Quirkiness in Korea – Part 1

Having been in Korea for half a year, I’ve had the opportunity to stumble upon some of the less obvious quirks of my new home. A few of these oddities have taken a little getting used to, while others simply offer comic relief for the sometimes disorienting experience of living abroad. I expect I’ll make another post as I continue discovering unique little pieces of my life in Korea. For now, here are some of the things I’ve come across!

Where Are All the Garbage Cans…

I’ve gradually noticed that Korean cities have an incredibly sparse number of garbage cans. Several times I’ve had to pack around an empty bottle or a wrapper searching for a receptacle. If you see a trash can or recycle bin, make sure to take advantage of it because you may not see another for a while! The thing that is more surprising than Korea’s lack of garbage cans though is how clean so many of the Korean cities are. If Seattle had so few garbage cans people would likely just drop trash on the ground… 

Underwear?

Apparently you can buy a single pair of underwear at the corner convenient store. You know, for those moments when you need one extra pair on the go?

Underwear

Snip Snip ✂

In the States I would usually keep my scissors with my other office supplies. My mom use to own a specialty pair of meat trimming scissors which we kept in the kitchen, but those were unique. In Korea, scissors are often used as a dinning utensil, and not only to cut meat. You can cut pizza, bread, kimchi, noodles, or essentially any other food that needs to be cut. At first I thought this was quite odd, but now I appreciate its brilliance!

Cutesy Culture

There are a lot of cutesy things to be found in modern day Korean pop-culture. From Kakao Friends, to the jingle on the subways, to emojis on TV, to Pepero Day. At times I enjoy this part of Korean culture when I encounter it because it creates a fun and light-hearted atmosphere. However, there are times when it’s a bit too much for me. This video is a good demonstration:

The Shoes!

If you enter a Korean home, restaurant, or church you’ll probably need to leave your shoes at the door, and maybe even put on a pair of slippers. I definitely didn’t do this when I first arrived, but now I’m a well-trained foreigner (except for that one time I snuck up to my room with my shoes on to grab my coat!). If you don’t take off your shoes you will definitely be made aware of your error! 😅

English in Korea

English in Korea is an interesting thing. In general, it’s a highly valued skill, but this doesn’t mean it’s always executed well on signs and advertisements. There have been multiple occasions when I’ve read the words decorating a wall to then be left puzzled about its intended meaning. Other times the meaning is clear, but seems to have no significance (such as, “ageneral-purposecar”). Neither of these situations is the norm, but it’s pretty funny when I come across one.

BYOTP?

I’ve heard of parties where the slogan is BYOB (Bring your own beer), but I’ve never heard of a bathroom with a policy of bringing your own toilet paper. While stopping in a train station to use the restroom I found that none of the stalls had any TP. Then, I discovered this vending machine…. Apparently if you expect to use toilet paper in this bathroom you’d better purchase it from the vending machine first.

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