The Weird and Quirky Shit in Korea That I’ve Somehow Gotten Used To (& now kinda miss)

Koreans on the Beach

In my 10 Things I Love About Korea post, #9 was all the weird little things in this country that seem like the norm now. I listed a few but could’ve gone on for ages. So here is a more elaborate list of all some that is awkward and outlandish in Korea:

1. Fan Death

Fan Death

Yes, you read that correctly. There’s this thing called Fan Death. And it’s exactly how it sounds – death by fan. And not even in the getting-caught-in-the-blades kind of freak accident, which would probably be more likely, but dying from having a fan turned on for too long in a room with no open windows. I’d call it an “urban legend” if it wasn’t so widely and literally believed in. If you don’t believe me, which I completely understand because it’s fricken ridiculous, read more about it here.

2. Couples Outfits

I’ve mentioned in a few different posts about the phenomenon known as “Couples Outfits”. Again, it’s exactly how it sounds. Couples wear the exact same thing, usually more scantily designed for the female counterpart.

Okay, it’s kinda cute.

3. Hiking Gear

Koreans have a strange obsession with hiking gear. The streets are lined with hundreds and hundreds of expensive hiking gear shops. I always wonder how they all stay in business, but then I see this (EVERYWHERE):

Hiking Gear in Korea
Because who doesn’t stroll the beach in $350 worth of hiking gear?

4. Socks

There is absolutely no excuse to ever have a shortage of socks if you live in Korea because they are literally sold EVERYWHERE. Along the streets, at kiosks at shopping centers, down in the metro – not to mention Koreans love to give each other socks as gifts for every single holiday. Needless to say, I have a pretty fabulous collection of socks for every season (because 5 pairs of socks for $5 is too good an offer to pass up, even for the 32914th time).

5. Babies on Backs

Koreans often hold babies weird. That’s all.

Babies on Backs
This just doesn’t seem safe.

6. The Sick

I think it must be against the law to be sick in Korea. It’s incredibly rare that a Korean will call in sick to work – it makes WAY more sense for the infected and disease-spreading individual go to work to get everyone else sick. In addition, people that are being hospitalized are often seen roaming the streets – IV and all.

7. Ajummas

I’ve also mentioned ajummas a handful of times – whether it be about their strategic elbowing skills or their enormous visors. Ajummas are the older, middle class women who are usually seen wheeling giant carts of cardboard, peppers or various leafy greens down the street. They’re often seen in large groups I like to call “ajumma conventions”, all rocking a similar style consisting of loose, flowy (often floral-printed) pants, wind breakers and visors over their short, permed hair. I’ve found that the majority of ajummas have a very stern, cold looking facade, but merely smiling or even giving up your seat on the bus can show that they are the sweetest old ladies. (ADVISORY: The previous statement does not apply to all ajummas, there really are some mean old bitches out there).

8. Onions + Ketchup & Mustard

First of all, thank GOD for Costco in Korea. Second, Koreans LOVE to get an impressively large pile of raw onions (available at all Costco’s to top your hotdogs with) on a plate and drizzle it with a disgusting amount of ketchup and mustard, which they then mix altogether and proceed to spoon into their mouths as if that’s an acceptable meal. How has nobody put a stop to this madness?!

Onion Meal at Costco
Trying to inconspicuously take a picture of someone’s food is hard.

9. Spam Gift Sets

I ♥ Spam so this is actually brilliant, in my opinion. My birthday is February 20th, everybody.


10. Beachwear

Koreans on the Beach

Things that shouldn’t be worn at the beach (AKA things that Koreans wear on the beach):

  • Heels
  • Long sleeve shirts (in the water)
  • Fishnet shirts by either sexes (in the water)
  • Sweaters (in the water)
  • Jeans (in the water!!!)

I realized I’ve touched on clothing a few times now. And Koreans generally are pretty fashionable – except when they’re not. Both male and females often dress in the aforementioned clothing items as they paddle around in the ocean (paddle since approximately 93% of Koreans have failed to learn one of the most basic human survival skills that is swimming). And I’d attest this to modesty if it weren’t for the offensively short shorts/skirts/dresses I see girls wearing out at night. And the occasional speedo on the beach.

11. Selfie Central

Koreans LOVE selfies (cue the selfie sticks with the bluetooth button included). Girls are often seen walking side by side with their friends, all with their phones outstretched to take a classic “walking selfie” because GOD FORBID you just ask your friend to take a picture of you and vice versa. If you think the selfie phenomenon is bad in America, just come to Korea where everybody between the age of 4 and 76 are constantly glued to their ginormous smart phones.

12. The Lost-in-Translations

Whether it’s a billboard, menus, hats, shirts, English books or an email from your boss – the lost-in-translation messages are always hilarious. Always. Who knows if they just typed it into “Google Translate” and just went with it, if the inappropriate blasphemy splashed across clothing are intentional, or if Koreans just DGAF in general. I applaud them regardless.

These hats:

Korean Hats
My Mom Thinks I’m Special So…

This soup:

Korean Golden Crap Soup

This sign for…?:

Michael Jackson's Seductive Whiteness

This cafe’s wall decor:

Korean Cafe

This store:

Korean Lingerie Store

Just to name a FEW.

On a final note:


Stay up to date with First For Everything by following on Facebook!

Related Post

8 Comment

  1. Philip says: Reply

    I loved your post, too. Definitely laughed out loud! I have pictures like yours of the funny (and what could be offensive) English on t-shirts, signs and hats if ever they were to be seen in the English speaking world.

    I felt compelled to respond about two things, however. Death by fan turned out to be true, in a way. Maybe not for the reasons they claimed in the ’70s, but nonetheless deadly. There are over 100 deaths attributable to Oxy Benckiser’s humidifier disinfectant.

    The other thing is I recently read that 55% of Korean seniors live below the poverty line. Yes, more than half! It’s been edging up since 2015 when it hit 50%. So I feel a lot of respect for the Ajummas and their ways. They deserve a break.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      I definitely think most of them deserve our respect! A lot of them are very sweet but a lot of them are giant, racist assholes as well haha. As I stated, I definitely didn’t mean ALL ajummas, just some! Thanks for reading!

  2. Joella says: Reply

    Hahaha yes! I haven’t lived in Korea for years but this all still rings true and reminds me of good times (and bad! ha!).

  3. Somin says: Reply

    I’m Korean and I absolutely LOVED this. From the beginning to the end, this post got me cracking up and doing that weird sea otter clap!! I think it’s also because I didn’t really grow up in Korea, so I don’t really understand most of these either! I have to say though, when I was a baby, my parents carried me around like the woman in #5, and it’s actually super comfortable and you do feel safe because the blanket they tie around you is very secure. :)

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Haha that’s good to know! :) Korea was a very different place, but I seriously miss it!!

  4. Ceri says: Reply

    This is hilarious.

    Heels at the beach and heels while hiking up mountains are things I will never understand. I’ll also never understand everyone’s attitude over being sick and not taking sick days.

    Not even going to go there with fan death.

  5. Angie says: Reply

    Your post was absolutely hilarious! While sitting in the waiting room at my dentist, I started laughing hysterically. Love those ‘lost in translation’ pics, can’t wait to move to Korea to see it all for myself.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Thanks Angie, it’s a great country, but strange haha. I never knew I’d miss it so much!

Leave a Reply