If you are planning to travel to South Korea or just want to know South Korean culture little more, then you are in the right place. South Korea, at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, is a country unlike any other. From its foundation on the Precambrian rock to its demilitarized border with North Korea spanning four kilometers, it is a country of diversity, amazing people, beautiful landscapes, and full of interesting facts.
Read on for fifteen interesting facts about South Korean culture that may surprise anyone:
1. Babies are already older
In South Korean culture, from the moment a baby is born, he is classified as one year old. This may be surprising in a world where mothers regularly refer to their children’s ages in months, such as 12 months (one year), 36 months (toddler) and for the mother who can’t quite let go, 192 months (sixteen years old).
Babies are also classified according to blood type, which can affect who they marry later. Blood typing is believed to be a way to predict your personality.
2. It’s not real
This interesting fact about South Korea might blow your mind. It is estimated that between 1/5 to 1/3 of the female population of South Korea has undergone at least one cosmetic procedure. South Korea is considered one of the largest plastic surgery markets per capita on the planet, a title most would have given to Hollywood, California, USA.
The most common surgery is double eyelid surgery, which, along with eye-widening surgery, gives the eye a rounder appearance. Wealthy South Korean teens will receive these surgeries as their 16th birthday gift. Other popular South Korean plastic surgeries are forehead or chin augmentation, and jaw reduction surgery. All of these surgeries are done in an attempt to have an idealized “western” appearance.
3. Addicted to gaming
South Korean kids are largely addicted to video gaming. It is estimated that 14% of these kids between the ages of nine and twelve are addicted. The South Korean government has banned video gaming for children under 16.
The most popular game played is StarCraft, which is one of the largest selling PC games ever. There are cable channels featuring the game, and South Koreans can have a legitimate career playing the game. This amazing career choice is what brings this to the list of the 15 interesting facts about South Korea.
4. Shoved into a car
In order for bustling subways to accommodate the large commuting crowds, people are hired to shove and pack as many people into a subway car as possible. Known as Subway Pushers, they wear white gloves and uniforms and are actually considered professionals in their chosen career. So, keep this information in your mind If you are planning to use subway during your travel to South Korea.
5. Smart people
Many of us might know this interesting fact about South Korean. With an average IQ of 106, South Korea is the third smartest country in the world, topped only by Hong Kong and Singapore, who both average 108. This country is a tech leader who has brought us touch screens, Samsung phones, 3D printing, the MP3, touchscreens, and incredibly realistic prosthetic skin.
6. Bathroom woes
South Korean bathroom habits will be the most likely to cause extreme culture shock. Because South Korean bathroom cultural is full of interesting facts. How?
Garbage cans for used toilet paper: South Korea’s plumbing is mostly old and outdated, so used tissue goes into a garbage can rather than being flushed.
Squatters: Some toilets are just porcelain lined holes in the floor rather than places you can sit.
Roaming maids in the men’s room: Every men’s room has a dedicated female janitor to clean up, whether you are busy in there or not.
Shared soap: Soap in public restrooms, if you’re fortunate enough to have it at all, is offered as a bar of soap on a stick.
Grab your toilet tissue before you go in the stall: South Koreans keep a shared stock of toilet tissue outside the stalls. If you’re used to having toilet paper inside the stall with you, this may leave you in a bit of a pickle.
Showers and toilets, together: Private bathrooms may feature showers without separate stalls. The entire room is open, with a drain in the floor.
7. Shared stew
Some dishes are community dishes, and shared with the entire table rather than portioned out into individual bowls. Grab a spoon, and slurp away with everyone else at your table. South Koreans also double dip. And triple dip. In places where double dipping something into a sauce is considered rude, this will come as quite a shock.
8. Respect is a big deal
The concept of respect is huge in South Korean culture, and respecting your elders is a large part of that, with several generations of family living together in the same home. Social hierarchy is figured depending on age, social class, marital status, profession, and gender.
It is important to use the correct style of speech when talking to those above you on the social ladder and to bow 90 degrees as a show of respect.
9. Valentine’s Day is for men
In a complete 180 degree to the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated in most countries, in South Korea, it is a day for women to shower men with lavish gifts. Don’t worry, though; South Korea has another day of the year, White Day, where the men give back‚ and give and give. Men are expected to give back three times the value of gifts that were spent on them. Ouch.
10. South Korea is for couples
The fourteenth of every month has designated some type of romantic day. There is a huge day, kiss day, rose day, silver day, and so on for every month of the year. On April 14, the single South Koreans get their day. It is called Black Day and is a day of mourning their lack of a partner. The day involves moping around and eating bowls of black noodles.
11. South Koreans love to shop
If you love shoppping then this fact about South Korea might be useful for you. South Korea has some of the biggest shopping malls in the entire world. These malls will stay open until 4 am, long after restaurants and bars are closed. Centum City, Busan boasts one of the world’s largest department store, Shinsegae. Coincidentally, South Koreans account for a large percentage of credit card usage in the world.
12. Maybe it’s man-bellini
South Korean men take their skincare very seriously. They spend large amounts of money on skin care products and make-up. South Korea accounts for nearly 20% of the male cosmetic market. Is it not an interesting fact about South Korea?
This is in large part to the K-Pop trend, where heavily made-up young men and boy pop music groups perform music in front of millions of adoring teen girls.
13. Delivery of already fast food
If you are lazy to make food and washing, then South Korea is the place for you. Fast food chains will deliver food to your door. After you are done eating, dishes are left outside of your door to be picked up later.
14. Turn off your fans at night
Ever since the 1920’s when electric fans were first introduced, South Koreans have held a strange belief that sleeping under them in closed rooms would cause death. The superstition gets even stranger when you realize that the South Korean government issued a warning in 2006 that Fan Death was among the five most common fatalities during summer months.
The “scientific” reasoning behind this superstition involves oxygen displacement and suffocation, but the reality might be that the South Korean government want to slow down energy usage in the hot summer months.
15. Four is unlucky
For South Koreans, four is what the number thirteen is to other cultures. This stems from the Korean word for “four” that sounds very similar to their word for “death.” The number four is considered so unlucky that high rises and apartment buildings prefer to refer to the fourth floor as simply “F.”
Despite being close to North Korea, South Korea is a remarkably safe and popular tourist destination. Bustling nightlife, friendly people, good food, and magnificent landscapes all make this country a wonderful place to visit, especially now that you know the fifteen interesting facts about South Korea.