Five Things K-Dramas Do Not Teach You About Life in Seoul

Wandering Seoul Column:

Prepare to immerse yourself into the historically beautiful, technologically advanced and remarkable culture of South Korea. CUB Magazine’s column ‘Wandering Seoul’, written by Ruby Punt, aims to dispense with overusing itineraries and reflect the extraordinary personal experience South Korea has to offer, whilst also challenging many western misconceptions about South Korea. All that’s left to say is 읽어 주셔서 감사합니다 .


Like many before coming to South Korea, I did not know much about the way of life, aside from what I had learned from pop culture. As such, I had a heavily skewed vision of what I was expecting when I arrived: the quirkiness of ‘Men on a Mission’, the food of ‘Please Take Care of My Refrigerator’ and the dramatic lifestyle of ‘The Heirs’. Whilst I wasn’t expecting life to be a K-Drama, I was thoroughly disillusioned when I realised certain aspects of life would be different.  


Getting a taxi is hard

In K-Dramas hailing a cab seems so easy, in reality… not so much. The other day I got into a taxi and asked – in Korean – to be driven to my home address, just to have the taxi driver glare at me and sneer ‘no’ in English. This was not a communication barrier; he just didn’t like me. Unfortunately, I am not the only person this has happened to. Many of my friends have recollected stories of taxis ignoring them, whether it’s late at night or during the day.     


Cooking is expensive

Frequently, you see students cooking delicious looking meals, but it turns out that cooking is incredibly expensive here! 200g of diced beef is approximately £10, compared to the 250g I would get in London for £5. A pack of 6 bananas is roughly £3, over triple what I’d pay for usually. Whilst you can’t exactly make a meal out of meat and bananas, I’m sure you can understand how expensive it would be to cook here, especially when you factor in the high electricity bills from maintaining the fridge and hob. Luckily, a meal on campus is approximately £2. So I don’t need to worry about breaking the bank, and as a bonus, I can practically live in the library during finals. 


Poor students are actually poor

Often, the ‘poor student’ is portrayed as living alone in a swanky apartment or having the latest Samsung phone. What’s that all about? I live in a ‘oneroom’ [1] for crying out loud, and still have issues. It’s no wonder these students are poor when they’re paying all those bills! Also, side-note, where do they find the time to socialise or work part-time jobs on a crazy university schedule? When I’m not in class, I’m either preparing for class or studying for exams.  


Seoul is impossibly busy

In these K-Dramas, Seoul is shown to have empty streets and tubes; however, with a population of almost 10,000,000 this is simply ludicrous [2]. In my experience, even the residential areas of Seoul have been busy at 11-pm. Seoul is known for being busy, at all times of the day, and according to the BBC is ‘the Asian city that never sleeps’ [3]. 


Not all South Koreans are overly conservative

Many people seem to have the impression that all South Koreans are prudes, who refuse to talk about sex and relationships, but this is obviously not true for everyone. As with most places, young adults are fine with public displays of affection, or talk of it, whilst this can make children and the older generation uncomfortable. Moreover, they even have a sex-themed theme park called ‘Loveland’ [4] which displays extremely graphic artwork. 


Like most media, K-Dramas project a romanticised image of life onto the world. Do you really think Monica from ‘Friends’ could actually afford that apartment? It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of television, but it is important to remember that they are in fact just fantasies. Whilst I may have had small misconceptions, such as these, before coming here, I have had other people ask me ridiculous questions about life in Seoul. For instance, I have been told to watch out I don’t eat dog meat because the foreign media presents this as a Korean norm [5]; however, my friends in South Korea would be heartbroken if someone were to suggest they eat dogs. It is misguided to blindly accept what the media tells us, so remember to be mindful. 








CUB’s Ruby Punt is a third-year comparative literature student, currently imbedded in Seoul, South Korea. She is exceedingly sporty: regularly rock climbing, hiking and practising pole fitness (with a spot of skiing on the side). She enjoys reading fiction and, despite her athletic disposition, has an ‘unhealthy Netflix addiction’. 


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