Rupali Teresa Kujur, Ranchi, Jharkhand
Are you still confused about the South Korean culture you love so much or have explored it recently? Never mind; let me familiarize some spellbinding idiosyncrasies of Korean culture. Here we are presenting 8 fascinating facts about South Korean culture:
1. Ondol System
Ondol, also known as goodle (구들), is a sub-floor heating structure designed to fight against extreme cold climates during winters. Though the traditional ondol system is rarely found in Korea today, one can find a similar experience in traditional Hanoks (traditional Korean residence), temples and some hotels. Nowadays, most apartments and houses have an identical system as well.
2. Tasting food at supermarkets
Korean supermarkets usually have food tasting sections. That is set up for doing market research for new products and receiving feedback from the public. Food may range from Mandu (dumplings), and different meat to noodles like Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). Koreans never hesitate to taste the food multiple times. Do not feel shy to ask for more while you visit these supermarkets!
3. Drinking Culture
South Korea ranks between 13th-15th in the alcohol consumption rate per person in the entire world. To de-stress and socialize, they have a culture of gathering and drinking with their friends and colleagues after office hours. They give a lot of importance to hierarchy and age. So, when you drink with someone older than you, either in age or rank, you need to hold your glass with two hands when they pour alcohol for you. After this, you are supposed to hold your glass with two hands while your senior pours the drink into your glass.
Always remember! You need to look away while drinking to show respect to your seniors/elders.
4. Re-enactment of Crime scenes
The suspected person is escorted to the crime scene and forced to re-enact the crime. The police are supposed to monitor the accused and make sure that the person claiming to have committed the crime is the right one. To publicly shame the offenders, reporters are present at the scene to photograph and record the incident and the public as the audience.
5. Food Delivery Culture
South Korea not only offers a variety of cuisines to order but also provides a spectacular, well-established food delivery service. If you are in major cities such as Seoul or Busan, you can even order food at parks or bus stops. Most of you might be already familiar with the way this system works. South Korea believes in sustainability. The restaurants deliver the meals in bowls and metal cutlery and request their customers to keep the utensils out on their porch. After some time, the delivery man comes and picks it up.
It refers to the fear of the number 4. The number ‘four’ (사) sounds similar to ‘death’ in Chinese. Since Koreans also follow the Sino-Korean system, they skip this digit. Therefore, if you step into an elevator in Korea, you will probably find the number 4 replaced by the letter ‘F’, indicating the fourth floor. In China and Japan too, this number is associated with misfortune and death.
7. Korean Age System
According to the East Asian 1-year-old age reckoning, which originated in China, a baby is considered 1-year-old when they are born. Although many East Asian countries have already given up this method of counting the age yet, it is still commonly practised in South Korea. What’s more surprising is that Koreans get a year older on the New Year, adding 2 extra years to their age. Koreans refer to the age in years (how other countries count) as their ‘International Age.’
8. Meaningful Housewarming Gifts
I was astounded to know that Koreans gift detergents and toilet paper when they go to a housewarming party, also known as Jipdeuri (집들이). It is believed that as the paper unravels smoothly from the roll; the recipient is likely to have a healthy and prosperous time in their new home. With detergents, the bubbles represent money and prosperity. Just as the bubbles become bigger and more, the family’s wealth should increase with time.
P.S. Both items were considered expensive a long time ago in Korea.
I hope you could become more familiar with Korean culture. Before visiting any foreign country, the most important thing to know is the culture. Knowing about it beforehand will probably help you adjust well and not put you in an awkward position during your visit.