Are you planning to have your next visit to one of the world’s safest countries, aka South Korea? Do you feel nervous or unprepared about your visit to an entirely new culture? This blog will walk you through all the things to know before going to Korea. Once you finish reading this, you will have as much knowledge as a person who has visited this country would have. So let’s get started.
Cultural Things To Know Before Going To Korea
The foremost significant aspect of South Korea is its unique and elegant culture. There are several ways of getting the correct information about their culture. Korean Media is shining in today’s world. There are chances that even you wish to visit South Korea because you have been fascinated by how the Koreans are through their shows and music.
Some of the most essential and promising ways to know their culture are by learning their language, watching shows, and Korean dramas by immersing yourself in the world of K-pop, learning about their customs and culture in general, and much more.
This blog will be the magnum opus of your successful visit to Korea with all the right Korea travel tips listed below:
Hangul is the Korean alphabet in the writing system of Korea. It is a unique writing system that is extremely different from the English alphabet both in terms of writing and pronunciation. You should learn Hangul and know some essential words and phrases before visiting South Korea.
Why is it important? In South Korea, Korean is seen more prominent than English in some other countries like India and Pakistan. If you are visiting South Korea and you are on your own, you would need this beautiful writing expression at every step.
You would often need a lot to do using Hangul, like using google maps, getting street food, etc. Be it reading instructions on public transport or buying your favorite makeup and skincare products, Hangul will be your best friend.
Knowing Basic Korean
What is the most critical part of a culture? It’s the language of that culture, which is the case with South Korea. If you wish to get along with the people in South Korea and therefore make some friends, then getting some know-how of the South Korean language will be the best step you could take before entering the country.
If you speak English, then many Koreans might understand you, but most would not. So it would help if you learned some basic things in Korean like common Korean words, commonly used verbs, asking questions, and many other things.
You might think that learning Korean is hard, and you could be frightened by even the thought of learning it, but let me assure you that it is a beautiful experience. You would be delighted to know that you can communicate with the shopkeepers in skincare shops and order your favorite Korean food in any restaurant.
There is no way that you will regret going to Korea with a fundamental insight into the language.
Knowing Myths And Superstitions
A significant element of their culture is their myths and superstitions, which they are extremely serious about. You might think of it as a joke at first, but once you visit Korea, you will realize how this thing is really important for them.
Before going to Korea, learn some very basic and general superstitions in the culture. For instance, chopsticks sticking in a rice bowl. This could get you some serious glares from the native Korean speakers since that is done on the occasion of deaths in their culture.
Furthermore, some other superstitions are associated with death in Korean culture, including number 4 and writing someone’s name in red ink. Due to their firm belief in these superstitions, you would not find things in the set of four, or the numbers written on elevators, etc.
Getting an idea about these can save you from countless embarrassing moments in front of the other Koreans.
Using Both Hands
Korean people tend to give or receive anything like a bowl of water, a fruit, or a present with both hands. If you meet a Korean person and see them using both of their hands to hand you something, don’t be shocked. They are just showing you a respectful gesture and therefore reciprocating that will only elevate your impression in their mind.
Taking Off Shoes
You can easily find and wear house slippers in most Korean homes. There is more than one occasion when you might need to take your shoes off or exchange them. One of those is while entering someone’s house.
Korean people are especially thoughtful about bad vibes and dirt. They believe that if the shoes worn outside are brought inside the home, it could bring in some negative energy or make their house dirty. So it would help if you always left the outdoor shoes outside.
Another place to change shoes is before going to the washroom. No matter how clean or hygienic the washroom is, it could bring in unwanted germs and energy. The taboo associated with shoes in this culture is not to wear the shoes which have been in the washroom.
Getting Shower Shoes
While you are in hotels, you could get some shower shoes to wear. While taking a bath, you would not get a bathtub or cubicle in Korea. Instead, you would only have a shower attached to all washrooms, and you could slip unless you use a shower slipper.
Being Careful With Privacy
In many places, the tourists take pictures of everyone and everything, and the locals are not offended by that. In Korea, that could be missing. Korean people are very sensitive about their privacy, and taking anyone’s picture without their permission could get you into serious trouble. It is not a nice thing to do anyway.
Being Mindful About Your Manners
While in Korea, you need to be careful about manners and etiquette. Some people could find your actions quite offensive, even if you do not find them weird. For instance, you should never blow your nose in public since people could feel disgusted by that. If you desperately need to, then you could either go to the washroom or somewhere alone and do your business.
Koreans are crazy about beauty products that can also be manifested in their beauty standards and shows. If you are a K-pop fan, you must have come across several shows that highlight how beauty is given due importance in Korean culture.
There are countless Beauty stores in Korea, not just in the malls and streets, even in the subway stations. Many Korean men and Korean women use a 10-step skincare routine to keep their skin young and fresh.
Furthermore, you should know that skincare products and other beauty services like plastic surgeries are extremely normal and budget-friendly. We don’t promote following any beauty standards, and instead, each person needs to have their means. However, if you plan to go for something like that, then getting it done in South Korea could be the most budget-friendly option.
Besides skincare, Koreans are obsessed with the cafe culture. They have different cafes with several artistic, unique and appealing themes. There are different delicious Korean desserts you would want to get back to. Sitting in a cafe could become your favorite memory while in South Korea.
You can find almost all kinds of cafes in South Korea, and while you are in any cafe, the accessibility to WiFi should never be an issue for you. And the most important part is that the cafe has excellent aesthetics for taking cool pictures to light up your Instagram feed. After all, does a visit count if we don’t have even one picture of that?
Pouring The Drink For A Senior
If you are drinking with your senior, then it is on you to pour the drink of your senior all the while that they are drinking. It is counted in the good manners in South Korea and therefore you might get some bonus points while trying to leave a good impression.
South Koreans take pride in many things, one of them is Korean food. For example, Korean bbq and soju are the two things Koreans love to tell the world about. They are not bragging, so don’t get the impression that maybe they are showing off.
Instead, they want you to experience the same as they do. You can also find non-Korean food in the western restaurants Itaewon district of Seoul. Furthermore, you might need to know some other details. For instance, soju is extremely cheap and common, as much as water in both regards.
Also, Koreans use metal chopsticks more often, which can be hard to handle, so you might as well need to get accustomed to using that. If you want to get a deeper insight into Korean food, click here.
Korean toilet system could be different from what you generally encounter. This is because they have specific details about the toilets according to their culture. For instance, most Koreans use the “squat toilet.” You might also see a metal enclosing around the toilet paper to keep it from getting wet/dirty.
Transportation System In Korea
When you go to South Korea, you might notice that the transportation system is different from other parts of the world. There are certain do’s and don’ts of South Korean Transportation which we will enlighten you about.
Korean Train Express
There are several means of transport which can take you to places in Korea. In addition to the ordinary trains/buses, there is another transportation system in South Korea that you should know about.
Korean Train Express (KTX) is an extremely efficient and super fast way of traveling to different parts of Korea. If you have an urgent meeting to attend, but our flight to South Korea was late, you can opt for these impressive options that would cost you less time and more efficiency.
There’s a catch that this method is not a budget-friendly one. If you are a businessman with loaded pockets, this could be a great thing to experience. But if you are studying in Korea or having a general tour with a low/average budget, then you might as well pass on this option.
Like the previous Korean travel tips, this one also tells you how to opt for more budget-efficient ways of staying in South Korea. If you spot a black cab, then run away. Staying away from a black cat could be a myth but avoiding the black cabs in South Korea is a strategy.
Black cabs in South Korea are the premium version of cabs. At the end of your ride, the taxi drivers would give you a bill that could make you cry, and if you are on a low budget, then viola, and you might not be able to afford your next trip.
A perk of using the most efficient transportation system of South Korea is that you can also get access to several transportation applications which can facilitate your stay in South Korea. You can easily understand different directions even if you do not know Korean addresses.
These apps can help you if you know Korean. However, if this language is somewhat an alien language to you, then these apps are a big must for you to survive in South Korea. Some of those maps include the Naver map and Kakao map. Furthermore, there is also a metro app across South Korea and in each city, like Seoul metro app, which is user-friendly for you since the interface is in English.
Google maps are not the best option in South Korea since several restrictions around the map data Google maps can attain.
Ways To Pay
These are two widely used methods for paying in South Korea. The first one is a T-money card, while the other is a bank card. A T-money card is a transportation card that can be bought anywhere in South Korea, e.g., convenience stores.
You could go to your nearest local shop in South Korea, and they could get you your own T-money card. You can easily buy the card and get your balance updated at any subway station or a train station. You can use it at almost all the transportation stations and enjoy your visit without constantly counting and worrying about the cash.
It is convenient with the latter method if ‘t-money’ is written on the bank card. Such a bank card would work on the transportation system. However, if your bank card does not have that, you would have to get the T-money.
Hotels And Restaurants
There are different guesthouses and most Korean hotels you can stay in. That depends upon your budget. If you are low on cash and money, you can find yourself a local guesthouse for as low as 15$ per night. But if you are there for business and can afford a lot, you could even spend your night at a lavish hotel room/a holiday inn that might charge you 300$ per night.
What would you do if you were in a restaurant and needed to call a waiter? You would wait for minutes until the waiter notices you, and you get to call them, right? In South Korea, you don’t have to worry about these trivial matters.
In South Korea, almost every restaurant has a calling button on the side of the table, which can be pressed to call a waiter. This is a customer-friendly method since the customer does not have to wait.
Punctuality is the Key
Many hotels in South Korea have strict check-in and check-out policy. This means that if you are in a hotel earlier than you have booked, you could be charged more. The same goes for the check-out policy. Be prepared to leave the hotel before your check-out time since that could have you from getting overcharged.
No Tipping Culture
In South Korea, the restaurants ensure that all the customer services are on them and therefore included in the bill. They have it all calculated and pay each person, e.g., guard and waiter, accordingly thus no extra cost should be paid.
You do not have to worry even a bit about giving some extra money to please the waiter since that can backfire, and instead of getting pleased, they could get offended. The best way to appreciate their efforts is by enjoying your meal, passing a smile, and complimenting them. That is enough to make their day.
Other Important Tips
There are also other handy tips to know before visiting Korea. These tips can help you start on the right foot while in Korean society.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Visiting South Korea will help you lose extra pounds, which even the gym could not. This is because you would have to walk A LOT while there. That is why it is recommended to keep some pairs of comfortable shoes like joggers or sneakers with you before visiting South Korea.
You might spend a day or two in your chic heels, but you would have to get acquainted with wearing comfortable shoes as other South Koreans do.
Patience For Crowd
In South Korea, you would want to visit different markets and street shops, etc. Of course, you are not going to South Korea to see humongous malls and fancy restaurants because you can find them everywhere.
When you are among the locals of South Korea, you will not get much personal space. For example, Seoul is a bustling street where people always go to places. You would always find yourself in the crowd no matter how many times you try to escape it. That would only make you feel tired and disturbed.
Therefore, before you visit Korea, we suggest you see that coming. Expect that crowdy side of South Korea and accept that. Once you do that, you would not get a cultural shock if someone passes by too close to you. You would rather enjoy the experience instead of running away from what you wanted to experience in the first place.
Getting Data Is Expensive
As tourists, we often try to buy a new sim card wherever we go. However, South Korea is not the best country for that. Getting data in South Korea could be expensive. A sim card could charge you around $50 USD, and you would not even get half of the perks which the locals get to enjoy.
Furthermore, you would also be charged a lot if you used the data. You should only use data when you are left with no other option, which might not happen since the WiFi is everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE.
You can quickly get access to the WiFi at every corner. While in Korea, you would rarely find any issues getting WiFi unless you are in remote or in areas closer to nature. For instance, if you are in a city like Seoul, you need to worry about the internet.
Finding WiFi in Korea is as easy as finding energy-efficient street lamps and transit stations (since both are prevalent). Seoul is considered the world’s most connected city for this reason.
If you can’t find WiFi, then maybe try asking a local. They could guide you better about how to access the WiFi. It is a busy city, and many people lose loved ones they cannot contact. If you are too shy to ask a local, you can go to a center of u-Seoul safety service, and they would utilize their magical tech-savvy sources to get you from point A to point b.
Having A Travel Adapter
If you are traveling for the first time and especially to Asian countries like South Korea, you might not know the issues that could be faced regarding the outlets in South Korea. You could be more in need of an adapter than your lipstick or perfume while you go to South Korea.
Most of the switches in South Korea cannot take more than a voltage of 220 volts and a frequency of 60 Hz. They are the type C and type F outlets. These are different from the US or Europe. Not using an adapter could burn the fuse. Therefore, having a travel adapter and a converter is a must before going to South Korea.
Heading To South Korea? Why Not Learn Korean?
You are all set to go to South Korea. One last tip would be to go in spring and witness the beauty of cherry blossoms falling like confetti from heaven. Learn Korean using Ling App by Simya Solutions and speak Korean like a native speaker. With several tutors, courses, and countless blogs, we bring a perfect package for you to get off on the right foot with immersing yourself in this beautiful language.
We also have other blogs like a guide about How long it might take you to learn Korean and Easy ways to learn Korean yourself. Happy Learning!