Top Ways to Look Like A Native in Korea

By: Maddie Lamb

It can be pretty scary and intimdating moving to a foreign country. Not only are you hundreds of miles from home, but lots of little things can feel so different. The food, the climate, the people and their habits. It's not surprising that tourists and newbies to an area can stick out like a sore thumb with their wide eyes and their open mouths, wowing at everything. Here is my top list of how to blend right in, and look just like a Korean.

1. Develop a love for rice. It's an understatement to say that Koreans love rice. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They drink rice wine and enjoy rice cakes. There is no escaping it here. There are times when my Korean colleagues complain that they don't feel full all day, just because they didn't eat any rice. your rice with a spoon, eating it with chopsticks is soo Japanese, or so I've been told!

2. Clear your throat and SHOUT! You'll never get served in a restaurant if you don't give a lung filled yell! Waiters tend not to approach you until you shout 'YO GI OH'! Which means 'Hey! I'm over here' (and the subtext is 'and I want your attention).  In other cultures it would be considered rude to shout at your server with whole restaurants going silent while every customer stares at you in disbelief, but here it's perfectly normal!

3. Sing like nobody's listening. Koreans love karaoke. It's perfectly normal to end every night out in Korea in a noraebang, which is basically a private karaoke room with all the commodities to have a good old sing song, while waving a tambourine. Korean's aren't ashamed to give it their all, even if they aren't the best singer, maybe the echo effect will hide the lack of talent. Or not.

4. Turn your fan off at night. Beware of the feared FAN DEATH. It's an old Korean belief that if you sleep in a sealed room with a fan running it can cause death. Maybe they're being melodramtic, but they really do believe it! Read more about fan death here!

5. Don't mess with the elders. There's no question about who's in charge in Korea/ The elders aren't the little old dears we're used to in the UK, they are people to be feared and to avoid at all cost. In their way? They'll use brute force to get you out of the way! In front of them in the queue? No worries, they'll just slide straight in front. Don't try and correct them, accept it, that's just the way things are in Korea. You don't want to get on the wrong side of one they hike up mountains for fun!

6. Eat it! It's good for stamina! Don't ask why they eat strange tasting fermented herbs and vegetables. Even Koreans don't seem to know why, but their answer will always be that it's good for stamina. If anything tastes slightly off while eating, but noone else seems to be responding, it's porbably because it's good for stamina. It's probably better that you just wolf it down, and soon enough you will think it tastes as good as anything else!

7. Girls get your legs out. But whatever you do, DON'T flash your shoulders or chest! Even when Seoul hits icy temperatures in the winter, the girls don't think twice about flashing their pins, but flash a bit of shoulder and everyone will be looking at you. But, the rule with legs is go as short as you dare!

8. If you're driving a moped then drive on the pavement. Everyone else does. And if you feel like earning some extra cash, throw business cards at passers by while you nearly run them over.

9. Drink It! Stock up on painkillers before you go. Then embrace the drinking culture that Korea have. Whether it's a work meeting, a family do or just a night out with friends, Koreans love the excuse to drink. Especially to drink their beloved liqor, soju. There are lots of strange drinking quirks, don't pour your own drink, pour drinks with two hands, face away from the senior person at the table when you do drink. And, when you're stumbling home at night, don't even give a second glance to the business man, suited and booted, who is having a little nap in the middle of the pavement.

10. Push. I'm a Brit. I love a well established queue. You know where you stand, you know the probability of maybe getting a seat on a bus, you can calculate the time it'll take to get served. Well, imagine my horror the day I waited for my first bus in Korea and realised that there wasn't a queue. Just a gaggle of Koreans hanging on the edge of the pavment, just like an eagle on cliff edge, ruthlessly waiting to dive. Well that first day that I politely let everyone dive for the bus before i got on, I didn't get a seat. I didn't get a seat the second time either. It was only when I rethought my tactics, by hanging by the pavement, working out precisely where the bus would stop that I started to get seats. And once you've done the pushing, do something smugly in your seat to rub it in to those standing. Maybe indulge in a nice nap.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMaddie Lamb is a British expat living in Korea South. Blog description: Life, travel and a spoonful of sugar
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Contest Comments » There are 2 comments

Rafiqua Israel wrote 10 years ago:

I live in South Korea too, so I can agree with you fully on this list! It's very funny and well written. I think living here I can understand and relate to your post. You hit the nail on the head! Good luck :)

Sally wrote 10 years ago:

Nice list! It's a little hard to "blend in" if you're not Asian, but doing these things will help at least a little bit.

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