The traditional Korean mask on the cover is unrelated to this story – it just looks funny!
The trip to interesting South Korea is over! Like I mentioned in an earlier post it was probably the first country where I faced quite a few surprises. Here’s some.
No bed sheets and big towels
You need some trust in Korea – because they don’t apparently use bed sheets! We stayed in four places and only the last one – the airport hotel – had the bed linen. The three others only had the mattress cover and pure blanket and pillow! I really hope they wash all those thick things after each guest!
One other thing they do the hard way is drying yourself after the shower. We didn’t get big towels, they only had those small hand towel sized ones! “No have” – was the answer. We were lucky to have the beach towels with us.
In South Korea they also use futons for sleeping – a light mattress on the floor. Some accommodations had this option. We read online that the “normal beds” as we see them became more common in South Korea only from mid 90s onwards.
The funniest thing in a Korean flat is the “super toilet seat”! The modern apartments and hotels had this toilet where you could choose a wash for your butt! I knew South Korea is a forerunner in many tech stuff BUTT this!
Take your shoes off and start cooking
South Koreans seem very strict in taking their shoes off when they go inside a house (which I love! I used to have a landlord in Malta that came in with his dirty shoes and I hated it!) – and they also do this when they go to a restaurant. In some of the restaurants you need to take your shoes off.
In some of the restaurants you also get to cook your meal by yourself since they start to bring raw meat, which you are meant to grill on the cooker of the table. Yeah, there seems to be a habit of communal cooking in South Korea.
A lovely thing is that they bring so many nice little side dishes for your meal. I got hooked to kimchi – which is actually good because I learned kimchi has a lot of good health impacts. There is even a kimchi institute, which is spreading the worldwide kimchi joy! The South Korean basic lager is also very good, so crispy and fresh. Beside the bottle they bring the bottle opener on the table and you open it yourself. This seems to be a very independent nation!
When you pay with a credit card in South Korea often you don’t have to put any pin or sign. You just hand over the card and got it back with the receipt.
In the trains between Seoul and the Olympics nobody checked our tickets.
This people trust each other. It’s a country of honour and self discipline. We didn’t see a single shady person. South Korea feels a very safe place.
The mix of hot and cold and hassle
Start counting how many long quilted jackets you see when you go to South Korean winter! Those jackets are everywhere. Not sure if it’s a current fashion or just cold everyday. At least these people are not freezing – which is great because for some reason all the hallways, subway stations etc. are freaking cold. They don’t put the money to heat the public spaces but they invest in thick jackets. Metro benches are heated though… there is a luxurious metro in Seoul.
Inside the houses the strange thing was that the floor is very hot and it’s heated everywhere else except in the toilet and shower where there were Hello Kitty plastic sandals waiting for you to jump in!
Also the Koreans we met were either or: usually very caring and friendly people who tried to do everything to help you even there often was a big language gap. But we also met a couple of drivers that didn’t give a shit about customer care and just yelled at you face almost red – these were a few exceptions (there are jerks everywhere). Overall I felt the people weren’t really good with organisation skills or in reading the map – there was quite some hassle with the locals. The biggest challenge for us were the Korean border officials who forgot to put the stamps (both arrival and departure) on our passports. There was a bit of a explanation then when we went back to Vietnam and it seemed there that we had never left!
Oh South Korea – you were a sweet country with a lot of hassle.