8 Things I Don’t Like About South Korea

I previously wrote about the 6 things that surprised me about South Korea and today, I’ve put together a list of things that I don’t like.

1. Online Banking
Banking here is what I imagine the pits of hell would be like. Bank books are still used here and with what they like to called added security, a simple task like transferring money is not that simple.

Being able to transfer money is a set up of its own, includes the download of security programs and an annual certificate number that allows you to transfer. I haven’t managed to get it to work so use my banking app which only works on the Korean version.

2. How everything is linked
Your name and number on your resident card is what you need to put on your phone bill, internet plan, banking services and services to order online. Everything online is connected here so you need to usually verify yourself in the first instance. I’m not sure why, but verifying yourself is a task. Sometimes your name order works and other times it doesn’t. You need to select which phone provider you’re with before you can be sent your text with a code to enter. If your phone company made an entry error, you’ll be going in circles until you figure out where the error it. If you have a long name, goodluck.

Photo by David Rotimi on Unsplash

3. Air quality and dryness
There is not much more to say apart from the air quality sucks most of the year. There is a nice outdoor culture and plenty of things to do outside here but it just not enjoyable when you’re struggling to breathe or are constantly clearing your throat.
In winter and shoulder seasons, it is very very dry. I’ve gone through 2 tubes of hand cream in winter alone and 1 whole lip balm. If you wear contact lenses, I suggest eye drops throughout winter and these shoulder seasons. Many homes and workplaces also have humidifiers for these dry months (and you’ll also potentially need a de-humidifier in summer). Humidifiers and filters are easy to find and are reasonably priced.

4. Conformity
I think I touched on this elsewhere but everything is very samey here. Same style. Same make up looks. Same hairstyles. Same natural colours everywhere. Being different in any sort of way leaves you sticking out amongst the sea of same. This is something that I miss. More individualism and a more multicultural society.

5. Clothing material
Fast fashion is quite big here and I’m not sure the rejection of fast fashion is as big here as it might be in other countries. I’ve been thinking if this is linked to how appearances really matter here. As such, finding decent quality clothing for affordable prices has been more of a challenge here than back home. I’ve just been sticking to going to Uniqlo here if I needed anything and have found the odd nice piece in random stores. But from my experience, nice to wear fabrics seem so hard to find here. A lot of what you’ll see are polyester or poly blends. I guess it’s been good because then I haven’t felt the need to buy much.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

6. Couples
Being in a couple here is such a big deal. Weekend cafes are filled with couples on their dates and even on the streets you will see couples with their matching outfits (also a thing here), taking selfies together and a bundle of flowers. It’s so noticeable more than back home. I guess because a lot of people live with their families, the only way to hang out with their significant other is to be out and about. Sometimes it’s cute but most of the time, a little too in your face. As a solo traveller most of the time, if you’re not the awkward one eating alone in a culture where half the restaurants are catered for groups (hello kbbq), then you’re the one awkwardly in a cafe alone surrounded by….couples.

7. Solo eating
This brings me back to my next one. A lot of the food and restaurants are catered towards groups of people. Sharing a skillet of chicken, pork trotters, traditional Korean meal, seafood bbq and Korean bbq are all delicious sounding food that can only be eaten when you are 2+ people.

8. Hustle culture
South Korea has one of the longest work hours in the world and recently even wanted to increase the hours per week to 69 (to much protest). The Korean work culture has also long had Hoesik which is after hours drinks/meal to boost team bonding. I’m not sure how widespread this is now since the pandemic but I have had 1 team lunch prior to work. As someone, who likes to clock off on time and not a huge fan of out of hour work functions, I was hoping my workplace would not have many of them. Working overtime and on weekends is not foreign from what I’ve seen in my workplace and hearing from friends. Add this to the very limited number of annual leave days (11 days for me on a 1-year contract) which is 15 days of annual leave granted after 1 year of working.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

If you’ve lived or travelled to South Korea, is there anything that stood out to you as something that you didn’t like?


5 thoughts on “8 Things I Don’t Like About South Korea

  1. All I can add is, we’ve just travelled through Vietnam, including Da Nang and Hoi An which are very popular holiday destinations for South Koreans….and we just couldn’t stop laughing at those garish coloured, loud patterned matching outfits! I think even Londoners would stop and stare if they saw those outfits in the West End!!

  2. I’ve heard all of this regarding Korean culture, and I think it’s also very similar in Japanese, even Chinese culture: long work hours, conformity, etc. It’s wild that Korea would normalize working 69 hours/week, while here in the US, we have our standard 40 hours (and in some European countries, even less)! There are definitely aspects about our adoptive country’s culture which we don’t like, but we can also say the same for our home country…any case, I hope you’re enjoying your time in Korea, despite some of the inconveniences!

  3. The hours Koreans work are crazy! Are the wages comparable to the rest of the world? As for the group eating, is it like Singapore where you are welcome to join a large table of strangers if there is a spare seat?

    1. Nooooo, they get paid alot less here but the cost of living (apart from housing) seems to also be lower. No, group eating as you come as a group as there is a large skillet of something to share or a big meat menu.

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