Hi everyone! Happy new year!
Just before the new year, I went to Korea for the second time in my life. It’s so close to Japan you’d think I’ve gone there more, but I always prioritized Japan Travel over anything, which I hope to share more with you guys about over the course of this year.
Anyway, every time I go to Korea, it’s always to visit my friends. My friends left to teach in Korea the same time I had left to do my time in Japan, so it’s really nice to know you have someone there to go to when you travel. And of course, it’s nice to have them tell you certain practices and customs you wouldn’t otherwise think about!
This isn’t by any means a full list, but here are some things I learned that might help you in Korea!
A lot of restaurants only have 2-people servings
This one is a big one for solo travelers like myself, and like to visit local restaurants to try different foods. You may be surprised upon entering that the prices are quite high and the pictures for the food to have extremely huge portions. Well, congratulations, you might have just walked into a restaurant that only sell portions and sets starting from 2 people. Even if you’re by yourself, they do not have a size for one.
Which is great if you have a big stomach, but if you’re trying to eat all the things in Korea, it might be difficult for your stomach and your wallet.
Solution? Visit a street food market for your meals instead! There are so many different areas in Seoul that sell very delicious Korean street food for really cheap.
Another solution would be to go to the areas with a huge student population like Ewha Women’s University or Hongdae, as a lot of restaurant in those areas are geared towards students who want a quick, hearty meal before they have to jump right back into studying again.
Currently, We Fancy on YouTube is doing a series on solo dining, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a solo sit down meal!
Throw Your Used Toilet Paper in the Bin!
I think this practice is becoming less and less common in tourist areas of Seoul, but it is still fairly common to have to throw your toilet paper in the huge trash bins next to your toilet bowl, not inside the toilet bowl.
I was told by my friends this during my first trip, which I’m glad they did, since it’s obviously not something I have to think about when I’m in Japan. The last thing I want is to clog the toilets and leave my business for everyone to see. Ewww!
Thankfully, I think a lot of tourist areas tell you to actually throw your toilet paper in the bowl (there are signs in English), and all the hotels I stayed at seem to be ok with toilet paper in the bowl, so I didn’t experience this much. But if there was no sign or if there’s a sign in Korean, but there’s a huge trash bin, I just dump it in the trash bin. Better be safe than sorry!
Little to No Plastic Bags
This seems to be a trend worldwide now, so it’s not so much of a shock. However as a resident of Japan who is still rather slow to roll this initiative out, it’s easy to forget. In Japan, the default is that they will give you a bag unless you place a sign in your basket saying you don’t want a bag.
In Korea, they will ask you in Korean if you want a bag.
Which means if you’re anything like me and don’t understand a lick of Korean, you might end up in a situation where the store clerk will hand you your merchandise without a bag, and then you have to use Engrish to explain to them you need a bag... (awkwardddddd)
The simple situation to that is really, to bring your own resuseable bag EVERYWHERE. But yeah. I’m clearly not that environmentally friendly yet... (and to my defensive, I need the supermarket plastic bags in Japan to sort my garbage)
Korea is (more or less) moving Toward a Cashless Society
I know this seems like a weird thing to learn, especially since the world is already moving towards cashless, but if you’ve lived in Japan long enough, you’ll understand that we’re still very much a Cash-based society. Of course in big cities, there are more and more stores that are moving towards net pay options, and the option to pay in card is there, but there are still a lot of things you need physical cash for.
As a tourist in Korea, the physical cash option is obviously available, but I noticed while traveling with my friend that she was using a Cashless option everywhere. It was just so quick and easy, and everywhere accepted it.
That’s when she told me that there are a few Starbucks in Korea that don’t even accept cash. Imagine that being implemented in Japan! That would blow everyone’s mind.
Have you guys been to Korea?
What are some practices and customs that are different in Korea than the one you’re living in?