I am pretty sure I every city has its own unique charm and culture and Seoul is not an exception. This metropolitan and vibrant city is known for its lively streets with a mixture of heritage ancient palaces and antiques that are displayed throughout the city. A modern city with a blend of authentic and rich Korean historical sites are what makes this place so special and popular and a favorite city for many visitors.
Before traveling to Seoul, I have a very vague idea of how distinctive the city would be. Since I am living in a modern and vibrant city in Singapore, I assume Seoul is no much different. I was proved wrong until I visited this stunning city recently. I've learned that I shouldn't have ever made any assumption before arriving at any city. Thus, whether you're an expert traveler or just a beginner, here are the things that you should know before traveling to Seoul.
1. Shopping and Cosmetics Are Real Deal
Besides the modern technology, cosmetics are a real deal here in Seoul. Never have I been to a country or a city that there are so many cosmetic shops everywhere I go. From skincare to cosmetics to all sorts of beauty products, you'll be surprised at what you can find here in Seoul. If you're ever visiting this city, be sure to purchase extra baggage allowance for all your shopping. Also, you'll find many online sellers buying items here in bulk. While overseas personal shoppers are busy having a live video walking around stores trying to do businesses virtually.
2. Personal Space Doesn't Exist Here
With more than 25 million population in this city, having a personal space barely exist here. Just as you thought you'll finally able to be on a street where you can just enjoy the view in peace or just craving for a moment to be away from the crowd. Well, that is almost no possible here in Seoul. As a result, pushing and shoving especially during the rush hour on the subway or at a night market is nothing so surprising. If it ever happens on you, don't take it personally. It's a common thing here and instead of being frustrated over it, why not just laugh it off and walk away. Just remember, everything happened to you, happens to everyone else too.
3. Night Life Is Their Day Time
Have you ever question yourself whether you're a night owl or an early bird? In Korea, night time is just their beginning of the day. Instead of you contemplating whether or not to go to bed already at 10 pm, people in Seoul just started putting on make-up and dressing up for the night. The illuminated lights and lively music being played during the night is so vibrant to the extent it makes you wondered if you're too old for their culture. From bars, supper places, karaoke store to beauty parlors, you'll be surprised that these stores are common to operate 24 hours. So, if you're ever insomnia, head down to Hongdae or Myeondong, your night will not ever be as boring.
4. Google Map Is Not For Walking Direction
As a traveler, Google Map is the heart and soul. Without it, traveling is so much more complicated especially when you're on foot. From what we know, Google Maps does work for basic transit information but it's just not directing you to hidden alleyways if you're walking. Due to the legalistic issue, South Korea has established strict restrictions over Google's map to protect and minimize the chances of map data being exported to the North. If you're traveling to Seoul, try to consider some Korean navigation app like city mapper or alternatively Waze that works just as fine as google map.
5. Dining Culture Is So Different Than The Western
In Korea, no tipping is necessary. Prices that are listed on their menu here are usually taxed inclusive. Unlike you tipping on a server in Europe or America, the servers here earned a fixed monthly salary or alternatively earning on a commission base. Casual dining is very popular here instead of fancy fine dining unless it's for a special event. Thus, it's not shocking to know that restaurants here can be pretty loud with all the loud chattering and customer shouting on the waiter to take their order. Also, making a reservation is very much not needed even though it's a popular spot. If you want to dine in, just queue for it.
6. Soju Is Like Water Here
If there are any similarities between water and soju, it has to be the price and its translucent liquid. Korean treasure their soju like their kimchi. Similar to vodka, you don't pay a crazy high price for it. But instead, the shockingly cheap prices of this 17% alcohol is on par of a bottle of water in Korea. Thus, no wonder that people here rather have more soju than water.
7. Local Transportation Is Cheap and Easy
Instead of taking a cab here and there within the city, most people use the subway and metro to get around in Seoul. The extensive network of public transport here makes life so much easier. From the airport to the city, or traveling from one area to another, the local metro always have your back. The only necessary step to access their transportation is to get the T-money, reload and go. It's as simple as that.
8. Food Here Can Be Spicy
If you thought kimchi is their spicy food here, then you're totally out of your league. Kimchi spice is merely just hit on their tongue. When you're ordering a food here, you should avoid taking spicy if you're not used to it. Typically if you're ordering food that comes with a different level of spice, you should just go for level one. For adventurer and spicy food lover, try to challenge your spicy tolerance by taking up one of their spicy noodles or spicy dak galbi. You'll know what's the real spiciness are like.
9. Cafes Are Everywhere
As much as Korean love their soju and kimchi, coffee is a huge thing here too. Coffee culture plays a major role in Korea since the 19th-century. Not only coffee is a favorite for working adults but students are loving them as well. Since then, cafes have been a huge hit in Korea selling assorted drinks, desserts and it has been a popular spot for businessmen and students to hangout spot. Never miss trying out one of their pat-bingsu which is like snow-fine flavored shaved ice. From exotic flavors like yam to conventional chocolate or vanilla, you're going to love it.
10. Street Food Is Everywhere
Similar to Bangkok, street food is everywhere in the city. From exotic corn dog battered with fries to omuk (fish cake) in broth, you'll see many locals and tourists often stop by at a booth slurping on a spicy rice cake while on the other hand holding a cup of piping hot broth. You'll be thankful that there is these street side goodness available to warm you up during a freezing cold winter.
11. Seoul Is Also Known As A City of Art
Seoul is a city that focuses on art as much as everything else. At every corner you go, you'll discover different arts being displayed on the street or random spray-paint art on a car. Thanks to these unique colorful arts, the city has transformed instantly from boring grey-blue buildings into a rainbow colorful city that brightens up your day.
Posted from my blog with SteemPress : http://explorernations.vornix.blog/2018/09/07/travel-hack-10-things-that-you-wished-you-knew-before-traveling-to-seoul/