There were a few general facts we had to learn about Korea before our TravelerGirls adventure began.
For instance money. The Korean currency is the Won - $1CAD = 1,124.67KRW. We also tried to learn a couple of phrases in Korean, the official language, to help us out but that failed quite miserably. Speaking Korean is not something we'll be putting on our resumes anytime soon. Just to make things harder, there are different dialects in modern Korea. Apparently they are easy enough to decipher from one another but it all sounded the same to us. For now, all we need to know is Komawa! (Thank you!)
English is taught as a second language in most schools. In 2000 the government introduced a new phonetic system for transcribing Korean into English, changing names like Cheju to Jeju and Pusan to Busan.
For us to get there we need to have a valid Canadian passport and it must be valid until the date of departure. Foreigners are also required to register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) upon arrival. No visa is required unless planning a stay longer than 180 days.
The capital of Seoul and the Seoul National Capital Area is the world's second largest metropolitan area with a population of more than 25 million. The city, established nearly 2,000 years ago, is now one of the world's top financial and commercial centres, home to conglomerates such as LG, Samsung and Hyundai-Kia. In 2008, Forbes listed Seoul as the sixth most economically powerful city in the world.
Unlike many Asian countries Korea's transportation for the general citizens consist predominantly of motor vehicles (cars/trucks), bus and subway. Motor scooters are usually used only by delivery people and bicycles are pretty much for exercise. Other than tourist transportation activities there isn't anything distinctly Korean in their transportation modes. It is a modern city for sure!
The Republic of Korea, or South Korea, consists of the southern half of the Korean peninsula in East Asia and many islands lying off the western and southern coasts. The largest island, Jeju, has the highest mountain in South Korea at 1,950 meters (6,398 feet). The terrain is mountainous, though less rugged than that of North Korea. While we were there the rain was heavier but they enjoy all of the seasons.
Religion in Korea is pretty evenly split with 26% Christian, 26% Buddhist, 1% Confucianist and 46% with no affiliation.
Before our trip we also thought it was a good idea to learn some of their manners and etiquette so we wouldn't unintentionally offend anyone:
• At the table you wait to be told where to sit
• Eldest are served first
• The oldest or most senior person is the one who starts the eating process
• Don’t point your chopsticks
• Don’t pierce food with chopsticks
• Finish everything on your plate
• Refuse the first offer of second helpings
• Never place your chopsticks parallel across your rice bowl
Okay, I think we're ready...