Doug Sun Beams

Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming to Korea

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Moving to another country is quite challenging, especially if you move to a place that’s completely different from home. Ever since I moved to Korea, I have noticed quite a lot of differences that I just wanted to share with anyone who is planning on moving to South Korea or even just of traveling.

Take off your Shoes!

Welcome to Korea, before you enter, please take off your shoes! Koreans are very strict about this topic so don’t get in trouble if you are at a traditional restaurant, the gym or a friend’s house! There is usually a designated area to store your street shoes at and often times slippers are provided. Don’t take this lightly because some Koreans can get really offended if you don’t follow these rules.

Koreans are not direct with you

If they have a problem with something you do, they probably won’t point it out directly to you though. Especially in the workplace, criticism isn’t expressed directly to you but rather to the entire group or by setting “new rules” for everyone. It’s quite uncommon to receive direct, personal criticism in South Korea.

Hierarchy is very Serious

Should you not like this kind of indirectness, don’t challenge Koreans anyways! Hierarchy and “lose face” is very important in South Korea. People older than you, and supervisors, managers or your boss, are treated with the utmost respect possible. It would be even considered rude if you refuse to drink alcohol with them. Therefore, if you are in a situation where you eat out with older people or people from your workplace, drink together and even pour their drink to show respect.

Palace guards in Seoul

Great Health Care

Should you get too drunk on your night out and be punished with a terrible headache or stomach problems, don’t worry: Korea’s health care system got you covered! Seeing a doctor is cheap and prescribed medicine costs near to nothing. Korean make sure you get the best care to regain your health.

Tampons are rare

However for the ladies’ special time of the month, Korea seems to be quite the opposite. It feels like there isn’t much innovation and improvement since tampons are lacking here. There’s only one or two kinds which look like a product produced before the Korean war. Apparently, Korean ladies swear by pads or just don’t know better.

Appearance is everything

In South Korea, appearance is one of the most important things. You can have the best college degree but without the proper looks you won’t get far here. Brand clothes, groomed faces, and fake noses are not a rare thing in South Korea. People spend an insane amount of money on their looks here and are not afraid to go into surgery to get the look of their dreams. A fashionable sense of style, a certain amount of makeup and a slim figure are the norm.

Different Doesn’t Mean Bad

Even though some of these points seem to be unimaginable in the West, always remember that even though Koreans might handle a lot of things differently, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. Moving abroad and traveling requires an open mind. If you adapt to a new culture to some extend, it will go along way here in Korea. People understand you are not one of them but it doesn’t mean you should completely ignore some of their cultural standards.

What would you add to the list?

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.


  1. Gina Panozzo on October 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I totally agree with the crazy hierarchy system. Sometimes it’s a little too extreme.

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