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"No foreign languages please- This is Korea!" Language Barrier Tip by vikingpua

Language Barrier, Seoul: 8 reviews and 4 photos

No seriously.... the Koreans have only started interacting with foreigners (with the exception of the US armed forces) since the late 80's and English has only been mandatory in schools for about 10 years. Unlike it's South East Asian neighbours Korea has had a history of isolationism so do not expect anyone outside the young middle-classes to speak any English.

Even the trendy youngsters for whom English is seen as a fashion thing (rather than an actual language used amongst groups of mixed nationalities all over the world) you will discover that they may be able to read and write English but cannot speak or understand anything you say.

Bizarre pronunciations such as "Pischa Hottu" (Pizza Hut) and Englishii (English) abound and although you may see English used on shop fronts and in commercials it tends only to be one or two words used for effect rather than for practical purposes. (i.e Actually using the language).

Don't be surprised if you go to even upmarket restaurants and shops in the trendier uptown areas such as Gangnam and no one can speak a word of English or any other foreign language.

Also, do not be at all surprised if you are expected to be able to speak Korean even though you are obviously a tourist. This is Korea...... they are simply not used to outsiders and many Koreans mistakenly believe that Korean is widely spoken outside their borders as a "business language".

It can be a great adventure but don't expect it to be anything like South Asia who are much more used to dealing with international visitors and ex-pats communities.

Good luck.

Address: Seoul

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written May 1, 2007
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