When it comes to Asia, the people and the way they live are totally different from Western lifestyle. They have their own tradition, custom that dates back for more than 1000 years. Therefore in term of thinking and living they are a different world. That’s why it is really important to know their mindset, their habit so to be able to adjust to the locals. That way we can avoid uncomfortable situations while travelling, working or studying there. I have spent 11 days in Korea and honestly it exceed my expectation. Both the people and the country amazed me in its own way. In this post I will write about some characteristic of the Koreans that I noticed and my impression about the country.
I used to get an essay task about “what I want to see in Korea”. Honestly I never knew what to write. Even the moment I went to Korea I still didn’t know what I should visit, so I just followed what internet suggested. Seoul exceed my expectation. It is so diversified. The palaces, buddhist temples, hanok village, shopping district, modern buildings and even the mountain. All in one place. Usually it takes me maximum 2 days to see everything in a city, but 3 days weren’t enough to go everywhere in Seoul. It is huge. Not to talk about to enjoy it. So I would recommend at least 1 week to visit the city and enjoy it.
On the public transports there are places for the injured, elders, pregnant woman and parents with kid. There is also a plus separate one for pregnant woman. Since the distance between stops are pretty long, people usually travel for more than hours, everyone wants to sit down. But no matter how much they want to sit, if the free seats are marked for special people, they don’t sit down. Or even if yes, the moment they see a free normal seat, they change to sit there. That gives me an impression that they respect these people and they follow the rules.
The subway is protected by an opened glass door. So people can’t fall down to the railway. Metro trains are equipped with a screen, where they show the station both in Korean and English. Meanwhile they also play short video about how to travel safe. All the metro station is equipped with gas mask in case of fire. So Koreans are well-prepared for the accidents happening in the underground.
People are respectful in term of the seat, but not when they get on the metro. Instead of waiting for everyone to get off and then they get on, they will just let those who get off go out in the middle, but they squeeze themselves in on the two sides.
The roads are wide and it’s kinda rare to see traffic jam. But the way people drive can also be dangerous. So pay attention when you cross the pedestrian street.
Almost only the younger generation speaks English. But when you sightsee or go to the shop, you mainly meet elders and they don’t speak English. So if you plan to visit Korea, I highly recommend you to go with someone who speaks Korean. I would also advise you to get a basic course so you can read hangeul and know basic communication, like asking direction, ordering food and buying stuff. If not, then say common English words to make them understand you and have digital dictionary, so you can show them the translation just in case. Or prepare to play activity and show them what you need.
Even though people don’t really speak English, the bus, metro stops on the vehicle and even the roads have their English name written out. So it is easier for you to find your way. However at the bus station when you see the bus schedule and stops, only the main stops have their English name, the other stops don’t.
They might not speak English but they are very kind and helpful. The first day I arrived I already got lost in the middle of the night. I asked the road to my accommodation from an elder woman. Though she didn’t know the way, but she took me to the bus station and checked which bus I needed to take.
Another case when I climbed to Bukhansan, I met a Korean woman, who was there for the first time as well. She suggested to climb together. On the way she took care of me by giving me food and drink. When we came down she even bought me ice coffee. My Korean language is not good, but these people didn’t mind and still helped me wholeheartedly.
One thing I really like about them is that they are attentive and well-prepared. I really like how the underground is equipped with gas mask and they play short videos about how to travel safe and what to do in case of emergency.
During the forum I was impressed by the schedule they made. We could almost keep it. They counted with transportation time and everything else. The organizers always notified us beforehand where to go, which bus to take so to avoid fuss, misunderstanding, waste of time. And it worked really well. Concerning the hot weather and busy schedule they also prepared cooling tissues, water and face mask for us to relax.
Flexible in their own way
From a point of view of an European, Koreans are not flexible. They follow rules, follow the planned schedule, their belief at all cost. If you ask something that is already written before that is not possible, they don’t let you do it, no matter how long you are begging. However, they try to find a different solution to help you until it doesn’t affect their original plan. Or if you can suggest an alternative way to solve the problem, they will consider it and if it doesn’t affect their plan or belief, they are ready to compromise.
For example, when I got lost and asked the elder woman how to get to the accommodation and she didn’t know it, at first I asked her to call me a taxi. She told me even the taxi driver wouldn’t know where the road was. She tried to convince me she was right and didn’t call a taxi. It was quite strange to me. But then I told her I need to go to this bus station and from there I could find my way. She agreed to do so and took me to the bus station and even searched which bus I should take.
Another example is when we got the detailed schedule of the forum, it was written that at the end of the forum they would take all of us to the Incheon airport. This was a part of the program, so there was no exception. Means even if you stay for more days in Korea, you have to go to the airport and then from there go back to the city. Many people didn’t like the idea, since it took 2 hours to get to the city from the airport. In the end, they decided to stop at Gimpo airport as well, so if someone stayed for more days in Seoul, they should get off there. Gimpo airport is in the city centre, so it was more convenient for the participants to get around.
So after all, I can say Koreans are ready to compromise until the change doesn’t affect their original plan.
Every country has their own good and not so good traits, but I guess this disciplined but still flexible-at-some-point attitude made Korea become one of the most successful country in the world. The main point of this post is to understand these traits and find out how to adjust to each other to figure out the right solution that is perfect for everyone.