It takes a while to get to know a city. You've got to in the heart of it, doing what the locals do, travel the way they travel, & eating what they eat. I was also going to add and speak the language that they speak but that was quite an impossible task for us. Besides, we found out that there was another option for us - Mandarin!
No. 1 : The Subway
Seoul is so well covered with the subway system & that has got to be the best way to travel. No traffic, no jam. subway maps & names of places are in 3 languages: Korean, Mandarin & English. Wait, that is not the best part. The best part is that they're cheap. Most of our trips cost us about 1000 won (RM3).
Tickets can be purchased at vending machines in English.
Every ticket that you buy has an additional 500 won (RM1.50) added to it. Upon arival at your destination, you can return the ticket in another machine to get your 500 won back.
We were looking for something like an Octopus or an Oyster card but the closest thing to that was only the T-money card, which was the furthest from those.
The T-money is quite useless if you're there for only a few days like us. You see, you need to pay 2500 won (non-refundable) for he card, & then, you need to add in money for the trips. The 2500 won is just for buying the card. You'd get about 10% off every trip that you make, but to get your money's worth, you'd probably need to travel like 25 times.
No. 2: The People
We had a theory. We observed that we could actually draw a generational line at 45 years old. Anybody above that age would seem to be aloof & pushy (as in physically).
1. Don't be surprised if an auntie suddenly pushes you aside at the counter, with a sweeping motion of her arm, even though the cashier has not given you back your change yet.
2. Don't be surprised when you get pushed aside when you're in the middle of flipping through some bargains. They will slide in from behind or the side.
3. Don't be surprised if they squeeze thenselves through your armpits as you're stuffing your bags into the airplane luggage cabin overhead just before you take a seat.
4. Don't be surprised if an arm or a knee or a foot accidentally hits you, & you turn around to see a stone-cold face, & they just walk past you like you don't exist.
This is Korea. And after a couple of days, we really got used to it. In fact, we started doing what they did. And it felt good. And nobody complained. It's strange I know, but it's acceptable.
Other than that, everyone was generally friendly & helpful. Most of the older ones do not speak English. The younger ones probably does. However, I would say you'd have a better chance with either Japanese or Mandarin with the older folks.
No. 3: The Road Signs
They almost do not exist. Major streets have signages but most smaller lanes do not. In general, knowing the landmarks would be much more practical.
And with that, we were finally in Seoul!