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Enkor Story EP.1 : I wish I knew before I came to Korea

Updated on Mar 29, 2024 · By ENKOR

Interview on Foreigners FAQs in South Korea chapter 1: Serina - France

This blog is the first in a series... It aims to provide foreigners with clear and concise answers to common questions they may have, aiming to help travelers feel more comfortable and better prepared when they arrive in South Korea, whether it's for a trip or to settle down.

The goal is to provide practical information on various aspects of life in South Korea, ranging from local customs and etiquette to transportation, food, health and safety, education, and leisure activities.

This Chapter 1 offers an overview of life in South Korea.

Hello everyone, I'm Serina, I'm French, and I'm delighted to be interviewed on some questions to guide other internationals departing for South Korea. I am currently (2024) interning at “MyFirst Korea” in Seoul and have had the opportunity to live here for three months.

I am passionate about Korean culture. I watch a lot of K-dramas and I am very interested in different groups, especially BTS. It has become a way of life for me, between decorating accessories, learning about the country, and tasting Korean dishes. Unfortunately, in my hometown of Toulouse, Korean culture is not yet very widespread, but this is starting to change in 2024, especially in Paris where you can find many Korean restaurants. Korea was my dream destination, and I was fortunate to spend a month there in the summer of 2022. Although I am no longer as obsessed with K-pop and dramas as before, it remains an important part of my life. I am still very attached to the country, its food, and the various places I missed.

Serina's favorite photos of Korea

IMG_2746.jpg[source: Han river]

IMG_3664.jpg[soure: Busan]

What do you like about living in Korea?

Living in South Korea offers me a freedom that I don't necessarily feel in France, where I still live with my parents. Here, I am responsible for myself, and I appreciate this independence. Discovering a new country and its culture is an enriching experience. I admire how Koreans live in harmony with their culture and traditions, which is very different from what you find in Western countries. Food is also something I greatly appreciate; I often spend time discovering new products in local stores. Additionally, the convenience of stores like Olive Young, and convenience stores like 7Eleven, CU, or GS25 would be missed if I had to do without them.

What are the disadvantages of South Korea?

I wouldn't say there are major disadvantages, but a few small things can be perplexing for foreigners. For example, although Seoul is very well served by public transportation, you often need to plan ahead due to the size of the city and the distance between some places. Additionally, the complexity of waste sorting can be a challenge, and it would be helpful to learn more about it for better understanding.

Are there any other pieces of information you would have liked to know to save money or for other purposes?

If you are French, you will probably be surprised by some actions. In South Korea, when you sneeze, no one will say "bless you", and it is common for people to bump into each other without ever saying sorry. They will only apologize if something serious happens as a consequence. So, when exiting a subway, expect to be bumped into without ever receiving an apology. Regarding other useful information, I would have liked to learn more about ways to save money on transportation. I discovered a transport card called the Climate Card while in Seoul, but it was not widely discussed on the internet. It would also be useful for foreigners to learn about Korean customs, as well as how medical appointments are arranged in case of emergencies.
Link: Tips on Transportation and Integrated Transfer System in Korea

IMG_0490.PNG.pngClimate card

What are the gestures or customs that foreigners should know to avoid cultural misunderstandings?

There are many important gestures and customs to know to avoid cultural misunderstandings in South Korea. First and foremost, respect for elders is crucial, as are greetings and receiving gifts with both hands. On a daily basis, I don't apply all these rules, but I keep them in mind. In Korea, it is common to queue for things that may seem strange to us, such as waiting for the subway or queuing in front of a store. Additionally, in the subway, pink seats are reserved for pregnant women and green seats are for the elderly and for individuals with disabilities or injuries, so avoid sitting in these places. When I encounter someone, I greet them by saying "anyeonghaseo" and thank them by adding "kamsamida" when I leave. If you work in a Korean company, it is important to get used to their behavior standards and learn their habits. You can ask a colleague to help you understand, as some companies are stricter about this than others. In my own company, we are rather lax about this, and they don't necessarily expect me to follow all the customs to the letter. Fortunately, they are very understanding.IMG_0491.jpg[source: FIP]

What are the iconic places you would recommend for a foreigner to visit in South Korea?

Choosing just a few iconic places to visit in South Korea is a difficult task, as each site has its own charm. So, I recommend making the most of your stay and not regretting anything. Prioritize iconic places such as UNESCO-listed palaces and participate in local experiences such as traditional celebrations and customs. Explore lesser-known regions as well, as they often have hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In summary, don't limit yourself and take advantage of every opportunity to discover the cultural and natural richness of South Korea.

Are there any festivals or cultural events that foreigners should attend in South Korea?

To discover festivals or cultural events that foreigners should attend in South Korea, I recommend checking out the @myfirstkorea Instagram page, where you'll find unique activities happening throughout the country. Additionally, you can explore the @enjoykorea_isla Instagram page and the Enkorstay blog, which already have rich and varied information about cultural events in South Korea. These resources will help you plan your stay and discover local festivities and traditions.

What are the unique aspects of daily life in South Korea that foreigners might find interesting or surprising?

What makes daily life in South Korea so unique and fascinating is the cuisine. During my first trip to Korea, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meals, which are both hearty and affordable. Additionally, I was delighted to find that there are options for different dietary preferences. Although they are less common, you can find halal restaurants and grocery stores in Hongdae, Itaewon, and Myeongdong.


NamDaeMun Market

Thank you.

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