- Learn basic Korean. Hello, goodbye, how much, thank you, and please got me pretty far. Many Koreans love practicing their English, but it felt so much more polite for me to say “gamsahabnida” as opposed to “thank you.”
- Try to haggle. I had a tough time with this, but I was successful in the flea market.
- Find good coffee near you and stick to it. I can’t tolerate a lot of caffeine, but I was having two lattes a day and having no trouble sleeping at night.
- Sleep late. I made the mistake of leaving by 9am and arriving in many areas before anything was open. This is especially important for the tourist destinations. Typically groups and buses arrive before noon.
- Hold hands. Men and women, couples, friends hold hands.
- Ride in taxis unless it is necessary. This can get very steep. Uber is now available in Korea, so that maybe a better option if you are out after the trains stop running.
- Be afraid of subways.
- Stick to American food. Korean food is so yummy, and in retrospect, I regret not trying the raw crab or dried squid. That’ll teach me not to get my typhoid shot…
- Sweat cultural differences. I got a lot of stares, and a few people actually took my photo (apparently Americans are interesting-especially black ones) I was sneezed on a few times in the subway, and most people did not cover their mouths. And PLEASE don’t make a fuss about someone stepping on your shoe. It’s unnecessary in any city.
- Flush toilet paper. Place it in the garbage can.
- Sit in the handicap/pregnant seats on the subway. Locals will glare mercilessly.
- Show cleavage. Booty crack and any other parts aren’t noticed, but revealing shirts are considered inappropriate.
- Do that wretched Gangnam Style dance or sing the song. It’s frowned upon and will immediately alert everyone that you are American.
And the ultimate don’t: stay inside. There’s too much to see to have downtime. Don’t let the city pass you by.