How is the overall English speaking level in Korea? Seoul is an English-friendly city but if you travel outside Seoul, you may find it difficult to communicate. On average, people in Korea have a fairly good understanding of English, but the elderly know very little spoken English. Ask young university students!
2. Peak Travel Seasons
Peak seasons would be around national holidays, such as Lunar New Year in January/February and ‘Chuseok‘ in September/October.
Many Koreans visit their relatives during these holiday periods and so traveling by train or bus will be very challenging. Also, many shops will be closed, especially on the very day of Lunar New Year’s Day and Chuseok.
However, on the other hand, these two periods can be a great time for travelers and tourists to enjoy traditional performances and events that will take place around the country.
If you want to plan a trip to Jeju island for your summer vacation, it is highly recommended that you make a reservation for your accommodation, tour, and flight 3 months before the trip. The summer months are when many Koreans use their vacation leave, and they tend to fly to Jeju Island because of its amazing natural scenery and proximity.
Korean foods are usually spicy but no worries. You can find plenty of restaurants that serve fusion and international cuisine, especially in an expat-friendly, multicultural district called Itaewon in Seoul.
Also, do take note that Korean people use chopsticks and spoons, so try to get used to using chopsticks.
4. Tipping Culture & Free Services
Tipping is not customary in Korea. Including restaurants, beauty salons, and even hotels, there’s hardly any place you have to tip.
You may tip in the taxis but this is also uncommon. People sometimes don’t receive the change coins and leave it as a tip. Even so, people don’t give tips over 1,000 KRW. 90% of the taxis in Korea do not expect tips.
In Korea, you can many kinds of free “services (서비스)”.
Local restaurants serve many kinds of side dishes that you don’t have to pay for it. If you want to have more, just ask for it. Some restaurants also serve you desserts like ice cream, coffee and tea and they are complimentary, too.
5. Public Transportation
Most cities have the orderly network of transportation and the signs are written in English. The 4 major cities (Seoul, Daejeon, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju) offer a very convenient subway network and major tourist attractions and destinations are easily accessible. In Seoul, it is better to take the subway than bus or taxi because of the traffic jam.
Korea is an incredibly safe country! Many of the convenience stores and cafes are open 24/7 and the streets are bright and busy until late at night.
Internet speed and connectivity are truly amazing. You can find many internet cafes called “PC Bang (PC방)” almost everywhere in major cities. Here, you can enjoy the high internet speed and connection at a cheap price. You can also easily access to Wi-Fi as well.
8. Quick, Quick, Quick
If you travel to Korea for the first time, you will probably find almost everything quick and fast. There’s even an expression that describes such a unique culture, “Pali-pali (빨리빨리)” culture, which means “quickly, quickly” in Korean. Because of this “quickly” culture, you can find things that make Koreans’ life more convenient.
You can call the servers merely by pressing a call button on the corners of the table. You don’t have to call out to the server nor wait until a server comes to your table to place your order. If you need anything, just press it!
- Delivery service
Korea is famous for its orderly and fast delivery service. You can order almost every kind of food (even McDonald’s provide delivery service in Korea!) and it will be delivered in no more than 30 mins. (Sometimes it takes more time to choose the menu than the delivery time.)
- Instant food at the convenience store
There are tons of instant food at Korean convenience stores. The most famous one is cup noodle and it takes only 3 mins to cook it.
9. Korean Customs
- Honor and respect are pretty important in Korea. On subways and buses, there are separate sections with seats for elders. It is common practice to give seats to the elderly in Korea.
- Koreans share food with others. Especially for the ‘jjigae (stew)’, it comes out in one big pot. People will put their spoons in the pot and eat the soup.
- No chairs in some places. In Korea, there are many places where you have to sit on the floor. Be used to taking off shoes and sitting on the floor at some restaurants.
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