Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Korea
*The information provided is solely based on my personal experience in Korea.
To any female traveling to Korea…
- Because you are a foreigner it’s ok to dress as you would in America, but most Korean women do not show any skin on their upper body. Short skirts, shorts, and dresses are accepted, but showing any chest, shoulder, or back is not.
- There are many differences about shopping in Korean stores compared to shopping in the states. One tip is that sizes run about a size smaller than the U.S. This goes for Korean and American stores. I found this out the hard way and was very disappointed when I was in the dressing room L Also, trying clothes on is not allowed in almost every Korean store. The norm is to hold something up to your body, decide if you think it will fit or not, and then either buy it or put it back on the rack. Some stores make exceptions if the item has a zipper, but this isn’t always the case.
- Do you like going out and having a good time? Even though I believe this is a more traditional custom I noticed that a lot of my female students turn away from the group when taking a shot of alcohol. I’m not sure why this is, but I picked up on it about two weeks into the program.
- This goes for men and women, but when using restrooms in Korea do not flush your toilet paper! I know this is a little gross to talk about, but it’s something I wish someone told me prior to going. There will always be a small wastebasket inside the stall to dispose your toilet paper.
General tips and facts about Korea
- Transportation is extremely cheap! For example, a one hour bus ride to Seoul is about 2,000 won, a 10 minute taxi ride is about 5,000 won (splitting it makes it even cheaper), the subway is about 1,500 won, and a 4 hour bus ride from Dankook to Busan is 25000-30000 won.
2. The subways in Korea are spotless compared to the subways in the states. There are also doors blocking all travels from the area the subway will arrive at. One of my students told me this was created after a man fell in front of an oncoming subway and ended up dying. It definitely makes traveling a lot safer, especially for young children.
- If you are Caucasian expect people to stare at you, especially the older generation. Because I am Korean almost everyone assumed I grew up in Korea and would try to talk to me. It was very obvious that people were more interested in the Caucasian students than the Asian students studying abroad, however once they found out we (the Asian students) were American they were just as interested in getting to know us as my Caucasian co-teachers.
- People are extremely nice in Korea! The level of respect everyone has is so much greater than in America. Yes, if you’re walking on a crowded street people will bump into you without saying “excuse me” or “I’m sorry”, but other than that everyone is very accepting and welcoming. Also, there are many rules when it comes to respect. For example, when eating dinner the youngest person at the table is expected to serve the silverware and pour the drinks (I believe the order of serving is oldest to youngest). I also noticed that men usually do the cooking (at most restaurants you cook your food at your table). There are also certain names you call one another depending on age. For example, if a boy is younger than a girl he will call her “Noona” and if a girl is younger than a boy she will call him “Oppa”.