Before arriving in South Korea, I really didn’t know what to expect. While I’m pretty familiar with all things Japanese, I definitely can’t say the same about Korean culture! For the most part, my knowledge of the place didn’t go much deeper than K-pop and Korean dramas. Anyway, like any country South Korea has its own little quirks that make it unique. And despite staying for only a week, there were a lot of surprises awaiting me when I visited for the first time:
1. The traffic is crazy. At times, we encountered roads where there ought to be traffic lights but there weren’t any. Also, a zebra crossing doesn’t necessarily mean that cars will stop! Most of the time you just have to cross and hope you make it to the other side in one piece. Oh yeah, don’t even get me started on the motorbikes. They will literally drive on the footpath, which took some getting used to! There were so many times when motorbikes would zoom out from behind a corner unexpectedly, catching me off guard.
2. Two words: couple culture. In South Korea there’s PDA everywhere, but not necessarily the type you’d usually expect. Most of the time, you’ll recognise couples because they’ll literally be dressed in the same clothes. Also couples in Korea love taking selfies, but on a whole new level. I’m talking about carrying around a tripod to stage their own photoshoots! I couldn’t help but feel impressed by that level of dedication.
3. Clothing stores don’t let you try on tops. This one definitely confused me at first! While trying on skirts and pants is perfectly fine, tops are a no-no. While I’m not sure about global brands, I encountered this rule a lot in smaller clothing shops. Although inconvenient, I guess it prevents the issue of makeup transferring onto the clothes. Korean girls really seem to love their makeup and are constantly reapplying, so maybe that’s a contributing factor.
4. No one checks train tickets. At least, no one did when I caught the bullet train from Seoul to Busan! There weren’t even any gates at the platform, for that matter. I knew South Korea had a low crime rate, but geez. You can barely catch a train in Sydney without train officers breathing down your neck!
5. LINE Friends are everywhere. And by that, I mean everywhere. It’s hard to miss one of those giant LINE Friends stores while you’re in Seoul. Not to mention, the characters are printed on train passes. They have giant statues in random places. And they even appear on signs at the airport, showing travellers what to do before security checks. I honestly love it!
6. It’s a shopping paradise. If there’s anything you take from this post, it should be this – don’t come to Korea with a full suitcase like I did! Once I started shopping, I instantly regretted overpacking. While the clothes are quite trend-based, they are also insanely cheap. And don’t even get me started on the beauty stores. Most brands have their own dedicated shops, and you’ll even find numerous ones in the same shopping area. I’m not usually one to spend a lot on makeup, but definitely got my fill of Etude House, Laneige and more. So good!
This list could probably go on forever if I let it, but I’ll leave it there for now! I’d really love to return to Seoul again one day, if only to stock up on beauty products haha. Anyway, I’m still in the process of sorting through hundreds of travel photos, so bear with me. I promise I did a lot more in Korea than just go on a shopping spree!