I’m from Louisiana, and I’ve lived in South Korea for two years.
This is a list of the most interesting cultural differences that I’ve noticed in Korea.
It would be too difficult to list all of them, and I’m sure some don’t apply exclusively to Korea. If there’s any I missed that you feel should be included, let me know in the comments.
- It’s common to see same-sex friends hold hands in public.
- It’s trendy for couples to wear matching outfits. Sometimes their outfits just complement each other. Sometimes you see couples dressed identically from head to toe.
- People love wearing clothes with English words on them, even if they don’t make sense.
- There are no houses. Everybody lives in apartments.
- Due to the large population and lack of space, everything is built up; so it’s common to see unrelated businesses in the same building. For example, one building could be a doctor’s office / bowling alley / church / music academy / gym.
- Most people hang their clothes to dry.
- People believe your personality is related to your blood type.
- People usually don’t get their driver’s license until the age of 19.
- In traditional Korean restaurants, you take off your shoes and sit on the floor.
- Traditional Korean restaurants are communal: everybody shares food.
- You’re allowed to bring outside food and drinks into movie theaters.
- You can ride your motorcycle on sidewalks.
- McDonald’s makes home deliveries via motorcycle.
- Instead of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, they have Children’s Day.
- Grade numbers start over at each new level of education. So… Sixth grade is the last grade of elementary school, and when you enter middle school the next year, you’re in the first grade.
- Detention and suspension are not forms of punishment.
- Everybody wears indoor shoes to avoid tracking in dirt.
- Teachers must change schools every four years.
- There are no paper towels in the restrooms.
- Cafeteria lunch always includes rice, soup, and kimchi.
- You are not given napkins with your lunch in the cafeteria.
- School is open year-round. While there are not regularly scheduled classes in August and January, there’s always somebody at the school doing work.
- All students attend public school, and many attend private academies after school.
- Teachers and students brush their teeth after lunch.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley