So, I have been home for about 12 days now. I am still missing Korea like CRAZY. Now, I am counting down the days until I return back to school in Ithaca.
I’ve noticed so many things – big and small – that caught my eye in Korea. There are things so innovative, smart, just plain nice, and even so simple yet cool that are in Korea. Here is a list, not in any particular order.
1. McDelivery. Yes, that’s right. McDonald’s delivers in Korea. (And other countries as well.) AMERICA, GET WITH THE TIMES. It was nice at 2am at our dorms when we were craving a burger, we just called up McDelivery and they came on their scooters.
2. The sliding glass doors in the subway system. Hello, innovation and safety. I think this is highly intelligent in preventing accidental – or purposeful – deaths by subway. It even puts me at peace of mind knowing I won’t fall or be pushed somehow onto the tracks. No worries about the yellow line and standing back, like in the New York metro.
3. Cleanliness. I noticed Korea was significantly cleaner than where I’ve been in America. They lack public garbage cans, and yet people still don’t feel the need to litter and be trashy. Amazing, right? Of course, Seoul is a city and no city is perfect, but from what I have seen – and smelled – the city is very clean, as well as other places I’ve been to. Again, I know there may be places different around this country that I haven’t seen, but this still really stood out to me in the places I have been. The subways and stations were clean – unlike New York’s. I just thought it was a bit nicer than home.
4. Low crime. I know many people have talked to me about this before and explained to me. I know nowhere is perfect, so I’m sure crime exists somewhere, but what is highly noticeable and known is the low crime rate in the country. What put me at peace was how safe I felt walking around alone or at night, or even with a small group of friends. I have made the 3am walk back to my dorm alone in one piece. When I see people pass me, they just continue walking, going about their business. In New York or even in Endicott or Binghamton, I have to be worried about being kidnapped, raped, mugged, or something. Again, not saying it couldn’t happen in Korea, but I’m sure you know what I am trying to say. It’s nice to feel safer. I think the people in Korea are much kinder as well, which was just great.
5. Speaking of which – the kind people and culture. I’ve always respected that about the Korean people. Something that always has stood out to me is the politeness in speech and actions. For one, the language has levels of speech depending on politeness. But also, everyone was just so kind to me and it was a really nice feeling. Walking in a store, people are so welcoming. Meeting for the first time with high schoolers, they bowed to me and said “안녕하세요.” The people at the airport were so kind in helping me – compared to JFK where I was talked to rudely by a few workers who didn’t seem to care. I could go on and on – you get the point.
6. Door pass-codes. Do we have these in America? I mean, I don’t have it, so let’s run with that. You always see it on K-dramas with their apartments, right? I loved having a 4-digit pass-code on my door to my dorm room in Seoul. The families I stayed with had the same for their apartments. Not a huge deal, but certainly cool. (Oh, well it also makes cool noises at you.) I didn’t have to worry about a key or an ID card.
7. Water served at meals. It may sound like no big deal, but I noticed it right away. All of the restaurants I went to, they immediately set the table with those small metal cups, and place a container of cold water on the table. I felt like I was really healthy there in Korea, drinking only water with my meals, and it has changed how I eat meals here in America, too. The only difference is, I have to ask for water. I also liked how in the dining halls, cafeterias, and food courts, you can go get the small water cup and fill up your water at the water machine they have. Very nice.
8. No tax, no tipping. Now, I’m no expert on why we have those two things here in America. I will say it made my time in Korea much easier. It’s nice when a price you pay is the price you saw in the first place when shopping. Without tax, it also makes for simpler amounts, rather than America’s $13.82, or $19.99, and so on. Not tipping means not having to figure out how much to tip, not having to worry, and just paying the bill and going on your merry way. I notice the waiting staff works differently I assume in relation to not having tips.
9. The call-button-thing at restaurants and bars. I think it is so smart. The wait staff doesn’t bother you every five minutes with “How is everything?” And, when you need something, don’t struggle with waiting, or trying to call over a waiter. Just press the button and hear “네” or “예.”
10. Well, all I know is their kids are extremely smart and their schooling is rigorous. I don’t know details, but I’ve heard a little bit about it from my exchange students and friends. Their kids don’t slack like ours do. They would shame themselves and their families big time, to my understanding. They work so hard and study so incredibly hard. Their schooling is longer, I believe, too. I feel like I would have liked that. At first I thought I would hate that thinking it is too hard or crazy, but if I were attending Korean school all my life, it would be what I am used to and what I know. I worked hard in school, but it just seems so different. I find it so incredible.
11. The innocence and modesty – if that’s what I call it – I’ve noticed. Sure, this isn’t the case for everyone, but I notice that trashiness and sluttiness just really isn’t a thing. It isn’t. That’s all I’m going to say.
12. Umbrella bags! So simple, right? During the monsoon, I walk into the business building at school, and put my umbrella in a bag for the day. Simple. And, when I enter restaurants, they have buckets at the entrance to put your wet umbrellas in, and one time I didn’t they asked me to place it in there. Nice to not have your wet umbrella dripping water all over the place, and also nice that people don’t really steal your umbrella – unless accidental, I’m sure.
13. How cheap the food is, and how delicious it is. I ate some good meals for a low price each day. I budgeted about $5 a day for my trip, and it was quite accurate. My meals were from $2-6. I really enjoyed it. I also loved how cheap street food is. A couple-hundred won for some late night fried deliciousness. And, the water bottles weren’t overpriced – except in the subway station! I went to the GS25 and grabbed a bottle of water for 500원. It wasn’t overpriced like they are here which was lovely. Soju is also cheap, which is quite nice, too. 😉
I will end here for now. I know that I remembered a ton more things that I even ranted to my mom about. I can’t remember now, but here is a solid list, I think. Just some things that really stood out to me – very random and some small things!