also some places that you can visit and open all year round.

You’d notice that Korea is surrounded by many beautiful mountains by now. Maybe, you’d want to take a hike up Bukhansan or trail up to Namsan to catch the beautiful sunset. One advantage for visitors like us during huge festival where Seoul eventually becomes a ghost town is that you will be able to snap some great pictures without too many people standing in your way, you don’t even need to wait too long before you can take a picture of your family and friends. Or a selfie.

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Too tired to hike? Then, head down to Gwanghwamun Square, there are some traditional cultural events that will be held during Chuseok as well! Get to know what and how to play a game of Yutnori, a popular traditional game that has been played during Joseon dynasty. In the evening, take a walk at the Cheonggyecheon Stream, see the beautiful lighting along the stream while sitting by the side and cooling of some heat.

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Now who could say travelling to Seoul on Chuseok will just be a waste of time when there are a number of other things you can do?

So, Happy Chuseok to everyone! 추석 연휴가 잘 보내세요.

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Experiencing human traffic abroad

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Most people in Korea takes public transport especially subway. I’m not so sure about prices of cars, but I can definitely say that to refill petrol in Korea is like pumping money into your car like water. It’s so expensive!

Anyhow, taking public transport during peak hours is indeed a pain in the neck, imagine almost 50% or more of the population in Seoul fighting their way through crazy pack stations, trains and buses. What more to say when Korean’s “people-pushing” etiquette is awfully irritating. What I experienced was being pushed from behind at subway stations, without a word, no excuse me, no sorry. Not once, but twice, young or old, it’s a habit of them. Deep down I’m thinking, looking at how the pack was, pushing wouldn’t bring you anywhere either don’t you think?

As a visitor, we want to avoid such hours but who knows we might bumped into such madness once a while, and here’s what it looks like being stuck in a human way of jam at a subway station. Good luck squeezing through!

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Seoul in a different light

The brightly lit and colorful signboards spiced up the dull streets of Seoul, making the city ever so lively during the night. Working adults or university students starts gathering around outside to meet up with friends after their busy schedules in the day.

Seoul is a city of nightlife, despite the weekdays, Seoulites usually carry on their second or third round of entertainment after dinner such as treating themselves to some soju, visiting clubs, singing their favorite songs in a PC bang, or buying themselves a cup of coffee while relaxing with their friends at a cafe.. Staying awake is one of your mission when being in Seoul.

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Checkout Seoul Nightlife’s blog for more places to hangout after sunset.

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