What to expect in Korea: A beginner’s guide to the land of Kimchi

When I first learned about coming to Korea to have my Masters degree, I scoured google for tips and glimpses of how it is to live in the land of KPop and KDrama. Sadly, none of them comes close to what actually was waiting for me.

So, I hope this helps, listing a few things that you’ll like or won’t like when coming to South Korea as tourist or a foreign citizen:

1. Efficient transportation

They have the best Metro train system and bus system. Everything is organized and you don’t need to speak Korean to even go to places! 

Of course, you need your travel card for faster and easier travels. However, you may still use cash to purchase tickets at ticket counters in every train station or pay cash to the bus driver. 

Train stations have English, Japanese and Chinese translations in maps and signages. And you can easily access real-time schedule of buses and trains with an internet connection and a downloadable app. I am using Kakao Metro and Kakao Bus. 

A glimpse of Kakao Metro.

2. A little Korean is better than nothing.

Watching KDramas and listening to KPop has made Hangul accessible to foreigners and enticing to learn all through out the world. Yes, it’s fine to roam through Myeongdong and other famous tourist destinations without even knowing a single Korean word. But to experience a much more intimate relationship with Korean culture, knowing a few phrases, for example, in ordering food, asking prices, asking directions, and even saying, “I don’t know Korean”, will help you a lot. 

3. Information booths are always ready to help.

Most of the Koreans who work in the information desks of train stations and big establishments, know how to speak English, so, when you find yourself lost, look for the nearest information booth. 

4. Living in Korea is expensive!

Yes! One of the most expensive cities in the world, Seoul, indeed might leave your pockets empty after your trip. 

Example, living in the Philippines, I can buy a kilo of rice for just Php40 (1USD). But here in Korea, a kilo of rice might cost you a whooping Php100 (2USD)! If you’re not a rice-eater, then you won’t probably mind. But for us, Filipinos, we eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even during heavy snacking! 

5. People just bumps into you and you’ll never hear them apologize (most of the time).

This is one of the things that I won’t ever understand. When you’re walking or standing in queue, or going out of the train, people will bump you even when they see you’re just in front of them. 

Don’t make a big deal our of t. They’re just like that, I guess. But despite them doing it, if you bump on others, make sure to apologize if you’re the one at fault. 

6. Bring a supply of your favorite food from home.

I took this lightly when I first came here to Korea. But a few weeks after, I asked my father to send me a whole box of my favorite snacks, powdered milk, seasonings, biscuits, and others straight from home! 

Yes, you might find stores which might sell some of your country’s products. But remember what I said? It’s so expensive! Three-fold or five-fold more expensive!

7. WINTER IS HELL!

I’ve never been in other countries but throughout winter, I just wanted to stay at home, turn the heaters to a full, and snuggle under 5 layers of blanket. 

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE SOUTH KOREA’S WINTER!

8. A simple corner can be a perfect spot for pictorial sessions.

Yep! It’s beautiful here. So beautiful that you can actually turn into the corner and voila! A picture-perfect spot! 

A normal bridge in Pangyo area.

9. Skin care products everywhere!

Koreans love their skin more than their partners! They spend too much money and time for their skins! Have you heard the 10-step Korean skin care regimen? If not, google it now! You’ll surely see it as tideous but, it will be all worth it. 

10. FASTEST INTERNET CONNECTION!

YEP! I am benefitting from the heavenly speed of internet connection here in South Korea. Not only that, almost all public places has wifi connection! 

You can watch Youtube videos without the fear of The Lag. You can fully enjoy Netflix! Horray!
These are just some of the things that I think would help you out. But of course, there could be a whole ton more experience that you yourself should have firsthand. 

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