The New Norm Part III

Sometimes living in a different country you forget that some of the very odd and different things around you are in fact…odd and different. Here are some more things from around Korea that I first thought were odd and different but now just blend into the background. 

Neon lights


Down every road at night it looks like a mini version of Vegas.

Mixing up the language

When I first moved here and started teaching kindi, they would always say ‘shi shi’ when they had to use the bathroom. As a naive newcomer, I assumed this was the proper way to say ‘bathroom’ (because kindi kids always speak in perfect grammar right?). I went to a restaurant and tried to practice my newly learned Korean phrase on the waitress to ask where the bathroom is. She started giggling and pointed towards the bathroom. I learned later that ‘shi shi’ is the equivalent of saying ‘pee pee’.

Call buttons


This may just be the best thing ever invented. It’s a call button, and it’s placed on every table in most restaurants around here. So instead of a waiter hounding you every few moments if you need something, they only appear if you press this little button and call them. Absolute genius.

Hiking gear

This is common hiking gear in Korea. Bright as a rainbow and covering every inch of your body.

Having an escape route out of the country

No, we don’t feel in danger. But yes, we have talked about the ‘what if’. And don’t worry mom, as much as we joke about stealing a boat and rowing to safety, we have a slightly more secure plan than that.

Good luck gestures


Outside of a new business you can find several large planters sitting out with ribbons on them. These are bought by the company or friends and partners of the owner to wish the new business good luck.

Body language

Not knowing appropriate or more importantly, inappropriate gestures. In the states it’s common to play the game ‘I’ve got your nose’ with little kids. Little did I know that the gesture that we use with our thumb in-between our two fingers is a very vulgar gesture here in Korea. I unfortunately learned this after I had done taught it to every single one of my kindi classes. Sorry parents.

  • Shio Waline

    “Shi Shi”, lol! That is too cute and funny! Loved reading all this! Those neon lights are pretty cool, and I loved how businesses would wish each other good luck! Very sweet :)


  • Treasure Tromp

    I love everything about this! I was so impressed by 1) the hiking gear, and 2) women ‘hiking’ in heels. have you seen that? I also loved having a call button at restaurants. genius!

  • RitaMarie

    You had me at mini Vegas streets and that call button!

  • The Nomad

    I miss the Bing-Bong button! It was especially amazing since my Korean wasn’t fabulous. I also miss speedy Korea restaurant service. But I think I miss not peeling garlic the most of all the silly things. I completely forgot how annoying it was to peel garlic!

  • Bonnie Rose

    Those are huge! In Hawaii they did something very similar but in much smaller size. I was working at a brand new hair salon and we got gifted so many of these from surrounding businesses that we had to put many in the back storeroom. However I love the idea of having them out front and in such a big size. They look beautiful. I think the idea of it carried over from the melting pot of cultures in Hawaii, but kinda got lost on the foreigners from the mainland. 😉

    Ps. Call buttons…genius!

    Bonnie Rose | a Compass Rose

  • Ginny @ Buttergirl Diaries

    Hi Chelsea, I’m Ginny a new blogger from Buttergirl Diaries. I live in NC and am such a hermit. I have NOT traveled the world yet and am going to be living vicariously through your blog from now on.:)

    I loved reading thsi because I dream of traveling. I think that if America had a button like that on a restaurant table then nobody would ever work in teh service industry. Customers would be dinging like there is no tomorrow.

    Ginny :)

  • Rachel

    I love the idea of a call button on the table! And the hand gestures and language mix-ups…that’s really something you can only learn through experience….unless you’re lucky enough to learn through someone else’s experiences! 😛

  • Style-Delights

    Great idea of call buttons!! Nice travelogue! Hope you are having a wonderful day!
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  • Maggie

    That call button is genius!! I love the moment when you realize that you have adjusted to living somewhere new. I mean, I have never lived somewhere as different as Korea, but I definitely know that feeling.

  • Seoul Sold

    Bahahah! I taught my kids got your nose, too. -.- It was a very uncomfortable meeting with my principal….WHOOPS. You are right about the call button….I don’t want to think about going back to the world of no call buttons. Eek!

    I love that you did this post because I don’t even notice these things anymore as “not normal”.

  • Patricia

    Haha! That last one is hilarious! I know the feeling of being surrounded by things that used to seem so weird, that I’m completely used to now. Sometimes I feel like it’s weird that things are starting to feel normal!

  • Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    I love these posts, since I am living in Sweden with a Swedish husband I have managed to avoid a lot of mistakes like the nose thing but words are a whole other story!

  • M and L

    I really enjoy this series. The call button needs to be brought to the states ASAP! Their hiking gear looks like they are preparing for a flu epidemic. Kinda scary…


  • Jay

    They do the massive flower arrangements outside new stores in Singapore as well.

    The shi-shi story had me laughing out loud. Whoops!

  • Dan and Vanessa

    I kept laughing all the way though this–I know exactly what you mean! When we came back from a week visit to the US, it took a bit for my eyes be readjusted to all the blinking lights outside our window. Thanks for teaching me about the thumb between the fingers no-no. I didn’t know that! Thankfully I haven’t played that game with my students. haha. My Korean co-worker just said that it is like a euphemism for the middle finger. haha

  • Lindsey Marie

    Oh my gosh that restaurant button NEEDS to come to Thailand! Genius!
    Also, the hiking gear is especially funny to me. When I was in the Himalayas I stayed at a tea house with a tour group full of Koreans. They were all wearing the brightest coats I’ve ever seen and they all seemed to be matching. My sherpa told me they weren’t matching intentionally, but rather than Koreans just like really bright clothes.

    Great post :).

  • erica @ to the sea

    Lol! The Shishi thing made me laugh cuz that’s what we say in Hawaii

  • John Cena

    Nice post. I hope now you may speak kindi properly :D. Anyway i enjoyed your this unique experience. Thanks for sharing!
    Red Roof Inn Hotel Kissimmee

  • Robyn

    Right. Holidays are best for fresh eyes, mine are too adjusted.

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  • Kim Sundy

    I agree with Misty, the waiter call button is a good idea. It creates a win-win for everyone! I might be tempted to poach two of them though and give one to my husband so he could call me if he needed me!!!!!

  • Misty

    The call button on the table is genius!

    I’m visiting from the hop. :)

  • Kiana Gonzalez

    I love being in a new place and noticing all the differences. One of my favorite so far was when I was visiting Mexico…my friend and I entered a mini dollar/food mart (they’re called “Mini Supers” over there lol) and the bread was sliced longways instead of from the top to the bottom like in America. It was pretty interesting to see.