5 Things that are Confusing to Koreans Visiting Canada

According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, Canada welcomed approximately 137,300 overnight travelers from South Korea in 2012. These visitors injected $234 million in Canada’s tourism economy.

Besides the sub-zero temperatures during winter and the occasional deer or moose on the highway at night, Koreans visiting the second largest country on earth are up for a couple of surprises and might find themselves confused over a couple of things. Here are five of them:

1. ATMs

Going to a bank ATM in Canada is confusing for Koreans unacquainted with them, on a number of counts. First, ATMs here don’t welcome you. As in, they don’t talk. In Korea, as soon as you approach an ATM it welcomes you and kindly asks you to insert your bank card into the slot. The kind and welcoming voice continues to give helpful directions until you’re done with your transactions.

An ATM in Korea

An ATM in Korea

Perhaps more importantly, many Koreans have had trouble with depositing cash in our ATMs. That’s because when they’re prompted to make their deposit, they do so without putting the bills in an envelope first! In Korea, bills are automatically counted by the ATM, after which the machine prompts you to confirm the amount you’ve just deposited..

2. Going to a restaurant

Table ring bell Korea

A call button

Going to a restaurant can be another confusing experience. First, when you want to order food, there is no call button to be found on the tables. In Korea, these buttons are ubiquitous and make ordering simple and easy. No need to wait for the server to come around and ask you whether you’re ready to order or whether you need an additional something. Simply press the button whenever needed, and somebody will come to assist you before you know it. Not so much in here.

The additional surprise comes when Koreans (and many other travelers) receive their bill. What they initially thought was a $10 meal turns out to be closer to $13. Of course, here taxes are not included in prices, and tips have to be paid on top of all that. In Korea, the price written on the menu is what you pay upon leaving the establishment.

3. Taking public transportation

Koreans visiting Canada, even in larger cities, often get confused by the fact that they have to look for the bus or train schedule before going somewhere, otherwise, as I’m sure more than a handful have found out, they might end up waiting for quite some time! In Korean cities, there are no timetables at most bus or subway stations, because they run all the time.  Even when taking intercity buses or trains, you can be almost sure that during daytime, there’s going to be one running to your desired destination often enough. Just make sure it’s not full though!

4. Using keys to open doors

Digital door lockFor Koreans, using actual keys to open doors is so 1990. Coming to Canada and seeing people using  keys to open doors is quite a surprise, and many might initially have a hard time remembering to carry them wherever they go. Indeed, in Korea people almost universally use keypad digital door locks. To top it off, they come in an infinite number of colors and designs.

5. Buying alcohol

Most Canadian provinces are well-known for having near exclusive rights over the sale of beer, wine and hard liquors (limited privatization of country-originated beer and wine sales is allowed in some cases). Koreans visiting the country will be surprised to find out that alcohol cannot usually be purchased in convenience stores (thus stripping them of their convenience, some may argue). And liquor stores in Canada, far from running 24/7, often close early in the evenings and sometimes on Sundays and during holidays.

Liquor Store Canada

Have you ever traveled somewhere and found yourself confused or surprised over some things you took for granted? Share your stories with us in the comments section below!


Sam Gendreau is a passionate language learner and traveler, and the founder of www.lingholic.com, a blog that helps language learners acquire foreign languages as smoothly, quickly, and effortlessly as possible. He has lived and traveled in Oceania, Southeast and East Asia, and across North America, and he has learned French, English, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese to varying degrees of fluency.

Categories: 2014

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