Things to know when visiting Korea

There are always those little things about a country and its’ culture that unless you’ve been told, you just would not know! Here are some of the tips we’ve picked up along the way which have been EXTREMELY helpful (to us anyway)!

Now the tips aren’t pro because we are (because we’re well and truly rank amateurs), they’re pro because a tip by itself is boring. Obviously.

1. Bathrooms.

They’re a bit shit!!!

Don’t be surprised to find that the shower is an attachment over the sink, angled in a manner that the prevention of flooding is a priority over actually getting you wet.

This can be painful for you taller folk (Chris) especially when you feel like you almost have to climb into the basin to properly wash. The bathrooms are usually fairly small (Sarah is the only person I know with a proper shower here). Chris’ bathroom is maybe 1.5 sqm.

We can assume this is because Koreans will go and soak and properly wash at a Jimjilbang. These often 24hr communal bathhouses come with hot baths and the option for an old man/woman to scrub you so raw you’ll practically be new again! Many Koreans go once or twice a week.

Pro tip #1: Lift the toilet during your shower. Don’t be that guy that drenches the seat! That guy is an asshole.

2. Toilets

They’re also a bit shit, but not for the reasons you think.
There is a reasonable chance you will encounter one of, if not both of two things with toilets in Korea.

Number 1: there will be no toilet paper provided and;

Number 2: a squatter toilet.

The one time I (Sarah) has been caught out with no toilet paper, I had luckily recently been given some tissues from one of the church ladies at the subway station exit. “Thanks, Jesus”.

Also, expect a bucket next to the toilet for your toilet paper. Yes, this is as unhygienic as it sounds, and they are trying to stop this practice.

Koreans don’t tend to flush TP out of fear of blocking the toilet. But as an inconsiderate foreigner, I can tell you they don’t clog that easy.

Otherwise, public toilets here are fairly reasonable! I’m specifically referring to ones at the train stations and parks, and the few times I have used them they have been very clean.

Pro tip #2: Carry tissues with you when you’re out and about.

Pro tip #3: The flusher for the squatter toilets- use your foot! (This is probably obvious for most, but was welcome information for us newbies when we were told!)

3. Hands

Two hands are required for pretty much everything here in Korea. Accept money, drinks, handshakes, bribes, and unsolicited religious materials with two hands. If this isn’t possible, because your hands are full of soju, at least touch your other, not in use hand, on the forearm of the receiving arm. Like you’re beginning to do the Macarena.

Pro tip #4: Throw in a slight head bow when meeting an elder to confirm that respect. Don’t go too deep, going deep just makes it awkward.

4. Internet

There is free wifi everywhere here in Korea. Your hotel, cafes, shopping centres, even some of the main tourist areas will have public wifi. If you are staying in Seoul, there probably isn’t too much need to hire an internet dongle at the airport as you won’t have to go far to find some.

Pro tip #5: If the cafe you’re in has wifi but the password isn’t obvious, fair chance it will be either on your receipt or the phone number.

5. Eating

When you sit down to eat, you can expect some metal, flat chopsticks and a spoon. These are the chopsticks of your nightmares. No knives and forks here! However, at Chimek (Korean fried chicken and beer) restaurants, the fork will make a rare reappearance in your life!

You will also often get a wet wipe in a little plastic bag which often has been kept in the fridge to wash your hands with prior to eating.

Pro tip #6: Totally okay to 1. eat your rice with your spoon and 2. stab tricky foods with a chopstick. We’ve seen it!

6. The Oldies

One thing in Korea that you will notice is all the old people. There are sooooo many! Known as ajummahs and ahjussis (older, often married women and men), they have often gotten to a stage of life where zero shits are given and can get away with stuff other Korean’s socially can not. They will push, shove and scream in public to their heart’s content. Oh, the joys of the Confucian social system.

Pro tip #7: Just stay out of their way. It’s just easier.


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