Living abroad is an extended adventure. Below are 10 experiences that struck me as most impressionable. What are yours?
1. Driving etiquette
Much can be said about driving habits in Korea. Aggressive and where size matters. But it’s not without redemption. Driving in Korea, you’d notice that drivers frequently use the hazard lights to thank the driver behind for letting them cut into a busy lane, or to warn drivers on a highway that traffic is slow ahead.
2. Taking a taxi home late hours
Out drinking late into the night? When female friends are traveling back, either as a group or alone, in a taxi, it’s customary for friends to take a picture of the taxi license plate. Why? It helps to track down the driver if you’ve left something behind in the taxi while in a drunken stupor, or heaven forbid, if something criminal happens.
3. N bang
At a dinner where there is someone noticeably more senior, either by age or hierarchy, he/she will often offer to foot the bill. But when dining with a group of friends, there are two ways to do it: paying individually or someone calls for N bang, where one would pay for all first, then split the cost later. It’s also not uncommon for people to draw up a spreadsheet detailing the breakdown.
4. Korean drinking games
Drinking games typically move very fast, and by that, I mean people switch between games as fast as they start it, hardly ever dwelling on one for too long. Anyone can start a game they want to play and everyone joins in. It can be anything from a silent “shooting” game to people counting off numbers and standing up. For the latter, if you have more than one person counting the same number, game stops and forfeit starts.
5. Age matters
Simply because that would determine how you should address someone, and the appropriate level of language to use.
6. Signing when paying for purchases
Or the lack of. People sign by drawing circles and hearts.
7. Brushing teeth
After-meal times are the worst times to visit the washroom where everyone congregates to brush their teeth. Mouth hygiene is so engrained in the Korean culture that sometimes you wonder why they don’t practice washing the hands after going about their “business” in the washroom.
8. Garbage disposal
In Korea, you pay for garbage bags designated for your district, and you dutifully separate the metals from plastics and perishables. To save space, people flatten plastic bottles before discarding.
9. Receiving a “service”
Nothing sleazy. Receiving a service in Korea simply means you’re getting something free, from offerings of food to small gifts. Accept it graciously.
10. Charging phones in Korea
From cafes to restaurants, power outlets can be found everywhere. In cafes, these are usually found under the bench seats. In restaurants, sometimes you simply hand it over to the staff and they will charge it for you, along with others, somewhere near the counter.