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The South Koreans

South Koreans have a single unified vision – the recognition of their country as a modern, international hub. You, as a foreigner are a part of that dream, so welcome to South Korea, Land of the Morning Calm.

So now you’re in Korea, a part of the Dae-Han Dream. Next you have to remember that Korea can be simultaneously the most socially structured place in the world and the most randomly frustrating and harmlessly shocking place. This is what happens when a traditionally introverted country becomes modernized overnight. Koreans are proper, polite and hospitable.

If you get lost in Korea you’ll be fine. Ask any Korean and if they understand English they’ll probably take you right where you want to go, even if it’s in another city. If they don’t understand then they’ll find someone who does. It’s possible to travel in Korea without ever spending a dollar, given you have the patience to remain in the company of high-energy Koreans who will ask you stranger questions than you could ever imagine. If you have no place to stay, Koreans will take you home. They may invite you to sleep in their home although you do have a place to stay. If you can’t pay for something, say a meal or a souvenir, chances are somebody else was planning on paying for you anyways.

With all of this, keep in mind this is a Confucian culture. The elderly are revered. They can say and do what they want and you, as a younger person, have to shut up and swallow it. The same old man who buys you twenty beers might point his finger at you and call you a dirty, stinking foreigner. He’s allowed to, because he’s old. Kids might call you a monkey. They’re allowed to because they’re young. College kids might ask you your penis size. That’s okay; they’re students learning about foreign genetics.

Mike Best