14 Facts About South Korea That Foreigners Have Never Heard Of
Every tourist knows that South Korea is like a whole other planet. And while some things are obvious right away (for example, some exotic foods), others are things are known only by those who have experienced living there. This includes beauty standards, how children are raised, and college educations.
We at Bright Side dove into the Korean lifestyle and found curious habits, rules, and traditions and decided to tell you about them.
1. Korean women sit with blankets on their knees.
Generally, there are 3 main reasons Korean women put blankets on their knees. K-pop idols, TV show guests, and regular people use them in cafes, restaurants, and other public places. First, they are uncomfortable sitting down in short skirts or dresses when they’re on stage. The cameramen also film them at different angles, so it’s risky for them to be over-exposed at any angle. Second, it’s simply their culture and part of the norm — covering legs with a blanket or veil while sitting down is considered respectful in Korea. They are showing respect to their audience that’s watching. And lastly, it can be quite cold in the studio, especially if they are standing or sitting still. The environment in the studio is kept cool because these women often dance and move around a lot. That’s why they have another reason to keep blankets on, to keep them warm.
They do it so that they don’t reveal anything when wearing a mini skirt and also protect their private space because a blanket is a symbol of modesty.
2. Women cover their mouths when laughing.
It is believed that laughing publicly is a breach of etiquette. When something makes them laugh, as a rule, they look away or try to conceal their smiles. And this is done even with one’s own spouse. If you see a Korean woman covering her mouth, she is probably laughing and not yawning.
It is their culture to cover their mouth when they smile or laugh, and it’s mostly done by Korean women. When they are shocked, embarrassed, grieving, or scared, they tend to cover their face with their hands. If they see something embarrassing, they likely turn their heads to not show they are engaged in the scene. For instance, if there is a couple kissing in public, they won’t look at them so the couple doesn’t feel embarrassed. Not only that, but there are other interesting facts when it comes to weddings. If a bride smiles during it, it may mean she’ll have difficulties for the rest of her life.
3. V- and S-lines are valued in women’s bodies
A V-line is a pointy chin. It is believed to be the best for both girls and guys because it makes them look more elegant. Being told that you have a pointy chin is actually a compliment in Korea, even if you are a foreigner. A V-shape is considered a small, oval shape with a sharp chin, and it’s viewed as a desirable feature. It also symbolizes femininity and being delicate as part of the cultural norm. It can make you younger and more innocent as well.
An S-line is the outline of the female body, a more slender version of the hourglass body shape. If a Korean man says that you have beautiful V and S-lines, it means he likes your chin and your body. To get that crazy S-line, Korean women will reduce their sodium intake and usually follow the Keto diet. Sometimes they’ll even do intermittent fasting (timing their meals).
4. All drivers have to do alcohol tests.
In the evening, often on Fridays and Saturdays, Korean policemen block one side of the road and check all the drivers. When you see a patrol car, you have to pull over, open the window, and take an alcohol test. People who drive under the influence can face up to 3 years behind bars or even life imprisonment.
5. You don’t have to stay inside during the rainy season.
This may be one of the more interesting facts about Korea. The monsoon season in Korea starts in June and ends in mid-July. Sometimes there are floods during this period, but cars still drive and people walk knee-deep in water under an umbrella. In Korea, the winters are usually cold and dry, and summers are hot and wet. But visiting Korea during the rainy season isn’t advisable since it is constantly raining. It may be best to visit during the spring or fall, and if you don’t mind the cold, you can visit in the winter as well.
6. They have very good food in their hospitals.
Every day, in regular Korean hospitals, they serve different foods, and clam soups are accompanied by traditional appetizers, such as rice and kimchi. Korean soups are one of the main dishes in both North and South Korea. They are generally served with every meal because it doesn’t require many ingredients and is quite easy to make. There are also many types of soups.
7. They sell K-pop idols instead of Barbie dolls
K-pop singers are so popular you can buy a small replica of them in any store. Above you can see the members of the band BTS.
8. Thrifty tourists can stay in a sauna
Korean public baths or saunas are called jjimjilbang. Tourists who come to the country for a short period of time try to stay in the saunas and the locals come here to restore their energy after work or after a big party. At the entrance, they put on yangmeori, or sheep’s head, which are towels that you put on your head. Inside, there are also couches and playrooms for children.
9. Koreans don’t talk to the opposite sex if they are in a relationship.
In South Korea, most people don’t believe that men and women can be friends. So when a guy and a girl start a relationship, they can no longer see their friends of the opposite sex.
Everywhere else in the world, people want to be accepted for who they are when in a relationship, which is why 2 people who are friends for a long time can develop feelings for each other. But in Korea, when you become friends with the opposite sex during childhood, it tends to fade away as you grow older and get married. They don’t want their lifetime friends to develop feelings toward them. Generally, in Korea, it is believed that the 2 genders are not supposed to be friends, and they can’t be if they’re meant to be together.
10. They celebrate the day of love on November 11.
The holiday is called Pepero Day — it was named after sweet breadsticks with different icing — and they celebrate it on 11/11. These gifts can not only be given to loved ones, but also to friends and relatives. It is still unknown the real origins of Pepero Day: some say it was a schoolgirl trend on the ’80s, while others believe that the holiday was made up by Lotte, which produces these sticks.
11. Koreans love to keep their hands warm.
If you go to a Korean hairdresser, a beauty salon, or some other place, you will probably be offered a hand warmer, even if there is a good heating system in the building.
A hot pack is a small warm pack that can stay warm for a hours, and it’s very popular in their culture. It can come in many sizes and vary in how long they stay warm. There are some hot packs that can be small enough to carry in pockets or shoes, and the bigger ones can last for a longer time. It’s important to know that they can be very hot, so it’s advisable to be careful before applying them directly to your skin. To activate them, simply open the package, shake the warmers up a bit, and then put them in your pockets.
12. In schools, they have a parent patrol.
“School parent police”
Every day, 2 parents inspect the schools: they watch the educational process and make sure everything is alright. Also, parents taste the school food in order to see how well their children are fed. When fathers and mothers patrol the school, they put on the uniform, and they have a schedule of things to do and when they should do them. There is also a special room where they can rest during their break.
13. Korean parents always follow their children.
Very often, in Korean families, the fathers work and the mothers raise the children: and they dive into this process so deeply that they lose their own lives and personalities. It doesn’t matter what their child does, the mother always has to take an active part in everything.
A blogger that has been living in Korea for a long time tells this story, “Before, my daughter used to go to the mountains alone and now I have to go with her everywhere.” She was asked recently, “Is it true that you are not adopted?” Koreans think that a real mother can’t be that indifferent to her children and let them go out on their own." After this, the blogger had to accompany her daughter everywhere, even to the shooting of the show that her daughter starred in.
14. They don’t need total silence and darkness to sleep.
Korean children are not put in beds in perfectly quiet and dark rooms. They are taught to fall asleep in light and noisy rooms, because this is a way to make their nervous system stronger. When they become adults, they can restore some energy, even if they only have a little bit of time, like for example when they are on a train or a bus. Koreans can sleep pretty much anywhere, in any conditions.
Which of these things would you like to have in your country?