Friday, October 21st, 2016

Korea: A Tough Cultural Nut to Crack


Kate, Mario and Heather

Korea is easy in lots of ways — English is spoken in major destinations, public transportation is high quality, free wifi is everywhere.

But the culture? That’s something else. My friend Tom, who lived in Korea for years, often says that Korea is a tough culture to get to know unless you know someone who lives there who can show you the ropes.

After spending time there, I completely agree with him. Mario and I seemed culturally isolated for much of our time in Korea. We struggled to order food (Japan was easy with lots of food photos, but Korea was most often a plain text menu). We didn’t talk to many people or make easy friends the way we did in other destinations.

But that all changed as soon as we got to Yeosu, a city on the south coast of the country. Our friend Heather, who is now in her second year of teaching English at a girls’ middle school in Yeosu, invited us to come visit her — and arranged for her students to do Someone Once Told Me, even getting many of the parents to sign their consent to have the photos published on the site!

Korean SOTM

Our five days in Yeosu gave us better insight of life in Korea than our other three weeks in the country combined. During that time, we got to know Heather’s students, who sweetly charmed us right off the bat. We drank Soju with the other English teachers and enjoyed noraebang (karaoke room). We had some of the best barbecue we had in Korea.

One night, we were hanging out with several of Heather’s friends and talking about our day at school. Heather mentioned how her students came to clean her classroom — instead of having janitors, each student is assigned a cleaning job and they spend 15 minutes cleaning the school at the end of each day.

“That’s so Korean,” her friend Wayne said. The group laughed.

“Wait!” I interjected. “I want to know what else is so Korean!”

And soon began a fascinating conversation describing the quirks of Korean culture. I took notes throughout, putting together a list that I knew would become this post. Here are some of my favorite tidbits:

Korean Barbecue

There Are No Surprises in K-Pop

You may have heard of K-Pop: Korean pop music, characterized by boy bands, girl bands, and solo artists, all of them fiercely styled and immaculately groomed.

What you probably don’t know is that the hitmakers aren’t just bands that got lucky — they are the bands that were selected by record companies years in advance. Music executives cast the bands themselves. They spend years training them and making them over. Then when a band’s popularity is waning, a new band is introduced and becomes the new hottest thing.

There’s no luck or chance — it is simply decided in advance.

As a result, there is nothing shoddy about K-Pop stars. Check out the video for the song “Growl” by Exo, one of the current hot boybands.

Look at those perfect dance moves! The video was filmed in a single shot!

Mario and I first saw this video while out to dinner, and the entire restaurant literally turned around and watched the video until it finished. It’s that good.

It's soju time!

Binge-Drinking is Commonplace

I’ve never seen more of an alcohol-focused culture than in South Korea. People drink heavily here, and it’s not uncommon to see three men holding each other up as they walk down the street. Drinking is a huge part of corporate Korean culture, and you’re expected to drink heavily with your boss and coworkers, especially if you’re male.

Korea may be one of the few places on the planet where you can puke in the street in front of your boss and face no career repercussions whatsoever.

Soju, a spirit distilled from grain or sweet potatoes, is the drink of choice. It’s readily available and cheap (around $1 for a bottle in a convenience store), and a bottle contains exactly nine shots — so if you’re with a friend, you need to buy two!

Soju isn’t bad when you drink it with a mixer (the girls showed me that you can’t taste the booze if you mix it with peach iced tea), but even if you only have a little bit, you feel it the next day. That might be my geriatric 29-year-old liver talking. I also tried some makgeolli (a milky version of Soju), mostly because it sounded a lot like my last name.

Imagine drinking like you did as a freshman in college — five or six times a week. For decades. That’s the Korean drinking culture.

Heather and her students

Toothbrush Time

At Heather’s school, a public school for middle school girls (age 14-16 in Korea, or 13-15 in the rest of the world, as Koreans are considered 1 when they’re born), the girls have “toothbrush time,” when they are expected to brush their teeth. This takes place at giant sinks in the hallways.

The weirdest things are cool in middle school — at my school, it was wetting your hair after gym class but not showering, cutting your own bangs, and wearing glitter gel both above and beneath your eyelids. In Korea, it’s walking around and having full-on conversations with a plastic toothbrush sticking out of your mouth!

Sitting in a Park in a Hospital Gown

We were sitting in a park next to a hospital, and Heather remarked that inpatients sometimes come down to to the park in their hospital gowns. The same kinds of hospital gowns as everywhere else — gowns that are open in the back. Feel that breeze!

When we moved to Busan, we were staying near a children’s hospital, and we saw a few parents carrying their kids into a coffeeshop while dragging along an IV pole. It’s nice that they’re able to leave the hopsital now and then.

Extreme Walking

It’s not enough of a workout just to take a walk — Koreans like to stretch and turn as they walk, turning simple strolls into borderline yoga sessions! Apparently this is a thing.


Noraebang Life

Karaoke! If you’ve got a group, you can rent a noraebang, or private karaoke room, for a few hours. Oh, and you can bring in your own food and booze! This was a must for our big night out in Yeosu.

We had thousands of English songs to choose from, and pretty images filled the screen — fields of flowers, ocean waves, beautiful lakes, even seaside scenes from Marsaxlokk in Malta (Mario and I screamed when that happened!). Then the guys got up to sing “Eye of the Tiger” and the landscape instantly changed from pretty flowers to badass ice climbing!

As for us girls, we attempted Destiny’s Child’s  “Say My Name” and mangled it beyond recognition. Somehow I always end up singing that song at karaoke and every time, I swear never again — it’s a tough song to sing!

Matching Outfits for Couples

Have you been dating your significant other for 100 days? That’s a big milestone in Korea — not least because it’s the go-ahead to wear matching outfits.

Yes, matching outfits. And it’s not just, say, a matching polo and jeans. I’m talking about identical baseball caps, identical t-shirts, identical shorts, identical sneakers, maybe even some matching accessories. Mario thought one sporty-matching couple simply worked at the same place with the same uniform — nope!

Once on Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, I saw four Korean couples traveling together wearing matching bathing suits — all eight bathing suits were the same pattern, but each couple was assigned a different color!

Yeosu Beach

Charging Phones in Convenience Stores

Before we headed to the park, Heather simply handed her phone over to the girl behind the counter at a convenience store. Korea is very technology-oriented — certainly the most technology-oriented country I’ve ever visited — but even this surprised me.

If you need a charge, just hand your phone over at a convenience store or restaurant. They’ll charge it up until you’re ready to go. Nobody will steal it from you.

Walking Into Everything

And yes, that technology comes at a price. In just three weeks in Korea, I saw countless people collide with things (including one guy spectacularly face-plant into a glass wall in Busan, to the hysterical laughter of his friends) because they were engrossed in their phones.

You could argue that people walk into things all over the world — but trust me, Korea is an extreme case.

Korean girl does my maze!

“Are You New?”

Yeosu is a really nice city — but it’s way off the tourist track, especially for foreign tourists. The city itself is home to roughly 100 foreigners, a much smaller ratio than other Korean cities. You don’t see many outsiders in the city.

There were two results of this. The first was that Mario and I were constantly asked, “Are you new?” by every teacher we met. Meaning that they were asking whether we were new teachers.

The second was that elderly Koreans in Yeosu would literally stop in their tracks and crane their necks, watching us as we walked down the street. Older Koreans aren’t used to seeing foreigners!

PSY Socks

Gangnam Style is Surprisingly Absent — but PSY’s Not

In three and a half week in Korea, we heard “Gangnam Style” precisely once — only for two seconds, and in the form of a ringtone. (We did hear “Gentleman” three or four times.) The song was the biggest hit in the world a year ago — has it really fallen that far out of favor?

That said, PSY seems to endorse half the products in Korea, and his likeness is on everything from cell phone cases to socks.

Getting to Know Korea

Korea may be tough to understand if you have no friends or contacts there — but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

My best recommendation for meeting people in cities you plan to visit, whether in Korea or anywhere else, is to join Couchsurfing and check out the groups in the cities that you’re planning to visit. Look for events to attend — or just post on the boards and say hi! You’ll be getting to know Korean culture in no time.

Have you been to Korea? Would you like to experience its culture?


61 Responses to “Korea: A Tough Cultural Nut to Crack”
  1. Christina says:

    Such an interesting read! I know my liver couldn’t handle that much binge drinking, the idea of wearing a matching outfit with my bf is MORTIFYING, but the karaoke sounds like a blast! Wrecking songs like “Say My Name” is half the fun anyways 😉

  2. Sophia says:

    Thanks for the interesting article, Kate! I haven’t been to Korea myself but hope to go one day… the organization I work for has hopes to open a school in Incheon (with an ICT specialization!) so I’m keep my fingers crossed!

    Living in Berlin the past two years I’ve seen a huge rise of popularity in Korean culture and restaurants, from market stands to sit-down places to trendy pop-ups. A lot of fusion, too, with “Fräulein Kimchi” being the most popular (she’s Korean-American-German and makes delicious Korean tacos, quesadillas, and even Kimchi-Spaetzle). I actually just learned from a Korean-German friend that a lot of Koreans migrated to Germany as nurses and miners and when they got married, it was called a “black-white” wedding which I thought was pretty cute.

  3. John says:

    Yes this was a very interesting read. The most interesting part for me was the normalcy of the boozing – if that was so normal where I live id get pissed around my boss and purposely puke on him! lol….im kidding!…. im kidding! ….or am I??

    • DPK says:

      I used to think Koreans were the biggest drinkers on the planet (I live near Seoul) but well, Koreans drink weak and mediocre tasting beer. Go to Finland, where just about every adult is a functional alcoholic.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Hey Kate,
    Enjoyed your article. I was in South Korea a few years back (pre gangnam ;)), really enjoyed my time there. The Korean lettuce wraps are delicious! Your post brought back memories of seeing korean business men completely wasted, stumbling, crawling and puking! haha. So did you both buy some matching outfits? 😉 Enjoy your tour 🙂 high five!

  5. Anna says:

    Fascinating! I am curious how you guys got around the language barrier when ordering food.

  6. A) Soju is evil. 😛 I swear, the only time I’ve had mini blackouts from drinking is because of soju.
    B) I became a little obsessed with K-Pop and make-up stores while I was in Korea.
    C) I’m glad you got to Yeosu. I spent Easter weekend there this year and it was a nice relaxing getaway. It was the site of my first noreabang experience as well.
    D) I have those grey PSY socks! Korean socks are the best (even though my bf hates them)

    • Oh a few other things that are *so* Korean…
      Ajummas (older Korean women) pushing you out of the way or cutting to the front of the line.
      Younger women wearing high heels to do anything and everything.
      Cars not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.
      Outdoor gear shops. I once counted 23 on one street about a mile long.
      Never being very far from a mini mart. You know you’re in the rural countryside if you can’t find a 7-11.

  7. Naomi says:

    I can’t get over how amazing that music video is, I was enthralled by the moves. Also, I’m surprised about the drinking culture, I always thought Koreans were quite reserved in that respect, although it does explain a lot about my Korean friend – he is probably the biggest party animal I know!

  8. Laura says:

    Your whole list is fascinating, but for some reason the “toothbrush time” thing cracks me up the most. So interesting!

  9. Spot on Kate! You captured a lot of Korean culture in this post. Nicely written too 🙂

  10. I had no idea Koreans enjoyed drinking so much. I thought it was more a Japan thing, but at $1 for 9 shots of Soju… Too good of a deal to pass!

  11. I never had much of a reason to visit Korea but this post does a good job of getting under the surface of the visitor’s experience. I can imagine it definitely has some major cultural differences!

  12. Great post! I definitely agree about your comments regarding soju! It’s the one common thread with all of my Korean friends. I’ve had plenty of friends who have taught in Korea and other countries in Asia, and they all seem to say it’s harder to get used to the country, but well worth it once you do. More often than not they extend their stay or go back for a second stint.

  13. Thanks for the shout-out, Kate! Korea is tough to crack, and I’m so glad you managed to gain an insight into the culture – and in Yeosu, of all places! It’s one of my favourite cities in Korea. The drinking culture and K-Pop are insane and inescapable. I’ve never heard of the toothbrush thing, must be something that arose once I left! I remember the whole, “are you new?” thing when I first arrived in Korea. My neighbourhood had a great group of teachers, and if there was someone that nobody recognised, we’d all try and figure out where they worked and who they replaced before meeting them.

    Also, ‘Say My Name’ IS really hard to sing! Those fast bits kill me.

  14. Tim Moon says:

    I haven’t found Korea to be too difficult. If you’re just visiting for a while surface stuff – eating, drinking, transportation, etc. is easy to figure out. Moving beyond those things is where Korean culture gets interesting.

    But I definitely agree that ordering food can be difficult if you haven’t looked anything up online. I had to limit myself to places with pictures until I learned more words.

    For anyone traveling here, grab a T-money card at a convenience store put 20,000 won on it and enjoy the excellent public transportation. I went from Suwon (where I live) to Bukhansan National Park (on the north side of Seoul) for about 4,000 won round trip. That’s taking a bus, two subways and another bus to the park. It can also be used to pay for food at some locations like GS25 convenience stores or Lotteria (try the shrimp burger and squid rings!).

    Drinking is big but not in the reckless, vomit-in-your-face way most Americans think of drinking. No one’s doing keg stands, dancing on tables, or going streaking in the quad. But drinking does happen everywhere – in front of convenience stores, at restaurants, on mountain tops, at the park…

    Couples culture here is huge. Couple meals at restaurants and fast food places, couple deals at movie theaters, the zoo, and Seoul Tower. You definitely stick out as a single person. It’s one of the first questions my students asked me on my first day. 1) Are you married? 2) Do you have a girlfriend? 3) How old are you? 4) Where are you from?

    Anyway, great post, Kate. It reminds me of my first few days here.

  15. Jac says:

    Seoul was the first place I travelled to solo and while I hardly had much conversation during that trip, I really enjoyed my experience. Ordering food was a bit of a gamble, sometimes I won (awesome hearty ginseng chicken soup tsamgyetang is something absolutely Korean that you have to try), sometimes I had weird stuff (cold noodle soup in soybean milk with ice cubes, also a Korean delicacy popular in the hot summer days).

    The binge drinking is quite the Korean thing – there’s an area in Singapore with lots of Korean pubs and restaurants and there are lots of stumblers at the end of the night!

    Sounds like you’re having fun, awesome! 🙂

  16. Valerie says:

    How interesting! I never would have thought that Koreans would be such heavy drinkers. I have never had much interest in visiting Korea but reading your posts about it makes reconsider 🙂

  17. Nicole says:

    My husband and I were in SIngapore and saw several Korean couples. Forgive me, but this story pertains to your “couples can dress alike” milestone. Saw one couple practically making out on the train. It was actually pretty disgusting. And I said “are they American?” because of all the damn PDA coming from this couple. I only expect that from Americans or another culture who wears their heart on their sleeve.

    Then I saw a couple of couples dressed head to toe alike! And again, I asked: “wait, so, are they American?” because it was just so much mushy PDA-esqueness going on. I’ve grown up around Asian culture (including Korean) and I just never saw any of these things EVER (for real: ever).

    And, now I know. It’s a milestone and it’s a “thing.” Good to know.

    • Tim M says:

      That’s strange for Koreans. Other than holding hands and sometimes hugging PDAs aren’t a big thing here. Must be because they were outside of Korea. I’m sure many people thought “Are they American?” haha

  18. Audrey says:

    Haha, I’m glad to hear some of the Gangnam Style craze has died down a bit. I was living there when the song first came out, and I couldn’t walk down the street without hearing it blaring from restaurants, bakeries, electronic stores – there was no escaping PSY!

  19. Sally says:

    Yes, I was waiting for more Korea blog posts! This is great. Yes, yes and yes to all of these things, and as for the toothbrush time, even the teachers sometimes have their own little toothbrush party in the staff bathroom. Also, I’m pretty such most schools have a janitor or cleaning lady, but she’s mostly needed for general hallways, staff bathrooms and places where students probably won’t be welcome, otherwise, like the Principle’s office or something. But the classrooms and student bathrooms are the students’ responsibility.

    Hope your soju hangover wasn’t too killer, I can assure you that makgeolli hangovers are significantly worse, so you got away easily. 🙂

  20. I wish I had read this when I was researching where to teach English! I had a hard time getting a “feel” for what it would be like to live in South Korea and ended up choosing a different country to start my travels. Your post makes me want to go! Thanks for the specifics.

    • DPK says:

      Sadly, the teaching market in Korea is in serious decline. China is a better option with plenty of demand and jobs (though the pollution and other factors turn some off).

  21. Marinela says:

    As somebody who has never even been to Asia, this list seems as entertaining as it seems bizarre. I’ll have to share this with a friend who is on her way to (maybe) live and work in South Korea!

  22. They do the cleaning stations and toothbrush time in Japan too. Think it must be an Asian thing. They also serve the lunches themselves here in rotation crews. As for binge drinking, I’m surprised you didn’t see any Japanese salarymen passed out at train stations or peeing in public ><

    This the second post mentioning that Korea might be a tough nut to crack (Backpacker Becki just did hers) but I'm still looking forward to it! I'll try to follow some of your advice though to make it a little easier on myself :o)

  23. Megan says:

    Love the post and the question you asked! The couples thing strikes me a being…odd. I’m trying to picture a bunch of patients wandering around a park with their gowns flapping in the breeze. 🙂 You made me regret turning down that teaching job in SK, sounds so cool!

  24. Katie says:

    I think the phone thing is something common to Asia! I live and work in Taiwan and I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to dodge people on the streets and on the subway because they’ve got their faces plastered to their phones! It’s rather difficult at times, and it’s really made me watch the frequency of my phone usage.

    Also, toothbrush time happens here, too! I used to work in a kindergarden and those babies had designated teeth-brushing time. Now I work at a media company and it’s the same thing: Everyone brushes their teeth immediately after lunch! I’ve fallen into that habit, so it’s not a bad thing, for sure 🙂

  25. Beth says:

    A lot of these little quirks about Korea, or also very similar to those in Japan.
    I’ve never been to Korea, and have never had much interest, but I think that’s slowly changing.

  26. Victoria says:

    Hi Kate,
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and you now have the honour of being the first person that I actually respond to LOL!

    Korea? Absolutely. It would still be a place that Europeans are yet to crack and all the better for it. I live in Berlin and at the moment, Korean restaurants are few but trendy. I’ve never been to Korea but I have been to Hong Kong (ages ago) and what I noticed was that even then, mobile phones were blase and were hanging out of people’s back pockets when most Europeans were still messing about with huge contraptions. And proud of them too!

    Right now, I’m trying to get my husband to go to Thailand. I had previously thought of China but he almost jumped out of his skin at the thought, so I had to tone it down. Baby-steps first, then exotic adventures.

  27. Yep, think you hit the nail on the head with all of these. I really love being able to charge my cell phone anywhere I go–restaurants, bars, stores– and employees have no problem with it… Maybe the main thing you left out was the materialism and conformity culture. I don’t know if you were here when stripes were in fashion, but it was like one day they came into fashion and BOOM, every single person on the street was wearing stripes. It was almost eerie. I know a lot of other places are conformist cultures but I don’t know if they take it to the level Korea does. Also… any experiences with Ajummas? They are a staple of Korea as well, haha.

  28. Very interesting – I love learning cultural quirks! I especially love the fact that restaurants and convenience stores will charge your phone for you. I’ve often been out of luck when needing a charge while out and about exploring a city. And the matching outfits is hilarious. Back in high school, couples used to take professional photos at the mall wearing matching plaid shirts or matching T-shirts, but an entire outfit – wow!

  29. Amanda says:

    Really interesting post – I didn’t know half of this about South Korea! I’d heard about the binge drinking before, but didn’t realize it was so common/frequent. And the fact that you can go charge your phone anywhere? Amazing!

  30. A great read and a wonderful insight to the Korean culture. What I found funny was how people bumped into things while they are completely indulged in their cellphones!
    Though there are some Korean movies I had watched and I had a bit of an idea how the Korean culture was (regarding technology and K-Pop), still it is a fun post and it feels good to know about various culture the way you have written.

  31. Marsha says:

    Wow this is a great post. I’ve never been to Korea so these are some great tips on Korean culture. This seems like a very interesting place; I may have to add this to my list. Great stuff!

  32. You will get to see parents dragging their kid’s IV pole along too, but they are usually sitting on a moto with their child, somehow managing to navigate the hectic traffic in Phnom Penh.. :-/

  33. Sorin says:

    On the road I always met solo south Korean traveler. Barely seen them in a group. This can say a lot about them; they are friendly but so different compared to the Aussies for example.
    Planning to go to North Korea..I don’t want to think how the cultural exchange will be!

  34. Kirsty says:

    I can sympathise with only scratching the surface of a culture. Poi and I found that when we were in China, I think part of it was it was our first country and the other being a really difficult country if you don’t know the language.
    Matching outfits are crazy! The best are when they have a t-shirt that combines into one picture!

  35. Kathryn says:

    This is a great post because it’s much easier to be mentally prepared for all those little culture shock type things rather than going in blind. Korea is somewhere I’d like to check out on a stopover at some point.

  36. Ivana says:

    Thanks for the sharing, Kate. Indeed interesting and informative notes. Would like definitely to go there in some time, for now we are staying in South East Asia, but South Korea is on our list! Take care 🙂

  37. Haejung Cheong says:

    I am a Korean who lives in Seoul and I am very much impressed that you could experience all of these in such a short amount of time!! Thanks for the good posting!!!

  38. Kimchirules says:

    ah yes, your list is pretty spot on. I need to book another ticket to Seoul and get my noraebang and soju on. Another thing you can add to your list is- guys carrying their girlfriends purses and umbrellas. As am American-Korean, that really kind of freaked me out when my guy friends, not even necessarily boyfriends would expect to be schlepping my bags and carrying an umbrella over my head.

  39. Carla Fajardo says:

    The toothbrush time really nailed it… I thought they only do that in Preschools! hahaha! I’m going to South Korea Seoul this April (2014) for 1 week with friends and I wanted to ask which places you recommend?

  40. Riley says:

    I’m Korean-American and have been living in Seoul for the past 4 years. I’ve gotten really engaged in Korean culture over the years, and sometimes I like to read what foreign-foreigners thought about Korea, as I think it’s a culture with one of the most interesting customs and beliefs. It was surprising to see that your observations were quite on par, and very observant indeed, unlike other articles that almost for sure include the plastic surgery craze, which is really becoming a cliche. I really enjoy reading your articles and wish some of them were longer so I have more to read! Thanks for the intriguing reads- and I hope you’ll stop by Korea again sometime in the future!

  41. Jasmine Alyssa says:

    Hello there, Kate. I’ve come across your blog and have been reading it since 2 weeks ago. I find your entry on South Korea very interesting. I have been wanting to visit South Korea since 2 years ago but as I am still a student, I find it very difficult to do so with all the studying. I have another year to go until I graduate. So, hopefully I am able to cut off that from my wish list. I find your blog post informational. I have wanted to experience the life in Seoul. From the taste of “soju” and the noraebang experience. And, don’t let me start with the street food! I’ve been exposed to different kinds of amazing street food from the tv channel I watch at home. I’m dying to try dokbokki and samgyupsal wrap! Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoy your entry on your visit to South Korea. Thank you. (:

  42. Steven says:

    I don’t agree when you say that English is spoken in major cities. I’ve spent 3 weeks in South Korea in various locations and I think I only met 1 or 2 people who can speak good English. I think that the language is a big problem when visiting Korea. That point apart, it’s a great post and a good read.

  43. Hong Minh says:

    Korea is a great country to visit. I was there for a week. hit up Seoul and Busan.

    I have to disagree with you that English is rarely used in main cities in Korea, if not no one speaks English, even young people. I struggled with asking the locals for directions in Seoul as they didn’t speak English. However, Korean people are friendly and helpful in general. One helped me at a train station, even tended to buy me a train ticket, one took photos for me when I was hiking in Busan, one helped me to find the way back to my friend’s flat in late night, one hung out with me to Nami island,etc. They are good hearts!

    I didn’t have any problems with ordering food in Korea. Some restaurants have photos menus actually or maybe I’m familiar with Korean food (have eaten a lot at Korean restaurant in Vietnam) and I really like Korean food so I felt Korea is a food paradise for me. Korean food is so yummm!

    I don’t like Seoul as it’s overwhelming with lots of people. Busan is much more interesting and it’s my most favourite place so far. That’s the city I’d love to live in. Hiking in Busan is fantastic!

    Generally, I like Korea and really want to go back and visit some more places like Kuang Hwa Island (if I don’t mistake the name), Gwangju, Dajeon, and some more islands,….

  44. DPK says:

    Korea is getting less Korean by the day. Lots of old streets are being torn down to make way for Starbucks and a host of other Western franchises. The places that serve Korean food for tourists are good but NOT the cream of the crop as you’ll need to know where to go to get the Michelin-type stuff.

    As for English, Korea spends around 15 billion dollars a year on ESL, and yet so much English is either wrong, misspelled or just plain comical. The market for English teachers, however, is declining given Korea’s low birth rate and sputtering economy.

    I’ve visited Yeosu before and it was nice, though I noticed few people between the ages of 18 and 50 when I was there. The city hosted the 2012 World Expo and is quite nice, and I’ll have to visit again.

  45. Kim says:

    Hi Kate,

    I loved everything you wrote, I agree with every thing they have such an amazing life style. I was over their for 2 weeks in October last year and feel more in Love with Korea. I’m planing to go back in December for Christmas. I would love to say Thank you for the EXO video, they may just be my fav Korean group 🙂

  46. Shela says:

    South Korea is a great country. Even in the modern and advanced society they have nowadays, their old customs and traditions are still present 100%, you can see and feel it. I have Korean friends and worked with some, you learn and experience a lot abut the tiniest info about their culture just by being with them. As to Korean Pop Music, if you’ve seen how the groups and their label companies do one you’re jaws will surely drop, KPop concert go all the way and beyond when preparing concerts – name it, the pyro, back drop, huge led screens, light sticks, huge as in huuuge stages, moving stages, water fountains on stages..the prod and all… it’s a great experience..
    I enjoyed reading this post Kate… 🙂

  47. Tuk says:

    An alcohol-focused culture with cheap booze and no problems if you puke in front of your boss. I love the idea of this. Planning on visiting Seoul soon and now I am so much more looking forward to it. Thanks for a great article!


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