Top 6 South Korea Travel Tips

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

So you’re going to South Korea for the first time, and your friends are asking you “Is that the good one or the bad one?” Tell them not to worry! South Korea is a sprawling, developed democracy and a key ally to the United States– South Korea is the good guy. But before you go to South Korea, there are still some things you should know to make your trip as efficient and fun as possible!

1. Don’t be shy

Koreans love Americans. Okay, not just Americans… Koreans love all foreigners and treat them like royalty! You are constantly singled out and admired. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking around the streets of Seoul or in a small town coffee shop, people will come up to you and want to get to know you. They are fascinated by foreigners’ stories and love befriending people from different countries. Don’t be shocked by how many people ask to be your friend in person and on Facebook.

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

2. Get T-Money Right Away

You’re going to need a way to get around when you’re finally there. That’s why one of your first purchases in Korea should be a T-Money Card. You can use this card for all forms of transportation. The T-Money Card can be purchased at convenience stores for around ₩5,000. It can then be filled with as much Won as you want, and you can get it filled almost anywhere including gas stations, convenience stores, subway stations and bus terminals

Using T-Money makes your trips more efficient as you just scan and board. No waits in line, no tickets (which do cost more than T-Money rates), and an all around hassle-free experience.

3. Don’t Worry About North Korea

It’s scary going from the United States to a country that is technically still at war with its neighbor to the north. It’s even scarier when that neighbor has loose-cannon rulers, nuclear weapons, and, in recent years, has attacked South Korean soldiers and civilians unprovoked (this is exactly why you should cherish Canada).

The upside? The U.S. Military has an astounding presence in South Korea. There are bases everywhere, American and South Korean troops are always holding joint military drills, as helicopters fly overhead, their jets roaring. At first it can be a little worrisome, but the fact is, these are the things that keep you safe. Best of all, as a perk of being a U.S. citizen, know that that there is an escape plan in place just for you, in case something does go wrong. In fact, you’ll find that people pay more attention to North Korea back in the States than they do in South Korea. Most of the time, it’s a non-issue.

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

4. Don’t be offended by pushing

Koreans are always on the go. Being first does matter to a lot of people. If you are in line for a bus, anticipate being pushed out of the way by a group of elderly Koreans once the doors open. Expect to get bumped into with every other step you take when walking around the streets. Don’t freak out when you’re in the middle of a mosh-pit of business people and schoolchildren inside the jam-packed subways during rush hours. Don’t get offended by pushing and shoving because it does happen a lot!

On a related note, if at all possible, avoid the subway during rush hours, which usually run from 7am to 9am and 5pm to 6pm. This is prime time for pushing and shoving!

5. Pack The Essentials

Bring toiletries! South Korea has plenty of pharmacies but it’s not always easy to find what you want. If by some lucky chance you can find what you need in South Korea, it will probably be more expensive and come in a smaller package than what we have in the States.

Take your medicines with you: Tylenol, cold medicine, sinus medication, and a good quantity of any prescription medication. If you like to chew gum, pack as much American gum as customs will let you take, because you will have a lot of trouble finding that too. Ladies, pack feminine hygiene products. Simply put, they only sell pads. Tampons are near impossible to come by.

6. Foreign Registration ID Card

If you’re going to be in Korea for longer than 90 days, you will have to get a foreign registration ID card. Getting it is like spending a day at the DMV. It’s a blast! Best of all, you will never use this card for anything– that is, however, until you’re at the airport going through security to head home.

Don’t make the mistake of putting this card in your checked baggage. You will be pulled out of the security line, have to run around the airport watching the clock tick down as your flight nears departure, and then be told you have to pay a ₩40,000 fee. Please, just keep your Foreign Registration ID card on you and be sure to give it to security at the airport. It’ll save you a lot of trouble.

Corner Store Gourmet

Trying to find typical Russian food in Russia? Don’t look in restaurants or supermarkets. Corner stores, delis, and bakeries are the best place to go for delicious (and cheap) Russian food.

Wide selection at corner markets

The most typical and the most traditional home-made Russian food is cheapest and easiest to get at corner markets, which can be found anywhere in Russia. At the smallest corner stores, you can find things like rye bread, deli meats, milk, eggs, “творог (tvorog)” (farmer’s cheese), “пельмени (pel’meni)” (dumplings) and, of course, lots of vodka, beer, and cigarettes. Although selling alcohol to minors under 18 is technically illegal, no one worries about that in Russia.

The largest corner markets will have more varied selections, such as different types of deli meat, smoked or salted fish, cheeses, fruit, sweets, salads, and sometimes even baked goods. Check out this short video of a larger-sized corner market plus bakery in Novgorod.

Don’t be shy! If you’re ever in a corner store, and you don’t know what to call the deli items, you can just point to it and ask for “пол килограмма, пожалуйста (pol kilogramma, pozhalsta)” or “half a kilogram, please!”

Bigger isn’t always better

The average Russian supermarket is a little bit larger than an American one, but they can only be found in large cities. Supermarkets rarely carry items that are outside the realm of food/kitchen, and are always more expensive than corner stores, although the largest ones will also usually contain delis and bakeries.

  • Travel tip: If you’re looking for sanitary items like toilet paper, the best place to go is the “apteka (аптека)” (pharmacy), rather than the supermarket.

Some of the bigger supermarket chains are “Ашан (Ashan)”, “Перекрёсток (Perekryostok)”, and “Копейка (Kopeika).” They all carry a huge amount of mass-produced local goods, as well as some imported goods. Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better. The produce at these stores is often on the rotting side, and the imported goods are usually way too expensive to be worth buying, even for an American tourist.

BYOB (bags, that is)

Whether you’re shopping at corner stores or supermarkets, always bring bags. Corner stores don’t have bags and supermarkets charge high prices for them. Make sure to also carry smaller bills. Cashiers will often refuse to make change for anything larger than a 500 ruble note, or will insist on exact change.

To Inhale and To Imbibe

Aside from major public transportation and restricted public spaces such as an elevator or a library, it’s a pure luxury to find a place that’s totally smoke free in China.

There’s no “No smoking section”

Trying to find a non-smoking section at a Chinese restaurant? Good luck! The tolerance to smokers and second hand smoke in China is simply astonishing by American standards. You can smoke just about anywhere in China.

Image credited to Ivan Walsh

Don’t be fooled by those “No Smoking” signs in public places, usually, they are just there for the show. Not only do guys like to smoke, nowadays, a lot of girls in China like to be hip and light up as well.

Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Tea

Historically, there are only three things that can help you win friends and influence people in China. And they are cigarettes, alcohol and tea. If you feel comfortable with any one of the three, then you are in luck. Otherwise, you may want to begin cultivating a love of fine teas!

Fitting In Fashionably in France – Part 3

It’s no secret that French women are fashionable. Baseball caps and sneakers are not only out of style, but will peg you right away as a tourist. If you want to fit in and stay fashionable, keep these top tips in mind when packing for your trip to France. In this last part of our series, Jennifer covers outerwear. Here’s her top advice.

Winter

If visiting France in the wintertime you will need a coat. A very heavy coat. Make sure yours is not only warm but also stylish. The luxury is in the details: a faux fur or shearling lining, for example, or a high collar.

  • Travel Tip: If your coat is very heavy make sure you layer your clothes underneath. Buildings are heated generously in France and you don’t want to overheat once inside.
Image credited to Alex Proimos

[Picture credited to Alex Proimos]

Spring and Fall

For spring and fall a trench coat is an absolute must. A lightweight trench is perfect for dodging unexpected rain showers and can look oh so chic when belted at the waist (although don’t actually use the belt and buckle, just tie it in a haphazard knot– it looks more carefree and romantic). Don’t forget to pop the collar and roll up the sleeves slightly.

Summer

Summer weather in France varies by region, and can still be chilly, particularly in the evening. For summertime a lightweight blazer is a great idea to have on hand in case the warm day turns into a brisk evening. Lightweight cashmere cardigans are also a must as they can be carried in your handbag during the day and worn over your shoulder or casually buttoned as you move into twilight.

More lessons from Madame Chic

Jennifer L. Scott is the writer and editor of The Daily Connoisseur. She is also the author of the bestselling lifestyle book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris. To learn more visit www.jenniferlscott.com.

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Fitting In Fashionably in France – Part 2

It’s no secret that French women are fashionable. Baseball caps and sneakers are not only out of style, but will peg you right away as a tourist. If you want to fit in and stay fashionable, keep these top tips in mind when packing for your trip to France. Today, Jennifer covers clothing and accessories! Here’s her top advice.

Clothing

Most people panic in this department and pack too much. Being overburdened with too much luggage is so not chic. You do not need to be a fashion plate, just be comfortable in your own skin and clothing. Choose a smartly planned 10 item wardrobe that corresponds with the season. French people are not fussed about wearing the same thing twice (if not three or four times) in a row so don’t worry about impressing with a new outfit every day.

A pair of high end slacks and jeans, three or four blouses (depending on the length of your stay), two dresses and a skirt should serve you well. Remember these outfits will be enhanced with your choice of outerwear (blazers, coats, etc.) and accessories.

  • Travel Tip: Don’t panic and don’t over pack. Exude confidence and you will wear your clothes, rather than have your clothes wear you.

[Picture credited to smittenkittenorig]

Accessories

Great accessories add style and panache to your look but avoid going overboard with embellishments. A voluminous scarf, artistically tied, adds drama to any outfit and is so very French. Jewelry is typically understated, yet high end. If you go for a statement piece, be sure that your outfit is neutral to showcase the jewelry. A quality handbag is a must.

  • Travel tip: In France, always choose classic over trendy!

More lessons from Madame Chic

Jennifer L. Scott is the writer and editor of The Daily Connoisseur. She is also the author of the bestselling lifestyle book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris. To learn more visit www.jenniferlscott.com.

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Fitting In Fashionably in France – Part 1

It’s no secret that French women are fashionable. Baseball caps and sneakers are not only out of style, but will peg you right away as a tourist. If you want to fit in and stay fashionable, keep these top tips in mind when packing for your trip to France. Today, on Foreign IQ, Jennifer covers one of the most beloved of all women’s clothing articles… shoes! Here’s her top advice.

Prepare to walk

You will most likely do a lot of walking in France. For special occasions like attending the opera, theatre or a special dinner, heels are a must. But for everyday walking, flats are the way to go. (Not yet convinced? Just picture all of those cobblestone streets!) Make sure your flats are comfortable and stylish. Gym shoes are not appropriate anywhere outside of the gym.

The chic alternative

Ballet flats are très chic and look fab with almost any daytime ensemble. Buttery suede driving loafers are also lovely choices. They’re great in fun, unexpected colors– lime green or navy, for example. If you need a shoe with more support try a ballet sneaker, which has the comfort of a sneaker with the look of a ballet flat. (One superb flat shoe maker is London Sole– everything they have is divine).

[Picture credited to skyepeale]

If you are particularly terrified of being on your feet all day in uncomfortable shoes, make sure you wear them in before going to France. Never wear a new pair of shoes out all day long or you may never want to walk again!

If you have medical concerns and need to wear an orthotic or other insert, buy your shoes a size or two up, make sure the orthotic fits and you are ready to go. Sandals are lovely in the summertime– just make sure your pedicure is up to par. Boots are fabulous in the fall.

  • Travel tip: Just remember, no tennis shoes and no rubber flip flops! Think high-end.

More lessons from Madame Chic

Jennifer L. Scott is the writer and editor of The Daily Connoisseur. She is also the author of the bestselling lifestyle book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris. To learn more visit www.jenniferlscott.com.

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Tomorrow’s Special Guest, Jennifer L. Scott

Get ready! The ForeignIQ blog is kicking off a three-parter tomorrow with special guest Jennifer L. Scott, who will give us her top tips and tricks on fitting in fashionably in France.

Bringing Parisian charm into your American lifestyle

Image credited to Alex Proimos

[Picture credited to Alex Proimos]

A native Californian, Jennifer L. Scott had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Paris, where she instantly fell in love with the beautiful lifestyle lived out by her French hosts.

The experience gave her a new perspective on life, which she now shares with her readers in her bestselling book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris. The book has been recently featured in an article by the The New York Times, the British Daily Mail, and the French Le Point.

Her upcoming exclusive three-parter blog post on ForeignIQ will give us a glimpse into her top tips and tricks about shoes, seasons, and becoming the chic new you.

Whether you’re flying across the pond to beautiful Paris, or are looking to regain your joie de vivre living in the US, prepare to be enchanted! Keep an eye on this space over the weekend, and let Jennifer Scott bring a little bit of Parisian charm into your American lifestyle.

More lessons from Madame Chic

Jennifer L. Scott is the writer and editor of The Daily Connoisseur. She is also the author of the bestselling lifestyle book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris. To learn more visit www.jenniferlscott.com.

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Bang Bang!

Bang bang! Do you really need a bullet vest in China? Well, the right question to ask is, are you even allowed to own a gun in China?

The finer things

The answer is no, you are not allowed to own a gun in China. There used to be only seven– just seven– gun licenses in Shanghai, and those licenses were issued to a very elite group of people who used to belong to a hunting club.

Gun

[Picture credited to VaMedia]

We are talking about upper class citizens who are only into the finer things in life, such as classical music, fine wines and antique furniture. These guns were handed down to them by their fathers who made the purchase before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Put ’em up!

About 20 years ago, one by one, those lucky gun owners were “cordially invited” by their local head of police to have a “friendly talk” down at the station. They were “kindly advised” that due to concerns of public safety, it was to their “best interest” to turn over those old guns to the police station and receive a symbolic payment as a token of appreciation.

Red, White, and Green

As the saying goes, you see a sea of red when the stock market is going down and a sea of green when the market is going up. Well, if you’re in China, that’s not quite right! In Chinese culture, there is a strong symbolism of colors that can lead to cultural misunderstandings for Americans.

Opposite Day

When keeping an eye on the Chinese stock markets, remember that in China the color red symbolizes success, while green symbolizes failure, especially when it comes to money.

Stocks

In China, the stock markets use the exact opposite color scheme from the West. When the stock market is going up, the upward arrows along with all the numbers are typed in red, and when the stock market is going down, the downward arrows along with all the numbers are typed in green.

So, next time, if you happen to hear the Chinese news anchor saying that the Shanghai Stock Exchange is in a sea of green, don’t get too excited!

White Wedding… not!

Stock markets aside, the symbolism of color plays an important role in other factors of Chinese culture. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, there are only two forms of celebrations in China – the “red” and the “white.”

The “red” celebration usually signifies a major milestone that can add life to your family, such as child birth and marriage. The color red can also lend itself to major events such as graduation and job promotion. The “white” celebration, on the other hand, is only used to signify the saintly passing of a family member who was able to live to a ripe old age.

It was only in recent history that people in China started to view the color white as a color suitable for marriage. But then again, this notion usually only caters to people who are more western-minded. For those hardcore Chinese who prefer to hold on to their traditional values, red is still the color of choice when it comes to marriage, and white is reserved for death rites.

[Pictures used in this article credited to Katrina Tuliao and Augapfel]