Yesterday (Aug. 31) marked 6 full calendar months of being here in Korea. Can you believe that? I sure can’t! Now that we’ve been here half a year, I feel that I have gotten to know the country on a deeper level and have enough experience to share things I like and dislike about it. Let’s start off on a positive note with 6 things I like (one for each month)!
- Paying for things. Okay, no one likes to pay for things, but paying for things here is a lot easier than paying for things at home. First, tax is always included in the price so what you see is what you get; there are no surprises. On top of that, there is no gratuity. Ride in a taxi, no tip needed. Get your hair cut, no tip needed. Eat in a restaurant, no tip needed. You get the picture. Finally, it’s really easy to pay “Dutch” in Korea. Say you’re eating in a group of 6, or even 10, and it’s time to pay. You go up to the cashier and can all give separate cards or cash. Just tell the person what you ordered and they will charge you accordingly. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
- The restaurant button. I have touched on this before. At many (not all) restaurants, you will find a button at your table. When you press this button, it signals the wait staff that you need something. They come over right away to take care of your needs. There is no waiting for someone to appear so you can try to get their attention. Instant gratification. Some people may say this allows servers to not check up on you during your meal and to provide bad service. If something were wrong, I wouldn’t wait to tell them until my server came to check on me anyway. This button provides prompt service in all my experiences.
- Movie theaters. There is such a huge variety of movie theatres here in Korea. There are regular movie theatres, 4D movie theatres (think Disney’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” but for feature films), and private “theatres” where you pick a movie you want to watch and you get to view it in a room with your friends (this is called a DVD Bang). For a detailed list of luxurious and unique movie theatres in Seoul, check out this blog. Many regular theatres offer couple seating, either in the form of a loveseat or 2 seats that are close together with a very high back and high sides for privacy. The movie tickets are typically around 8,000 KRW, which is much cheaper than back home. All seats are assigned so you know where you are sitting before you go into the theatre. Also, you don’t have to sit through any previews!
- Kute with a “K.” There are SO many cutesy things here, I love it! You can get anything with a cute little design on it, from slippers and kitchen tools, to nail clippers and markers. Everything comes with a cat, a smile or a heart (even customer service text messages!). It seems like one of the only places where it is socially acceptable for women of any age to wear shirts with kitties on them and not be labeled as cat ladies, and where couples can wear matching clothes and it is deemed completely normal. You can also wear sparkly hair accessories and fit right in, no matter how old you are. Presentation is key in Korea, and food, cake, gifts, etc. are all adorable. Don’t even get me started on the little girl shoes. I wish they came in my size.
- Ubiquitous WiFi. WiFi is in so many places here and best of all, most of the time it is free. Eating in a restaurant or cafe? They often have their WiFi network and password written somewhere you can see it. At the airport? Let your family know you arrived safely with free WiFi! Riding the subway in Seoul? There’s WiFi on the trains! Now that’s genius.
- Intercity travel is efficient and comfortable. I’ve also touched on this before, but it is very impressive. If the bus website says it’s going to take 2 hours and 10 minutes from Cheongju to Jeonju, it will take 2 hours and 10 minutes. I am amazed every time I get on a bus and it leaves not 1 minute past its scheduled departure time. If it doesn’t arrive right on time to its destination, it arrives early. (Okay, on the rare occasion, and I mean rare, traffic will cause it to be a little late.) On top of that, the buses are so comfortable. Normally I have trouble sleeping on public transportation, but when I can recline my seat and lift up a leg rest, while resting my arms on double wide arm rests, I can sleep pretty easily.
So there you have it! My list of 6 things I like about Korea. If you have spent time living in the Land of the Morning Calm, what would you put on your list?
Stay tuned for my follow-up post of 6 things I dislike about Korea!