Korean habits and changes in Korea

They say it takes three weeks to establish a new habit, and I spent just over three weeks in Korea. Did I bring home some new habits? A few it seems – totally unintentionally. A couple of examples:

  1. When out and about with Sofie one of my last days in Seoul I dropped my phone and my default reaction was to say “아이고”. After she pointed it out I realised I’m a repeat offender when it comes to Korean exclamations.
  2. After returning home I had to top up my Danish equivalent of a T-money card. When it was time to pay, I automatically reached over the counter to give my credit card while supporting my elbow with the opposite hand. In response I received a very perplexed look from the guy on the other side of the counter, which is when I spotted the credit card terminal right in front of me and recalled that this was not the Danish way of paying. I had to admit to spending some time abroad, which made him laugh.
  3. I now have designated bathroom slippers.

While these are pretty Korean being in Korea has also brought about a few other changes which are less apparent, but which are nevertheless there.

  1. I drink a lot less coffee. Before leaving for Korea I would start my day with a triple shot cappuccino (I know, I know) to basically resuscitate myself in the morning, but since coming to Korea, discovering green tea lattes/green tea cream (these things are seriously addictive!) and having an opportunity to de-stress, I drink a lot less coffee. Being back at home I start my day with a single macchiato just because I like the taste, not because I feel like I need it.
  2. I spend a lot less time online and on electronic devices in general. Considering how connected Korea is this might sound counter-intuitive, but while in Korea I had 2 MB of data for the whole duration of my trip on my Korean sim card. While a lot of places offer free (high speed) wifi, many places do not wherefore I was pretty frugal with my data usage to ensure that I would have enough data to use Naver maps if I got lost somewhere or if I really wanted to go on Kakao to contact someone specific in a place with no wifi in case of being delayed for a meeting. After a while you become used to not being constantly available. That doesn’t mean I was not available at all – the number of hours I spent on Skype with my brother and calling with a friend over Kakao at night (I had access to wifi at the hotels) cannot be counted on two hands.

The distinctly Korean ones might be subject to change more easily now that I’m back in Denmark, but I will do my best to maintain the last two.

4 thoughts on “Korean habits and changes in Korea

  1. N

    I grew up with a Korean friend (before I started learning Korean), so I sometimes say “아이고” out of habit. I never payed attention to this until my language partner pointed it out haha.

    1. Mai Post author

      I approve! 😀
      It’s really funny because you really do not think about it, you just blurt it out! I think 아이고 was my go-to once I had an IT glitch at work and my office mates looked at me for a second like my sanity had disappeared along with whatever was on my screen.


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