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Ten Things That Surprised Me In South Korea

Hello from one of the zillions of cafes in Seoul. This city clearly runs on caffeine. There seem to be more places to get coffee than people to drink it, ranging from beautiful, living room like salons to little hole in the wall take out places. You can sit for as long as you want, and the wifi is excellent. I worked at one café that had a noisy room for conversations and a quiet room, where people sat for hours while nursing a single cup of coffee. There are also dog cafes, cat cafes, lamb cafes and meercat cafes.


This post is about some of the things that are different here is Seoul. It is written without judgement. There is way too much to learn to voice any opinions.


Cow intestines are a delicacy. Last week we walked into a charming local restaurant and found that intestines were the only thing they serve. And you cook them yourself on a grill built into your table. Having only one type of dish on the menu is common; we just didn’t expect it to be intestines.


Groceries come in colorful, and sometimes mysterious, packages. Think Trader Joes on steroids. For this American who is accustomed to touching, smelling and seeing groceries before choosing, figuring out what’s for dinner is a challenge.


If you don’t know what the food is, it is probably sweet. Yesterday we had dinner with a brilliant and innovative entrepreneur who started a craft brewery attuned to the Korean love of sweets. This week he is releasing a brew that smells and tastes like Juicy Fruit gum.



Many restaurants have a button on the table that you push to summon the waitstaff.


These pink seats on the subway are reserved for pregnant women. Nobody sits in them. There are other seats reserved for the elderly and handicapped. Nobody sits in them either. Imagine….



Everyone wears masks all the time. Notice that this woman is wearing hers at a table at a café even though she has a cup of coffee in front of her. (I’m actually doing the same thing right now.) It turns out the more you wear a mask, the more comfortable it seems and the less you think about it. People might want to try teaching that to their kids instead of burning masks at the state capital. (I’m looking at you Idaho.)


There are CCTV signs everywhere. I wonder if that is why crime is very low.


Phil wore a sports jacket and shoes to open an account at a bank. Yep, people dress carefully here. Even Phil.


Daiso, the local dollar store, sells cute little argyle socks that people put on the bottom of chairs to keep them from scratching the floor. We’ve spent more money than one would think possible at Daiso as we have outfitted our new, short term, home.


There is a whole street called “Handmade Shoes Street.” I may never come back to New Jersey.


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