I didn’t really have any culture shock when I moved to Korea. I think.
It’s a very different place from Canada, obviously, and it’s very unique.
It is not the first time I have been to a new country, or a country where I can’t speak the language. (more on that later)
I’ve used squatting toilets before (I’ve even used holes in the floor), I’ve used full-bathroom showers before, I knew I wouldn’t have an oven, and I’ve heard lots about plastic surgery from my Korean students in Canada.
I’ve heard people complain that Korean people are rude, but I don’t really find that to be the case. I’d say they’re more brutally honest. If someone bumps into me and doesn’t care, they won’t say anything. Most of them don’t do that, of course, and are quite polite.
In fact, if you go into a store, or accept something from somebody, you normally use two hands, and often accompany the action with a bow. If that’s not formal and polite, I don’t know what is. And then there are drinking formalities… but maybe for another time.
What does frustrate me is that there is no order on the escalator or stairs. People walk all over the place, and stand all over the place too. There’s no such thing as standing on the right of an escalator, and walking on the left. I often end up just taking the stairs because it’s too annoying. I get more exercise this way though, so I guess it’s not too bad.
People do tend to stare here, especially ajussis and ajummas, but I get stared at all the time in Europe too, so I wouldn’t say that’s anything unusual.
Ajummas are all-powerful here. You listen to them, and obey them. They’ll shove you out of the way to get that seat, or to get on first. Luckily I was told about this beforehand, so I knew what to expect. I’m quite sure this has to do with respecting your elders, which is a very important part of Korean culture.
I’m not sure if it’s because I have traveled before or because I’ve known many Korean people, but while I noticed many things that were very different, nothing really came as a shock. Either that or I’m still numb and it hasn’t sunk in yet.