A Woman From Russia Moved to Seoul and Spilled the Beans on What It’s Like to Live in South Korea

Is it easy for a foreign woman to live in South Korea? Blogger Svetlana Song shows us that there’s nothing impossible! She was born and raised in Yakutsk and at the age of 16, she came to study in Vladivostok where she met her future husband. Today, Svetlana lives in Seoul, South Korea and tells her subscribers all about her everyday life there.

We at Bright Side are interested in learning about the lives of regular people in South Korea. And Svetlana let us in on some very unexpected things!

1. It’s hard to get a high-quality manicure in South Korea.

If you think that just because beauty products in South Korea are great, the beauty industry must be awesome too, you’re wrong. I have a couple of bad stories connected with the services here. They can’t do manicures, pedicures, or even lashes here.

The person I went to couldn’t figure out how to do the simplest things. The pedicure was a total nightmare. There was no shape, no protection — she just cut the nails off and covered them with nail polish. In the end, I came home shocked with terrible-looking nails having paid almost $200 in the beauty salon.

2. Many people eat together with food bloggers.

You probably know how much people in Korea love eating and talking about food. And one of the most popular hashtags here is #먹방. If you check it out, you will see more than 20 million posts about eating food in front of the camera.

In Korea, people believe that it is wrong to eat food alone. As a result, food bloggers have become popular. This started as people eating online in front of a big audience. Eventually, this practice moved to social media and became viral. It’s also worth noting that all bloggers slurp while they eat. And unlike in other countries, this is not considered rude, it’s simply a way to demonstrate that the food is really tasty.

3. Adults rarely take showers before they go to sleep.

Do you know what amazed me most about my husband’s habits when we started living together? The fact that he only takes showers in the morning. And, as I found out later, almost all Koreans do this.

It seems that everyone washes their children in the evening. But adults definitely take showers in the morning. And in winter, they go outside with their hair wet! I’ve seen this with my own eyes. They probably do this in order to freshen up in the morning.

4. Weddings have very strict schedules.

We were invited to my husband’s colleague’s wedding ceremony and my job was to put on something as simple as if I were going to a shopping mall. I wore black pants, a white top, and a jacket — a typical dress code for a Korean wedding. No one there wore long dresses or beautiful hair.

There are no drunk people, dancing, or songs. The entire ceremony is 2 hours long at most. It just consists of the ceremony, vows, taking pictures with the guests, and food. By the way, you can only eat if you have a special tag that is given to you after you check in at the entrance and present money as a wedding gift.

5. Men give very useful presents.

Korean men generally aren’t very romantic and my husband is no exception. For our first New Year together, he gave me...a hairdryer.

I gave him a lot of subtle hints like, “The New Year is coming, we should get each other some presents.” If I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have gotten a present at all.

6. The Korean lifestyle is called “Palli Palli”.

This is a never-ending race where people are constantly trying to “do everything”. Here, everything is done fast: work tasks are completed quickly, weddings are celebrated in just a few hours, and a doctor’s visit is never longer than a couple of minutes.

They want to do everything and it doesn’t matter how effectively they do it. Once one business closes down, a new one is set up immediately. One cafe gets substituted by another, and a new brand replaces an old one. Palli Palli has no exceptions. You have to learn to live like this, otherwise, it will wash you aside.

7. Instead of children, they often get...dogs.

South Koreans love dogs. For example, there are shopping malls where nobody will have any objections if you bring your dog inside. I think there are even rooms for dogs the same way there are restrooms for mothers with babies. That’s because in this country, people have strollers for their dogs, just like they do for children.

We were once waiting for the elevator with children when we saw a couple with a dog. It was white, very cute, and was sitting in a stroller from a famous brand. We were with a stroller too but our baby was inside it.

8. They don’t trust regular horoscopes here.

In Korea, a person’s personality is determined by their blood type. Europeans usually ask you what your Zodiac sign is and then make certain conclusions about you. But here, you will most likely be asked, “What’s your blood type?”

9. Having a child and raising one is very expensive.

South Korea is becoming a leader among the countries with the lowest birth rate in the world. Couples don’t want to have children and you’ll rarely see pregnant people in the streets. The average age for women to have their first child is over 32 years old.

Couples are becoming more and more pragmatic about having children because they understand that they can’t afford it. There are usually 1-2 children in a family. And even though there are not a lot of children, there is still a lack of kindergartens. It is almost impossible to get placed in governmental institutions — the lines are huge. And private kindergartens charge about $200 to $500 per month.

10. There are almost no tanning salons in the country.

Why would there be tanning salons here when Koreans are so against suntans? If you really want to find one, you’ll probably be able to spot one in Itaewon in Seoul — the district visited by a lot of foreigners.

11. A vacation is barely enough time to get rest.

How do people from South Korea usually travel? Very fast. They take just 3-5 days to fly to Europe.

The average length of a vacation for a Korean person is 2 weeks per year but they can’t use all this time at once. They have to split these mere 14 days into several pieces. Sometimes, my husband takes a 1.5-day-long vacation if he needs to solve some minor problems. Yes, he can get just half a day off.

12. Main expenses are rent and bills.

Apartments and houses here are extremely expensive. For example, a new apartment in Seoul will cost at least $800,000. The better the district, the higher the price.

This is why about 50% of Koreans rent apartments. They have to pay from $400 to $2,000 per month. And then there are the monthly bills on top of that which come to about $200 to $300 every month, along with all the different insurance services that cost about $50 every month.

13. People go to special parks to breathe clean air.

This is Seoul Botanic Park. It’s a very popular place now: just during the first month after it opened, it was visited by more than a million people. The people in Seoul hope to breathe in some clear air here and enjoy the green plants.

The problem is South Korea’s terrible atmosphere pollution — its level increases every year. This is the fault of industrial manufacturers and Chinese plants whose pollution is carried by strong winds.

14. Visiting a doctor doesn’t take a lot of time.

About 2 times per year, I have sinusitis. This is why I go to the clinic not far from where we live. No matter how many people are in a line there, it always moves very fast. This is because a visit to the doctor doesn’t take longer than 2-5 minutes.

Doctors only examine you, the rest is done by nurses. There’s not a lot of paperwork and everything is done on computers. If you have insurance, it is not very expensive to get treatment. I visit a private clinic and I pay just about $13 to visit a doctor and receive the proper procedures and pills.

15. Beauty standards in Korea are completely different.

There are things that Western people consider unattractive but in South Korea, it’s vice versa. I suffered where I grew up because people there gave me different nicknames about my pointy ears.

That changed when I met my husband. I remember one of the compliments he gave me was, “You have very beautiful ears.” And this was the moment I found out that in Asia, big pointy ears are considered to be attractive.

16. There are no parties on New Year’s Eve.

Korean celebrations are very traditional. The main point of them is to gather the entire family. Even on the New Year, they respect the traditions and remember their ancestors.

On this day, children get presents from adults which usually consist of money (and the more children you have, the more money you give). The money can be spent in a toy store later.

17. Locals don’t wear warm clothes.

Never, I’ll say it again, never pay attention to what South Koreans wear in winter. Girls can wear open shoes when it’s 50°F (10°C) or below 32°F (0°C) and children don’t always wear hats. I don’t know how they do it!

My children are always the most “wrapped” in warm clothes compared to Korean children. There was a time when I surprised babysitters by making my son wear 2 pairs of pants in winter. They couldn’t understand how a child could wear this much clothing. And the most amazing thing is that even though Koreans don’t wear a lot of clothes in winter, they rarely get sick.

18. Korean TV shows conquer the world.

In South Korea, hundreds of TV shows and movies are made every year. The people here love cinema and they’re huge fans of their locally-produced films.

Also, Koreans have managed to make TV series that the entire world loves. Fans even travel to the places where certain series were made.

19. Baby names are not chosen by parents.

Many Koreans choose names for babies based on Saju which are given by special people or shamans. The best name is usually chosen based on the sex, date, and time of the birth of a baby.

So in Korea, there are lots of different first names, unlike last names — there are only 270 in the entire country. The names are written both in Hangul and in Chinese hieroglyphs.

20. All the things in children’s playgrounds are shared.

A children’s playground is usually a small country with its own laws. Children easily share their toys and nobody fights. Adults look after children and play with them.

Mothers buy tasty foods for the entire playground. They can’t just come with an ice-cream for their baby, they buy some for everyone.

21. Vaccines and prescriptions are not even discussed.

Children in South Korea get vaccines, and they get more of them than in other countries. Nobody even asks if vaccines are necessary.

Medicine and doctors in this country are trusted. If a doctor tells you to do something, you do it. Mothers don’t go very deep into medical questioning and they never doubt the diagnosis.

It’s very disrespectful to argue with a doctor in South Korea.

22. Koreans hold onto their jobs.

There are not enough workplaces for all the local people, let alone foreigners. People try to find a good job for years, and go on many job interviews and take exams. They look forward to that magical time when new vacancies appear.

By the way, the unemployment rate after finishing college in Korea is extremely high.

Would you ever move to South Korea and try to get used to how things are done there? Tell us down below!

Preview photo credit svetsong / instagram