10 Pleasantly Surprising Things About Korea

1. People Don’t Stare As Much As You’re Told They Will

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Before I moved to Korea, like any Expat, I tried to learn as much about my new home as I could. I read blogs, I watched YouTube videos, you name it. And a reoccurring theme that popped up was “be prepared for stares.” Now, maybe it’s because I’m an almost 6 foot tall, curvy, walking canvas, but people here don’t really stare any more or less than people back home. Kids? Sure. Older folks? Sometimes. But, for the most part, if you live in a city, most Koreans are used to foreigners by now. So, if you find a lot of people staring, then you may either A. be in a rural area or B. have food on your face. Maybe both.

2. It’s Super Easy to Get Around

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Public transportation in phenomenal here! I come from a small city, with minimal public transportation, so if you didn’t have a car you couldn’t get very far. That is not the case in Korea. The public transportation is some of the simplest and most efficient in the world. It’s so nice not having to deal with a car and everything that goes with it, while still being able to get where I need to go. Pro Tip: If you have a Korean Bank account you can use your bank card instead of a T-Money card to tap in and out of buses, the metro and taxis.

3. There’s WiFi Everywhere

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Okay, maybe not everywhere, but close enough. In most major cities you can find street wi-fi and if you can’t, just pop into one of the dozens of cafes or restaurants on any given street and they’ve got you covered. This feature has been indispensable to me.

4. There Are So Many Things To Do

Where I’m from, the only things open after 10pm are Wal-Mart, convenience stores, and bars, and even those close at 2am. Not ideal for a night owl. But, I’m right at home in Korea. There are 24 hour cafes, arcades, PC rooms, and even night markets. Best of all, Korea is one of the safest countries, so I feel perfectly comfortable exploring parks after dark.

5. People Probably Won’t Steal Your Stuff

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On that note, people probably won’t steal your stuff. No, not because Koreans are morally superior to other people (although I have had a few Korean people try to tell me this). It’s actually because there are cameras everywhere! Literally, everywhere. If you try to commit a crime, nine times out of ten you’re going to be caught. So, many people feel perfectly comfortable leaving a laptop or their cellphone on a table when they go to pick up their coffee, greet a friend, or go to the loo. I’m still not completely confident in this area, because it’s not how I was raised, but it’s still pretty neat. *Disclaimer* This does not apply to heavily crowded, dark places. So, if you’re in say… a club, best to stow your belongings in a locker.

6. Food Delivery in the Park

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Yes, you read that right, you can get food delivered to the park, and pretty much anywhere else. Sitting in the grass in a non-descript area beside the Han River? Food. Going camping in the mountains? Food (and grilling equipment). In a park and having a killer time on the swing set and you don’t want to leave because some punk 12-year-old will take your spot, but you’re super hungry? You can get food there, too. Basically if you can drop a pin on your location, you can probably get delivery there, in Korea. Of course, there are exceptions, but the point is, the food delivery culture here is insane. Downside, it doesn’t really work if you don’t have a Korean phone or basic Korean skills…

7. Service!

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This is one of my favorite things about Korea! Free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Korea is such a densely populated area, and there are dozens of businesses in the same market vying for your patronage. So as incentive, many businesses offer “service” to first time or frequent customers as a way to ensure continued business, or show appreciation for your business… I guess if I lay it out like that, it sounds kind of sad… but, it’s how things work around here. Also, I’m a poor teacher, I need all the free stuff I can get.

8. Sweet Potato Everything

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Okay, maybe not all the free stuff. This is more an interesting-surprising thing, rather than a pleasantly surprising thing for me. I love sweet potato, don’t get me wrong, but sweet potato cake and ice cream? Too far Korea, too far. But hey, just because it’s not up my alley, doesn’t mean it’s not up yours. You do you.

9. Outside Food in the Movie Theater

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The first time I saw a family bringing a bag of take-out into the movies, it was as if the clouds had parted and all the little children had started to singing a heavenly chorus. That’s not a thing where I’m from. Where I’m from you have to sneak in outside food like you’re smuggling drugs over the border, or forced to pay exorbitant prices for some mediocre popcorn. But here, ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

10. Movie Food Doesn’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

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On that note, if you do decide that you just want some good old-fashioned popcorn with your movie, it’s not going to cost you your first-born child. Most likely due to the outside food policy, they don’t ridiculously hike up their food prices because they know you can go somewhere else. That’s just a hunch, or maybe it’s because movie theaters here aren’t run by a fire-spitting demon. Who knows? All I know is I appreciate it. Thanks Korea!

 

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