Thursday, September 4, 2008

What you need to know about Korea

Since my mom and friend are coming to visit me at the end of the month, I thought I'd put together a collection of useful/ not so useful information to know before they come. This, of course, can go for anyone coming to Seoul for work or play to get an idea of what to expect.

Things to be careful of:

Sidewalk hazards:
Umbrellas if its raining (yes, this is a hazard in a city of 11 million people)
Parasols if its sunny

Street Hazards:
ALWAYS use a crosswalk and green light to cross. Unless there is none of course... Fairly certain jaywalking is illegal since the Koreans don't do it.
Beware of motorcycles... again. They don't seem to believe that they need to follow traffic laws.
Side streets here don't have sidewalks... so.. just keep your wits about you. Walking down the middle of the street is normal.. of course until a car comes and beeps at you.

What not to wear:
Only one rule: Don't show off shoulders or cleavage. Clearly shoulders showing makes you a whore.
Mini-skirts and hooker heels? Show off your butt, strut around all you want, no problem. (Korean women all have fantastic legs.. maybe if I had legs like that I'd be wearing tiny miniskirts too...)

Do NOT sit in the seats labeled for handicapped/elderly/pregnant women, even if there are none around. More often than not an angry ajumma that you don't see coming will give you a lecture in Korean about how rude it is that you're sitting there, then proceed to kick you out of your seat. If that doesn't happen, you'll certainly get nasty looks from other passengers. Maybe this rule may become more lax around 11:00 PM.

Know the direction of your train.. aka the next stop and the last stop of the line. This will help immensly in finding the correct platform/ train to get on. The subway is easy, but it did take a few weeks to catch on...

Don't accept anything from anyone. They probably want something.

Don't sit next to someone sleeping.. or looking sleepy. If they fall asleep, they will probably use your shoulder as a pillow. Unless you like old Korean men sleeping on you.

What to bring:

Comfy shoes... walking in Seoul is the best way to get around locally. Oh, and get ready for stairs.... you'll understand when you are here.

An umbrella. During the summer months it rains 4-5 days a week.

What to eat:

(forgive me if I butcher the spellings here)


Galbi- Usually pork ribs that you grill on your own personal grill at your table. You eat this wrapped in a lettuce leaf with any assortment of vegetables or sauces added on top.

Bulgogi- Same as Galbi, but usually beef.

Dongasu- Breaded pork served with a brown sauce and white rice. The Koreans stole it from the Japanese. Not spicy, very safe food when in doubt.

Curry- This is my favorite thing to cook, but you can get it in restaurants too. The Koreans probably also stole this idea from the Japanese, but I'm fairly certain the Japanese stole it from India. Meh. Whatever. It's awsome.

Chicken and Beer- Yup, its Chicken and Beer. This one doesn't take much imagination.

Bi Bim Bap- Rice mixed with spicy sauce and seaweed, egg and other things. Usually vegetarian.

Kim Chi Bokumbap- Kim Chi fried rice, sometimes with an egg on top. Yummy!

Kim chi jjigae- Kim chi soup with tofu. See photo to the Right.

Dwengdong jjigae- Seafood soup, but sometimes there isn't much seafood to be found.. which is just the way I like it. Don't be surprised though to find a whole prawn or a whole crab in it though... see picture to the left.

Dugbokibulgogi- bulgogi soup.

Mandu guk- Dumpling soup.


Dukbokki- There are many variations on dukbokki, but the basic ingredient is a chewy cake made of rice that is smothered in spicy sauce. This is a good snack, but I don't suggest making a meal out of it... I get sick of it after about 10 bites or so. See photo to the left.

Mandu- Dumplings... of many sorts. Gogi mandu is meat filled dumplings and Kim chi mandu.. is well, i think you can guess. I highly recoment kim chi mandu.


Naengmyon- buckwheat noodle dish

Mul Naengmyon- Buckwheat noodles in a liquid with ice. This is to cool down in the summer. I've never been able to finish a Mul Naenmyon.

Ramyon- If you've had ramen.. you've had ramyon. Though it comes in many forms here. There is cheese ramyon (chizu ramyon... if you're pronouncing it like a Korean), and any other flavor you can imagine. Cheap meal, pick up a ramyon pack at the FamilyMart and pay 800 won.. or be classy and pay 2500 won at your local restaurant.

Jjajangmyon- Black bean noodles with onions. Good cheap food... this is like the Korean's version of Chinese food.

Side Dishes:

All Korean meals come with many side dishes that are included in the cost of your meal. Every restaurant has thier own specialties. Kim chi is a staple, I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant where they didn't give me kim chi. Pickled radishes are common, as are kim chi radishes. You will see various vegetables, possibly fish (mmm.. oden), octopus, and many many others. They all come in small dishes, as you can see from the photo to the right.

That's all I can think of right now... but I'll update when I get some more ideas.


  1. Nice work here, although just galbi is always beef. There are other forms of galbi, but without a prefix, it's beef.

    Dwejigalbi and sam-gyop-sal are pork, dakgalbi is chicken.

    No mention of odeng?

  2. Yea, I've been eating lots of Dwejigalbi. There is a restaurant next to my house that is all pork galbi, they have about 8 different kinds, all from tomato galbi, to spicy galbi, samgyopsal, to dweji galbi... etc etc.

    I need to try dak galbi... There is supposed to be a great place in hongdae, but I haven't gone yet.

    Odeng is amazing. I'm not a big fish person, but this is one of my favorite side dishes... it's little strips of fish usually served at room temperature. Yum Yum