Here are ten interesting facts about living the Korean lifestyle. There is a lot to tell, so I am going to limit myself to ten.
Many, many of them love Christianity and Christians. There are crosses rising up all over the city and a church meeting on every street corner. Some churches are normal churches, and others have some really strange ideas.
Some Koreans refuse to sleep in beds. The like sleeping in the floor, and their floors are concrete covered with linoleum. There is a heater called “ondol” under that concrete that heats the whole floor and makes it a nice place to be when it is cold outside, and the winters get really cold in Korea. Some who sleep in beds actually sleep on a slab of what looks like marble that is heated. They may have a really fancy looking scrolled bed, but the bed part itself where you sleep won’t have a mattress, just a hard heated surface. They have beds they think are equivalent to ours, but they aren’t. They leave the mattress off and sleep on the box springs calling it a mattress.
Korea is overcrowded. There are traffic jams all over S. Korea, not just in the big cities. Everyone wants to live in Seoul or be connected to Seoul by subway, and there is very little difference between Seoul itself and the suburbs surrounding it. Even the towns further out in the country have extremely, extremely tall apartment buildings, big buildings several stories high with lots and lots of small businesses in them, and crowded streets because there are too many people in one small area. On the holidays, the traffic jams get worse. Since they are always doing road work whether it needs to be done or not, they cause lots of traffic jams.
Most Koreans are lovers of chili spice. They over spice everything and can’t get enough chili spice. If you want to say “it tastes good,” to them, that means it has enough chili spice for them. If it has “taste,” to a Korean, it has chili spice. If there is no chili spice, it is bland and has no taste to them. Never ask them if something is spicy. If they say “no,” you can bet it will still be too spicy for the average foreigner to eat. They will often leave the salt out saying we eat too much salt, but Korea has the highest amount of stomach cancer in the world, and I am pretty sure it is all that chili spice.
Koreans are a community oriented people more than any population I have seen. They think something is wrong if they have to go home. Their apartments are small, and many only go home to sleep and spend the rest of their time out running around. They go to work, to school, to school after school, to coffee shops, to PC bangs (places where they play computer games on a room full of computers), etc. Coffee shops are extremely important. The middle school boys like PC bangs so much that they skip school and try spending their days there until they are caught. Some Koreans wake up extremely early in the morning and head for the local church for early morning worship at 5:00 or 6:00 in the mornings, before work. At dinner time, they don’t go home and eat with their families, but like to stay after work and eat with their collogues from work. There are after school schools everywhere called hogwans. There are lots of English hogwans, but they may also teach Math, Music, etc. A piano hogwan will have several small rooms with a piano in each room. All the kids take Taekwando, and several have black belts. Koreans like to be together.
Korea is severely safe! Their crime rate is very, very low. Kids walk the streets at night in safety. Seoul is very well lit. My daughter used to take Taekwando lessons, and I was taking her in my car to make sure she is okay. Her teacher said to just let her walk on her own because it was close to our house, but it was dark after the lessons were finished. He showed me the lights. He showed me the other children walking after dark. He showed me the streets were crowed, and that she would never be walking alone, so I let her walk on her own, and she was fine.
If you are driving out after an hour when other people have gone home, the police will stand at stop signs and test everyone’s breath for alcohol. If you are in the wrong neighborhood, there could be a lot of drinking going on, and the cops head it of at from the beginning. They don’t wait for someone to have a wreck.
If you loose your phone, you will get it back. I lost my phone twice. Once, the person turned it into the local police station. The other time, someone picked it up, called me, and I met them at the subway, and they gave it back. Koreans are overall honest, good people. There are exceptions like everywhere, but not in the general population.
Korea has a crazy parking system with their cars. The parking lots are too small, and there is not enough space for everyone to park. The spaces themselves are smaller than parking spaces in other countries. If all the spaces are full, you can park your car sideways behind the other cars, leave your car in neutral, and lock your doors. When the person you parked in front of comes out, they will just push your car out of the way. If one parking lot is full, don’t bet you can go to the next one, because someone will probably chase you off. Parking can become a real problem in Korea.
The Korean subways are completely safe, dependable, and clean. On rush hours, they are overcrowded, and you may have to stand up then, but at other times, you can sit. Many more people go with public transportation in Korea than in a place like America. The subways have maps everywhere and are logically put together, so they are not hard to use. They have a lot of things written in both Korean and English. However, before you begin using them alone make sure someone explains them and you thoroughly understand because I have known foreigners to get lost. If you do get lost, there will be someone around who speaks English and is dying to use their English and help you