6 Things About America That Give Koreans Major Culture Shock

Those wide gaps in American restrooms caused a scary moment.

Chatting with a couple of Koreans about their travels overseas, DIMPLE discovered some cultural differences that shocked them. Based on their trips to America, here are six things about the country that Koreans still don’t understand.

1. Greeting Strangers

While it’s common courtesy for Americans to greet a stranger, especially with a smile or nod, it’s one of the things that instantly shocks Koreans. It rarely happens in Korea and causes them to think, “Do I know you?

It’s hard to see that in Korea. You can get weird looks from people if you do that.

— Sang Hak

Despite the initial shock, Sang Hak and Sung Wook talked about how much they envied the friendly interaction. Sang Hak even shared a “good memory” of an American stranger who kept greeting everyone he passed, including him.

2. Casual Touching

In the same way that Americans have no problems greeting strangers, it’s also not a big deal to hug someone as a greeting. Sung Wook revealed how surprised he’d been when visiting his ex-girlfriend and seeing her hug other people. He said, “So I was thinking, ‘Is this really necessary?’

Though Sang Hak said it would’ve “[made his] heart flutter,” Sung Wook realized that it was just a simple greeting for everyone “regardless of their gender.” They even supported the idea that Koreans should do the same.

3. Tax And Tipping

Since Korea is among the countries where tipping isn’t necessary, Sang Hak voiced his confusion on why “you have to pay tips no matter what in America.” Sung Wook remembered his first experience paying at a restaurant in America and learning that “servers depend on tips.” It was also confusing for non-Americans to figure out how much they should tip.

How much is the appropriate amount to tip? You can tip more if you’d like to, right? If you tip less than that, does that mean you’re rude?

— Sang Hak

Another thing that shocked Koreans was the idea of sales tax. Since “the price includes everything” in Korea, it was surprising to see something priced at $5 USD come to $5.50 USD. Rather than just buying the item, Sang Hak revealed it felt like “you’re paying extra.

4. Food Portions

While Korea has small portions of foods like lasagna and pizza, Sang Hak pointed out how America’s portions are nearly triple the size. Sung Wook also revealed how the portion sizes of global franchises make the food smaller in Korea versus America. That wasn’t the only thing about American food that shocked Koreans.

5. Salty Food

Whenever they ate American food, they couldn’t help but notice it was “too salty” compared to the “Korean palate.

I had lots of pizza. It was really good, but it was saltier than the pizzas in Korea.

— Sung Wook

6. Restroom Stall Gaps

Since “toilets in Korea don’t have wide gaps around the door” and “people try to cover even the small gaps,” Koreans are shocked when they see how big they are in America. Sung Wook even recalled using an American restroom and finding a little kid staring at him through the wide gap.

There was one time I had to use a public restroom in the States. …All of a sudden, I felt someone was watching me. So I lifted my head up, and I found a kid looking at me like this.

— Sung Wook

Listen to Sang Hak And Sung Wook talk about the culture shocks they still can’t understand about America.