Interested to learn some fun facts about South Korea?
Well, look no further, you’ve come to the right place!
These are just a few of the strange, fascinating things I have discovered since first arriving in Korea.
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT SOUTH KOREA
1. Fruit is a luxury item. Fruit in Korea is already absurdly expensive, but especially due to the high levels of rain as of late, it’s costing Koreans even more than normal.
(CORRECTION: A lot of comments on this post confirmed that fruit isn’t all that expensive in Korea. All of those people would be right, because Korea has a variety of different climates that are perfect for growing fruits of all kinds. I think I should correct myself and note that the expensive fruit I probably saw, was likely in HUGE gift boxes. Koreans love to buy luxury fruit boxes (persimmons, pears, etc) to give as gifts when visiting close friends or family.)
2. Koreans eat SPAM like it’s going out of style. Why is it so popular? Well, during the war, soldiers were supplied with a lot of canned foods, so they ended up creating something we know now as 부대찌개 (Military Stew), which has water and spices as broth, with all of the various canned foods and vegetables boiled together to make a hearty feast. The population ended up picking up on the SPAM after this creation and starting adding it to other soups and recipes. It ended up becoming somewhat of a staple, and is now essential in most homes. Expect to see a lot of SPAM gift sets during important holidays, too. It’s a strange sight, but a common one in Korea.
3. Koreans LOVE 고구마 (sweet potato) and sweet potato-flavoured things. Just to give you an idea, here are a few varities of sweet potato snacks, desserts and main courses. Deep fried sweet potato, sweet potato cake, sweet potato crackers, sweet potato chips, sweet potato bread, sweet potato latte, sweet potato salad, sweet potato pizza. You get the idea? Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not knocking it. I actually happen to love all of the Korean sweet potato creations… except the latte – that’s just gross.
4. Tipping is not required in Korea. If you tip a server or the owner of a restaurant, they are more likely to chase you down the street with your change, than to think that you left it behind for them as a token of your appreciation.
5. Stores, shops and services are open considerably later than in North America. Most stores are open until at least 10:30 or 11:00 pm. Restaurants, Bars, Cafes and Street Food vendors stay open even later. Koreans LOVE drinking until all hours of the night, so there is ALWAYS a place to grab a bite to eat if you’re craving something delicious at 3 or 4 am.
6. Drinking in Public is one-hundred percent legal. You’re allowed to sit in the park, by the river, on a University campus and have a few drinks and some snacks with friends. Don’t think you’re being a rebel, though, a lot of other people indulge in this, as well.
7. Public Transit is clean, fast and extremely affordable. In Korea, you have the option to take the subway, a bus or even the KTX train to help you arrive to your destination in a quick, timely manner. At about 1000 won per ride ($1.00 Canadian), it’s common to see most people taking advantage of the cost-efficient, organized public transit system in South Korea.
8. Most homes in Korea are equipped with heated floors. An ondol, in Korean traditional architecture, is underfloor heatingwhich uses direct heat transfer from wood smoke to the underside of a thick masonry floor. The more modern versions of ondol floors are heated by circulating hot water from water heaters, or an electrical heating system of dielectric heating or induction heating.
9. The number “4″ is extremely unlucky. For this reason, if you’re giving someone a gift, be sure it is not in a multiple of 4. Also, most buildings in Korea do not have a 4th floor.
10. Avoid using red ink. Writing someone’s name in red ink basically means they’re going to die, or that they’re already dead. You should also avoid writing a note or letter in red ink, as it does not send a friendly message to the recipient of said note.