By Wahida Asrani
There will be at least one new thing I learn every time I come back from Korea. For me, Korea is not merely about K-pop, K-drama, kimchi, plastic surgery and beauty products, but it is always interesting to observe the people and experience its culture. If you are planning to visit the country soon, why not scroll down this article to get the feel of how to live like a local? I am not recommending places that you should visit as you can always refer to many good blogs and websites that provide useful information. And yes, worry not if you do not understand the Korean language because you can always survive and blend in with the locals!
Enjoy coffee like the locals
Americano is famous among Koreans, so if you happen to visit any cafes when you are there, drink like them! Sometimes, you do not have to worry if you have mistakenly ordered coffee because the barista will definitely make one. I am not saying that all Koreans are into Americano either, but can I just blame all these K-dramas for featuring many scenes of the actors and actresses drinking Americano, hence making us assume that Americano is a big part of their lives? But of course, this is only for those who do not mind the taste of Americano. Do not force yourself to have one just to look ‘cool’.
Eating ramen outside convenience stores (although it may be -7 degree Celsius)
This is a common scenario in many countries including Korea. It is not a new thing in Malaysia as well, because now you can see many 7-Eleven stores and mini-marts at petrol stations especially in KL, which have been transformed into café style, where you can sit comfortably and eat your Maggi hot cup. In Korea, many of the convenience stores are small, thus you will not find tables and comfy chairs inside. Sometimes they are fully occupied. Hence, if you are hungry, buy a ramen cup from the store, pour hot water in it and you can simply sit on a plastic chair outside the store and enjoy your ramen. So, if you feel awkward doing this in Malaysia, try this when you are in Korea. In fact, you still can find people eating ramen outside the mart even in temperatures below zero.
Enjoy banana milk (but don’t be so obsessed!)
I am one of those people who would buy the famous banana milk (or banana uyu) every time I am in Korea, although it has never been my favourite flavour. I think the reason is because of the excessive promotion of this beverage in many ‘What you should do when you are in Korea’ articles that I have read. Thus, whenever I see a convenience store or mart, I would go inside and buy it. Banana uyu is a Korean ‘national’ drink, so I would not blame these articles for endlessly promoting this beverage. However, the problem with most Asian tourists is we are obsessed with.
Don’t ‘catwalk’ up subway stairs
This is a crucial point. Please bear in mind that Koreans walk fast especially during peak hours – in the morning and evening. Many subway stations especially in Seoul have many stairs up and down, as well as multiple exits. Hence, I understand the tourists’ difficulties of getting out of the stations because you can see many of them going up or down the stairs slowly just to recheck their maps and read signages. In this scenario, just use the escalator. However, unlike Malaysia, you must stand on the right side to allow people walking up the escalator on the left side. Remember, the subway stairs are not the right place to strut your stuff. Imagine how angry you would be if you keep bumping into people who are overly engrossed with their ‘catwalk’ or posing.
Buy cute stuff
Have you heard of the word aegyo? In Korean, it refers to when somebody tries to act cute, whether you are a kid or an adult; female or male. Just watch any K-dramas or music shows and you can see celebrities trying their best to do aegyo – either by using body language, facial expression or voice. I personally still cannot understand this obsession. But yes, Koreans love cute stuff. Everywhere you go, you will see many shops selling cute items such as socks, daily planners and smartphone cases. Go grab some as souvenirs or for your own keeping. Those who are familiar with cute characters of mobile messenger LINE, you should visit LINE Friends stores located at several spots such as Itaewon, Hongdae and Garosu-gil. There are various types of LINE merchandise you can buy there at reasonable prices.