- 1. Everyone is a cultural ambassador
- 2. They might run away or ignore you
- 3. Follow chopsticks etiquette
- 4. There’s no need to tip
- 5. No personal space in Seoul
South Korea is recently becoming one of the hottest Asian destinations and we can’t get enough how amazing this country is. For someone who hasn’t been to this country, South Korea for them might be all about KPop and crazy Korean beauty steps.
But, there’s more to discover in this interesting country.
If you’re planning for your trip to South Korea or looking for your next vacation spot after the pandemic blows through, then you’ve come to the right place.
A little research for your trip goes a long way, especially when you’re traveling to a place where it’s completely different from your home country.
So what is it like in South Korea for a traveler like you? Here are some of the things that you should know before visiting this country:
South Korean Culture
The very first thing that you should know before traveling to another country is their culture. This way, you’ll know how to properly behave and what things are acceptable to do or not.
It’s important to do this as a way to pay respect to the place and its people. Not to mention it’s a great way to get to know the country you’re visiting.
So what is it like living the life of a South Korean local? Here are a couple of highlights of their culture:
1. Everyone is a cultural ambassador
From your bartender to your cabbie, every Korean person is willing to teach you what it means to be a Korean on your short period of stay. That is if they warmed up to you.
“Delicious, yes?” “You like kimchi, yes?” You’ll be asked questions like these during your stay in South Korea and while you might mistake this as a sign of arrogance or a tad annoying, this is how they show their welcome and a way for them to impress you with South Korea.
Knowing cultural staples like this could go a long way in making friends with the locals.
2. They might run away or ignore you
On your trip to South Korea, it’s possible that you’ll encounter this situation. If you approach a local to ask for directions and you speak English, they might run away from your or just flat out ignore you. But please don’t take this as a sign of rudeness.
South Koreans can speak and understand basic English language but a good number of them don’t have the confidence to speak it especially to a foreigner who’s fluent in the language.
Instead, try to learn a few Korean phrases that will be useful for your trip. Go beyond the annyeonghaseyo and kamsahabnida. Also, don’t be shy to incorporate English into your Korean.
Koreans have actually adapted English into their vocabulary (which they call Konglish) so a couple of English words mixed with a bit of Korean will help them understand you.
If they could see you trying your best to communicate with them instead of rapidly speaking English as you might normally do, they would be more inclined to help you.
3. Follow chopsticks etiquette
Most chopsticks in South Korea are made of metal so they’re much thinner and slippery than wooden ones.
It might take you a bit of practice to get used to it, but locals won’t really care about your chopstick skills, but they will definitely judge you for your chopsticks etiquette.
The general rule is to just not play with them. It’s a utensil and therefore should be used as one. If you’re dining with an elderly, wait for them to pick up their chopsticks first before getting yours.
Also, don’t stick your chopsticks vertically out of your bowl. It’s considered incredibly rude and will bring bad luck.
After you eat, it’s customary to put your chopsticks to their original place on the table. So don’t leave it on your bowl.
4. There’s no need to tip
Like most Asian countries, tipping is not necessary and even considered rude. South Korea is no exception to this.
Restaurant service in South Korea is incredibly exceptional. It’s common to find buttons on your table that summons your waiter. Don’t be shy to press it when you need something — whether it’s a refill, another set of orders, or your bill.
It’s also common for waiters to drop off on-the-house treats ranging from a free Soju or an extra set of appetizers and sides.
While you might feel obligated to tip because of the attention and quality of service that they will give you, it’s just not done in South Korea.
In fact, your waiter might even find it rude and insulting because, in South Korea, the only workers that receive tips from customers are those who are working in strip clubs.
5. No personal space in Seoul
The metro population of Seoul is over 25 million, which is half of South Korea’s total population. It’s absolutely a sardine can especially in downtown areas where locals go up and about their day.
So if you’re new in South Korea, you might be taken aback when someone pushes you out of their way if you’re walking too slow and don’t apologize. It’s just the way it is in the cities. This is why if you bumped into someone, most of the time they’ll ignore it and won’t expect an apology from you.
Also, technology in Seoul is absolutely insane. It’s more teched up than Silicon Valley.
Super speed WiFis are everywhere and every person is hooked into their devices. So watch out for Internet surfers, texters, and streamers not paying attention to the street.
Basic Costs in South Korea
South Korea is a wonderful country but how much exactly does it cost to have a vacation there? From the cost of accommodation, public transportation, food, and activities, check out this basic information that you’ll need to plan a budget trip or a luxurious vacation in South Korea.
Like any other country, accommodation in South Korea can range from low-end backpacker’s dorms to luxury hotels. It also depends on where you’re located too.
A hotel right in the heart of Seoul will be much more expensive compared to a suburban location.
One thing that you should always remember when booking a room in South Korea is the closer you are to their tourist attractions, the more expensive your bill would be.
Accommodation can easily take out a huge chunk of your budget but, you could lessen that amount by doing research and planning strategically.
For example, if you want to stay in Seoul but still want to save a bit of money, maybe don’t look for accommodation in Bukchon Hanok Village.
While you might see a lot of tourists staying there because of its picturesque environment, the price of your accommodation can easily skyrocket.
Here’s your average accommodation cost in South Korea:
- Standard Hostel: ₩90,000 for one person
- Standard Double Room: ₩185,000 per night
- Three-Star Single Hotel Room: ₩20,000 per night
- Five-Star Single Hotel Room: ₩340,000 per night
Public Transportation Cost
South Korea has an amazing public transportation system. It’s certainly up there with the likes of Japan. Because of that, it’s relatively easy and cheap to get around.
Make sure that you get your own T-Money card immediately after you arrive at South Korea. This card is used in almost every public transportation.
Not only it will save you the hassle of getting single journey tickets, but the fare is also cheaper.
If you want to save money on your transportation, avoid hailing black or “deluxe” taxis because they charge more for their premium services. Unless necessary, you might want to skip the KTX high-speed train as well. Here’s an example of how much transportation could cost you:
- One-way Ticket for Local Transport: ₩1,250
- Base Fare for Taxi: ₩3,600
- 1km Succeeding Fare for Taxi: ₩800
- Bus (from Incheon to Seoul): ₩14,000
- Metro Ride: ₩1,350
Food Cost in South Korea
Food is relatively cheap in South Korea, especially their street food that you’ll see almost everywhere. Don’t be nervous to try them all because street foods are generally safe to eat in South Korea.
Convenient stores like 7-11 is a great option for cheap and quick snacks. Here’s a basic list of how much food and beverage costs in this country:
- 2L Bottled Water: ₩1,000
- 250ml Coke: ₩1,670
- 500ml Beer: ₩4,000
- Korean Pork BBQ: starts at ₩13,000 per person
- Standard Restaurant Meal: ₩8,000 per person
One of the best things in South Korea is there’s no shortage of activities that you could do for free. Most of these are cultural explorations like their villages and temples.
Although some of the famous ones have entrance fees, they’re pretty reasonable and it won’t hurt your budget at all.
Here’s a list of some typical tourist activities in South Korea:
- Average Day Tour of South Korea: ₩320,000
- National Parks and Temples: maximum or ₩5,000 per person
- Hello Kitty Island Admission Fee: ₩14,000 for adult
- One-Day Ticket in Everland: ₩56,000 for adult
- Lotte World Admission: ₩36,000 for adult