After 7 months living here, I’ve rounded out the top 10 things that I was first not amused by or unaware of, that I have come to love and are now part of everyday life.
I’m going to just call it a water closer from here on in. Showers are not really separated here (unless you’re rich or in a newer styled apartment) so your bathroom turns into a shower. At first, I thought it was odd but it’s just normal now. It’s easier to clean and everything is within an arm’s length reach.
2. Small towels
Given that there is not much space within apartments and water closets, small towels are big here. Even at many hostels and hotels, they will give you a handful of small towels. They’re the size of what some of us would call hand towels. I was given some for my apartment and have come to like them. Easy to dry, easy to wash and the perfect size to dry my hair.
3. Bathroom slippers
Because of the water closet situation, it’s all wet after you shower. So bathroom slippers are also big here. Most accommodation will have a pair for you to slip on to enter your water closet. Plus, your feet stay warm and also you don’t have to walk over cold wet floor which initially gave me flashbacks to the times playing at the local swimming pool.
4. Cutlery drawer
At many restaurants, there is a cutlery drawer under the table. Less clutter on the table, easier for the restaurants to clean the table and the cutlery is stored away nicely away from germs and what not. So simple but I love it!
5. Side dishes
Speaking of restaurants and food. Side dishes. Most Korean restaurants will have some side dishes. Providing you with your additional vegetables, some nibbles to break up the taste and texture of your food and also it’s just all delicious, the side dishes can be refilled (free of charge!). There’s usually kimchi or picked radish somewhere and there’s nothing wrong with adding more probiotics into your daily diet.
6. Buzzers on tables
At some restaurants, there is a buzzer on the table. You won’t miss it. It’s usually located at one end of the table and is a square-ish black of brown block with a button in the middle. If you’re looking around wondering why there is no waiter or waitress eagerly hovering waiting for your order, have a look at your table to see if there is a buzzer. Press when you’re ready to order or if you need anything from the staff and they will be over in no time. A great alternative over trying to find a free staff and waving your hand in the air.
7. Toilets everywhere
Luckily for those that always seem to need to go, toilets are plentiful here. Each metro station has plenty of toilets should you need to go which is great when you’re out and about and then need to go. Just head into the metro station. There are usually toilets before you tap in and at some stations, there are toilets in the area after you have tapped your card to enter. The big department stores have toilets everywhere and even in the commercial buildings, there is usually an easily accessible public toilet (try the 2nd floor). Parks here also have clean public toilets. No spiders to report. Best of all, unlike your European countries, it’s all free here to use!
8. Heated Bus Stop Benches
I obviously didn’t know this until it started getting cold and I was sitting on a warm bench. A lot of bus benches are warmed in winter! Great for those cold mornings and nights and if you have to wait a little while. But this is Korea, you usually don’t have to wait too long until the next bus arrives (unless you’re in the countryside, then that’s different). If it’s a big station, not all benches will be warmed though,
9. Water filters everywhere
Water is usually served free at restaurants. At most cafe’s there is also a water filter should you feel extra thirsty. In the big department stores and even very large stores, there is often a water filter usually near the bathrooms with paper cups for you to hydrate. Most museums will also have some near the bathrooms too. I’ve seen some water bubblers in some metro stations but most were not functional due to COVID. If you ever feel like some water, these are the places to find it. Or you can buy some water from a convenience store too. Stay hydrated everyone.
10. Seoul Metro Sounds
If you’ve taken the metro in Seoul, the arrival sounds played before the metro arrives will play in your head when you’re trying to get to sleep, randomly throughout the day and I’m sure will be sweet tunes of nostalgia once you leave.
BONUS: 11. Not having to carry keys
All apartments have a keypad + code to enter with which means you don’t have to carry any keys! (Although I do know someone who carries an extra battery as their keypad once locked them out).
These are the 10 things I’ve come to love. What did/do you love about Korea?