I’ve lately been thinking back to how I was at the start of this process, when I was still in the USA. I’d spend hours googling things about Korea, looking at everything from transportation routes to what type of chopsticks they use. I read blog posts from expats about jimjilbangs and where to get your hair cut. I put a coat in my suitcase, took it out, put it in, took it out again. I wondered far too long about what pair of shoes to bring and if I should throw a jar of peanut butter in my bag or not.
A bit extreme, but hey, I’m a planner. I like to prepare myself for things.
So, for all you fellow planners out there, here’s a blog post about Korean things I’ve noticed…in no particular order:
You don’t eat rice with chopsticks. Use a spoon.
“Juseyo” is “please give me.” (Jew-say-yo) As in, “coffee/kopi juseyo.”
Coffee culture is HUGE here. You can’t walk more than two steps without seeing a coffee shop. And convenience shops have these amazing to-go coffees for only 1,000 won.
Couple/group culture is also a big thing here, which makes it tricky to go out to eat by yourself. (I’ve heard that Japan has single-person food stalls at restaurants…that’s not a thing in Korea.) Food portions are big because they’re meant to be shared.
Another note on couple culture: Korean couples will actually coordinate their outfits. This morning I walked past two Koreans who were both wearing white tops, jeans, and red Converse. They were lookin’ pretty fly.
Lots of businesses are stacked on top of each other, so don’t forget to look up once in a while. (It makes sense, considering that it’s a small country that just keeps expanding and building and growing…) And look down, too! There are many underground bars, usually located down a flight of nondescript stairs…
So far there’s only been one day with noticeable smog. The air was noticeably thicker; everything just looked dingy and grey. I still didn’t wear a breathing mask (although I do own one) and felt fine.
T-Money cards (for the subway and buses) can be refilled at most convenience stores. Also, swipe your card on the scanner as you leave the bus, otherwise you’ll get charged more money because the system doesn’t know where you got off the bus.
Koreans use metal chopsticks at restaurants. They’ve slipped out of my grip an embarrassing number of times already.
Ladies, I haven’t seen many bare shoulders or cleavage here. Koreans don’t mind showin’ some leg, though — there are a lot of women walking around in short skirts.
Bathrooms are an adventure in Korea. Before you leave home, make sure you’ve got toilet paper, soap, and a small towel (or wet wipes) in your bag. It’s rare for a bathroom to have all three of those things, or even just one of those things!
Koreans do not use dryers, so fabric softener is the way to go. That way when you hang up your clothes to dry, they don’t end up all crunchy and gross.
Ladies, you were right: it’s hard to find pads/tampons. I’ve only seen some SUPER tiny, frilly pads so far. I’m so glad I heeded everyone’s advice and brought my own!
I’ve also only seen deodorant in one store and it was — you guessed it — very tiny and expensive. Same goes for sunscreen.
Cereal is pricey and a bit difficult to find. I have found peanut butter here, but I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t remark on its quality.
Thanks for reading,