Korea, WTF?

Extras, Solo Travel, south korea, Working Abroad — By on March 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Even though I’ve been here for almost a year, there are still some things I don’t understand about Korea. Here’s my roundup.

Couples: Korean couples are fascinating. They’re not very affectionate here at all, especially compared to the West.

Spice up your love life with matching couples lingerie

I rarely see couples kissing in public and even when watching Korean television, the actors barely touch each other. Add to that the fact that Korean friends, both male and female, hold hands here, and it’s kind of a weird vibe. But thank goodness there are other ways to show that you’re in a relationship. I bring you the matching couple outfits.

Yes, there is no better way to show the world you are in a committed relationship than wearing a matching outfit. There are beach outfits with matching prints (guys get longer board shorts, girls get shorter ones), matching t-shirts and, if you’re feeling particularly frisky, matching lingerie. Nothing says “I love you” like a matching leopard print nightgown and boxers!

The Bathroom Situation: Squatter toilets and no freakin’ toilet paper anywhere. Korea, you’re so advanced. Why do you make going to the bathroom such a hassle?

Most businesses have only one bathroom that is shared between all the building occupants and these are usually the biggest squatter toilet culprits. I’m guessing it’s because the buildings tend to be older and it’s probably cheaper to maintain the facilities among several storefronts. Sometimes the businesses will have toilet paper that you grab before going to the bathroom, sometimes not. Grabbing a handful of toilet paper in front of a restaurant of people before parading around the corner to use the toilet is up there on the list of awkward things.

There are definitely worse bathroom situations in the world but, while I appreciate the constant quad workout, sometimes a girl just wants to sit and pee in peace.

Drink, Drank, Drunk: Korea has zero drugs. It’s not part of the culture and I hear that the repercussions are crazy intense. Fear not, however — it’s called Blackout Korea for a reason!

On any given night, you can step outside and spot several absolutely drunk people (typically men). They’re usually being carried by someone to the curb or are sprawled out on a bench. If you think they’ll look like bums, think again. They are usually wearing really nice suits and have come from drinking with their bosses and coworkers. Getting tanked with your superiors is a given here and no one cares how drunk you get. As long as you show up to work the next morning, it’s a-ok.

ATV gear on the beach

Gear Up: No matter what type of activity — swimming, hiking, ATVing — Koreans have every piece of gear possible for it and it’s usually brand new. Riding the subway on the weekends is a real treat as you see people with their hiking boots and hats and sticks and backpacks and water bottles. On the subway. Where exactly are you going hiking again? When we go to the swimming pool, for example, my students have bathing suits. With matching swim caps and floating tubes and floaties for their arms and waterproof zip-ups. It’s cute but seriously? Is this actually… necessary?

Red Light, Green Light: I know, you’re probably thinking, now this girl is just being nitpicky. But ask anyone who lives here! Traffic lights take for-ev-er to change. Depending on how many lights I catch on my walk to school, my commute can take up to about 7 minutes longer. It’s outrageous. And stranger than that is, even when there is no one coming for miles, Koreans absolutely will not cross the street against a light— and they give you dirty looks when you do.

Ahh, Korea. You’re such a strange creature. But don’t worry, I’m already compiling my list of things I love about you.




  • Yes, Korea has loads of weird little quirks. They used to drive me crazy, when I lived there for a year. Especially the toilets… then I came to Japan and found even more squat toilets than back in Korea- horror! For some reason, I got so used to them now I don’t even notice or care. After I left Korea, I missed it like crazy, even though it was one of the most challenging experiences in my life to live there. I would love to read your list of things you love 🙂

  • Kissairis says:

    Hi, Vivian! I’m glad you can relate. It’s all definitely been part of the learning experience here, though some are more entertaining than others! I know I’m definitely going to have reverse culture shock returning home after this experience. Already writing the list for my next post — while I eat my $1 mandu, of course. 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    I love this! My husband and I are teaching in Gyeonggi-do Gwangju, and I notice these things all the time too. The bathrooms really drive me crazy…and kids are not good at using squatter toilets, so our student bathrooms are so disgusting! I’m looking forward to more of your Korea posts 🙂