Getting to Know Seoul as an American Student Abroad
I’ve been in Seoul for almost a month already and I can truly say that it’s been the best month of my life so far. There are so many things to do and each day is a new adventure. I still feel like a tourist more than I am a student. I’ve already done so much but I’m still dying to see more of what Seoul has to offer for me. The culture here is so much different from back home in the states. There are some differences to take into consideration if you ever plan on visiting Seoul. Here’s to name off a few:
Money: It should be obvious that US money isn’t used here. The Korean Won (KRW) is what is used. As of right this moment, 1,000 KRW is approximately $.93 USD, which means I am getting just a tad bit more for my US dollar, which is fantastic. You also do not pay for taxes so the price you see on the item you are buying is the price you will pay. No need to calculate your taxes before hand.
Weather: In Seoul, we get the best of all four seasons. Summers are burning hot and extra humid. I came to Seoul in late August and the scorching sun with high humidity in the air felt something like opening a hot oven and the hotness of the oven getting all over your face, but instead of just your face, it’s all over and doesn’t go away. The good thing is; I just missed the hot weather that happens mid-July to mid-August. Isn’t that something? I haven’t experienced the other seasons yet but I’ve heard we do get changing warm-colored leaves in autumn and those chilly nights. I personally cannot wait for winter, my favorite season of them all. I can’t wait for the beautiful mountains of Seoul to be filled with snow so I can go snowboarding and shred those mountains (I’ve packed all my gear with me except my boots and board, of course). Spring is the season for great cool weather and blooming cherry blossoms.
Scenery: Old palaces constructed in the late 1300’s with miles of modern-day skyscrapers and faint views of Seoul’s mountains is a sight that will never ever get old. In Wisconsin, we have none of those things, maybe just a few skyscrapers. A good place to view all of these things is in Seoul Tower, which I’ve already been to twice. You can see the whole city of Seoul and its surrounding mountains on top of Seoul Tower. It is such a breathtaking view.
Transportation: I’m in awe of the subway system. You can literally get to anywhere in Seoul through the subway system. With a T-money card, each ride costs you around 1050 KRW. Compare it to having to buy a car, insurance, and weekly gas fill-up, I think the Seoul subway system is cheaper than driving. The only downfall is that it closes right around midnight, which would have to force me to take a cab back home. The other form of transportation I use most is my own two feet. This is the last form of transportation that I would use in America, but here it is a must. I’m pretty sure I walk more than three miles a day.
Shopping: I’ve never had so much fun shopping! Bargaining is so fun and entertaining. If you do it right, you can drop the price down to or over 50%! Now where in the US can you haggle with your local clothing department to get them to drop the price?
Music: Never have I seen a group of young children, teenagers, potential colleagues, fathers and mothers enjoy the same genre of music, clapping to the beat, on just one television screen at the convenience store. In the midst of shopping, their eyes are glued to the TV set, creating traffic for other shoppers like me. In America, parents usually listen to a different genre than their children but everyone loves K-pop here, no matter the age or gender!
Food: As I’ve said in my last blog, Korean cuisine is AMAZING. I can write a whole separate blog about the food. I grow in love with it more and more each day. In Korean culture, they tend to share all of the food on the table amongst each other. I feel very bad if you are germaphobic trying to live in Seoul because you WILL be eating in the same plate as others on your table. There are those few occasions where you still get to eat your own dish, like Bibimbap, but a big percentage you will be sharing the same dish with your friends.
The Little Things: Some of these are a given, but maybe you didn’t know.
- America’s 110v power plugs will not fit into Korea’s 220v power plugs.
- I’ve gotten used to Korean ads on Facebook and YouTube, but at first I was really amazed at how awesome they were.
- Seeing commonly used household brands written in Korean will never get old.
- In most bathrooms, to flush the toilet, you have to push in the side button instead of pulling down a lever.
- Almost all vehicles driven on the streets are made by Hyundai or Kia.
- I cannot watch live NFL/NBA games (go Packers and Lakers!) unless I stay up super late or wake up super early due to our time zone difference (14 hours ahead of Wisconsin).
- It’s almost impossible to find men shoe sizes over 10 1/2 feet.
- Korea uses the metric system for their units of measurement.
- Jay-walking on big streets is a HUGE no-no and is very dangerous on these busy streets.