What are some funny facts about Korean people and Korean culture?
- Koreans literally have a chicken store down every corner. You’d be hard pressed not to find a chicken store. That goes for singing rooms and PC rooms, too. This is noticeably less so in neighborhoods, but there’s usually a street food chicken vendor.
- You can rent a study room to study all night. ALL NIGHT.
- You can rent a love hotel for making out. This is mainly due to young couples needing their *ahem* ‘privacy.”
- Korean Weddings are usually done quickly but expensively. With both brides and grooms getting wedding money from the guest to cover the costs of the wedding. But fear not as husbands will ask for wedding money from the parents and then arrangements are made from there. Many opt for the Western style wedding while some prefer to do both Korean and Western wedding. The Korean one can take a lot longer. One time I was at a wedding hall with automated chandeliers that dropped as the husband and bride went down the aisle. You can donate money and often times there will be a buffet reception area where all the guest can mingle.
- You can actually sit down and eat at a convenience store in Korea.
These are some of the more obscure service based perks.
How about retail?
- Fast Food chains often run out of ingredients and it makes purchasing certain items impossible.
- Pajeon (파전) is traditionally eaten on a rainy day. It is like a round dinner pancake and the ingredients are blends of vegetable and flour. My favorite Korean food is Haemul Pajyeon (해물파전) which is Seafood Panjyeon
- Actually most of the kimchi is imported from China. (If there are any doubts regarding this, please see side note #3)
- Korea (as it has been brought to my light) is actually very protective towards it’s rice industry and has only opened and lifted tariffs towards it in 2017. As for why Kimbap Heaven uses U.S. made white rice, remains a mystery to me. Someone pointed out to me that this could perhaps be certain blends of flour.
- You can buy a certain amount of things and get one extra item free (1+1 purchases). It happens more frequently than in America.
- Alcohol is often used as a free sample.
Now let’s talk about rent.
- Real estate is extremely high with house purchases being nothing for of 6 figures for a 2 bedroom condo. Houses are often sold by the room and usually doesn’t come with land.
- Pyeong is a unit a measurement for an apartment. People are starting to forget pyeong though. Square meters width is how most real estate agents are starting to rent apartments. I still ask how many pyeong as it is easier for me to use.
- Rental Cars can be done with an international driver’s license. Contrary to popular belief, you can take an English test to get your Korean license.
- Many apartments may have an eastern toilet. Those are one of those sit down and squat toilets. If they don’t have this kind of toilet, they are usually Western ones. I’d check with friends to see if it is okay to put toilet paper in the toilet as many of the bathroom’s plumbing are weak and it might back them up. Upper class apartments often have bidets which are toilets with remotes to clean your hindquarters. This is not to confuse with the French bidet which is a type of sink. (Note: use with caution!)
- One room rentals often require a couple thousand to make a rental deposit for rent. In Korean won, that would be a couple million. I paid 3 million for my one room. On average it is 5~10 million won (5~10 thousand dollars (depending on the strength of the SKW))
- A lot of Korean young adults don’t pay rent. Some have to get married first to have permission to leave their family’s house. It used to be the norm that many could not leave the house until married, but recent times has changed that and times have changed since I first got here. Currently, 30% of families allow their children to stay at home. When I first arrive this was closer to 50%, but when compared to the rest of the world, 30% is still a large percentage.
- You can rent movies in a DVD room. Just so we’re clear: other things sometimes happens in the DVD room. I guess that was vague…
- Library books are generally checked out for 2 weeks. But if you didn’t like that fact, then you can always rent Manga in a Manga cafe (만화카페)for a few hours.
- People who do not want to rent a room to study will often go to coffee shops and hang out there all day. They are ideal for the group presentation job interviews (because sometimes companies carry out mass job interviews in Korea). On the other side, I had one job interview with 7 elementary teachers, but luckily that was a fun one. Open spaces and Wi-fi is a bit more comforting after all.
- Everyone wants to hear about singing rooms right? Well there are basically 2 types: a Noraebang room or a coin singing room. If you have a mass group obviously you need Noraebang room basically you “rent” time on the machine and if you sing well or the atmosphere is lively, you may get a time extension. If it is a slow business day, it isn’t unheard of to get 2,3, or 4 time extensions. With coin singing boxes you pay 500 won per song (giver or take a discount). I sometimes will get more songs for paying with paper money in large denominations.
Eating out can be quite the adventure. Let’s drop some knowledge about the fast food restaurant scene.
- When you want to order food, there is sometimes an electric bell attached the table. You press it and within seconds you will get food.
- Delivery is the best in the world here. Pedal drivers will respond to computer apps or cellphones within 5 minutes (sometimes 10 if they are a smaller chain). While there are no delivery tips, you can pay a “delivery service charge.)
- Even though it is considered unsafe the Pedal drivers actually drive their autobikes on the sidewalk for the sake of delivering the food on time.
- Pizza chains offer a discount on picking up the food in person.
- Coffee shops dominate the market here. You’d be hard pressed not to find the “perfect cup of coffee.”
- Like Japan, Korea services up hot or cold canned coffee from convenience stores.
- If you are a regular and use proper honorifics, generally there will be extra food given for free. This may not apply to younger managed stores.
- Speaking of free, the best way to save money and get a decent level of nutrition while eating out is to go to Kimbap Jeonguk (a kimbap place in Korea “김밥천국”
- In restaurants, there are these little boxes and steel cups. You may wonder what they could be for if you are fresh off the boat/place. Well, they are actually storage places for chopsticks and napkins, so when you order something you should open them, take out some chopsticks and you can use the napkin for sanitation but it’s actually not for that. Napkins are there so you can wipe your mouth.
- Here’s something mind blowing: Koreans eat with metal chopsticks and a spoon. For me, I eat my chopsticks left-handed and the spoon in my right. Okay, it’s not really mind blowing, but Japan mainly uses lacquered chopsticks and China uses wooden ones.
- There is a parody of Fantastic Baby by Big Bang Called Fantastic Chicken. (As a side note you will be made painfully aware at the similarities of “chicken” and “kitchen.” (Please no negativity over this one. I wrote it pre-scandal.)
- There is a pizza chain called Pizza School. It has thematic pizza. Call it the UN gathering on pizza on the cheap. Corn and sweet potato is often put on pizzas here. For newbies of their menu, I suggest the Mexican Pizza or German Pizza. If country themed pizza not your thing, you can get a pepperoni for about 6,000~7,000 won.
- There are meat buffets. You can stack mountains of protein on the cheap too. The restaurant chain is known as the Chak han Dweji (착한 돼지).
- There are academies that will collaborate together with restaurants to provide discounts and stipends for their students. Fitness Centers like SpoAny do this, too!
- Kimbap Cheonguk and Hansot are seen as the “working man’s place” to get a meal quickly for work.
- There are special types of burgers called rice burgers. The bread is simply replaced with rice patties. Unfortunately, that means you cannot hold the burger by the bread, but you can still enjoy the difference in taste.
- There are mandatory Sundays off in certain fast food and retail industries.
- You can often buy couples sets meals.
- You can also buy 100 day anniversary and 1000 day anniversary cakes. Yes, love is measured by the day here. So you are literally loved more with “each passing day.” Just don’t forget the 100th day. That may cause a break-up.
- Meals items are seriously limited by a few items. You will be hard pressed to find a restaurant with more 20 or 30 menu items. This is perhaps due to not using as many preservatives so organic food must be thrown out after awhile or maybe the palette is limited by the tastes the Korean customers have. However, in actuality many restaurants do indeed have an extended menu called “hidden menus.” And no, there’s are not to be confused with specials. They are their own thing that everybody except you knows about! 😉
- Mom’s Touch is a popular restaurant in Korea. Why is it popular you ask? One reason is that they have chicken burgers. Another reason is that it doubles as Konglish slang for what mom will do when a child gets a bad grade.
- They have thematic cafes in Korea. I recently went to an English cafe where you get discounts for speaking English. But that’s not all. They have cat cafes, archery cafes (yes, you heard right!), retro cafes, PC cafes and manga cafes. Want to read manga but don’t want it to accumulate in your house? Hit up a Manga cafe.
- Lotteria is the biggest fast food chain in Korea. I heard it is actually owned by Korean and Japanese joint investors.
- The number 4 is considered unlucky. Move on to the next number because 44 is twice as unlucky. Ok, you made it this far so I guess I should tell you that “Sa” is also a homonym for “4” and “death” and that is why it is unlucky.
- On the KTX there are arcades and cafes you can order drinks from and play games. (Yes, I play video games in my not so ample spare time.)
- I felt like continuing with gaming for a bit. As you all know Korea has a gaming culture unique to the rest of the world with some e-sports teams contributing to the scene, but the majority of such games are not usually broadcasted for streaming on Youtube. They are broadcasted on Naver and Afreeca TV. Google is your friend on the latter.
- There are Playstation cafes in Korea. But don’t expect the selection to be numerous as many Korean flock to games like Diablo, Overwatch, PES 2018 (now 2019) Soccer. I would expect a handful of games and every time I go to one it is PES night or something because that game always being played.
- But don’t get discouraged by #47 as this entry all but makes up for it. I cannot vouch for their popularity stateside, but more and more retro cafes have been popping up recently. If there are places with big gaming scenes (i.e. Yongsan, Nanbu or another place famous for gaming) there are private retro cafes to go with them. I’ve been to the one in Nanbu, but I have yet been to the one in Yongsan. I mainly know of these two areas because they happen to be the most popular.
- Yongsan Gamer Alley is the Akihabara of South Korea. If you want a game go there as they will likely have it. Nambu doe s have a more open selection. If your Korean’s okay, you can go to Playstation (플수) stores within the smaller towns, but the selection may be limited.
- Many games will be erroneously labeled as the Korean language version with Korean subtitles by both Playstation and Xbox. More often than not, it is because there is a lack of help to go around game studios for Korean translation assistance so there is a lack of VA talent that will take such gigs. You will find some studios that will go through the trouble of appeasing their Korean audience such as Sega’s Yakuza studio or a private Korean publisher, but more often than not English will be the default language for games followed by Japanese as VA talent in Japan is high in demand in general and English is highly encouraged in Korea due to the English education boom.
Note: This thing reached over 20K in views. I never thought people were that interested, but I guess I haven’t experienced the Hallyu abroad as I have been in Korea during its duration. Thank you for supporting this post! I will continue to build upon it as I think of new things to add.
To the commenters: please try to keep things civil and most importantly read what I wrote carefully. I understand the apartment one being easy to not experience, but if you go to older apartments some have eastern toilets. I just wanted to point out that more modern apartments have western toilets because quite frankly they are a bit of a nuisance to use. If the apartment is from the 2000s it will have either a Western toilet or a Western toilet with a bidet. So in response to this, I will add a “side note” section as to which these refer to. A good resource on toilets is the Toilet Museum in Suwon. They should also have a website or a documentary about the museum.
Side note #1: For those that don’t know what a bidet is:
It is basically a western toilet with a dial on the side that gives your hindquarters a good scrubbing. The seat can also warm up. I will not add it to the list, but I think it should be noted that these are popular in Japan/Korea. These are more popular in Japan. This isn’t referring to the bidet sink in France. This is a toilet, not a sink. And yes, you can still “do your business” without pressing the buttons.
Sidenote #2: In regards to Fact #18, I used “Manga” because it’s the actual US word. “Manhwa” is only used in South Korea. But I am indeed speaking of Korean Manhwa “만화 “ and not Japanese 漫画. But apologies in advance if anyone is offended by the U.S. choosing the word manga over manhwa. Japan simply introduced it in English first. It is more or less done in a similar artstyle with some differences.
Sidenote #3, in regards to rice and kimchi. I have researched this fact upon arriving here 9 years ago. What started my research stemmed from the menus at 김밥천국 kimbapcheonguk (simply known as Kimbap Heaven) and I noticed that their menus had a list of imported products. Upon learning enough Korean to make out menu items what struck me as odd was 산 and it’s usage. (밥 미국산, 소고기 호주산, 등 ) The way it was used was like 産 (san) in Japanese which means import. Now I know Koreans make a lot of their own kimchi, I’m not disputing that, but restaurants account for the most consumed kimchi. Since I have gotten an inquiry on regarding that, here are some sources.
I’m keeping up this link for useful information, but will also add a link in regards to how closely guarded the rice industry in Korea is. Korea just recently opened up a little in regards to this in 2017.
Recent Edit: I added and rephrased some answers and added a new factoid because the one regarding Kimchi no longer relates to the rice one for different reasons. We’re at 51, so I make this longer at a later date. I also added additional details regarding attending weddings in Korea. Thank you all and a special thanks to Paul Light for helping me spot those 2 discrepancies! If there are any others, please let me know.