This was on one of my first trips there back in 2000
This is a list of a few items that I felt worthy of a note, which was all part of my learning experience, in my travels to Korea. (South, that is....)
1. What we call Beef in the US is not really beef in Korea. Pork, might be pork.
2. Chicken should only be eaten if you saw it prior, while in its live state.
3. Korean food is like gunpowder and thumb tacks when it comes out the other end.
4. Vendors on the street who make food have no standards as we do in the US. They will set up shop, cook in the back of their truck, erect tents, tables, and the like and will serve food. Simply grab a spoon and eat out of the cooking pot with everyone else.
5. You can smell the food being cooked for at least a mile (1.6 kilometers) down wind.
6. When restaurants serve food, they do not give you a fork to eat with, nor do they give plates. Don't ask for one.
7. The food is eaten by everyone off the main plate in which the food is served from. Hope that no one has any funky in their mouth / chop sticks, or you will get that same funky on your chop stick / mouth.
8. Motorcycles don't obey the traffic laws. In fact, they make their own.
9. Stop signs are treated as a recommended driving option, for all.
10. White lines painted in the street (we call them lanes) are not actually lanes in Korea. These are simply predictions of where the road might go. These should not be followed.
11. Couriers, like we have in the US who ride bikes, ride motorcycles in Korea. They don't stop at stop lights, they ride on the side walk, curbs, stairs, etc. They also carry amazingly large amounts of items on the back, to which I now believe there is a contest in Korea of who can stack their pile the highest.
12. Pedestrians are targets at all times. Crosswalks do not exist. Remember this. This includes while walking on the sidewalk.
13. Absolutely do not under any circumstances throw trash on the streets. This includes cigarette butts. You will be shot on the spot. Period.
14. There are some streets that have tunnels under them (these appear visually to be similar to a subway entrance) These are used in place of crosswalks at some intersections. They are also not marked with signs. If you do not use the tunnel, the Korean Police somehow magically appear.
15. Korean Police do not speak Engrish, however they do accept Won (Korean Currency) on the spot as payment.
16. Speaking Engrish for a Korean is further defined as 30 or so words that have been murdered in annunciation.
17. Chinese food and Japanese food are not really what they seem to be in Korea. (Korinnese and Korapanese)
18. Don't order with faith off a menu. Point to the picture. (if available, if not move on)
19. What does arrive, it's best to just eat it and not have it identified.
20. Under absolutely no circumstances should you put soy sauce on your food as we do in America. This will cause you to be cursed at and nearly killed by every person in the restaurant. Look at the soy sauce on the table and appreciate that it is there. Don't ask how, why or when to use it.
21. Burger King, an American favorite does not cater to the American. Again, reference #1. Same applies to Mc Donald's. However I can report Mc Donald's is eatable after a 4 day hunger binge. Your ordering options are limited to pictures and hand signals. Eat what they give you.
22. Corn Dogs (as we know them) are not actually “C o r n Dogs”. They have casually replaced the 'dog' with parts of the fish body. (Further illustration: Sing the song by Britain's Benny Hill, 'Fish Heads' and this will become even more increasingly clear.)
23. Soda cans are half the diameter they are in the US.
24. So are the build of the people.
25. Women, when walking on the streets after dark, always walk in pairs of two or more (never alone) and will always walk arm in arm together.
26. Cell phones in Korea are bad ass. They take pictures, have full color animation on their screens and do amazing things, and are typically incredibly small. (one quarter of the size of a pack of smokes.)
27. Coffee is a little odd tasting, Starbucks has a hint of America in it.
28. Korean Coffee Creamer (known to Americans as a common milk product) does not come from cows. Don't ask.
29. Gas Stations play Korean "Disco Music" and it is typically proper etiquette to get out of your car and get a shoe shine, get some keys made, get a hand job and some food from the street vendor who you can smell a mile down the road. (caution point, remember the corn dog). Do all of the above, regardless of how many people are waiting to get petrol honking their horns.
30. Gas Stations are referred to as "Oil Banks" in Korea. I'd imagine an indication of how they value their petroleum products.
31. They have Mentos (the candy, I think made in Sweden) that come in far more flavors than in the US, such as yogurt, berry, mint, chocolate, honey, kimchi, etc.
32. Elevators don't always stop on the floors, expect to step up or down to get in / out of the elevator. (this is perfectly normal)
33. Bad breath is caused by the gunpowder they put in the food. Getting in an elevator with a few Korean men is dangerous. Don’t light up.
34. Don't believe them when they say that kimchi is good. Kimchi is wrong.
35. You are allowed to park on the sidewalk, or for that matter, anywhere you believe your car will fit. You need not exercise any courtesy to the person(s) parked next to you. 4 inches is enough for anyone to get in our out of their car.
36. If you life in Korea, you drive a Hyundai, Kia or Daewoo. Period.
37. Not a good idea to mention North Korea while in South Korean. Not a great idea to mention Japan for that matter.
38. Smoking, and a lot of it, is common in the business place. There are no "Non-Smoking" sections in the country.
39. Stop lights don't really mean 'Stop' in Korea. You can run them if you are not willing, able or have time to stop.
40. Should you choose to stop at a stop light, and you feel you have waited too long, it's perfectly appropriate to hammer down on the throttle and make a run at it.
41. While waiting at a red light, you and all of the other cars in the front of the pack, are to inch out into the intersection while oncoming traffic is passing. This is like a test of who is a man and who is not. If you are really tough, you continue to inch out into the intersection until you are at least 1/2 way through. With faith, the light will eventually turn green. Hopefully before you are not t-boned. (remember your option noted in #40)
42. While following cars in the city and on the expressway, you should not have more than 10 or 12 inches in distance between your car and the car in front of you. This rule also applies to the cars next to you, however the distance buffer should not exceed 6 inches, maximum.
43. Did I mention Korean whiskey?
44. Always trust your nose. If it doesn't look good, if it doesn't smell good, I assure you, it will not taste good. Regardless of what others tell you at the table you are eating with.
45. Buying smokes in Korea is a guessing game. Marlboro's can be found with persistence.
46. Bars do not close in a town called Itawon. A few Americans and Europeans can be found there. If you get really hammered, you almost feel like you are at home. (until you need to get a cab back to your hotel)
47. Should you be in a cab that gets in a traffic accident, it's advised that you bail out fast. Note: always carry a map of the city to point to the driver as an indication of where you want to go, regardless if the cab advertises (in English) on the door, "Free Translation" (which means, "I take you where I take you". Note: Mark your map at your hotel or where you started your journey. You will not have success trying to read a Korean map while intoxicated.
48. Koreans make whiskey. Taste tests indicate this is likely dirt cheep Vodka disguised in a Korean bottle.
49. Flying home from Korea makes you feel good.
50. U.S. Customs Agents in Los Angeles are actually Mexican immigrants, some with work visas and little regard for the "good 'ol American white guy".
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