Every resident in Korea has experienced the ups and downs of living in this country. While some of the pros and cons can be felt immediately, some can only be experienced once you’ve lived in the country for some time and truly integrated with the natives. This list of some of the good and bad parts of Korean society and culture may be helpful if you are considering moving to Korea.
From convenience stores to shopping malls, Korea has fantastic facilities for shoppers. Supermarkets have free taster stations and give new deals every day. All convenience stores (and some regular stores as well) are open 24/7. The shopping centres are beautifully decorated and the service is always high quality. In trendy areas, roads are lined with boutiques which all have their own style at competitive prices. There are plenty of beautiful things and hilarious knick-knacks to buy in Korea.
Having the privilege to buy beautiful things at reasonable prices is great, but being valued mainly based on appearance, is not. Judging people on their appearance low-key exists all over the world (understandably as we are biologically wired to), however having mainstream good looks could be a huge social and professional advantage in Korea. Those who look beautiful can reap benefits and get better treatment, which is something that most people think to be unfair.
Traditional Korean food is becoming popular around the world for being delicious and healthy. Many Korean dishes, including the Korean barbeque, are known to be ‘must-eats’ for tourists visiting Korea, but it is also the fusion restaurants and stylish cafes that boast visually stunning and fantastic tasting food. Even locals are constantly surprised and satisfied by the cheap and delicious food that Korea has to offer.
There is plenty to eat and buy, but sometimes it is difficult to find particular non-mainstream things. For instance, if you are vegan, gluten-intolerant or vegetarian, you will have a hard time finding places that cater to your needs. I have the ability to go to any restaurant near my home or order Korean or Chinese food, but it’s very hard to find a place that sells large filling salads or certain cheeses. This is a similar case for clothes and shoe sizes as they will fit small sizes, but if you are larger or taller than the average size, shopping may not be so easy.
☺Korean Leisure Culture
Even Koreans agree that there is a lot to do for fun in Korea. For tourists, there are plenty of traditional markets and historical landmarks to visit, and a vibrant nightlife where you can go to norae-bangs, multi-bangs, lounge bars etc. Travelling in Korea is extremely fun and convenient as transportation is cheap and reliable. Getting involved in all the leisure activities of Korea will be very different from any other country.
😞Korean Work culture😞
Whether it is a studying or full-time employment, working in Korea is tough. Many office workers are required to work very long hours (with no over-time pay), have minimal holidays and very little job security, as well as a combination of many other invisible rules of corporate culture.
☺Low Crime Rate
South Korea is comparatively much safer than other places in Asia. Although crime exists, thievery, murder and physical attacks are uncommon. The level of crime is low and most of the population feel safe walking in the street alone during the day and night. This doesn’t mean that it is not dangerous at all.
The topic of gender inequality and misogyny has been a hot topic recently, after a string of highly publicised murders and attacks. The most shocking has been the Gangnam Station attack, after a man stabbed a young girl because he despised women ignoring him. This kind of knife attack is extremely rare, but was a symbolic moment of sexism in Korea today. Integrated sexism is even evident in the huge pay gap between men and women.
☺Tech and Net
Seoul is truly a city for netizens. App services are super secure, reliable and very useful. For instance, the whole public transport system in Seoul is wired onto Seoul travel apps so you can get information instantly. Free Wi-Fi is available at cafes, restaurants, hotels, malls etc, and even if you can’t get a connection, data is cheap and streaming is smooth. As a self-confessed internet addict, I love that internet is always fast and available. But it isn’t only the internet, as South Korea is very technologically developed. Even home appliances are getting increasing smarter, as fridge’s come with screens and TVs have access to the internet.
There are social and etiquette rules in all countries, but some may find that abiding all of them can be restrictive and stressful. A sense of community comes at a price, as there is a certain pressure that you feel from being conscious of others aka ‘noonchi’ (눈치) meaning the ability to read people and situations. This pressure to conform is hardly evident and harmless for some, but stifling for others.
Is Korea great? The harsh reality is that it isn’t perfect. Like all countries, there are advantages and disadvantages of living in a certain place, but it is uniquely South Korea which is sending a glamorous and idealistic image of itself through Hallyu. Before moving to Korea, consider all of the above, and then at least you will be able to embrace the country for what it truly is.
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