Cultural Aspects Challenging for Foreigners in Korea

Like as always, the spring semester has already kicked off, and it’s been four weeks since the school started. Many exchange students coming from all over the world are getting used to the new surroundings and unique environment in Korea. Among them, I interviewed one student who came from France.

She, Elodie Vicini, and I take the same class this semester called as MIS (Management Information Systems). I asked her about troubles and difficulties that she have encountered so far while living in Korea for a short period. She told me that she have experienced an awkward situation she will never forget ever. Going back to her off-campus dormitory near to the Hanyang University, she hopped in a taxi and struggled to say “Hanyang University” in Korean to the taxi driver. However, due to the lack of her ability to pronounce Korean language accurately, the taxi driver couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. Finally, after she pointed out to the destination written on subway mobile application, she managed to arrive to her sweet home.


The following are differences between her hometown and here. She thinks that in the public transportation, most of people only see their own mobile phone until they get off. Even they are with their friends, they don’t talk each other only to have a long look on their phone.

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Source: Sisa In

In addition, since France is really famous for its sweet food such as cake, ice cream, and various kinds of bread. But she thought lots of Korean enjoy having spicy food including Topokki (the picture on the bottom left) and seasoned chicken feet (the picture on the bottom right). Because she is not naturally used to eating spicy seasoning, those food is not her type to eat.

떡볶이 닭발1

The good point is that she don’t need to squeeze in herself next to other students in classroom like the classes in France, and she can get to learn from interactive method of learning, away from one-way teaching.

I also did interview another student coming from Netherlands as an exchange student for one semester. Her name is Rosemarie, and her major is business administration as well. She told me that Korean culture is very different with Netherlands. The most shocking scene that she has ever seen in Korea is spitting out filthy phlegm on the ground. In Netherlands, it has been believed that two virtues of the Dutch is “cleanliness” and “frugality” for a long time. That’s why she experienced culture shock at that time.

Lately she got into a dance club in Hanyang University,  called “Ars-Amandi”. When she attended the first meeting last week, it was too tough for her to keep with all warm-up such as squat and exercise for the limbs. Furthermore, it features a strict environment and so many rules to follow up and doesn’t allow members to laugh off during the rehearsal. But she managed to get along with members of the club thanks to their warm helping hands.


In regard of Korean food, her favorite food is grilled barbecue, Bibimbap and chicken. She likes to try its authentic food other than spicy one. In other words, she is not a big fan of spicy food, either. The reason why she hates to eat such a seasoned food is that those kinds of food make her stomach ache.

All things considered, there are so many aspects of cultural difference that two exchange students have faced so far. Both of them mentioned that everything is so organized that even foreigners who cannot speak and read Koreans at all can easily find out how to get the direction from information board written in English. And they especially got impressed with cleanliness in the subway, on the street, or everywhere. I hope they regard their choice to select Korea as the best choice ever.



Article by SooJung from Korea, a Junior in Business Administration

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