Want to Live in Korea? 13 Things You’ll Have to Get Used to! – Page 2 – Seoulistic

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

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Soju is liquid gold to some and liquid kryptonite to others. And no matter which side you stand on, soju is something you’ll have to get used to in Korea. It’s cheap, strong alcohol that’s sold everywhere. So even if you don’t drink it, you can’t escape it in Korea. It’s mixed in with beers (ssomaek), in cocktail format (cocktail soju), and oozing from the pores of drunk businessmen on crowded subway trains. Wherever you go, whoever you’re with, whatever you do, soju will be with you. Like Batman.

If you want more than just soju, here’s an Introductory Guide to Korea’s Most Popular Alcohols.


Sitting on the Floor

Ondol, the Korean floor heating system, is one of the reasons even many modern Korean families still choose to sleep or sit on their floors. For some people, it’s more comfortable than sitting on a couch. Sitting on the floor is still a big part of modern day Korean culture. You’ll be sitting on the floor if you go to Korean restaurants or jjimjilbang, or even if you’re invited to someone’s home to watch some TV. So if your legs fall asleep easily when sitting on the floor, you might want to get used to it.


Expensive Fruit

Fruit prices in Korea is one of the biggest complaints of foreigners in Korea (mostly of the North American variety). Of course fruit can be bought for cheap from the back of trucks or from local grocers. But if you’re shopping at large super markets or department stores, you’ll see that they have their own section for expensive fruit baskets. These gift baskets are filled with hand-picked “luxury” fruits that are guaranteed to be super delicious. But it comes at ridiculous prices that can go well beyond 100,000 won. But even at non-luxury prices, larger fruits like pears can go for 5,000 for a single one, and even 25,000 won a large watermelon. Either way, you’ll have to get used to fruit prices.

Few/Thin Napkins

If you’re a heavy napkin user at the dinner table, you might find living in Korea a bit of a pain. Many places throughout Korea give a single napkin for each customer. It’s not a lot, so you have to make efficient use of each clean surface area of the napkin. You can always ask for more napkins, of course, but even still, you might find the thinness of the napkins found in many restaurants in many Korea to be too thin for your liking. That means no hard nose blowing and no wiping of wet tables. 🙁




Korea’s trouble with agressive drivers is always blamed on Korea’s ppallippalli (do things quickly) culture. It might be accurate because the drivers always drive a bit reckless like they’re always in a rush. But even if you’re not going to be driving on the mean streets of Seoul, if you’re going to live in Korea, you should get used to watching your back for cars. Many streets are small, and many drivers think their cars are smaller than they actually are. Oh yea, and be careful when taking taxis. Some people might get a free real-life demonstration of the arcade game Crazy Taxi.


Corn and Mayonnaise

For some reason, Koreans have a fondness for corn kernels as well as mayonnaise. Sometimes they seem inescapable. You’ll find these two items  in salads, pizzas, hamburgers, Korean food and even just by themselves as banchan (side dishes) or dip. So if you dislike either of these two foods, you might find yourself picking at a lot of food just to not eat them. We suggest you getting used to eating corn or potato on your pizza, and maybe some mayonnaise on top.


Pushy Old People

Another common complaint of foreigners (as well as many Koreans) is the pushy ajummas and ajeoshis. Instead of “excuse mes” many older Korean men and women opt for forearms and palms to lower backs to push someone out of their way. Rather than a gentle and endearing nudge, it’s more commonly a forceful and assertive shove. Either way it’s annoying. And since you would be a super jerk foreigner if you yelled at older people (big no no in Korea), you’re going to just have to get used to it.



Captain Obvious says if you’re going to say hi to Korean people, you should do it the Korean way. Most of the time, if it’s a casual hi — like at the convenience store or your building security guard — you’ll say annyeonghasaeyo with a short quick head nod. These short nods should be a part of every greeting and parting you take part in. There are also the rare, extra formal  occasions where you’ll need a suit and/or hanbok, and an accompanying bow down to the knees. Of course, there are varying degrees of bows between these two extremes as well. Bowing is part of everyday life in Korea. Better get used to it.

Don’t know how to bow? See our video here:

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. Vic says:

    So true. And don’t forgot loud voices

  5. Judy says:

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

  6. 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.

  7. koko says:

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

  8. 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!

  9. Luz hernandez says:

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

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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 🙂

    • Lola says:

      Hey Nikkie, I am planning to visit and hopefully move to Korea but i only know how to say grandma and hello in Korean. I was wondering if you have any tips for me to learn the language without breaking my bank. I am on a big budget so that I can afford to go there

  13. 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…

    • stephanie says:

      I think if you use common sense lie usual you will be fine.
      Would you normally hang out in a dark alley late at night?
      If somewhere does not feel safe then move to somewhere well lit with more people around.
      I think korea is perfectly safe for a woman if you dont put yourself in obviously vulnerable situations.

      I hope you move to Korea and enjoy late nights out! <3

  14. jarnen says:

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

  15. Lisa says:

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

  16. 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.

  17. Andre Bronel says:

    Creative suggestions ! Speaking of which , if your business needs to fill out a a form , my business partner discovered a sample version here http://goo.gl/vXgMi7

  18. Christopher says:

    I love the place but don’t know how to get there.

  19. ana says:

    How about finding job? Of course in order to survive korean living one needs work. Is it easy to find work for a foreign migrants?

  20. Ben Chijioke says:

    I really want to visit Korea.

  21. Kfiitwa Bede mbeng says:

    Hello there i really wish to travel to South korea

  22. thomas campbell says:

    I’M retired military ,living in Hawaii for the last 30 yrs.I’m married to a Korean we have been marriedfor 32 yrs.and would like to move and retired there.My wife has family over there,so I’m not worried about finding a place to stay.My problem is it’s so dam hard getting the new spousel visa.The Korean consualt offer little to no information and what information that is on the net is out of date.I have put together what I hope is what I need,my wife has gone to Korea to get what papers needed,I’m hope everything is ok .I was station in korea when I was in the army from 1973-1975,1979-1980and my last tour 1981-1983. II hope to buy land with a small home.My question is about the banking.

  23. Shilpa says:

    Iam an Indian. It’s my dream to settle in south Korea

  24. Wow nice
    I will like to come over..
    I need a guide..

  25. seoleezf says:

    Hello. I’m korean and ask if you have any questions about korea. korea is a small country. You don’t have to worry too much about adapting

    • Haval says:

      is it easy to find a job as a foreigner?

    • Lola says:

      Hello, I am planning to visit and hopefully move to South Korea. I need to learn Korean but the only words I know are grandma and hello. I w was wondering if you have any tips or any advice at all that i could use. I would love to do something to learn that is cheap because i must save to make it to Korea.

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