For this installment of "Random Things"...
1) Police Cars: I've mentioned before that driving here is crazy, but there is one thing in particular that I am sure is going to get me into trouble back in the states at some point. The police cars here always have their lights on - always. You know to pull over only if they use their siren on you. So let's hope I adapt quickly to driving nicely when we move back, so I don't accidentally ignore any flashing lights in the rearview mirror!
2) Korean money: The Korean currency is called "won" and comes in varying denominations:
-coins are 10, 50, 100, or 500 won
-bills are 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, or 50,000 won
The conversion rate is roughly $1 USD to 1,000 KRW (the rate fluctuates each day, which sometimes triggers a mad scramble for the exchange shops when rent is due here).
Something to keep in mind: always hand over your money with two hands, or with the left hand on your right elbow - a sign of respect and a common custom here.
Want to know whose faces are on the Korean won? Seoulistic.com had a great post about it HERE.
3) Other Korean Customs: I'm reading a book right now titled "This is Korea", which I picked up at the National Museum of Korea. It has great information about Korea in general and various Korean customs.
I have already mentioned handing over items, such as money, but there are some other Korean customs to be aware of if you travel to or live in Korea.
Bowing - instead of a handshake, we bow, The deeper the bow, the more respect. I bow a lot...I'll probably be bowing for some time to come...
The "come here" gesture: in the US, we usually use our hand with palm facing up and flicking the fingers to say "come here". In Korea, the palm is facing down; the gesture with palms facing up is for dogs (or those you consider as such...)
Writing in red ink - This is a big NO-NO when writing or signing someone's name, as it means they are dead. (Something I wish I'd known before signing the cell phone contract on our first day here...but I'm still kicking around, so I guess I'm okay.)
Knives as gifts - another no-no, as this signifies cutting off the relationship. I guess you could give them if you were saying, "See ya!"
4) Poverty: I've posted about a lot of amazing and wonderful things here in Korea (and there are many!), but there are some "not so good" things, as well, just in case you were wondering - such as poverty. Each day we see many Koreans with large carts and trailers piled high with cardboard, plastics, metal scraps, etc. They haul these tottering piles of recycling around the city by hand, many of them elderly and bent under their burden, and then turn them in at recycling centers for the cash exchange. This is how they make their living, as they cannot find employment elsewhere.
5) It's fall here in Korea - which is the time of less humidity and MANY festivals. We will be attending a few (ie. as many as we can get to) and I'll be sure to post some blog write-ups about them.
In the meantime, the Korea Tourism site has a great list to consult: Festivals