South Korea is a ethnically homogenous country. Taste in cuisine, as well as thought and overall ideals are in unison and heavily influenced by Confucian ideas. Though South Korea is known as the country in Asia with the most English, it is mainly the youth that speak it. Learn a few phrases of Korean such as “thank you” and “how are you”. It gives the people pleasure that we have an interest in learning the language.
Seoul is a very modern city, other than temples and national landmarks such as the empirical palace, one is not likely to find historical architecture in the city. There are however many things to do none the less.
First and foremost is shopping. There are many shopping districts in Seoul that are open at night time only or day time as well. If you’re a girl than the shopping district built around the women’s school Ewha University is the place to go. It is the most prestigious women’s school in the country, not to mention the architecture itself is breath taking.
To get a feel of street stalls and outdoor eating at night, Dongdaemun is the place to go. Clothing prices are similar in the majority of street stores and unless an item is out of season is not on discount. People here take pride that the clothing that is being sold is made in Korea. There are even shopping mall buildings after shopping mall buildings in this district.
Food here is very shocking. Not in the weird ingredients way. But that the taste is very consistent for dishes no matter what store you go to. Majority of dishes, especially soups and stews are prepared ahead of time, and thus can’t be modified. Modifying dishes here is an unusual concept so be prepared for them not to understand. Pork is the preferred meat and most vegetables are pickled. Meat is in just about every dish here. And being a vegetarian in this country can prove a true challenge.
Missing home and craving some food? There is a district just for foreigners. Itaewon district. Prices here are a bit high, but are definitely worth it if you miss home a bit. Just about all of the service staff here know English as well. So no worries and enjoy the feel of home.
Last but not least, mountains. Korea is a very mountainous country. The pass time for many people here is to enjoy a day hiking mountains; particularly the elderly. Mountain paths are very well maintained. Beautiful scenery, fresh air and if the mountain is near Seoul. A breath taking view of parts of the city. I’ve hiked up 3 mountains so far and plan to climb at least one more before I leave.
All of these places can be reached by subway. So one of the first things to do is find a subway map of Seoul. It’s an investment that will pay off. to travel from one district to another costs about $1-$2 USA. Public transportation in short is very cheap and very affordable.
Just a few suggestions and tips. More to come soon.