Friday, March 20, 2015

Korean Subway Etiquette

There is something so different about Korean culture than American, specifically D.C. culture. In a D.C. metro, there are often "rules" like no eating or drinking which are never followed and it is a dark, smelly and in general not a fun place to be. The stations are large and also dirty, and I often don't feel safe at several stops/lines. People are loud and often appear angry. Oh, and there is no wifi.

In Korea though, the subways are bright and clean (despite the lack of garbage cans in city and the stations) and the stations are well lit. There are plenty of handrails, plenty of places to both sit and stand, and signs and maps everywhere to help you get where you need to go. Sarah Kim told me something I did not know, but found very interesting and efficient: the different lines of the Korean subway are owned by companies, rather than the cities. There are screens, commercials and brightly colored advertisements all through the stations. Oh, and there is in fact wifi, even underground.

There is, what to me seemed unspoken rules, although this could be because it was my first experience, to riding the Subway. People often ride alone it appears, sitting or standing quietly, and staying glued to their phones or other devices. When people do talk, often groups of students it seems, they don't talk loudly and keep to themselves. We being the American tourists we were could not help but speak at our normal tones, but it often got us looks of interest and sometimes disdain. But it was great seeing how the historical cultural customs still come to play in something as modern as the subway. Young people automatically move from a seated position when an elder gets on, and at one occasion I saw a group of women arguing over who got to sit down, not fighting for their own right but telling someone who couldn't have been more than a year or two older (all probably in their 70's) to please sit down. Everyone continued to be very polite and respectful, even when rushing to get on and off. It amazes me how there appears to be an unspoken order and etiquette in the subway and how everyone seems to follow it flawlessly, other than us of course.

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