Unexpected Cultural Surprises in Korea: Public Transportation (part 2)

This is the second part to our “Public Transportation Etiquette” article.

For the first part, please click here.


  1. Quiet Voices and Music, Please

Okay. I admit it. I have a problem with this too sometimes. I love talking to my friends on the subway or bus, joking around or discussing about random topics. However, I also have to admit that we can get a bit loud. I have gotten a couple of scoldings from some fellow travelers who have stated that we were a bit too loud and should keep it to a nice “inside voice” volume. This does NOT mean that we should not talk at all; of course we are allowed to talk. BUT! Just keep in mind how loud you or your group is, and remind yourself that you are in a public place with others.

This also goes with music. We all love to jam out to our favorite songs as we travel from one place to another, but it can be a bit annoying if the volume is turned up too high, with your ear buds booming loud enough to be heard the next row down.

So please, inside voices and quiet music.



  1. Restrain from eating odorous foods

Yes, Korea is the land of odorous foods. Filled with garlic, fish sauce, pastes and sauces of all sorts, then fermented and pickled, many of Korea’s wonderful dishes have a strong aroma (not that I’m complaining. I adore me some stinky foods.)

But if you would like to enjoy some of these delicious treats, please refrain from snacking on the public transportation systems. Usually, drinks, ice cream, cookies, chips, and the sort seems to receive good responses; I haven’t gotten any dirty stares from the locals when I ate these “non-smelly” foods. However, anything that has a stronger odor is a no-no. The person sitting next to you probably does not enjoy his or her clothes smelling like kimchi or burgers or fish or so on after a ride in the subway.




  1. Subway pushing and personal space

This is a warning. Buses and subways during rush hour (morning rush hour from around 7 to 9, and evening rush hour from around 6 to 8) can get a bit hectic. Both the buses and subways will be jam packed with people, and therefore people can get a bit pushy. Actually, they can get very pushy. So, this is a warning. Be careful and don’t be offended when someone runs into you or bumps shoulders with you or if they push you so they can fit into the little remaining space on the subway.


Article by Wonmi from the U.S.A.

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