Culture Shocks! – But not just the obvious

Well today is my son’s 4th birthday and I am half way around the world and missing him like crazy.

To lighten my spirits I thought I would write about some of the subtle and not so subtle cultural peculiarities I have seen in my few days here. It is important to realise that this area is probably not typical of Korea as all manner of expats and foreign workers are catered for. It’s a bit like going on holiday to Benidorm and saying you have been to Spain.


Naturally the writing is a huge cultural barrier. As anyone who has spent time in the orient can tell you the writing on signs and shops is so mind blowing that it is difficult to pick out the English text which can sometimes be there. The huge ships being made here take years to complete so there are many expats who have settled here with their families. There are so called international schools for their kids which means that they are probably being taught in English. I would like to think that these kids also learn Korean while they are here. A bit of junior school Korean would certainly be useful to me right now.

But the language barrier is to be expected. Here are some other, more peculiar little things I have noticed…

Toilet Humour

Someone had a sense of humour when they installed these. The all singing, all dancing toilet. The Korean writing makes it impossible (for me) to know what is going on but since when did the simple toilet need to be so complicated? I won’t go into detail but we all know what we use it for so what’s with all the gadgets? That extending nozzle in the video is just hilarious. Who thought that was a good idea?


Kids usually develop a sense of “toilet humour” at around 4 years old (especially boys) so my son would love the toilet in my hotel bathroom.

Spam – a lot!

Not to be confused with the Monty Python inspired stage play “Spamalot”. There really is a lot of Spam on display in the supermarkets in Korea. A good friend of mine mentioned this to me before I flew out. Apparently, it stems back to the time when the American GIs were here (during the Korean war) and gave up their rations of Spam to locals. They gained a taste for the stuff. Blimey! Now it is more evident than I am remember it in the 70s.

Special 6-packs of Spam stacked high are a sight to behold.

Speaking of 6-packs…

Usually the term ‘6-pack’ refers to 6 cans of beer. Take a look at this tiny can of beer. The mobile phone is only there to provide a sense of scale.

On the left is a regular 12oz/355ml beer can. On the right is a great little idea. A few slurps of beer just when you only fancy a quick drink. And it just so happens to be one of my favourites – the Japanese Asahi. So small it came in an 8-pack!

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