It’s been two months and I am thoroughly loving every minute of my Korean stay. Apart from scary threats from the North, the people are nice, the streets are safe but damn food is expensive.
- INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SHOES
I’ve been in Korea for two months, and I still struggle with this one. I remember walking into my apartment for the first time and my landlord told me to take off my shoes. I was shocked because it’s my place, but hey, that doesn’t count. Basically, in Korea you are not allowed to wear the shoes you wear outside, indoors. Meaning that, when you’re going to someone’s house, you have to take off your shoes when you enter and either put on your indoors shoes (if you have them or if they have these for visitors) or walk around with your socks. This doesn’t only apply to houses but also to some restaurants, schools, kickboxing and taekwondo classes. Most places that are strict about taking off shoes (this includes my apartment) have a designated shoe area and shoe storage by the door.
- WET ROOMS
Bathroom, washroom or whatever you call it is known as a ‘wet room’ in Korea. I am pretty sure this name is derived from the fact that when you shower you have to make sure your clothes are not on the floor because your entire bathroom becomes a pool. A lot of apartments have showers. Bathtub? Whaaaat? Koreans don’t seem to be fans of bathtubs (They are rare). You’re lucky if you live in a modern apartment that has a normal shower; by normal I mean, a shower that has its own door and isn’t directly above your bathroom sink. If you’re not that lucky, then you’ll be stuck with a wet room. I don’t know how people shower in those; you could sit on your toilet and take a shower all at once.
- DO NOT FLUSH THE TOILET PAPER!
The toilet paper thing is the weirdest thing I’ve come across since arriving in Korea. For reasons I don’t know yet (later found out that it is to prevent toilets from clogging) , Koreans don’t flush their toilet paper; instead, they have bins to throw
toilet paper in restrooms. There are warning signs, telling to not to flush toilet paper in most public restrooms. So if you’re in a public restroom and you see a closed silver bin, don’t put anything valuable on top of it. If it falls in there, getting it back will be a sticky situation.
- SQUAT TOILETS
Squatters are traditional Korean toilets which have become scarce due to modernisation. For some reason, I thought I’d only find these in the rural parts of South Korea; that was until I accidentally found myself in one at the Haeundae subway station. There was a sign outside the door and I didn’t see it. When I walked in I just took pictures and walked out. I from a small town and am a farm girl, so I’ve seen many different types of loos but never a squatter.
- NO PUBLIC WASTE BINS
The irony of finding bins in toilets but not on the streets. Korean streets are clean, but you’ll hardly see waste bins on the streets. So, if you’re a person who cares about the environment, you’ll probably end up making your handbag a bin until you come across one. Walking around looking for a garbage bin can be frustrating, but you get used to it.
- SOAP ON A STICK
Not that strange but still strange if you’ve never seen it anywhere (I haven’t). Back home we have soap dispensers (and so do Koreans in most places), but in Korea, I’ve come across a soap bar stuck on the metal bar so you can wash your hands with it.
- BRUSHING YOUR TEETH THREE TIMES A DAY
Talk about being serious about oral hygiene. Koreans brush their teeth three times a day. That means they brush their teeth after every meal (breakfast, lunch, and supper); and they are not ashamed to do this in the presence of other people. Have you ever brush your teeth in a kitchen sink or while talking to other people? I can’t; it’s too gross. Koreans do it and make it seem like the most ordinary thing ever. So, what are the chances of bumping into a Korean with a stinky breath?
- HAIR DONE! NAILS DONE! EVERYTHING DID!
There is so much pressure to look good on these Korean streets; I can’t keep up. I’ve never seen people who love fashion and make-up as much as Koreans. This applies to both men and women, old and young. One of the things I’ve discovered through my Tinder friends is that Korean men care a lot about their public appearances, some even put on make-up. Back home, Sundays meant spending the day in sweat pants, an over-sized t-shirt and sleepers. However, now that I am in Korea I only do that if I don’t intend to go outside otherwise when I go outside I have to make sure those sweatpants and that over-sized t-shirt at least look cute on me.
- SO WHAT WE GET DRUNK?
Let’s get wasted! Socializing over drinking (even with elders, just don’t look at them while drinking) is totally normal. In fact, accepting a drink from an older person is considered a sign of respect. Drinking on the streets is normal, you can grab your bottle of Soju and sip on the street corner, no one will care. People drink almost every day and still show up for work the next morning. How do they do it though? I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of men wearing suits and drunk on the streets. So if you love your booze and you like boozing with no restrictions then Korean will feel like home to you.
- PDA AND MATCHING COUPLES
Not saying this to get attention or anything but it’s tough being single in South Korea. You hear people say ‘ Koreans are conservative and blah blah blah’; this is true about a lot of things but not PDA. I can’t count the number of times I’ve caught myself standing next to a couple who can’t keep their hand off each other in the train. It’s everywhere, roads, shops, restaurant, you name it. I’ve even seen men helping their partners pick underwear and I’m just like “OMG goals”. To add to this, a lot of Korean couples like wearing matching clothes, especially tops. Did I mention there is a lot of pressure in these K-streets? I asked some of my Korean friends why they dress alike and the answer was ” We don’t know why, it just happens. We never really think about the reasons why?