FYI: Korea

Now that I’m back from Korea, there are some things that I wish that someone would have told me before I went. So here’s a list of things for your information about Korea! And if I get to travel more, I’ll try to make an FYI for each country/place I visit~

1) You run into the bathroom. You’ve been holding it for too long and as soon as you saw the international sign for bathroom, you didn’t hesitate to sprint towards that direction. But to your alarm, when you burst into a stall…THERE’S NO TOILET PAPER. DDDDD:

Korea is so stupid how can this be in such a highly connected and electronically world that they don’t have toilet paper what is life why did I even bother coming here awelifjaw;leifja-

CALM DOWN KIDDO.

Usually, in Korea, if the toilet paper is not in each stall, then there’s a huge dispenser for it outside the stalls usually near where the sinks are. This is a big relief, because in some Asian countries, you have to pay for toilet paper if you want it…

2) (this applies only to girls…unless guys wear spaghettis strap tops?)

The sun shines into your room and you immediately feel like it’s going to be a good day. The city is already awake and you hear the bustle of the hurry hurry Korean life below. You’re excited for the day to come since you planned to go to visit a traditional Korean village. But how’s the weather today?

You reach for your trusty phone and almost drop it. IT’S GONNA BE STINKING HOT TODAY. Okay, okay, you tell yourself, so maybe not that awesome t-shirt you just bought from Namdaemun…how about that cute summer dress with spaghetti straps?

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE MISSY.

Korea is generally quite modest. They’re style isn’t like the Western style and things that you’d wear at home might not work in Korea. Especially spaghetti straps.

From what I’ve seen, if girls wear sleeveless tops, the straps are thick, as in go until the end of the shoulder. And if they are wearing spaghetti straps, they wear something over it, always. Just remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

3) Tonight you decided to go to have some authentic Korean BBQ; after all, what better place to have the meal than in Korea itself? You want to look somewhat nice, so you choose some clothes that are decently classy and then go off to the restaurant with camera in hand to take pictures of the food.

But when you get there, there are no chairs and they’re asking you to take off your shoes. Um, what?

In Korea, lots of restaurants will have only cushions (as it’s traditional) for seating and will require that you take off your shoes. And the shoe thing is also applicable to every house you visit. Koreans NEVER wear their outdoor shoes indoors. They’ll either go around barefoot, clad in socks, or more commonly, wearing slippers.

4) I want to hit all the tourist spots next week! you decide one day. So you whip out your handy dandy map of Korea and start to write down interesting places and how long it’d take to get there.

But as you go along, you see a lot of swastikas scattered on the map. What? Nazis?

Swastikas are symbols for Buddhism, not Hitler. There are a lot of Buddhist temples in Korea, so you’ll see swastikas scattered here and there and sometimes on shops.

5) After a solid day of wandering Insadong and visiting the stream running through Seoul, when you arrive back in your room, you realize that your camera is about to die. But that’s no problem, you say cheerfully, I’ll just recharge it and that’ll be that!

But as you try to plug in your charger, there’s a bit of resistance. What? Did my charger get battered on the flight here? But at a closer look, it’s not that; it’s that the outlets in Korea are different.

The outlets in Korea are two dots spaced far apart. YOU WILL NEED A PLUG ADAPTER. Or, you can just hope that your iPod, phone, camera, and laptop will last your entire trip…

6) Once again, you’re in a rush to use the bathroom (maybe too much kimchi stew…). But now, you know the toilet paper thing, so you confidently run into a bathroom stall…only to realize that there’s no toilet.

WHAT IS KOREA DOING TO ME WHY CAN’T I JUST USE THE STINKING BATHROOM SERIOUSLY WHAT IS LIFE LAIWEJFAILW;EJFALEI…

Please. Instead of ranting when you really have to go, try to take a deep breath and think of soothing waves (just kidding!~).

In Korea, there are two different types of bathrooms/toilets. There’s the toilets we’re used to and there’s something that kind of looks like the top part of a urinal cut off and put into the ground. Apparently you have to squat to use it and to be honest, I never used these and just waited until I found a toilet…

7) I want to feel like a local, you decide one day. I’m going to take the metro instead of a taxi! And so you buy the metro card, figure out your route, and wait with other Koreans for the subway to come.

When you get in, all the seats are taken except for the red ones at the end of the car. The picture says that these seats are only for the elderly, but there’s no elderly and well, you’re lugging around a bag full of souvenirs for your friends, so you sit down in the seats and breathe a sigh of relief.

And then you realize people looking at you kind of funny. You start to feel uncomfortable and then notice that everyone else without a seat is standing…

Don’t sit in the reserved seats, even if they’re empty. I did once and it was awkward…Because in Montreal, you can sit in the reserved seats and then you give them up when someone is in need of them. But that doesn’t work in Korea, apparently…

8) It was another hot, muggy day in Korea. You collapse onto your bed covered by a thin layer of sweat and lay there for a couple of seconds before peeling yourself off to take a well deserved shower.

You step into the bathroom and switch your indoor slippers for rubber bathroom slippers (geez, Koreans and all their slippers…). Then you jump into the shower and soon after, feel fully refreshed and ready for some night shopping at Dongdaemun.

But wait, did the shower overflow?- To your alarm, water has collected outside the bathroom. You start to panic and grab the nearest towel to try to soak up the excess.

STOP! You’re wasting a perfectly fine towel!-

In Korean houses, it’s okay if water spills out from your shower because the floor has a drain and it’s made so that everything will drain out. The situation above actually happened to me XD. We were staying at our cousin’s house and yeah…I wasted a perfectly fine towel…

9) You’re at a restaurant with some friends and someone cracks a hilarious joke and you start laughing really loudly, pounding the table and gasping for air.

Then it grows silent and your friends who were laughing seconds before are trying to shush you, but their serious faces make you laugh even harder. They turn to everyone else at the restaurant and start apologizing. For what?-

Don’t be loud in public! It’s extremely rude. I actually learned this through someone else’s actions. While we were on the tour bus, there was this other Korean American family. Once, we were at a restaurant and they did this bet to finish the funny tasting rice drink and it didn’t go as well and the son started to LOL in the most literal sense. But after five seconds, he stopped and looked like a deer in the headlights when he realized that he shouldn’t be so loud. Everyone was staring at him and he sheepishly apologized. They brushed it off saying it was cute but when they were staring at him it was like a ‘how rude!’ look.

10) This is the most important and applies to EVERYONE, even Korean Americans:

It doesn’t matter if you shop from Asian websites and religiously follow the fashion trends.

YOU WILL BE THE FOREIGNER FOREVER WHILE YOU’RE VACATIONING IN KOREA. Koreans can just tell. Even if you’re Korean American. Every time we’ve gotten in a taxi, the driver asks us where we’re from and whenever random people talk with us, they ask the same thing too. THEY JUST KNOW most likely from your clothes and hair and general style.

Don’t try to avoid it; just accept it, it makes it easier…

And that’s my list! I hope that these tips will help anyone planning to go to Korea~

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