From Philly to Seoul: Embracing Everyday Contrasts

Kiki Lin, ’25, is a Computer Science major studying at Hanyang University this Summer 2023

While living in South Korea, I have noticed a few things about the day-to-day life and their systems that I really like compared to the United States and I am here to share them! I think these will vary from person to person so take all of this with a grain of salt as it’s my personal opinion!

Firstly, I want to touch on Korea’s transit systems which include its subways and buses. It’s amazing. Their subway stations and trains are generally very clean. The trains come very frequently and on time. I like that the trains stop at an exact location every time and there are doors at the station platforms which can prevent people from jumping or falling into the tracks. Busses also come frequently and on time. Bus stations have displays that tell people how much longer away the bus is. They also have very comfortable seats as it is made of cushion compared to Septa in Philadelphia, where it’s hard and has a felt-like, velvety texture. On buses and trains, there are dedicated seats reserved for elders, pregnant women, and disabled people and I really like their respectful culture as many people follow this rule. Another interesting thing is that when waiting for the bus or train to arrive, they wait in a single-file line. I’ve never seen that before in America but I quite like that system as it prevents people from pushing and shoving to get on the bus or train. I can go on and on about their transit systems because it is so good, but I will stop here.            

Korea has such an intricate recycling system, and they seem to take it seriously. In America, there is a trash bin and a blue recycling bin. However, in Korea, there are at least 3. One for general trash, another for plastic, and drink waste. Sometimes you might see paper, glass, or food waste bins. From my accommodation manager, I have heard that if we don’t follow the recycling rules, we can get fined. Recycling is definitely something to learn and get used to. After a month and a half in Korea, I still sometimes get confused about what goes where. Though, I really like how they make an effort to be environmentally friendly.       

The next thing I’m going to mention has to be my favorite thing about Korea and that is how pricing works in Korea. In Korea, the price listed on the item is the final price. It already includes the tax so whatever is written is what you pay and usually, it is a nice even number! For example, in the United States, we probably see prices like $19.99 and then plus tax but in Korea, it’s common to see prices like 7,000krw. Additionally, there is no tipping culture here in Korea. While you can tip, it is out of the norm. Because of this, this makes eating out relatively cheaper and affordable as the bill won’t rack up to $40-$50 a person after tax and tips.            

And that brings me to my last point. Everything in Korea is generally cheaper than if you were to buy in the US. Food can cost as low as $3 for a very fulfilling meal at Hanyang University’s cafeteria or as low as $5 if you were going to a restaurant. In Philadelphia, it would probably be a minimum of $10-12. Shopping is cheaper as well since if you buy over 30,000krw, you can get tax refunds by getting a separate receipt and going to the airport to claim it. Clothes are really cheap as well I’ve seen clothes costing as low as $5 in Hongdae. Because USD is stronger than KRW, meaning 1 USD can be exchanged for a larger amount of KRW, it is cheaper for us. This can be both good and bad. Good because everything is more affordable and that’s bad because I have developed a bad spending problem in Korea!

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