As you should know by now, I’m really pumped about being here in Korea right now. My study abroad group is currently in Busan on a cultural program (I call it a touristy vacation) before going back to Seoul for KU’s Orientation. I’ll put up pictures of Busan as soon as we get back to CJ, because my laptop’s back there.
But for now, there are some things about Korea you should know before you come.
- The sayings are true: most girls in Korea are skinny, pretty, and stylish. If you’re a girl, be prepared to step up your game.
- Some people disagree, but I think you should always underestimate the amount of English people in Korea speak. Work on your Korean so that you’re not embarassed when you’re trying to order food in a restaurant (I had a super stressful experience at a BBQ place yesterday and it makes me feel so motivated to work on my Korean). You can get by with annyong haseyo and kamsamnida, but Koreans appreciate it if you try to speak Korean.
- Mosquitoes are crazy here. Four days in, and I’m already been feasted on by dozens of mosquitoes. If you’re going to be here in the summer at all, do yourself and favor and grab yourself a liquid plug-in mosquito repellant from the supermarket as soon as you get here or else you will look like you got attacked by the swollen chickenpox.
- If you’re a crazy kpop fan girl and are thinking of coming to Korea just to meet your favorite kpop idols, then I recommend you rethink your priorities. It is hard to get into weekly concerts like Inkigayo, Music Bank and Music Core (you have to wait in really long lines along with fan club members, and the popular groups have so many members). Plus, big concerts are usually sold out months in advance. You should really get a Korean friend (or a friend who can read/speak Korean well) to help you if you want to go to concerts because you’ll need their help to get tickets online. I’m a crazed kpop fan girl, but I came to Korea for many reasons, so I won’t be so disappointed if I don’t get to meet my favorite stars (though I will be a little, haha).
- Since there are so many people in the big cities in Korea (Seoul, Busan, etc), the cultural norms about personal space in public areas are much different than in the States, for example. People will push past you on the subway, people will bump into you on the streets and not stop to apologize, and most importantly, cars and motorcyles have the right of way in every situation. When crossing the street, walk in packs and don’t be the first one to start crossing. Another thing to note: cars and motorcycles will try to squeeze past you, even on the sidewalk. Don’t wear headphones when walking outside, because you need to listen for honks – that means there’s a vehicle behind you and they’re going to mow you down if you don’t move. People in Korea are used to this.
- You may know about the different verb endings for speaking to people in higher authority or elders, but you may not know that Korea still very much pays public respect to elders. On the subway, for example, there is a section of seats specifically for elders, so don’t try to sit down on them (you will get dirty looks). Also, a common courtesy is to give up your seat (a normal one) if an elderly person is standing near you.
I’m kind of running out of things to put down, so I’ll update this post or put up a new one when I think of more. I’m in Busan right now, a southeastern port city in Korea, and it has been raining non-stop since we got here. It’s still beautiful nonetheless (lots of mountains everywhere), and a bunch of us want to come back later in the school year when it’s not raining to enjoy it more. More posts from Busan to come <3