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Our 5 weeks in Korea are coming to a close and it’s about time to share a few thoughts about this intriguing country:

  1. Surprisingly, food in Koreatown in Los Angeles is as good as any Korean food I had in Seoul/Jeju. The service is better in Los Angeles, the price much higher but the quality of food is on par, maybe even a little bit better in SoCal.

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2. Koreans are addicted to coffee. Based on my scientific analysis, there’s one desert coffee place for 2 Koreans. Most of them are fairly deserted, many super cute and the quality of coffee is astonishingly good. My assumption was we would have problems finding any good coffee place, just tea houses everywhere. The opposite is true. It’s much harder to find a nice tea house than getting your latte fix.

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3. Nobody speaks English. I mean nobody. Many cab drivers utilize translation services but it’s still a challenge to get where you want to go. Public transportation in Seoul is outstanding, taxis inexpensive. We often opted to go with public transport because we dreaded trying to explain to the cab driver our destination. (Pro Tip: Take pictures of the Hangeul/Korean address.)

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4. It can be hard to deal with the average rudeness. People stepping on your feet, bumping against you, pushing – don’t expect an apology or even an acknowledgement of their act. Best you to move on. However, Koreans are not rude people. They are very polite and often act subservient. Just when it comes to strangers in the wild (public transport, streets) all civil rules evaporate.

5. Expect to be overwhelmed by the auditory environment. You push any button and you will get an auditory response. Elevator, traffic light, AC – anything. It’s an auditory wonderland.

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6. There’s a lot of beer and soju. Not much else. It’s going to be hard to find any decent wine, even wine bars are not a common site in Seoul. You can see the ugly side of alcohol all over Seoul. A cyclist passed out in the middle of the bike path at 4pm. Older men barely able to walk. We saw quite a few groups of older people consuming alcohol like college students.

7. Don’t go to foreign restaurants, stick with Korean food. Quality of food is not good and/or it’s overpriced. After 4 weeks of Korean food, I caved and dragged the family to a German restaurant. A sausage with fries was $25. You can get the same in Europe for $5. Was it worth it? Hell yes.

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8. Try a lot of street food. I couldn’t follow my own advice because of my sensitive stomach but street food smells delicious.

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9. Too much sugar. And no breakfast. You are lucky when you can find a place with bagels. In general, Koreans eat breakfast at home, many cafes don’t open until 11am. I’m pretty sure I ate my yearly allowance of sugar in 5 weeks. Everything has sugar in it, the side dishes, the meat and the deserts – don’t get me started.


10. It’s a wonderful country. A country with many problems, an evolving country. I didn’t experience much Confuciansim, more pure capitalism. They are starting to understand that preserving the past is worth the effort and not everything new is worth developing. Surprisingly, the conflict with North Korea is not a really a topic. It’s just a fact one has to deal with.

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Pro Tip: Get more sleep. South Koreans work the longest hours in the world and the subways are filled with sleeping people. We caught a few storekeepers sleeping at the job. Take a nap, Korea.