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10 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Korea
No matter if you are going to travel solo or with friends or family, for sure you expect to meet a new culture with new habits. After all, this is something a lot of travellers are looking forward to when travelling east. South Korea is a fascinating country that is situated in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea is known for a lot of things. Besides high-tech cities like Seoul, it also has beautiful and green countrysides, full of Buddhist temples and cherry trees. It also shares the most militarized border with North Korea, which has been divided since the end of World War II.
However, South Korea is a country full of history. And because every country in the world is unique in its way, here is a list of 10 things you must know about Korean mentality before visiting South Korea.
1. Take off your shoes
For Koreans, the floor is significant, and it needs to be clean. They sometimes sleep on it and even eat, so this is why they strive to maintain it as clean as possible. So, whenever you enter a Korean house, you need to take your shoes off.
South Koreans are always expressing their concern regarding Westerns that do not take their shoes off. This is especially obvious in those movies where the character comes home from work and lounges on the bed or couch with his shoes on.
Not taking your shoes off is a sign of disrespect, so remember to do this before entering a Korean house.
2. The Korean language is easy to earn
When you first hear about an Asian language, you think that you have no chance of learning it. They all use special characters that combine more than two letters, so it seems pretty challenging to try and learn them. However, South Korean is one of the Asian languages that are easier to learn.
Because Hangul, the official alphabet, is phonetic. This means that you can learn the sound of the letters and everything will be okay. For some people, learning the Hangul is a challenge they master within days, but which is of help when travelling.
3. Not all Koreans know English
You may think that because English is a language used internationally by people from different countries, everyone knows it. Well, this is not entirely true for South Koreans. Because the country experienced massive growth in the last decades, English became more and more popular.
There are a lot of tourists visiting the country, so South Koreans felt necessary to start learning it. However, this is not valid for all the people (which it’s normal when you think that there are over 51 million) in South Korea, although you will easily find people who speak English.
You have probably wondered if South Koreans have some unspoken rules on how to behave at a restaurant. In contrast to the waiters from Europe, the ones in South Korea let you finish your meal without interrupting you. However, if you want to order something more, it is okay if you shout at your waitress. If you shout “Yogiyo!”, the waiter will come to your table because this means “I am here!”.
Most restaurants in South Korea also have a button attached to the table that saves you from shouting at your waiter. Just push it, and your waiter will come to you.
5. Tips or no tips?
This is an excellent question, as the tipping rules are different from country to country. Well, South Korea is not a country that practices tipping. You should know that no one is expecting a tip, be it a cab driver, a waiter or a bellboy.
Tipping is just not something part of their culture. However, with the massive wave of Western tourists that visited Korea and are used to tipping, they have learned to accept the tips. If you want to leave a tip, it is okay, and the sum is up to you.
6. Public bathrooms
Koreans have invested a lot in maximizing the bathroom experience. While some bathrooms are equipped with the traditional Western-style toilets, in most cases you will come across the squatty potty. It is pretty intuitive and straightforward to use. Just stick your feet on the stool and lean over.
You will notice that most Korean bathrooms are highly technological. So, most of them are equipped with a remote that helps you control the bathroom. There is even the option of warming the toilet seat.
Well, one of the significant differences is that the Korean shower is not as you imagine it to be. This means that they have only a shower head attached to the wall. They do this mainly to make space economy.
Most communal showers from hostels are like this, so it is recommended to use shower shoes. You can choose from crocs to flip flops, or you can bring your pair.
8. No personal space
Well, South Korea is home to over 51 million people. And to these add over 15 million tourists every year, and the number is growing. All the places are a little bit crowded, and the concept of personal space is rather utopic. So, you might be hit with the elbow when you are waiting in line for the bathroom. Or you might be pushed while in the subway. You should know that these things are reasonable and you should not take them personally. It just isn’t enough space for all the people, so places get crowded all the time.
You should know that exchanging gifts is a common practice in South Korea. It is linked to showing respect and being courteous. So, if you are invited to someone’s home, you should bring a small gift.
It can be a bouquet, a bottle of wine or something symbolic. The gift is offered with both hands. The rule is that the gift is not opened in front of the giver, so do not feel weird or disrespected because they will not do this.
Soju is the national drink of South Korea. It is usually poured in shot glasses, and its taste is similar to vodka. You should know that soju is served with every ordered food so prepare to clink the glasses and shout “geonbae!” which means “cheers” in Korean.
There are also other rules when dining in Korea. If you have dinner with your boss, you should wait for him to begin to eat. And always accept a shot of soju.
South Korea is a fascinating country, with beautiful landscapes and high-tech cities. Most places are crowded because of the high number of tourists and residents of the country.
However, South Korea is an experience you need to have at least once in your lifetime. And learning some habits from this culture can prove to be empowering. Always respect the elders, offers gifts in signs of respect and take off your shoes.
About the author
John Trogdon is a digital marketer and a blogger at essay writing service in the UK. He is also perfect at writing and talking about self-improvement, social media, and communication. He loves travelling and meeting new cultures, and Asia and Buddhism are among his favourite things to talk about and learn to master. Find John on LinkedIn and Facebook
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