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12 Interesting Facts about Seoul and 1 Scary One!

12 Interesting and 1 Scary Facts About Seoul

Seoul is a fascinating, cosmopolitan city with over 2000 years of history.  It is considered a megacity because it has a population of over 10 million people.  There are so many intriguing things about this city! In some ways Seoul reminded us of Singapore.  We found 12 interesting facts about Seoul. Yet the city has a secret which to us is a very scary fact. Read on to find out more.

Seoul the “Smartest” City

Seoul is considered one of the world’s leading “smart” cities, and now is the first city government to integrate with the Metaverse. In addition, there are many other technological advancements from the airport to the subway making the city one of the smartest and greenest in the world.

Palace 12 Interesting Facts about Seoul

Where are the Trash Cans?

There are VERY few public trash cans in Seoul.  In fact during our 6 days of walking in the city 8-10 hours a day, we only saw 1 public garbage.  In brief, the government decided to cut the amount of waste being generated and removed most of the trash cans in 1975.  Subsequently, residents are required to purchase special bags for disposing of trash, which are more expensive than regular bags. Thus, like everyone else in the city we carried our garbage around until we returned to the hotel.  Bottom line, this made us consider our purchases and reduced the garbage collecting in our backpacks.  So, is this one of the 12 interesting facts about Seoul or is this the scary one?

Cafes 12 interesting facts about Seoul
One of Many Cafes in Seoul

Coffee Shops Galore

Seoul has one of the highest concentrations of coffee shops in the world.  Accordingly there are over 76 thousand coffee shops there!  If you want to be amazed by some unbelievable pastries and coffee try Onion.  It blew our minds!  Therefore, this is definitely one of the 12 interesting facts about Seoul and not the 1 scary one.

Online Maps

Google Maps does not work well in Korea.  Why you ask?  Well, in short, it is because Google refuses to blur out location information about military facilities and other such sensitive information that cannot fall into the wrong hands – e.g. North Korea.  Therefore we recommend to download some South Korea friendly map apps that work well.  The first is KakaoMap and the second is Naver Map. Both KakaoMap and Naver Map provide reliable navigation around South Korea. They both offer walking and driving directions, as well as public transportation options.  We used Never Map and liked it.

Hidden Grocery Stores

We couldn’t find any grocery stores in Seoul! However there were plenty of 7-11s, and other mini mart type of shops.  In addition, if you can find them, supermarkets don’t operate in South Korea every second and fourth Sunday of each month.

Photo Booth Craze

Photo Booths are a craze in Seoul.  There are countless Photo Booth shops in Seoul.  The most famous one is called Photomatic.  As a matter of fact almost every K-Pop idol has frequented this place and ultimately posted the pics on their Instagram.  

Buddhist Temple 12 Interesting Facts about Seoul

Vegans Beware!

Vegans beware and plan ahead!  First, there are wonderful vegan restaurants in Seoul.  Yet, they are concentrated in a few locations.  And we were rarely in the right location at the right time.  Secomd, many of the vegan restaurants closed due to the pandemic.  Third, information online was not always correct.  Fourth, and this applies to all types of restaurants, many close between 2 pm and 5 pm.  Indeed, depending on your hunger level this could be one of the 12 interesting facts about Seoul or the scary one!  
Here were some of our favorites: 
1. Plant Cafe in Itaewon – try the Mushroom Burger
2. Vegetus in Haebangchon neighborhood (near Itaewon) – we LOVED the brownie and got 2 more to take with us.
3. Osegye Hyang in Insadong has traditional Korean food – we enjoyed the dumplings not once but twice!

X Sign

Koreans use their fingers or arms to say no, or that something is not available.  They literally make an X with their fingers.  And if they really want to make their point, they make the X with their arms.  In addition, there are other unique hand gestures that Koreans use.

Seoul Metro is Huge!

The Seoul Metropolitan Metro has over 975 km of tracks making it the longest in the world.  It is also the busies subway as it serves over 2.5 billion people per year.  As a matter of fact, it’s number of stations are only second to New York City.  In addition there is free Wi-Fi on the subway and it is relatively inexpensive.

Cosmetic Surgery Capital of the World

Seoul currently performs 24% of all cosmetic surgeries in the world.  There is a real focus on fashion, beauty and cosmetics here.  Men can often be seen wearing makeup.  Thus depending on how the surgery is performed this can be one of the 12 interesting facts about Seoul.  Or perhaps you can end up looking like this.

12 Interesting Facts about Seoul

Free Admission to 5 Palaces

The cost to enter the 5 beautiful palaces of Seoul is quite low (just a few dollars per).  However, if you rent a traditional costume from the Joseon dynasty period- the Hanbok – your entry fee is waived.  Here is a guide on renting a Hanbok.  I was quoted $20 for 2 hours.  Now imagine how much fun it would be to be a princess or a prince for just a few hours?!

Dogs - where is Man's Best Friend?

We only saw 2 dogs (small) in Seoul during our whole time here!  Unfortunately South Korea is one of the few Asian countries left that still legally consumes dog meat.  Currently the government is considering  banning the practice.  Yet, the deliberations have been stalled as only 60% of the country wants to ban the practice.  In Asia 30 million dogs are either electrocuted or hanged each year so that humans can consume their meat.  Hopefully this will change soon.  In summary, this is definitely not one of the 12 interesting facts about Seoul and is one that is scary and should be shameful for the country as a whole.

English Spoken by Few

English is rarely spoken in Seoul.  We heard this from others prior to getting here, but honestly did not believe it.  Yet, we found ourselves taking out Google Translate at almost every interaction.

Moxy 12 Interesting Facts about Seoul
Rob having a drink with the Bear in a Rooftop Bar

Wrap Up

Seoul is known for some incredibly progressive and exciting achievements.  It is a gorgeous city.  Yet, the situation with the dog meat trade will always horrify and haunt us.  Our hope is that this barbaric practice is eradicated immediately! 

Lastly, we were in Seoul during the tragic event of the Halloween Crush.  156 people shockingly lost their lives.  As a result, a piece of our hearts will always remain with Seoul.

Can you add to our 12 interesting facts about Seoul?  Have been or want to go?  We would love to hear from you!

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