I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

1. It is completely normal for students to call their teacher "(first name) Teacher." Not Mr. Gwynne, or anything else, just "Ben Teacher." I am a teacher, therefore they refer to me as one as a sign of respect for authority. They call the Korean teachers "Native Teacher." Furthermore, even my coworkers call the Principal…."Principal" and the Vice Principal…"Vice Principal." This carries on at places even like the GYM, a place which is pretty informal and friendly. People call the guy who works at my gym "trainer."

2. Drinking is NOT permitted in 99% of bowling alleys in Korea. I always assumed bowling and drinking went hand in hand, but not here. Here, it’s a "family atmosphere" so no drinking allowed. Some places have separate rooms that have vending machines with beer, but you can’t bring the beer down to the bowling alley. One place just opened up a few months ago that has a huge bar and is a traditional bowling alley like they have back in the US, however the place is a mob scene at night now. I hope they open more…

3. The word "perm" can be used as a verb in Korea. "I was late for class because I was perming my hair."

4. Bare feet are "offensive" to some elderly people. For this reason, most people wear socks with sandals if they are walking around with them outside. If you were to go to a restaurant with sockless sandals, you would be disgracing the place to no end (yourself as well).

5. After meals when using a toothpick in Korea, the correct method is to use one hand to cover your mouth, and the other one has the toothpick in it.

6. Usually, one person (customarily it’s the oldest) pays for drinks/dinner when you go out with your coworkers. Splitting the bill doesn’t happen much. I went out with my coworkers for drinks one night, we drank a lot and ordered some food, the Vice Principal footed the bill even though he didn’t drink and barely ate. No one flinched when the bill came, he paid for it as they expected him too.

6a) Another time at a bar, the head teacher (the oldest person with us this time) tried paying for the bill even though I was burying beer after beer. I hopped in paid half since I make more than them and was being a "tank" as they called me. It was outrageous to me that she was trying to pay for it even though half the bill was mine.

7. There are 4 seasons in Korea, and they pride themselves on it. All the students know it and write about it quite frequently. To be fair there is a real spring, summer, fall, and winter, unlike in NY and other places where sometimes an entire season gets skipped over.

8. There is no daylight savings time in Korea.

9. Things can be purchased and ordered without using a credit card. It’s quite common that places over the phone will place your offer and just expect you to wire them the money. What a sense of honor.

10. At many restaurants, the bill is placed on your menu right after you order. If you ask for something else, they just write it onto the bill. You also pay for the bill by bringing the receipt to the front of the restaurant, you don’t pay the waiter and wait for change. It's great, no waiting.

Part 1


Anonymous said...

Bear feet? or Bare feet?

I think most Americans would fear Bear feet also.

Ben Gwynne said...

what do you think im an English teacher or something?

Ben Gwynne said...

on second look, i see no grammatical error at all!

Anonymous said...


Hyang said...

very interesting,
love to read your writings

Ive never thought that way especially fact num 9!!

isnt it amazing?
When u closely look at the Korean society there are so many implied contract incl. num9 .

I guess Koreans tend to dislike making everything clear with document.

It's because ppl got used to trust others :)

Ben Gwynne said...

#9 is a rare thing and wouldn't happen in many other places, well, definitely not in New York City which is where I'm from.

There's so many other cases of the "honor" principal being prevalent in society here. It's a quality I wish existed everywhere.

Chim_Allen said...

Where is this western-like bowling alley?

Ben Gwynne said...

Perriot Strike, it's in Apgujeong

here's there link


Directions from Apgujeong Station Exit #2:

Get a cab and ask to go to towards Designer Club. It’s a massive building colored in yellow. This building is conspicuous because it has a glass-front fitness center (M Athletic Square) on 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor. You will see Galleria on your left. At the next intersection take a right. Go until you see a Canon Camera store on your right. When you see it, you will be 1 block away from Pierrot Strike. It will be on your left hand side.

Reina said...

This might shock you but anyone who has gotten a perm in the US has also used perming as a verb. The same way you would say I was straightening my hair you can say I was perming my hair.. FYI

Ben said...

i guess that makes sense, but you just dont hear the phrase "perming" (let alone perm) back in the US.

Anonymous said...

agh i forgot my password and can't sign in!

"i guess that makes sense, but you just dont hear the phrase "perming" (let alone perm) back in the US."

that's because it's not 1989. zing!


Kafka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kafka said...

Oh, The oldest men have responsibility for younger people somehow. I think their thoughts are based on Confucianism. Such like Paying for bill instead of young people. It's part of culture. Korean has a kind of rank in formal relationship. This is why some old Korean don't get it "the head" is coworker when learning English word.
He isn't college for them. He's the top of the firm! He's the one whom coworkers want to suck for promoting their position.
Thus, many people take it wrong not equally even normal life: There are young people and elderly people.
I bet myself that they cannot have communication.
If young men try to give some advice to them, they'll be furious and answer "How old ARE YOU!?" back .
They always pretend to be grave.
So you hardly see elderly men upbeat and running actively in Korea.
I can't get out of your blog from yesterday. Every posts you wrote are very interesting.

Ben said...

Yeah, it must be hard. I work with all female teachers, so I'm sure it's even more difficult for them to make complaints or suggestions to the boss.

Glad you enjoy reading it!

Kafka said...

Hey! I think you can't get along with Korean culture well! There are two foreigner who live in Korea. one is crazy about Korea. the other is critical about Korea. I think you're the latter.

Ben said...

No that's not true. I have this blog to tell people about Korean culture, there's a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, same in the U.S. There's a lot of things about the U.S. which I don't think are perfect. I am happy that I have moved here, I have no regrets at all.

Kafka said...

Aha! I got it. But I hope you'll more accept Korea even silly sides unless you just stay in Korea for a moment.
Enjoy sailing! Don't forget writing post.

Ben said...

Trust me nothing bothers me about being here even if I comment on it. It's just an observation. I really like being here.

Anonymous said...

I teach Koreans..their culture is really great and colorful, though I haven't been there..I'm from the Philippines..Thanks Ben! -Bhearn

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Quick editing comment (from an English teacher). In your first paragraph, the word should be "their" teacher, not "there" teacher. Best wishes to you.

emily said...

hey thanxim doing this project thing on korea and this sorta helped so thanx! ;D

Jessica said...

Korea has such a fascinating line of culture.. I absolutely enjoy working on this project.. Hopefully I'll visit South Korea someday... Thank you for your help!

ACuriousPerson said...

I have heard that people of Korea are not very open to foreigners. Is that true? Are they racist? Since you have lived there maybe you'll know. I'm not talking about colour here. Just about being the same nationality.

Anonymous said...

Jessica - glad you enjoyed it. Do try and go some day.

Curious - it's hard to make such a sweeping generalization. I had times where people were not helpful towards me because I was a foreigner..but at the same time I have had people who went WAYYYYYYYYYYY out of their way to help me because I was a foreigner. Maybe it was because they like being helpful, maybe it was because they want to help make other people think highly of their country.

Regardless, I was back home in NYC recently and had a question about parking on the sidewalk and a sign being unclear. I asked 3 people who walked by and they all ignored me. So what does that say?


Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
ive always wanted to learn other culture facts and yours were very helpful. i am working with a younger fellow in financial services, training him. i have to meet with his parents who have been here for maybe 15 yrs. They are business owners/restaurant. how would you make a good impression/approach so they support thier son working with us. He will be getting his investment license and life ins as well.

Anonymous said...

That's a difficult (but answerable question). You can email me if you'd like, it is at the top of the page.


AJ Widman said...


AJ Widman said...

Do you know any facts from Korea that are old from a while ago?
Like "not much technology" and stuff like that?

Anonymous said...

there's no daylight savings anywhere except for america lolol

amira said...

There is daylight savings in Australia though.