Planning a trip in Korea? Have an orientation, you will never know if these could happen to you!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Korea. I’ve been there thrice. I did my first out of the country solo travel there. I had my first glimpse of the magnificent beauty of cherry blossoms in Spring and my love and hate relationship with snow in Winter.
These perhaps are my unaccustomed experiences in South Korea:
1. The Public Baths
Public bath is literally an exposed public bath!
When you are a K-drama lover, you would know that spas are famous in their country. We booked our accommodation in one of the famous spas in Itaewon, famous, I mean that a lot of dramas were filmed there. Little did we know that their toilets do not include shower room in it, instead you are free to use the public bath which literally means that it is open to public, no cubicles, no division! Male and Female areas are separated though, but still if you are not comfortable showing off your entire naked body to others including your friends you travel with, skip this one!
2. The Towels
It can’t wrap your body, it can only cover your head!
Of the three times that I’ve been to Korea, for a budget traveler like me booking to an affordable yet a nice place to stay are my only options. I’ve stayed in a spa room, a backpackers quarter and a guesthouse. All of them provide the same small bath towel, small, I mean those kinds of towel we used to put on our backs when we had our PE classes or those we use to wipe our sweats in the gym.
3. The Shoving
Do not take it the wrong way, you won’t get an apology from them!
You might have read about this one from other blogs, it just turned out to be true. Mostly, ahjummas and ajeossis do this. When you are in line for the metro or taking the escalators or even when walking down the streets, don’t be surprised if you get shove of out of the way. Apparently, this is not a big deal for them but might get you annoyed if it happens.
4. The way you eat
They will take your chopsticks away from you and show you how to eat the right way!
Apparently, they are keen observers specially at foreigners. If they see you having a hard time with flat chopsticks they will give you spoon and fork. If they see you putting the food in the wrap wrongly they will literally take your chopsticks away from you and will show you which and what goes into it. If you don’t seem to know when to flip your samgyeopsal they will do it for you.
5. The Plastic Bags
They have those huge plastic bags that could fit 4-5 handbags in it.
This happens mostly in Samgyeopsal restaurants. They will approach you and take your handbag away from your lap, put it inside the huge plastic bag then leave it on the floor beside your table.
6. The Buses
The forward door for entering passengers and the back door for exiting passengers!
If you happen to ride a bus, take note of this one so you won’t get yelled at. Oh, and don’t forget to tap your t-money card upon entering and alighting if you won’t pay in cash. If not, the farthest charge will be deducted from you.
7. The Metro Railway Trains
There is no designated area for male and female!
If you happen to ride the train and see that there is an area where no one is sitting, that are probably the seats reserved for disabled and elderly. Please don’t take those away from them or you will receive those glares.
8. The Language
Most of them do not speak English!
Although South Korea specially Seoul has an efficient transportation system and signages in English are available, if you happen to ask them in English they won’t answer you in English.
If you are a DIY traveler, please just do the research on how to get to your destination. Or else, you will have to find the designated tourist information centers!
*I happened to have a chat with a mom of a Filipina who married a Korean guy, she said Korea is a cold country that’s why they don’t use the long and thick bath towels because it will take time to dry those. She brought one with her though!
It was strange but never a bad thing. A traveler must keep an open mind and you will see the beauty in everything.