50 things I learned while living in Seoul for 4 months

50 things i learned about living in seoul

Living in Seoul really taught me a lot. So I decided to put it all in to a list. In this you can find bigger and smaller things I noticed during my exchange. And things I think you cannot know if you have not been there.

  1. Elevators and street lights are slow

You really get to practice your patience here while waiting for the light to turn green or for the elevator to get to your floor.

  1. Sleeping everywhere

In the subway? Outside of clubs? During class? The Koreans like their sleep and do so in many places.

  1. You do not drink the tap water

Well, apparently the government says you can but you usually drink water from a water purifier.

  1. You can find karaoke rooms everywhere

They are called noraebangs and they are in every corner. Just look for the word 노래방 when you want to sing.

  1. There is no tipping in Korea

Ah, this feels like home.

  1. Hills, hills everywhere

As Korea is mostly mountains you will definitely have to walk a steep hill while travelling in Korea. This is very good in my opinion, and keeps you in shape.

  1. There are plenty of cool cafes to try

Want to find a cool themed cafe? There are plenty of them in South Korea. Cat, dog, raccoon, Sherlock Holmes theme… You name it!

  1. There is almost Wi-Fi everywhere

There is not Wi-Fi everywhere… that is a lie. But you can find Wi-Fi in every coffee shop, and there are coffee shops in every corner. You can also find Wi-Fi in shopping malls, restaurants etc.

Sometimes you can find the password on the receipts and sometimes there is a small sign next to the cashier that states the Wi-Fi and password.

  1. When you pay you rarely need to put in your PIN

I am used to putting in my pin code when I pay in Finland. But in Korea they just take the card, only sometimes you have to sign. Good thing I did not forget my code after these 4 months, haha.

  1. The food is hot and the Koreans have high tolerance for it

Food in South Korea is hot in two ways. It is both spicy and temperature-wise hot, e.g. straight off the grill. Of course you can find non-spicy food too, like kimbap! Oh, and you can find many different international foods as well.

living in seoul food

  1. The food is also often sweet

Do you want to try a hot dog dipped in sugar? No problem, you can get this in Korea. Also popcorn often was sweet even though you can get salty sour cream and onion or butter popcorn in a bag from the convenient stores.

  1. Need a trash bin? Good luck finding one

I got to walk a lot with my trash until I found trash cans.

  1. Want to live in Seoul? Get used to see couples everywhere – and couple clothing

As many things in South Korea is sweet even the couples are sweet. And the couples can have matching clothes.

  1. Using “lol” is still a thing

“Where are you lol”, “I am done with my meeting lol”, “alright lol”. Yeah, you get the picture.

  1. Living in Seoul is safe: People can leave their stuff and no-one takes it

I often saw unguarded computers in cafes when the person went out for some reason. Also the metro is safe and staying out late is no problem.

living in seoul safe streets

  1. South Koreans are helpful

If you are lost in the subway or out in the streets it is common that a person can come up and ask if you need help. This would never happen in Finland lol.

  1. The skirts are short and the collars high

Showing legs is okay but cleavage is not. On the orientation we got to see a cartoon that made fun of the norms in a way that compared Americans to South Koreans. First the American judged the Korean as the skirt/dress was too short and vice versa with the Koreans judging the Americans for showing cleavage.

  1. You can find toilets anywhere and yes some are squatter toilets

Give it a try when in Korea! Anyhow, in every park or subway station there are quite clean toilets.

  1. “Please put toilet paper into the bin”

The pipes are smaller in South Korea so you are supposed to put your toilet paper into the bin next to you.

  1. South Koreans are not that concerned about North Korea

Honestly I noticed that people back home are more concerned than the people in South Korea. I wrote a blog post about South Koreans view about North Korea and learned some new things when I went to the boarder for the DMZ tour.

  1. While living in Seoul you get used to being pushed in the subway – especially by the grandmas and grandpas

Oh, they know where they want to get off and they are not afraid to use their elbows.

  1. It is common to share food

Now this I really like. You go out and order some fried chicken or Korean barbeque that you share with your friends.

  1. You eat with chopsticks and a spoon – and often scissors

The scissors are used to cut the meat, vegetables and such.

  1. They have one subway/bus card that works in the whole country

The card is called a T-Money card and you can get one with cute animal figures on it. Very convenient to use the same card in any local public transport (bus or subway). Of course if you, let’s say, want to take the bus from Seoul to Busan you need to pay a different long distance ticket.

  1. You can often get unlimited side dishes

Kimchi and pickled radish are common to get.

  1. You cannot smoke just anywhere

It is not allowed to smoke in the open street so you would need to find a corner or a side street to smoke. But someone please explain why it is then allowed to smoke inside of clubs?!

  1. Learning how to read Hangeul is helpful because some of the words resemble English

Ice cream and hand phone are both almost the same word in Hangeul.

  1. They love Moomin

Now this feels good as Moomin is from Finland. There even was a Moomin exhibition that I went to.

  1. They do not use WhatsApp, they use KakaoTalk

Living in South Korea I learned that it is more common to ask if someone has KakaoTalk than to ask for someone’s number. Then you exchange KakaoTalk IDs rather than numbers.

  1. There are many helpful apps and a website to help you find your way in South Korea

The VisitKorea website is very helpful for tourists and had information about all the attractions and sights I was looking for. There you can find information about the location and most important of all how to get there (even which subway station exit you should take)!

Also the KakaoMetro app is a must-have while in South Korea. After downloading the app it works without internet so you can find your way easier, especially since:

  1. Google is not popular in South Korea

They use their own service called Naver. So me and my friend (Google Maps) had some troubles during my time in Seoul.

  1. Is the sun shining or is it raining? Use your umbrella!

It rained the first day I arrived in Seoul. Then a Korean girl I met laughed a bit and asked if I was all right with my raincoat…

  1. You are supposed to be quiet using public transport

It happened both to me and to friends that someone asked us to be quiet in the subway or bus.

  1. It is common to show affection to friends

Holding hands with your friend who is of the same sex as you is quite common, both for men and for women.

  1. You get wet towels before eating

When you grew up you had to wash your hands before eating, right? Well in South Korea you often get a wet towel for the same purpose.

  1. Seoul is very Instagrammable

There are places designed to take pictures on everywhere. You can find the best spots not only near the main attractions but also in stores. During my time in Seoul it was common to see the mascot for the upcoming Olympics.

  1. They use metal chopsticks and drink water from metal glasses

And if you are eating out, getting the water can be self-service and the chopsticks can be in a drawer under the table.

  1. Food delivery scooters drive like crazy

There is nothing stopping the drivers. I saw them not stopping for red lights, driving the wrong direction on the sidewalk. Wherever there is space they (and not just food delivery persons) will use it.

living in seoul food

  1. It is common to see, and hear, people spit

You can hear people clearing their throats and getting ready before they spit on the sidewalk.

  1. Everything is much cuter than what I was used to

As I wrote in one of the first blogposts about Seoul, there are many cute things. The subway cards and the short jingles that come when a subway arrives are all cute! Even the emoji’s in KakaoTalk are cuter than in WhatsApp (except for the butt-faced ones).

  1. Predicting the future is common

Even I wanted to know what lies in my upcoming year, and apparently it will be pretty good!

  1. You can have a Korean name and an English name

And as any name it should be given to you.

  1. Bowing is a way to show respect

I started to bow when I was there. Often while I thanked someone.

  1. Kpop is catchy and you can hear it anywhere

Outside of shops or inside of restaurants, you can hear kpop. I did not mind!

  1. There are festivals for everything

I found myself going to more festivals during the first weeks in Seoul than during the whole year in Finland. There are kimchi festivals, mask festivals, slow life festivals… Safe to say there is always something to do.

  1. There is a Korean age

They count the age differently: once you are born you are 1 year old and every New Year you get one year older.

Knowing peoples ages also has a specific importance since they address people differently in South Korea depending on if the person is older or younger than themselves.

  1. There is a smell

Before I left for Seoul a friend who had stayed there warned about the smell. So I was quite prepared and didn’t think the sewage smell was that bad.

  1. Korean alcohol, “soju”, is dangerously cheap

And you can get it any time of day.

  1. I found the best view of Seoul from Lotte World Tower

It was beautiful! Totally worth the 27 000 won.

lotte world tower view

  1. The weather can change 40 degrees in 4 months

They have four seasons. When I arrived in late August it could be 30 °C during the day and in December -13. A thing I liked is that it does not get that dark during winter (which I am used to in my home country).

That was all the 50 things I learned, great if you made it all the way through! All in all a great experience and definitely want to go back some day!



Have you noticed more interesting things living in Seoul? Share them by leaving a comment!

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