Kislova Evgeniya

These days, Korean brands like LG, Samsung, Kia and Lotte are advertised in newspapers and on TV all around the world. These snippets of Korean society, shown overseas, however, are far removed from the reality of life in Korea. In order to properly understand another country's traditions, history, people and way of life, it's best to pack your bags and experience the country firsthand. 

Most travelers arrive in Korea after having learned about the country online. With guide books in hand, they journey into unexplored neighborhoods. From sunrise to sunset, they visit Seoul's five major palaces, Namsan Mountain, the streets of Myeongdong, the Hanok neighborhoods and Insadong. Yet even after ticking off all the sites on top-100 lists of places to go in Korea, they are left unsatisfied. Something about these places feels staged. They look too much like their online counterparts. To experience something real, they will need to dive into the masses. If travelers wish to learn about Korean customs and the way of life here, they will need to observe people's behavior with utmost attention. 

1. In Korea there's a common phrase at the end of the week that goes, "Drink up! It's Friday!" (불금!). In Korean, it means, "Friday's on fire!" People typically go out Friday nights with their coworkers or friends; they go out drinking. After living here a while, it becomes obvious that every day is like Friday, and it's on fire. People drink a lot, and it's fascinating to me when they say things like, "Let's drink to death." What's even more curious is how they manage to get to work so early the next day after a night of heavy drinking. Modern Korean society is in a category of its own when it comes to drinking, so if you're in town, it's imperative that you go out drinking with your friends. 

2. In Korea, you don't have to worry about what to wear. Most people here adhere to a similar fashion style. That's not to say that they don't have any fashion sense. It's just that they prefer comfortable clothing. Walking down the street, you'll notice couples dressed head-to-toe in exactly the same outfit. Not that so-called "couple matching" is bad, it's just funny that couples make an effort to coordinate their outfits even though, deep down, they're embarrassed. 

It's also interesting that in the Western world, showing too much leg is considered risque, but in Korea low-cut tops are thought to be too sexual and showing leg is acceptable. 

3. Korea has some of the best-developed services and service industries. When you go shopping, you will often come out of the store with more free goods and offers than what you paid for. This also applies to unlimited side-dishes in restaurants. 

4. Korean corporations are leading Internet service providers and, accordingly, there's a high percentage of Internet penetration. This is why where ever you go, you will have a Wi-Fi connection. You never have to worry about not having an Internet connection. 

5. Korea is a mountainous country. This is probably why hiking is such a beloved leisure activity. People hike on the weekends as a way to exercise and to socialize with friends. It's interesting to point out that the vast majority of hikers are elderly people. 

6. The Korean government recently began trying to close down dog meat, or boshintang , restaurants for the sake of national image, but people still enjoy the dish. It's hard to fathom how people can eat dog meat when they keep dogs as pets, but it is intriguing all the same. 

7. Korean gift-giving is most fascinating. For example, people give each other toothpaste and Spam gift sets for the Chuseok mid-autumn holiday. When you have a house-warming party, you get toilet paper or detergent as gifts from your guests. 

8. In Korea, you must never write your name in red ink. This is because of the superstition that you will die if you write your name in red. 

9. Superstitious Koreans are afraid of the number 4. This is because the Chinese character for death has a similar pronunciation to the number. For this reason, the button for the fourth floor is sometimes marked "F" rather than "4". 

10. Some restaurants and bars don't close until sunrise. For someone who is used to restaurants closing at around 9 p.m., it's amazing to see restaurants and bars operate through the dead of the night. 

So there you have it: 10 fascinating facts about life in Korea, as seen from the inside. After you've seen and experienced these facets of modern Korean society yourself, you'll be able to tell your friends back home what a truly unique place Korea really is. 

Best of luck on your Korean adventures.