Misconceptions about Korea

I’ve watched a ton of youtube videos about expats talking about Korea and other sites making list of things – along the lines of how is Korea different from Western countries and how you should prepare yourself. Some of these I found to be very wrong, so I’m going to make a list and try and add to it through my holiday. Please note that I’m not calling anyone a liar either, perhaps this is more a showcase of how quickly Seoul/Korea has changed over the last half a decade or so since non-military expats started coming in large numbers.

Korean Couples not Touchy Feely in Public
Biggest load of bullshit, literally more of than here than probably most Western cities. Korean couples are almost always at least holding hands, guy having his arm around the girl’s shoulder is common, I’ve seen this on the metro as well and old people don’t seem to complain. I’ve even seen a couple making out on a full train – again, nobody gives a shit, and it does happen – a lot more frequently than one might be lead to believe.

Korean squat toilets and no toilet paper
By far most of the public toilets here are western style, sometimes there is a mix of both – but I’ve never been to a public toilet anywhere where there are only squat toilets. Additionally, I’ve never seen any toilet anywhere regardless the type without at least 2 rolls of toilet paper ont he wall.

This includes
– Cafes & Restaurants
– Nightclubs and bars
– Metro stations
– Touristy places

Not really sure what else there is.

No public garbage bins
Biggest load of bullshit, there are bins everywhere. Every metro station (next to the vending machines where the rail is), lots at every tourist place, around any and all remotely big road intersections, just randomly on the street. There might not be one every 10 metres like in the centre of Sydney, but I’ve never had trouble finding one in close vacinity if I needed to throw something out.

Koreans’ attitudes to foreigners & talking to random Koreans
Is generally pretty good. I find it easy to strike up conversation with young Korean guys, especially when out clubbing. They all seem very nice. I read a blog article and conversation from 2008 or 2009 about “violence against foreigners in Hongdae” – really cannot imagine what that’s all about, literally everyone I’ve interacted with there has been a total bro. That being said it’s important to keep in mind to not act like a douchebag.

Also talked to a few taxi drivers who had better English, they are quite nice.

Taxis
I’ve heard from many, even foreigners I’ve met up with while here that taxis are troublesome, will reject you, etc. I’ve honestly not once had a problem either getting a taxi, and never been rejected, so I’m not sure what this is about. Taxis here are also uber cheap, and as a result quite addictive. I think it may also be that if you are going a very short distance (like 1 district) they may not want you. I’ve seen lots of Koreans getting rejected by taxis so I’m going to guess perhaps that’s the reason. But personally I’ve never had a problem.

The route I’ve taken so far as been Sindorim to Hongdae (because I can never get out early enough and the train terminates there QQ) and Hongdae to Yeoksam (which is where I’m staying).

One thing to keep in mind is that the metro shuts at midnight on weekends and 1am on weekdays (crazy right?), and when this happens, lots of people are getting off at the major intersection stations which turn into terminating stops at shut down time. When this happens there are a LOT of people who want taxis, and so taxi drivers wield a fair bit of power. They will often yell out where they want to go (Hongdae is never a problem as there’s a lot of demand for taxis there early in the night), and try to cram a taxi full of people and charge everyone separately. In my experience this is actually a good opportunity to meet up with and talk with both Koreans and foreigners, and as a plus they are probably going to the same place you’re going to do the same sort of thing :) Once again, I’ve found Korean guys pretty friendly and talkative in these situations – assuming they’re young and know at least some English.

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