Want to Live in Korea? 13 Things You’ll Have to Get Used to!

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Living in Korea will change who you are. Many of the daily habits you pick up are because of that fact. And that means the longer you stay, the more you’ll change. See our list right here:

Hanging out Late

Korea is a very night-centric place, and hanging out into the AM hours even on a weeknight is very common. Go to any major Seoul hot spot and you’ll see 24 hour cafes, BBQ restaurants open till late and convenience stores on every block that never close. Heck, even shopping at Dongdaemun Market starts around 7PM and goes until 7AM. If you’re an early bird, the only things to do in Seoul during the morning hours is go to work or visit tourist attractions. Everything else (eating, playing and hanging out) all really start after the sun goes down.

Check out why hanging out with Koreans goes late!



When you’re in Korea, taking pictures is a part of daily life. Most of the time it is the usual culprits of food porn pics as well as top quality Korean style selfies. Of course not everyone is so picture crazed, but if you find yourself around Korea’s young smartphone wielding female demographic, you’ll end up throwing up automatic V-signs and smiles more often than you’ve ever thought you would. It’s part of the great big feeding frenzy that goes on in our Facecbook and Kakaotalk apps. For most Korean women, taking as many pictures as it takes to get the perfect shot is a part of everyday life.


via loganz

via loganz

Coffee Shops

Coffee is a part of morning routines for many people around the world. For most, coffee is their preferred beverage for its quick caffeine jolt. The sleepiest of us can’t go without a few cups throughout the day. And while Koreans intake coffee as liquid defibrillators, too, most Koreans go to coffee shops because it’s now a part of the culture. During lunch hours, coffee shops will have office workers looking for a place to relax before heading back in. Couples who have no where else to go will grab their favorite espresso-based drink and stay chatting well past what’s considered loitering in other parts of the world. And of course, they’re the number one place for girl talk. Coffee shops are everywhere in Korea, and they have become such a part of the culture that you’ll find it impossible to escape.

Want more than coffee? Here’s 15 Unique and Interesting Theme Cafes in Seoul!



Kimchi is literally everywhere in Korea because it’s a part of every meal. Even many non-Korean restaurants will also have secret stashes.Part-time workers at a Gangnam Burger King will bring a stash of their own kimchi to chow down on Whoppers with a side of the good stuff. If your stomach gives you a scary sound every time you eat kimchi, you might be in trouble. We suggest getting used to eating kimchi; it’s something that would make living in Korea much easier. Plus it’s healthy, delicious and free with most meals :)

Find out why Koreans eat so much kimchi!


Metal Chopsticks

Tons of people throughout the world have Mr. Miyagi level chopstick skills. But that’s usually with well-gripping wooden chopsticks. In Korea, metal chopsticks are more common, making japchae glass noodles extra slippery. These metal ones are harder to grip as they’re usually quite narrow as well. Bottom line is, the metal ones are generally tougher to use than wooden chopsticks. So, if your chopstick skills aren’t so great, get used to eating food off the table (5 second rule!).

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea. Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeith e-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com


  1. Guillaume Brière says:

    Everything is pretty logic and ok to live with, but corn with mayonnaise ? no way :)
    free crazy taxi, that looks awesome !

    • Alexa says:

      i don’t know about you people but I am deathly TERRIFIED of getting on a bus or I’m a taxi for that very reason.

  2. Guillaume Brière says:

    Another Seoul specialist (not me haha) would also add : Bul geum — we people usually say that “bul geum(불금)” on friday night. We usually have kick ass party on friday night and we call it as 불금

  3. Tilly says:

    NOOOOOOO…. ugh mayonnaise. one of my absolute most hated foods (actually, i don’t even think i can call it that. it’s unpalatable and disgusting!!) sorry korea :( but i still love you.

    • Carovanilla says:

      Mayo is incredible in France/Europe but awful in the US. Maybe there’s is also different? In which case you might like it, as a dip of course (not by itself)

  4. Cassandra says:

    Agreed. They all seem pretty managable except for corn and mayo. I don’t even know if I want to like that.

  5. Caro says:

    No problem with the corn kernels and mayonnaise! Its one of the best street snacks here in Mexico, and happens to be my favorite one ! xD

  6. jen says:

    u think u can get used to getting pushed over by ahjummas and ajeoshi’s? … noooo u cant. getting rammed into by them is not fun …=.= . especially the hard core hikers who have their backpack and gear, they hurt like hell!! Beware and steer clear!
    If u’ve ever been purposely pushed for any reason.in ur lifetime, its like that, except out of no where.

  7. Liza★ says:

    I love corn with mayonnaise haha I think I can get used to all those things XD and sitting on the floor is something I’m used to already, I always found it more comfortable than chairs haha

  8. Alexis JR says:

    Its really awesome that I already do most of these things already! Korea here I come! 😀

  9. jr says:

    Agreed with the pushy old people statement…I met an old Korean man in Singapore custom immigration he pushed me away in a VERY rude way when that is supposed to be my turn to the officer in a queue. That’s when I started to have bad impression with Koreans.

    • 24year old Korean Local says:

      the fact is, WE don’t like pushy old people as well. but young people are not so rude, so please don’t hate all the Koreans :'(

  10. Lizzy says:

    It isn’t that the old people are just pushy they will also tell you off loudly and in public if they feel you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing. The obvious is when you sit in the wrong seats on the subway or on the bus. I got told off at the supermarket one time because I had an earbud in my ear while shopping ( In my defense I was near the end of an audiobook and I don’t speak Korean anyway so it wasn’t like I was talking to anyone). The ajhumma yelled at me in Korean till I made it clear that i had no idea what she was saying and no idea what I had done then she started miming and got the idea across. You stand out as a foreigner and your are DEFINITELY observed.

  11. Messy says:

    Another thing to get used to is being stared at by young and old people on the streets. It’s funny if you don’t look like them or talk like them, they will stare into your eyes or laugh with their friends …. Of cos they know you are a foreigner but it’s a bit annoying when you are shopping or walking…

    • Just a random Korean University Student says:

      I feel sorry for that.. Korea is not really a multicultural country. :(

    • Becky says:

      Yes! Being stared at is the hardest thing for me. At first I was afraid I was committing a social faux pas (talking too loudly, sitting in the wrong seat, etc) but after talking with friends and my Korean teacher I found out it is because I have blondish curly hair. Now when I go out in Seoul, I make sure I tie my hair back and I don’t get stared at nearly as hard.

  12. Stephanie says:

    This is spot on ~~ gotta love Korea and all it’s quirkiness.

  13. samantha says:

    That’s really helpful. Thanks for the great article!!

  14. krystalle says:

    Wow. I think i have to get used to being pushed u.u I’m already used to reckless driving: here, if you dont drive/own a car, expect to pass the street across more safely when its green light for the cars rather than for pedestrians. Corn+mayo=my love, im not so sure about the kimchi though. but i can eatalmost anything that doesnt have garlic/onion. im not sure i like soju….

  15. gennilyn says:

    Your comment…i like kimchie so much and thats all i know it..

  16. gennilyn says:

    Your comment.i love it…

  17. Lee says:

    I’m a Korean but I’ve never seen corn and mayonnaise.
    I’m sure it’s corn and cheese.

    • rachel says:

      Yeah i don’t think i’ve seen a lot of mayonnaise in food in korea. granted it is on foods that usually are served with mayo, like donkatsu, but corn is definitely in such weird things in korea such as pizza and pasta.

  18. Alexanio says:

    Corn and mayonnaise is amazing! We eat it all the time here in Los Angeles. It’s called Elote, basically corn on the cob with some butter, mayonnaise, chile powder, parmesan cheese, a little salt and maybe pepper. I was raised on it so I guess I’m biased. Not so sure about the shoving part… that’s just rude, no matter what culture you come from.

  19. Jess says:

    Same is, mayonnaise is probably going to be the hardest part about living in Korea… I guess I’ll just have to grin and bare it when I can’t avoid it.. using 애교 might save me from having to eat it too often though xD

  20. Jess says:

    Same here*

  21. Cachi says:

    corn and mayo….that’s not a problem for mexicans! we even eat our corn with mayo, and have lots of street vendors selling it.

  22. sean says:

    I feel pretty confident that if I lived there, I would one day become a super jerk foreigner and yell at some grandpa who’s pushing me out of the way. Actually, I’ve never understood why elders should command a special respect or authority. The idea strikes me as completely arbitrary and illogical. I hope people don’t treat me differently 40 years from now just because I’m old.

  23. P Smith says:

    You forgot to mention the smokers. About 90% of Korean males and nearly half of females smoke.

    Speaking of disgusting things, you didn’t mention the garbage cans in toilets. Yes, that’s where the Koreans toss the toilet paper after wiping themselves. In the summer, the stench inside public buildings can become unbearable – not just in the toilets, but the entire building. And yes, Korean women DO stand on the toilet bowl seat and squat over the bowl, putting their shoes where everyone else sits, though no one likes to admit it.

    If you eat with Koreans, get used to communial food bowls, so you’d better have that hepatitis booster shot before you go. And if you don’t like the sound of people chewing food with their mouths open, you’d better carry an MP3 player and headphones, because nearly all Koreans do. “It makes the food taste better” is the excuse I’ve heard most often.

    As for pushy Koreans, it’s not just the older ones. Koreans believe in the “harmonious society” crap of confucianism. They expect anyone “lower” than themselves (by confucianist rules) to get out of the way – and that includes when they deliberately change directions and walk in front of you. You’ll find a LOT of passive-aggressive stuff in Korea.

    • rachel says:

      Yes! all of this is true and it’s all definitely something someone from, say, america would be completely shocked by when seeing for the first time.

    • JT says:

      I lived in Seoul and Asan but I do not remember buildings smelling bad from restrooms. This seems like some exaggeration.

  24. Matthew Knox says:

    I never knew that there is a big difference in using a wooden chopsticks and a metal chopsticks. I thought that it was just the same thing. I think Koreans are nature lover so instead of using wooden chopsticks which will result in cutting tons of trees every year, they choose to use metal chopstick so they can use it over and over again.

    • JT says:

      Have you used it before? Metal ones are a lot harder. You will get used to it but it is not like using wooden ones.

  25. karina vizcarra says:

    Corn with mayo is common in my Mexican culture. It’s good i usually eat it with corn on the cob mayo of course maybe some Mexican cotija cheese and some Mexican hot sauce Valentina or tapatio. I ate this today haha. If u have canned corn you can do the same tastes great.

  26. chopsuey says:

    Corn and mayo? Curious combination. I’ll have to try it later lol. Kimchi? I luuuuuuv Kimchi. I love it so much that I decided to make it. It was okay but there was something lacking that I couldn’t just quite put my finger on.

  27. neo says:

    I’m Korean, been there plenty but the corn and mayo is not something to get used to. I’ve never seen it there and none of my relatives have eaten it.

    What westerners should be warned of is there are no shower curtains and they do not use large bath towels. There are floor drains which catch the water from the floor, tub and sink in many cases. And for drying after a shower, you can expect to use a large hand towel.

    • neo says:

      So after asking around, I guess corn and mayonnaise is generally served to westerners. It’s certainly not something I’ve seen much and a trip to Korea doesn’t necessarily guarantee corn and mayo.

      • JT says:

        Corn is on pizza in korea, like have you had bulgogi pizza? I think some have corn on it. Go to Mr Pizza or any pizza place in Korea. Mayo I don’t think is that popular as corn, I didn’t experience much mayo.

  28. GaBy says:

    No. 11 When meet Korean people first time, you have to try not to be offended when they asked your age!

    Cause they will !! That’s because they want to address you properly.

    Gosh…can i just answer: “I had amnesia and forgot my age 10 years ago!”

  29. Doug says:

    I will never ever “just get used to it” when older people are rude and physically push someone. Age is not an excuse to act like a jerk and I more than happily lower my shoulder when I see the old bulldog women marching into my path like they own the planet. How can such people feel they deserve so much respect when they act with a complete lack of honor and dignity? Pathetic.

  30. Aira says:

    I love this bowing culture!
    I’m Brazilian, currently living in Italy, and I see some differences when it comes to great someone. In Brazil, when you meet someone for the first time, or if that person is someone important, you are supposed to handshake. In a friendly relationship, you are free to give small pick on the shoulder or on the back (between guys), or one kiss on the cheek (between the girls). In Italy, the handshake is reserved for people you need to be polite with (your boss, or something). When you meet a friend, or a stranger, you hug them, and give two kisses on the cheek.
    It may seem really small differences, but I’ve lived in Brazil for 12 years, and when I came to Italy I was not comfortable with all that hugs from people I didn’t know.

  31. Alexandra says:

    I do love korn and mayonnaise mixed up together and sometimes I ad can tuna ! It is common in France.

    For greeting and parting in France, we can shake hands, “kiss” on cheeks, just wave hand or tilt head.

    1. Shaking hands : more used in formal situations. For example, when we have a job interview, or with someone we don’t really know. And between males (acquaintance, friends and family) who consider kissing on cheeks between male absolutely not manly.

    2. Kissing on cheeks : is not a real kiss on the cheek like when we kiss our lover. Actually, mouth never touches the cheek. We need to press one cheek against the opposite cheek of the other guy. It is commonly used between female friends/family/acquaintance, between man and female that know each other to a certain degree in a casual situation, or between men who haven’t seen for sooo long that they are so happy to meet again (!) and when someone is introducing us to another one, the newly became acquaintances have to kiss on their cheeks.

    3. Waving hands : more used when parting. But we can use it to greet friends or ppl the same age or younger.

    4. Tilting head : to greet people you don’t personally know but you meet ofter such as neighbors, building manager, or when you get in a close place such in a bank, in a shop or something… but not in trains or subway. We can tilt our head when there are so many people in the room that you can personnally greet them each. French poeple like greeting people around them except in trains when people mind their own business…

    5. Bow : used in ancient times when a socially lower person meet a higher up.

    I have a story about it. When I was student I used to live in a student residence where there were students from all over the world. One day, I got in the elevator and there was an asian guy and while I got in I said to him ‘hello’. The guy was astonished and asked me if we had to say ‘hello’ each time we meet a person. And I explained to him that in France, in close places such as elevators, waiting rooms… especially in places when people are close to each other and will spend (a little) time together we have to say ‘hello’ or people will think you look down on them.

    I think greeting is a complex matter in every country…. !

    PS : in France we don’t hug as American people do. Or, only between very very close friends or lovers of course.

  32. Smith says:

    I am currently living in Seoul, and I couldn’t help but smile while I read this list. It is truly accurate! We’re moving back to American this year, and I will miss every single thing on this list. Only thing I would add is the great transportation system! I also love the IPark Mall theater, where you can pick where you sit in the movie. Oh, and… you can’t forget the heated floors!! Korea is an awesome place to live!

  33. Sid says:

    Haha, all of this is soo true especially staying out all night!
    When I was in Korea my friend and I went to Dongdaemun and shopped from 10 pm to 3:30 am. That was definitely a first for me!

  34. Vic says:

    So true. And don’t forgot loud voices

  35. Judy says:

    I was in Korea and I really enjoyed living there .. I hope I can travel back to Korea

  36. I have never been to korea before but i’d wish to. I even came across your blog when i was trying to know more about korea.

  37. koko says:

    Hi; would non-Korean people be misunderstood for disrespecting if they don’t bow (during living in Korea)?

  38. ninja says:

    I think I can get used to these but my biggest fear is spicy food there. I can’t even eat kimchi properly cause I find it too spicy><
    I like corn and mayonaise but seperately. never tasted them together but will try it for sure!

  39. Luz hernandez says:

    Thats my dream!!! :) make a good trip to korea ! By the way i wanna make friends from korea,,,,,,

  40. TarheelNKorea says:

    I lived in South Korea for 3 years, as a woman of color I had to get used to people touching my HAIR and BREAST!!!!! On the train, at the bus stop, at the spa,. I love South Korea but at times it got old. Oh dont expect people to give you a seat if your on crouches! Broken my ankle & had to fight people to get a seat sometimes!

  41. raluca says:

    I’ve read so much about korean life that it just makes me wanna move there, I could get used to the food, the city life, culture and language(I am a fast learner) but the biggest problem would be finding a job … still I can’t quit dreaming, I absolutely love South Korea!! thank you for sharing with us Keith!

  42. Nikkie says:

    Im half korean half african..never been in korea..looking foward to moving there..thanks for the comment..really helpful..i think im already used to all those stuffs..
    And i love korean food esp kimchi :)

  43. E.Q says:

    Hi there
    I have a question, and may seem somehow not related to the post.but I’ve fond no better place than here to ask. you said “Hanging out Late” is something usual up there…but(I’m so sorry to mentioning this) I’ve heard that Korea is not safe at nights,specially for a foreigner girl :( and also I’ve seen in Arirang news that some alleys can be unsafe for ladies at night :(
    please say something positive about nights up there… :'(
    is it safe for university students?

    p.s I really don’t want to underestimate the Korean culture or safety…I DO respect Korean people….but this is what I’ve read in a KPop website and I really want to find out why such things is said about Korea??

    I really appreciate you kind help on this question….
    thank you…

  44. jarnen says:

    i like koreans, because my firs idol is lee-min ho

  45. Lisa says:

    What if you want to go to Seoul but don’t know Korean

  46. Wolf says:

    I’ve been interested in Korea for a few months now, but honestly the more I learn the more terrifying and just straight up horrible it sounds.

    Pushing people? Uhh, no. If anyone pushes me they will get pushed back. I don’t care if you’re 70 years old, you have NO RIGHT to physically move my person. F that crap. Ahjumma’s can kiss my @ss. No one pushes me.

    No noise laws? So if my neighbors are being insanely loud and keeping me up during the night and I have to go to work the next day, I just have to live with it?

    Koreans are known for their politeness, but I’ve been told that’s only shown to people they’ve been introduced to/know. If you’re someone they’ve never met, you basically don’t exist. You’re a non-person. What the hell is that all about?

    What kind of civilization is this? A backwards one.