I was only in Korea a week but I was surprised by a great deal of things.
Korea is a mix of modern
Samsung is a Korean company so the majority of electronics here are Samsung. But, Samsung phones are more expensive here than in the USA.
Samsung is everywhere. From phones, to air conditioners, to appliances, to cars.
Samsung makes cars.
Cars have blue foam stuck to the outside of the doors to prevent banging other cars when opening the door in parking lots. The dealers display the cars like that!
Cars here are very new. If someone has a car that’s 10 years old, that’s really old. The parking garages look like new car dealerships.
Car dealerships are little stores in a strip mall with just a few cars.
EVERYONE REVERSES INTO PARKING SPOTS. ALWAYS. This makes it easier to get out of tight spaces. Space here is incredible limited and there is usually only enough room for the body of the vehicle. Mirrors automatically fold in and there is not enough room to open the door. Parking spaces are so close together that you have to contort your body into weird shapes just to get in and out of cars parked next to each other.
People always carry around two pairs of shoes: inside shoes and outside shoes. Even at school. All the students and teachers bring slipons to change into once they get inside. Socks with sandals are all the rage.
My personal favorite: there have dummies on the side of the road dressed like police officers waving a fake baton reminding you to slow down. Apparently the dummies weren’t effective so they added in traffic cameras everywhere.
GPS constantly beeps at you for going even 1km over the speed limit and alerts you when approaching a traffic camera. Speeding tickets here are only $30 (and increase as the speed increases) and arrive in your mailbox for your convenience. Since being here, I’ve seen more fake police officers than real ones, and traffic cameras that placed every few kilometers.
Fine dust coats everything and hampers visibility. They say it’s the smog coming over from China.
When going out to eat, you do not order individual plates. You order serving plates for everyone to share and everyone gets their own personal plate put food on.
There is nothing quite like Korean BBQ. You grill your own meat to your liking. It’s wonderful.
Eating on the floor is also a given.
Fish isn’t so bad when you eat it all the time. And in Korea, you do. And yes, I have had fish eyeballs pop out on me while I was trying to eat it…
I’ve never had anything quite as yummy as Korean Ramen. (Sorry Japan)
Or Gimbap (Sorry sushi) Gimbap is the Korean version of sushi and doesn’t typically include raw meat.
If you do not have a toothbrush on your person at all times, you are not winning at life. I “forgot” to bring my toothbrush to school one day..
Personal hygiene in Western countries is just that: personal. You hope people practice good hygiene but you are not going to tell a stranger to wash their face and brush their teeth. Asking someone if they’ve brushed their teeth and washed their face is just as common as asking them if they’ve eaten.
Sleeping on the floor is more common than not.
But don’t worry, you get used to the bruised hip bones.
The culture here is based on collectivism, instead of individualism which is common in Western countries. With individualism, it’s all about the individual. You look out for number 1. Your success comes from you and how you as an individual are better than another individual. With collectivism, think as society as one big family.
Never compare Korea to Japan. Ever. Or any other Asian country.
Until next time, Korea!