The everyday life here and probably all over the world is pretty much the same. People go to work or school, they spend time with family and friends. Everyone has the same basic hopes and desires, fears and worries. Life is the same same - but different. And the difference often comes in the form of funny little things. And often times these things are not better or worse, they are just different. And sometimes a little confusing. So, here are some small everyday differences that I have noticed between the Nordics and South-Korea.
Everything is cute
Cuteness seems to be something highly appreciated by everyone regardless their age or gender. I was having a conversation with a 20-something Korean guy about Pokemons. "My favourite is Eevee", he said. When I asked why his answer was very clear: "Because it is so CUTE!".
You can also notice this by walking around the city and checking out packagings of different goods. And honestly, where else in the world do you think you could find this kind of coffee? C.THROUGH [씨스루] in Seoul is one of the best coffee shops in the world. And probably the cutest.
Everything is sweet
What about some potato chips to have a nice salty snack? Great idea, but you can forget the salty part. Everything and I mean literally almost every single snack you find on a regular convenient store contains sugar. Often a lot of it. Pocky sticks are popular here - you know these slim biscuit sticks with chocolate coat. I was heading to my Korean class and wanted to have a small salty snack. At the convenient store I found they also have a cheese version. "Fun! Salty Pocky sticks", I thought. Wrong. They were sweet too. Very sweet. Definitely the first (and maybe the last) time I have eaten sweet cheese.
Brushing your teeth everywhere
Yes, you read right. This is something that I noticed already during my very first week in Korea. It happens everywhere. In metro station and department store bathrooms, even at the university corridors. In Europe we are taught to brush our teeth twice a day but living in Seoul has definitely made me question the sufficiency of my dental hygiene.
Sleeping in the metro
Let's face it - this happens occasionally in Helsinki and Stockholm as well. But in South-Korea it is a collective past-time for people traveling on public transport. Especially early in the morning or late in the evening you can easily find yourself being the only person actually having their eyes open during the ride. Other legit places to sleep are for example the dressing room at the gym or at the back of the class. Basically anywhere works. Just close your eyes and give it a go. No one will judge.
Opening your umbrella when it is barely raining
Two drops of water from the sky is considered rain in Korea. Time to pull out your umbrella. There are probably two reasons for this. First of all, rain can easily spoil your carefully done make-up and hair. For the second, sometimes acid rain occurs so it is only smart to cover. Especially during the summer it can be pretty rainy and Koreans are very good at keeping up to date on the weather forecasts.
This is a thing here. Especially during the summer you will get your coffee cold if you don't specifically ask for a hot one. And when you do, people will think you are crazy. "It is +30 degrees and you are drinking HOT coffee??". Well, I grew up believing that coffee was supposed to be enjoyed hot..? However, Korean people have their coffee cold. And they drink a lot of it. Finnish people be aware, if these guys keep up the pace you might loose the glorious position of No.1 coffee drinkers in the world.
Give and receive with two hands
Especially when you do not know the person or want to show respect, you always give and take things with both hands. An alternative way is to place your left hand lightly on the lower part of your arm.
Age is extremely important in Korea. It will most likely be among the first questions your receive and it is not because people are being impolite or simply curious. They need to know your age in order to know how they should address you and how to speak to you. If a guy is older than me for example, I am supposed to call him oppa, which literally means "older brother". You can hear many Korean girls using this word on a flirty child-like tone while talking to their boyfriends. Also older sister and younger brother and sister have their own terms.
Another fun fact related to age is that Korean people actually have two ages. The international one and a Korean one. In Korea a person is considered to be one year old when they are born and everyone turns one year older at the beginning of the year. For example, if you happen to be born 31st December, you are one year the day you were born. The next day (1st January) you will be two years old - even if you are actually just two days old. Because of this system, the difference between the person's international and Korean age is 1-2 years depending on the time of the year.
People here drink at least as much as in Finland. Our MT (Membership Training) at the university was like a South-Korean version of a Finnish summerhouse party. You gather to a house outside the city. Main program for the evening is to drink soju and get wasted. In the end you just pass out wherever. Basically the difference is that here people drink soju and beer, in the Nordics we have vodka instead of soju.
In the bars you normally have to order something small to eat while drinking. If you are allowed to order only a drink (in which case the waiter will most likely think you are a hard core drunk) they will always bring you at least a cup filled with salt sticks or some rice-based snacks. Another thing to remember is that you are not supposed to pour your own drinks. A friend should do that for you. Normally the youngest person at the table is supposed to serve the older ones.
All Kinds of Couply Things
Dating in Korea is huge. When two people have found each other they are definitely not hiding it. Quite the contrary. It is very common to see couples walking on the streets wearing similar shirts, backpacks or even jackets. A local friend of mine said sometimes the couples even call each other in the morning to coordinate their underwear. Finding a partner is one of the most important things for a young Korean person and dating is very popular. Many people go to blind dates that their friends organize for them. It is common to celebrate not only anniversaries but also being a week together, a month together and half a year together. There are two Valentines days in a year. One at the end of the year which the girl is supposed to organize and The Valentines day in February which the guy organizes. Often times the guy is supposed to go bigger with his surprise and present in February. Dating in South-Korea is still very heteronormative and being gay is still a big tabu.
What do you think about these differences? What kind of funny little things have you noticed during you travels? Let me know and leave a comment! ^^