Differences Between America and Korea Part 2

The differences between America and Korea are endless, as demonstrated in this second part of the  three part series highlighting some of the more prominent things to note before moving abroad to Korea.

DSC_007211. Female Barbers

The profession of a barber is generally predominated by men. All of my barbers in my life, except one, have been men.

However, in Korea, 95% of the barbershops I walk by have women cutting the hair. The shops are coupled with beauty salons, as the women operate as both barber and hairdresser.

12. So much neon…so much promotion!

Likely the first thing I noticed here, there are neon-lit signs everywhere. The country is heavy on promotion for restaurants, bars, spas, beauty shops, and just about anything else.

As you peruse the streets, you’ll notice the array of neon colors within the Hangeul writing on buildings. While you’re doing that perusing, just be careful to not bump into one of the electric air-inflated tubes on the sidewalk.

Which of course are also promoting something.

13. These kids study hard

It’s a known fact that Korean students endure one of the more rigorous academic systems worldwide. It may however be less about the difficulty and more about the length of their school days.

Here’s a typical schedule: wake up at 7am, arrive to school by 8:30am, leave at 4:30pm, get to night academy by 6pm, stay till 10pm, get home by 11pm. Then do it all over again, plus another academy on Saturday.

These kids work hard, simply by having such prolonged days. So when their heads are down in class, it may not be from staying up too late watching TV.

14. Behaviour vs. Discipline

This is one of the points on the list that, admittedly, has caused some frustration. Elementary (which I’ve heard) and Middle (which I have) school students seem to not have the best behavior.

Kids will be kids, yes of course, but Korean ones have an extra sprinkle of ‘wild’ to them. This is likely accentuated by the mild discipline they are given by the teachers.

It’s not uncommon for students to run madly through the hallways or gang up on one another, as teachers just mosey along. Conversely, they’ll downright reprimand the kids for the most trivial matters.

15. The “short” short shorts

A significant standout in the culture is the style of shorts worn by women during summer. I arrived in the winter, so naturally, it took a few months to realize this.

During the hottest seasons, it’s normal to see shorts worn in most countries, but it seems that the shorts here are just a little bit shorter than the norm.

16. Where’s the garbage?

For a country whose main cities are flooded by pedestrians, there sure is a lack of trash cans along the streets. You don’t want to litter, because obviously you’re a good person, but sometimes it’s so tempting. Rule of thumb: “when you see a trash can, RUN TO IT!”

17. I guess I’ll bless myself

In English: *sneeze* ”Bless you”

In Spanish: *sneeze* ”Salud”

In Korean: *sneeze* ”………”

Pretty much there is no “bless you” equivalent here, or at least it appears that way. Not once have I heard a co-worker say anything after someone sneezes.

18. What do I do with these scissors?

Chopsticks are the primary utensils used in the absence of a knife and fork. Even times when you think a knife would be most practical, you’re still just given chopsticks.

But you’ll also be introduced to a ‘new’ table utensil, scissors. They’re often used during Korean BBQ meals to cut the pork or beef before and after being placed on the grill.

You’ll learn that scissors are VERY practical, and wonder why you’ve never used them before.

19. The Korean Nutrition Guide

As you attain Korean friends, you’ll start to go out and eat together. As you start to go out and eat together, you’ll be introduced to Korean dishes. As you get introduced to Korean dishes, you’ll become privy to “The Korean Nutrition Guide.”

Every Korean knows about this guide (okay, I made the name up), and they never miss an opportunity to enlighten you. Pretty much any dish you eat with a Korean, they will tell you that it has a certain health benefit.

Stamina, clear skin, assistance with digestion, you name it, they’ve thought of it. It becomes comical after a while, because too much of any of those dishes can’t be healthy. Nonetheless, it’s nice to believe you’re eating healthy to a degree.

20. Get your umbrella, it’s sunny out

One thing I’ve noticed is Koreans NEVER forget their umbrellas when it’s raining. But it feels almost the same when it’s sunny out.

I’ve lived in Florida, known as the ‘Sunshine State’, for 10+ years and no one there uses umbrellas for the sun. For Koreans (mostly women), it’s a necessary accessory when they walk out the door.

I’ll reveal the final 10 in Part 3 of my 30 things about South Korea list!

Kenneth ParrisKenneth is a Travel and Teaching Blogger. Kenneth began his ESL teaching adventure in Prague, Czech Republic before his far east journey to the ROK (Republic of Korea), better known as, South Korea. You can call him an avid traveler or a dedicated teacher, but the title he’s most proud of is “Bonafide Foodie.” Always seeking the signature tastes of other cultures is a true passion, and he’s got pictures to prove it. Ultimately, however, Kenneth’s main goal is to share those real personal teaching and travel experiences that YOU can relate to. 

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