1. You don’t bother matching your shoes to your work attire any more.
You’re just going to take them off anyway, and switch into black sandals over socks. So why does it matter if you wear tennis shoes with a lacy dress? No one cares. What you worry about when you’re getting dressed in the morning: whether or not your socks have holes in them. That’s what people see now.
2. You decide Friday morning to take a bus cross country Friday night.
Why not? You live in the southern most point in the country, but the bus leaving at 6:00pm will get you to Seoul by 9:30pm. That still gives you enough time to check in to your hostel, go shopping in Dongdaemun Market, find a relaxed hof to soak in some booze, or go to bed early and have all Saturday and Sunday to explore what the city has to offer before hopping on the last bus home Sunday evening.
3. You don’t think twice about sharing all your food during meals.
You couldn’t finish it all yourself anyway. Whether it’s a Korean BBQ with friends or a company dinner with co-workers, food you order isn’t just for you. This is awesome because you get to sample everything on the menu. The low, long tables are filled with steaming bean sprout soups, savory pajeon, spicy kimchi, pickled veggies, grilled shrimp, chewy hweh, and salty, seasoned, lettuce wrapped samgyeopsal. Picking off each other’s plates with chopsticks is totally normal, too.
4. And you don’t think before opening a bottle of soju in public.
You split it between friends on the metro or walking to the bars. No one even gives a second glance. That’s what freedom feels like.
5. Your weekday dinners consist of ramyeon, gimbap, or fishcakes.
At home, dining out often meant sitting down and spending at least $20. Now, with the accessibility of food tents outside your apartment, it’s rare to see a price over 2,000 KRW. The savory and sweet smells mingle in the air, making it the obvious choice and frugal habit to dine on cheap Korean eats night after night.
6. You never check to see if you have your keys any more.
You were that person who had the doormat reading, “Keys, wallet, phone.” Well, not any more! This will be problematic if and when you move somewhere else. For now, though, as long as you’re capable of typing a passcode you invented into your automatic door lock, keys are useless, and life is simpler.
7. Your sock collection is a colorful combination of sassy and strange prints.
Maybe it’s because everyone takes their shoes off for work, dinners, and home, but the sock game here is above and beyond anything you’ve ever seen. They’re sold everywhere, and like street food, they won’t set you back more than a few won. Your drawers are now filled with socks ranging from quirky ramen packages, silly smiles, strange soju bottles, and cartoon celebrities.
8. Your bathroom vanity is brimming with sheet masks, most of which were earned for free.
Now that you’ve been in Korea for a while, you’re addicted to any and all beauty products, sheet masks being the greatest of these items. You stand by the fact that the tiger patterned snail serum mask is the reason you no longer have crow’s feet. You have seventy more of them to make sure they don’t come back.
9. You no longer notice the stares of curious locals.
The first few months as a local celebrity were weird, but now you’ve accepted the attention that comes with looking peculiar. No, you are not from here and will never be able to convince anyone otherwise.
10. You’ve made a meal out of free samples from E-Mart and Lotte Mart.
From mandu to fried chicken, every aisle promises a culinary surprise. When you’re finished “dining,” you go to the drink aisle where you can wash down those tasty morsels with tiny cups of wine, beer, and coffee.
11. You and your significant other wear matching outfits.
This is a common way to show compatibility with your partner. If you’ve been here a while, you might have adapted to the trend. And why not jaunt about town in matching stripes or clad in the same sweatshirts and baseball caps? That’s true love.
12. You’re accustomed to weird compliments or comments about your appearance.
Even if you don’t know what they mean, you accept them with a smile. There’s really no correct way to respond when a group of colleagues tries to “figure out how many heads would fit into your body” or when another comments, “You have such a small face!”