The Earth is a vast place; staying put in one place when you have the means to travel is to miss out on opportunities to revel in a different country and its culture! But before you do so, it’s always imperative to do your homework about your destination’s norms and cultural values to avoid awkward encounters and situations.
If South Korea is next on your bucket list, we just have the thing that would help ease your travels. Here are 3 interesting points on Korean culture to take note of before stepping off your flight.
1. Korea Is A Monolingual Country
Westernisation may have started to pick up within the country, the country has yet to make space for the utilisation of the English language in its everyday conversation. South Korea is considered to be a monolingual country where the dominant language is Korean and the writing script is Hangul. Even though English is taught in schools and various other institutes, the population are very reluctant to practise it in spoken form. Besides, many do not have access to spaces where they can do it freely.
That said, the language barrier and the lack of English forms will not stop you from getting around. You can manage to get by with a little bit of pointing and gesturing – but bear in mind, it will be frustrating. The only way for you to overcome this hurdle is simply to do as the Romans do – learn Korean language skills! Enrol in a Korean language course in Singapore and navigating will be so much easier. Even if you only have the basics down, it will lower the communication barrier by a tad bit and travelling will be less stressful.
2. Age Matters
Despite being highly westernised, Singapore still upholds Asian values in our actions and manner of speech. The same goes for South Korean, except to a different degree. Unlike Singapore, where such rules can be relaxed, South Korea takes its hierarchical system very seriously. In language alone, there are 7 levels of respect you’ll need to figure out which is appropriate in the given circumstances. To further illustrate how serious they take their social hierarchy system, a 1-year age gap is enough to warrant respect amongst parties, and they must show it in their speech and actions. Not showing respect may just get you on somebody’s bad, which may bear severe consequences if you’re travelling to Korea for school or work.
If you’ve been asked your age, know that there is intended to determine the boundary one should establish when interacting and conversing with you.
3. Beware Of Korea’s Beloved Soju
Korea’s drinking culture is known far and wide. It’s so ingrained in their culture that Korean dramas and movies are almost never complete without their emblematic drinking scenes.
This means that alcohol is largely accessible to the general public, especially the crowd’s favourite: soju. Often referred to as the Korean vodka, this Korean spirit goes exceptionally well with strews, barbecue, spicy meals and more. It’s the perfect accompaniment for almost every meal. This alone is the reason why you can get a bottle in almost every eating establishment, and its affordable price adds to its popularity.
Although be warned! Whilst it may not taste like it, a shot of soju packs a punch! Often than not, the effect is delayed and it will sneak up on you if you’re not careful. For those who aren’t already soju-philes, take it slow to figure out how well your body can stand its effects. You don’t want to be a bumbling mess around your travel buddies and receive stares from the locals.
Every country has their own set of cultural norms. So long as you are aware of them and practice them accordingly, you can enjoy your trip without worries. If you are interested in taking the first step to familiarizing yourself with the Korean language, give us a call and we’ll help you get the ball rolling!