I lived in South Korea from 2008 to 2013. After five years of life in Korea (and almost five years away from Korea), the country still has a special place in my heart. It’s where I got my start as a blogger. It’s where I caught the travel bug that I still have today. It’s where I met my now-wife, and where we traveled during weekend-long dates while getting to know each other.

From 2009 to 2012 I wrote several ‘You Know Korea Is Your Home When…’ types of posts — similar to the classic ‘You might be a redneck if…’ joke. It doesn’t really fit the One Weird Globe style any more, but they were too funny to delete. I’ve decided to move them to a single post and organize them by category for the sake of posterity.

You Know Korea Is Your Home When... the compilation ()

You Know Korea Is Your Home When…

Alcohol

  • You chase the guys in suits away to sit in the plastic chairs outside of convenience stores.
  • Watching drunk ajosshis stumble down the street is a form of entertainment.
  • If you no longer groan when climbing the stairs to your favorite 3rd floor bar.
  • If you love the watery eyes of flushed look when Koreans drink.
  • Korean beer starts tasting good.
  • The wine selection at E-mart looks like a treasure trove of possibilities after awhile.
  • While out with friends, you notice the sun coming up – then follow them when they go for breakfast.
  • When you drink beer while walking on the street (BONUS POINTS: while dressed in the same clothes you taught in)
  • Cass has become your staple beer.
  • You end up at a Nigerian bar with two Iranians and a Filipino at 6am.

Eating / drinking / food

  • You’re no longer tempted to reach into the fish tanks outside of restaurants and grab one.
  • You can name more than 3 brands of ramen.
  • You’ve memorized how much your favorite drink and snack cost at the convenience store. [Author’s note: 2,350 won = 500ml Coke and that small box of stacked chips…]
  • American businesses around you (Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King) stop surprising you.
  • If you happily eat soup from a shared bowl.
  • If you’ve figured out how to eat cake with chopsticks.
  • You stop picking off corn or sweet potato on a pizza.
  • Your grande Caramel Macchiato cost more than your average Korean lunch.
  • You’ve mastered the art of eating a cake with chopsticks.
  • You eat noodles with a 70-year-old woman and twigs found in the forest.
  • The kimchi you made is preferred to your Korean friend’s mom’s kimchi.
  • When the staff at your favorite restaurant know your order without your even saying it.
  • You go to a Western restaurant and ask ‘where are the side dishes?’
  • You argue with a restaurant’s staff over why they can’t serve you something – in Korean.
  • Pigs promoting pork products no longer seems unusual.
  • You prefer the 300 won coffee from a machine to the 4,000 won cup from Starbucks.
  • When you finish your kimchi and ask for more.
  • You’re better at cutting food with scissors than a knife.
  • If you can’t remember life before kimchi.
  • If you take pictures of your food before you eat.
  • When you crave Korean food but need someone to go with you
  • You think more about the banchan (side dishes) or service than the main course

Korean language

  • When you accept Konglish and stop trying to fix it.
  • You can type in hangeul better than English.
  • You understand Konglish better than English.
  • Hearing any language other than Korean or English almost shocks you.
  • Your English has actually gotten worse while in Korea.
  • You accidentally use more than two Korean words while talking with friends back home.
  • You can transliterate an English word to Korean without a second thought.
  • You use more Korean curse words than English ones.
  • You see a product with no Korean on it and you do a double-take.
  • You create your own Korean slang.
  • People stop complimenting you on how well you read hangeul.
  • You’ve caught yourself about to say something in Konglish

Koreans

  • When Korean women stop looking anorexic.
  • Seeing a woman wearing flat shoes almost looks weird
  • You’ve ever thought about marrying a Korean just to get the F-2 visa.
  • You’re no longer surprised that Koreans can dance the Swing, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, or Argentine Tango.
  • You become oblivious to Korean staring at you
  • Your shoes get slipped off faster than the Koreans you’re going out to eat with.
  • When your knowledge of Korean history makes a Korean gasp in amazement.
  • You actually begin to get along with the ajummas around you.
  • You see a Korean woman with B-cups and think ‘My God those are huge!’
  • You win an argument with an ajosshi.
  • You say ‘my friend’ instead of ‘my Korean friend’.
  • You’ve fought with an ajumma for cardboard boxes.
  • Your gadgets / technology make a Korean feel inadequate.
  • When women in their twenties no longer look like teenagers.
  • A Korean ever says “you use chopsticks better than I do!”
  • A Korean tells a joke (in Korean) and you get it.
  • You’ve ever found yourself running to work – and you’re not alone.
  • Women hiking in heels no longer seems dangerous
  • People spitting on the streets is something you’ve gotten used to

Life in Korea

  • When you instinctively know which can is for trash and which is for recycled.
  • When you don’t move for the car but you move for the motorcycle.
  • When you know the choreography to a K-pop song.
  • You’re no longer surprised by the TV’s in vending machines, buses, or subways.
  • When a holiday in your home country passes and you barely even notice.
  • You leave Korea and actually miss K-pop
  • If you’ve ever had more than one ‘dangly’ thing on your cell phone.
  • Can instinctively find the English language section in any bookstore.
  • You take bathrooms in stairwells for granted.
  • If you play with Korean kids outside the classroom without a second thought.
  • You miss the freedom and sensation of driving, but wouldn’t dare to drive in Korea.
  • If you can name three Korean newspapers in English – without the word ‘Korea’ in it.
  • See someone welding or cutting metal on the sidewalk barely merits a second glance.
  • You become immune to the ajumma stare.
  • You advocate the use of ‘same same’ to your friends back home.
  • Your conversation with a local is interrupted by a lost tourist.
  • You instinctively start taking discounts into account when using a credit card.
  • You have more gyopo and Korean friends than non-Korean friends.
  • The guy sweeping the floor at E-mart has an smartphone.
  • You’re oblivious to the ‘no smoking’ sign right next to the ashtray in the bathroom.
  • A ‘grand opening’ involves more flowers than four weddings and a funeral combined.
  • The ‘homeless’ person sitting on the stairs in the subway has a smartphone and a brand-name pair of shoes.
  • Not knowing your blood type is considered unusual.
  • You can hum all six or seven standard Korean cell phone ringtones.
  • Almost every appliance or electronic device in your apartment plays a melody.
  • You find it almost impossible to walk a straight line unless you’re following the yellow footpath.
  • You consciously avoid using the red marker for anything other than negative numbers.
  • You wear a short skirt out in the cold, then put on your significant other’s jacket.
  • Your eyes light up whenever you see a new product from your home country.
  • Someone asks you where you’re from and you say somewhere in Korea.
  • You walk around the naked part of the jimjilbang with total confidence.
  • You know how to make kimchi without needing written directions.
  • You use the sound of construction at 8am as your alarm clock.
  • You enjoy the smell of kimchi wafting from your downstairs neighbors.
  • You see a group of foreigners and conclude they look fat.
  • You think seeing teenage girls in school skirts at 10pm is normal.
  • If you’ve ever played ‘chicken’ with a motorcycle on the sidewalk.
  • If one of your passwords is a Korean word or uses Korean letters.

The subway

  • You can actually make a call while on the subway, in the subway station, in the elevator, or while on water.
  • When kids walking or riding the subway by themselves no longer worries you.
  • Someone tells you a subway name, and you look it up in hangeul.
  • You naturally wake up right before your subway station.
  • You have zero moral guilt about hopping the turnstile to change directions.
  • You can tune out any subway seller.
  • You know the location of every trash can at the subway station.
  • You know a two-transfer trip across town will take exactly 47 minutes.
  • If you can make a two-transfer subway trip without ever looking at the map
  • If you’ve ever offered a Korean directions
  • When you jostle for a subway seat with the best of them
  • When you actually understand the entire subway or bus announcement

Teaching

  • If you own more English / ESL / educational books than your school.
  • Jumping in and getting started at a new school is preferable to sitting through a long training course.
  • You accept the fact that seven-year-olds often have nicer cell phones than you do.
  • Taking a sick day means you’re giving birth or you were run over by a car.
  • You’ve learned more about the English language while teaching it than you ever remember learning in school.
  • You unconsciously correct the English of complete strangers.
  • You keep a toothbrush in your desk at school.

Traveling

  • All the palaces look alike.
  • Going to Itaewon is a culture shock.
  • When you look both ways before crossing the sidewalk.
  • You find a place in Korea that doesn’t have hand phone coverage.
  • You’re able to stay balanced on the bus, despite holding two bags and not holding the pole or handle
  • The event you went to last weekend was one your Korean friend had never heard of.

Other

  • When pink isn’t just for girls anymore.
  • When toilet paper isn’t just used in the bathroom.
  • When you have mastered the Korean squat.
  • If you prefer the Korean squat toilet to the Western-style toilet.
  • If, on second thought, you decide to type in English instead of hangeul.
  • Your camera has a foot-long lens.
  • The TV on your phone goes out and you’re outraged.
  • You think you look good wearing a shiny tie.
  • If you’ve figured out how to watch TV on your cell phone.
  • You stop and realize how fast ‘normal English speaking speed’ really is.
  • When you think it’s fashionably acceptable to wear a shiny tie with a shiny suit.
  • You move home and begin to miss the ‘four distinct seasons’ Korea used to offer you.
  • It takes more than a minute to think of something you miss from home.
  • It’s normal to see kids walking on the streets unaccompanied after 10pm on a school night.
  • You hit your legs or hips to loosen them up.