I have now been in Seoul for a grand total of nineteen days and within those nineteen days I think I have spent at most two days actually in my dorm, doing nothing. It has been, to say the least, chaos while I have been here in Seoul but I figured it was time I sat down and gave an update on my time here and touch base on some things. Now with this post, I am not going to be listing any tips about being in South Korea, more a general overview, but my next post in the next couple of days will be all about that so stay tuned for that update. I just wanted to avoid any incredibly long posts that are hard to get through without having to take a coffee break or a nap.


The first thing I will say about being in Seoul is that for the most part, people here are very nice and willing to help and put up with your grammatically incorrect attempts at speaking Korean, with that said though I would suggest that if you are coming to Korea, to brush up on at least the basics of the language because you will need it, as much as many people here do speak Korean, it is more the younger generation so going to restaurants or shops, there is a good chance you are going to need to have some Korean in your back pocket to whip out.  Trust me, it is better than having to resort to wild hand gestures to get what you need across (luckily this has not be me, but I have seen it while shopping in Myeongdong and it was like watching a train wreck slowly happening. Fun fact: yelling will not make a Korean suddenly understand English, just so you guys know, because that dude sure didn't). 

So don’t be shy, use that Korean.

Dongdaemun and Gyeongbokgung Palace
동대문시장 + 경북궁
So getting used to the people and general way of life here was pretty easy for me, but I imagine that is also because I grew up in Vancouver, a city that has a very high Asian population, including Koreans, so the culture shock of coming here never really happened for me except for moments where it was very clear I am a ginger wandering around a city, sticking out like a sore thumb…an example? Catching random people taking my picture on the train or at intersections. Nothing says “not from around here”, like people snapping your picture while you are mid-sneeze. But to be fair, when it comes to culture shock, I am not sure if it is because I grew up in a very multicultural city, or because I have travelled a fair amount, but culture shock; real mind-blowing culture shock, has never really happened to me. I was expecting it when I arrived here, even after many of my friends told me they were pretty sure I wouldn’t, and they were right.

With that being said, that is not to say that no one who comes to South Korea is going to experience culture shock. I would imagine that where you live and the people you surround yourself with as well as your experiences with cultures outside of your own would affect how your engage and ingest being in a new city and country that is fairly different from your own.

Though I have to say I am still not over locals moving away from me on the train.

Leading to lovely thoughts like: 
Do I smell that bad?
Did I do something rude and not even know it? 
Is being a ginger and soulless really that bad?


Speaking of trains, within my first week of being in Seoul, I managed to get a pretty good handle on the transit system thanks to some friends and my own paranoid tendency to double/triple/OCD check where I am going on the map – this is coming from a person who has a deep seeded fear of foreign transit, don’t know where this fear stems from. I have never been lost in another country because of the transit, more a one-too-many-left-turns kind of lost. An irrational fear at its finest. But for anyone who is worried about how the transit in Seoul works, the subway is incredibly easy to figure out – they have signs in Korean, English and Japanese and on top of that they are color coded (color coded anything makes my life easier…basically just follow the big fat blue line on the wall and you will be ok) as well it is stated pretty clearly what direction the trains are going in. 

The quickest way to get into Seoul's city centre and on-ward from the airport would be to use the subway. Personally I am not at all used to the buses, and at this point I don’t think they are something I will be mastering before I leave. So save yourself some stress, and if you can, stick to the subway. Plus there is an awesome app for your phone called Subway Korea that has a map of the subway in English so it is very easy to figure out your route.

Hankuk University Station railway and back-alley

When it comes to food,  I will be doing a separate post on that considering I am a vegan and still trying to maneuver my way around the food here. Though a lovely friend of mine informed me of a site called “Happy Cow”, that helps you find vegan/vegetarian restaurants all over, including South Korea and Japan. So I have been semi-haunting that site and made myself a little list of places to check out, so once that happens I will give an little insight into the food here as a vegan (spoiler alert – its tough with limited Korean and no kitchen). Of course...finally getting a kitchen at the hostel in a couple of weeks will be a total game changer. 


A big adjustment for me here in Seoul was living in a dorm, with a person I do not know without any access to a kitchen and with wifi that is sketchy at best. As a twenty-eight year old who is used to making her own food and not having to listen to the sleeping sounds of a stranger and only the random noises of a sleeping Yorkshire Terrier, it was tough for me to get used to. When you are staying in a room with a friend, or at least with my best friends; you can tell them off, say what you want, and in general just totally be yourself without having to worry about weirding them out…too much. Sharing my space with someone I didn’t know put me out of my comfort zone for a decent enough length of time. 

Am I totally cool with it now? Not really.

I like having my own space and being able to come and go as I like without having to tip-toe around when coming in at 2 am after hanging with some friends, ramming into walls because its dark and tripping over rouge shoes in the doorway.  Maybe it’s because I am older, or because I am used to my own space, or because I am not as social as I think I am, but sharing a dorm is the thing that I needed the most time getting used to.

For anyone wanting a little peek into how the dorm looks, you can check it out here!

So there is my little update!

Its really more me musing and ranting to myself more than anything now that I read it but hopefully it will help some of you and give you some peace of mind if you are coming to South Korea. I will be having more posts popping up here and there with more travel specific things like tips, little insights, the human rights conference I attended, places to visit, and things of that nature!

Gyeongbokgung Palace Entrance
Till next time…


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