For the most part, Korean colors make sense. For example, the color sky blue is 하늘색 in Korean. 하늘색 literally translates as "sky color". However, when it comes to some common pants colors, Koreans named things a bit differently.
My wife bought a couple pairs of pants for me the last time we were in Korea. One was khaki, and the other was green. She asked me how they fit, and I told her, "The khaki ones fit fine, but we should return the other pair." After I said that, she picked up the khakis and put them in bag to return them to the store.
"What are you doing?" I asked, confused. "Those pants fit fine."
"But you said the khaki pants," responded my wife, as she put the khaki pants back into the bag to go back to the store, "fit okay."
"Yeah, I did. So why are you returning them?"
"I'm going to return the beige ones," said my wife, gesturing to the khaki pants.
After a bit of back and forth, we discovered that the color Americans know as "khaki" is called "beige" in Korea and the color Americans know as "green" is called "khaki" in Korea.
Confused? Yeah, I was too. Here's a picture labeled with the Korean color names to make it all a bit easier to understand:
Korean color names for what I would call khaki (left) and green (right).
So, here's a table just to make everything crystal clear:
Did you find this interesting or have a similar story to share? Let me know in the comments!
Photo by Jerrit Peinelt
Korea has a lot of different cafes. In America, if you want coffee, you can pretty much choose between either Starbucks or Starbucks. In Korea, that's not the case. Starbucks is there if that's your cup of joe, but the other options are often far more interesting.
The first time I walked into a cafe in Korea that wasn't Starbucks, I was really surprised by their menu.They had a list of drinks in Korean (with English underneath) and two columns of numbers next to them. The first column was labeled HOT, and the second was labeled ICED. And for pretty much every drink on the menu, the iced version was ₩1000 (about $1 USD) more expensive!
My brother-in-law took this picture of the menu in a cafe in Seoul for me for this blog post. You can see the higher prices they charge for cold drinks. 형님 고마워요~~!
Since I was visiting Korea in August and planned to take my coffee with me as I walked around Seoul, I bit the bullet and forked over the extra ₩1000 every single time. I'd never seen this pricing practice before in America, so I was really annoyed by it. I thought that the only difference between an iced drink and a hot drink was a couple of ice cubes that cost almost nothing, so I couldn't understand why cafes would almost universally charge about $1 USD more for cold drinks.
I recently asked my (Korean) wife about this, and she did a little bit of research. Apparently there are two popular theories as to why this is done. The first theory is that electricity is expensive in Korea, so it costs a lot of money to make ice cubes. (This is somewhat believeable since the last time I checked, electricity prices in Korea were about eight times higher than those in Texas.)
The second popular theory is that some cafes will add an extra shot of espresso to cold drinks to counteract the diluting effect of melting ice cubes. Therefore these cafes charge extra for the extra shot. This theory in turn gave rise to a subtheory that some cafes that originally did add an extra shot to their iced beverages have recently begun skipping the extra shot as a cost-cutting measure without reducing their prices to reflect that.
Whatever the real reason cafes in Korea charge more for iced drinks, it's a fascinating example of how things we take for granted as "normal" in America can be completely different from the things Koreans take for granted as "normal" in Korea.
Have you noticed any other interesting pricing strategies in Korea or elsewhere? Let me know in the comments!
Photo by fireskystudios.com
My wife is Korean, so I'm exposed to all kinds of interesting culture differences between America and Korea. I'd like to share a few of those culture differences so that people can learn more about Korean culture. I also want to show people that a lot of things we take for granted as just "how things are done" are actually nothing more than cultural norms that can and do vary from place to place.
The first time I went to Korea, I was traveling alone. I went into my hotel room's bathroom to take a shower and was startled to find that there were no washcloths or loofahs in sight. What I saw instead was a strip of blue material about 1 foot wide by 3 feet long that had a texture very similar to that of a loofah.
Koreans use a shower towel that is basically just a loofah that hasn't been tied together into a poof. Although it's a little odd at first, the benefits of using a shower towel instead of a loofah are huge:
If you're interested in trying out a Korean shower towel, check out the product below. They are so awesome!
The second thing I noticed in my Korean bathroom was the lack of a shower curtain. "Okay, I'm ready to get clean with my shower towel. Now, how do I keep water from getting all over the bathroom?" Well, the answer to that is, "Don't worry about it!"
Koreans don't use shower curtains and they don't care about getting their bathrooms a little wet. Korean bathrooms are tiled on the floors and walls, so water doesn't bother them. They also always have a drain in the middle of the floor that collects any water that gets out of the tub.
One problem with this is that it makes it hard to dry your feet after showering if the floor is wet. Koreans solve that problem with a special pair of flips flops that they leave in the bathroom for everyone to use. These shower flip flops usually have lots of holes in them so they can dry quickly:
So Koreans don't use shower curtains because they don't need them. But they also don't need shower curtains because they often use the shower to clean their bathrooms! All Korean bathrooms have handheld shower heads that can be used to spray down the floor and walls of the bathroom for easy clean-up. And that's exactly what they do! Cleaning your bathroom is so much easier when you can just scrub it a little bit and then hose everything down!
The last big difference between Americans and Koreans in the bathroom is the time that they choose to shower. Typically (but not always!), Americans shower in the morning and Koreans shower at night. Why? Americans don't want to go to work/school with greasy hair, oily skin, or body odor. Koreans don't want to get into their nice clean beds with dirty bodies. Both ideas have merit, so who's to say what's right and whats wrong?
Have you been surprised by culture differences like this in other countries? Let me know in the comments!
Photo by Sharon Mollerus
Everyone uses the table of elements, but not everyone calls the elements the same thing. For example, in the UK, the element with atomic number 13 is called "aluminium", whereas in the USA, it's called "aluminum".
I decided to look at the differences in names for some of the elements of the periodic table in American English and Korean. I found that, generally, the longer an element has been known, the more likely it is that the Korean name for that element differs from the American name.
In the table below, you can see the names of elements 1-56 and 72-86 in American English, Korean, and Romanized Korean (if the Korean name is substantially different from the American name) as well as the date of discovery. The date of discovery is given as * if the element was known to ancient civilizations. Generally, if an element was discovered before 1774, then the Korean and American names differ. Otherwise, they're the same outside of a few exceptions. This is interesting because one of the first efforts to systematically classify elements was published in 1789 by Antoine Lavoisier.
A couple notes about the Korean names:
Table 1. Selected Elements of the Periodic Table Sorted by Date of Discovery
Photo by Hans Splinter
These vanilla wafers were imported from Korea. Like many products made mainly for sale outside of America, these wafers had a Nutrition Facts sticker (instead of simply having the nutrition facts included on the packaging) I've including a close-up of this sticker below, if you're interested in that sort of thing.
Interestingly, these wafers are named "Mini Cream Wafles [sic]" according to that label. Since the Korean language doesn't distinguish between "r" and "l" sounds, it's easy to understand why the person responsible for this sticker might have called these snacks "wafles" instead of "wafers". After all, they kinda look like waffles, too.
Additionally, the back of the packaging indicates these wafers retail for ₩1700 KRW (or about $1.47 USD). I bought them at my local H Mart for $2.99. If you can't do the math, that's an "import tax" of about $1.52. That's more than the original price of the product!
Compared to other wafers I've had throughout my life, these compare favorably. They're soft. They're sweet. They're a little bit shorter than I had expected based on the packaging, but they're still delicious. I ate the whole bag in one sitting. (All three servings!) Luckily that's only about 500 calories. No wonder Koreans are so much thinner than Americans.
4 Korean Flags
These wafers are delicious. But they're too short! You can eat them on their own, and they're wonderful. But try to dip them in coffee or stick them in a sundae and you'll be a little disappointed by their stature.