Intercultural

What It Means To Be A Picky Eater In South Korea

Courtney Swanson is a student at Indiana State University and a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea. 

Hello fellow picky eaters, let’s get ready for Korea and talk about food.

One of the great wonders while studying abroad is the opportunity to immerse yourself in this new country’s culture, which most definitely includes food (the more delicious aspect of culture).

However, if you find yourself traveling to South Korea and are a self-diagnosed picky eater, such as myself, here are some things you should know before coming.

Kimchi is a very important side dish, you will almost always be given it or at least be offered it, but if you, like me, cannot stand the strong fermented vegetables, it is perfectly okay not to eat it.

Speaking of, lettuce, cabbage and other like vegetables, they are very common in most dishes, especially samgyeopsal (self-grilled pork) so if that is something you have trouble eating, while it won’t be impossible, you’ll have to be careful finding out what is in the dishes you order.

Grilling pork yourself with Kimchi with friends and eating it wrapped in lettuce with rice and your choice of sauce, very common in Korea!

Pork is the meat to go here, almost every part and every type utilized somewhere in Korea. If pork isn’t your thing you can find chicken (especially fried) or the occasional beef (at a very high price), but that does not mean it is impossible to live here without eating pork, I myself have very good friends who don’t eat pork and get along perfectly well.

There are lots of cheap options to eat around Korea, anything from the many convenience stores or even many restaurants if you know where to look. However, depending on how picky you are, you may have to resign yourself to spending more money on food than you originally expected.

A common traditional Korean meal, with bulgogi, rice, soup with assorted seafood and of course the ever present numerous side dishes.

Your countries take on food (for example Americanized Chinese food or Italianized Mexican food) is probably very different than these Koreanized foods. You may find some quality food places, but it will not likely remind you of the food you are missing, especially if it’s the food actually from your country. Things are typically sweeter, with added ingredients and extra add-ons, however it still can typically be quality so don’t be afraid to try new things and get something familiar later if needed.

Chances are your Korean friends will beg you (or trick you) into trying all sorts of “unique” dishes that Korea has to offer. This can range anywhere from live octopus to intestines to “hell fire” rice cakes. First things first, do not be afraid to say no if you honestly do not or cannot eat it. Secondly though, it can be an amazing experience or at least a fun story so always try at least one bite!

My first (and last) time trying live octopus at one of the Korean markets! PS, It moves in your mouth!!!

South Korea is filled with so many fabulous dishes that highlight important aspects of their culture, so picky eaters, join me in discovering all of the weird and wonderful and delightful tastes in Korea!   

The world awaits…discover it.

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