Before leaving the US, I knew zero things about South Korea. I don’t listen to K-pop, speak Korean, or know of major tourist attractions. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be chosen for this opportunity. So I had preconceived ideas about Korean culture, which I will now elucidate.
Myth: The main dish I’d eat was Korean BBQ spare ribs.
Fact: They are on the menu but few and far between. Places that barbeque grill fresh meat at the table and don’t marinate their ribs in “Korean BBQ sauce”. You eat the ribs afterwards in lettuce wraps, not with rice. The most common dishes consist of rice with either breaded pork cutlets or stir-fried sliced beef or rice, ramen, or udon noodle soups with tofu, beef, or egg.
Myth: Korean food isn’t spicy – that’s a southeastern Asian thing.
Fact: 80% of the dishes are bathed in a chili paste – including sides.
Myth: Koreans sit and sleep on the floor for everything.
Fact: There are some traditional restaurants that you do sit on the floor for, but the majority is outside in chairs. And I have yet to see anyone sleep on the floor here – although the mattresses are pretty firm.
Myth: Every Korean loves K-pop.
Fact: Like any other music genre, you have people who enjoy it but not all. That’s like saying all Americans love pop music. The café I’m currently at has been playing American dance music for the past two hours. Everyone however does enjoy Maroon 5. House music is more popular, but again in select populations.
Myth: All Koreans are super friendly to Americans.
Fact: Ok this one is mostly true. They don’t go out of their way to help you like many blogs will tell you, though. Occasionally, someone will see us lost and approach us to help. But if you stop anyone, they will definitely be happy to help.
Myth: All signs are in English.
Fact: This is SO FALSE. Major attractions are in English but street signs are in Korean characters then phonetics. Which if people are counting as English, then ok… barely.
Things I was surprised about:
- Koreans love hot dogs – whether plain or chopped up in food.
- Koreans love spam. Really every country besides the US loves Spam.
- Koreans are coffee addicts more than tea.
- Sushi is available but not very popular. It’s regarded as more of a street food and has more vegetables than seafood in them.
- Koreans are very concerned about aesthetics, thus why they spend so much money and time on their hair, skin, nails, clothes, fitness, and plastic surgery. This goes for both men and women.
- Despite the exchange rate, things in Korea generally cost less. Koreans don’t jack up prices at tourist places, food is never more than $20 no matter how nice the restaurant is, and clothes are pretty similar.
- Every girl wears heels but the secret is… they have BUILT IN INSOLES! Bring these to the US please!!