5 Things I Hate About Korea

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the 5 things I love about Korea. Sure, there’s a lot to love about this weird and wonderful place. But it’s certainly not perfect.

I’ve been living in Korea for a whole year now, and generally I’ve enjoyed my time here.  However, like every country, it has its faults. There’s plenty of things I’ve found surprising, gross and downright irritating about being in Korea.

The time has finally come to expose the absolute worst things about living in Korea. Or, more specifically, a few things I’m personally not a fan of. Let’s begin!

1) Climate

climate

In Korea, the weather in autumn and spring is really lovely. The sun shines, the rain stays at bay, and the entire population seems to venture out into the beautiful countryside.

Unfortunately, this bliss lasts for approximately 47 seconds. The rest of the year is consumed either by the bitter cold or the blistering heat. Just a few weeks ago, the temperature outside reached 39°C, and it “felt like” 47°C due to the humidity.

6 months ago, the temperature fell as low as -20°C and a thick layer of snow blanketed the streets. Talk about going to the extremes.

Unlike the UK, Korea is well-prepared for the heat; there is air con everywhere. However, both extremes in temperature make it difficult (and unappealing) to do anything outside for a large portion of the year. What a waste!

I’ve spent a shameful amount of time standing directly in front of the air con unit and hogging all the blissfully cool air. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

2) Pollution

pollution

South Korea is one of the most polluted countries in the world. The image of Seoul enveloped in a cloud of smog is a familiar sight for any resident of Korea, and the situation is only getting worse.

Often, the blame for Korea’s pollution problem is put at China’s door. But more recent research has found that about half of its pollution in fact comes from Korea itself – its own cars, factories and power plants.

Short term, inhaling these dangerous fumes can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. Long term, you’re looking at an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and even an early death. Not particularly appealing.

I’ve heard of numerous foreigners being forced to leave Seoul/Korea due to the smog, and after experiencing it myself, I can see why.

3) Food

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I’d rather have a crumpet.

Unpopular opinion: I don’t like Korean food. I’ve written about it before, so wont go into too much depth, but I find Korean food to be unspectacular. And it really lacks diversity.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like some dishes. But even the biggest fans of Korean food must admit that it is questionable at times.

Chicken feet? Boiled silk worms? Live octopus? No, thank you.

Before I’m bashed for being an ignorant and unadventurous foreigner, my favourite foods are not white bread and iceberg lettuce. I love international cuisine (Indian and Thai are my absolute favourites), but Korean food just isn’t for me.

I just don’t understand the hype. Surely I’m not alone?

4) Insects

bugs

Because I am a cliché, I am scared of insects. I’m also exactly the sort of overly dramatic person who squeals when a bug gets within 3 feet of me. Korea has been a struggle.

When I arrived here last autumn, I was surprised to find terrifyingly huge and colourful spiders on every tree, bus stop and street corner. Apparently, they’re poisonous. They rarely go anywhere near people, but the memory of one adventurous spider falling onto a girl in front of me, and her subsequent screams, is enough to keep me on my toes.

The winters are basically bug-free (so I could sleep easy at last), but the summer brings about a whole different issue: beetles. Beetles that are about the size of small children.

I’m yet to learn what these monsters are, but they live in the trees and seem to love making an extremely loud, continuous noise – presumably only to instill fear in passers by. They have succeeded with me.

5) Rudeness

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OK, I am well aware that I’m not in England anymore, so I can’t expect people’s manners and habits to match what I’m used to in the land of politeness. But anyone who has lived in Korea will surely accept that some Korean habits are just plain rude. And sometimes pretty gross.

My first wave of culture shock in Korea came about as a result of travelling by bus in my first few weeks here. Being barged about and literally pushed down the overcrowded buses (with no apology, of course) is something that continues to enrage me. Leave me be, ajumma!

Eating etiquette is a whole category in itself. Chomping and slurping food at the dinner table is the norm, as is the subsequent burping. To be honest, the sound effects don’t make me want to gobble up my jjigae.

Lastly, the Korean habit that irritates me the most is the spitting. All the time. Everywhere. The unmistakable sound of some old man honking up as much phlegm as he can will haunt me forever. It’s disgusting (not to mention unhygienic). How is this OK?!

Conclusion

Et voilà! The 5 things I hate about Korea. I apologise if I’ve offended anyone here, but I only speak of my experiences. I’m nothing if not a realist!

If you’re feeling down, read my article about Korea’s best bits. That’ll pep you right back up.

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