Tax Refund: Major department stores (ex: Lotte, Home-Plus, E-Mart etc.) and outlets have stores that honor tax-free claim so that you can get a refund of tax of products you’ve purchased. At the department stores: At the end of shopping for the day, collect all the receipts and take them to the service desk (total amount spent must be 30,000 Won or more); you’ll need to provide the passport information. At the outlets such as NC Cube Walk, Hyundai Premium Outlets or Triple Street, each individual store that provides the service will give you the stamped receipt; the tax-free claim stores have the sign posted at the entry of store; the passport information is required.
IMPORTANT: The tax refund is valid for ONLY of purchases made three-month prior to the departure from South Korea.
You’ll find this sign on the entry doors of individual store, department or outlet store that honor the tax refund.
At the terminal #1 and 2 of Incheon International Airport, visit the tax-claim kiosk prior to entering the security check-in. Have your passport ready; an assistant will help you get your refund.
Pets: Koreans enjoy raising dogs, cats, fish and birds; miniature dogs are very popular; do not approach or attempt to pat the dog without the owner’s permission, whether they are on leash or not; they are not very friendly as they don’t have much socialization with other pets; although pet-parks are being intoduced, be advised to enjoy them visually only. If you are traveling with your pet, there are few pet clinics available in downtown of Songdo.
Kona and Ken: Ken gave permission to post his pic with Kona, who obviously enjoys the ride on Ken’s back.
2018 Pet Show in ConventiA Songdo:
Art in Songdo: You don’t have to go to an art museum to see art; there are sculptures everywhere! I delight in every art form I find on my daily walk around Songdo and I know I haven’t seen all of them yet.
Free Bike Rental: At the G-Tower (IFEZ Building), you can rent a bike for free; visit the Public Service Center by the post office on the main floor; anyone can rent a bike for the day; you need to leave a resident card or passport and must have a reachable contact number. Seasonal: 032-453-7887. Open: 9am-5pm Mon-Fri; closed on weekends and holidays.
Banks and Money: There are exchange booths and banks at the airport; I would suggest exchanging only small amount of money if you feel you need it right away. You get the best rate at local banks. Most banks open at 8:30am and close at 4pm Monday-Friday; closed on weekends and holidays.
Cash exchange rate: The official Korean currency is ₩ (Won).
For ease of calculation, let’s average 1,000 ₩ per $1.00
1,000 ₩ = $1 10,000 ₩ = $10 100,000 ₩ = $100 1,000,000 ₩ = $1,000
Shinhan Bank: Gives the best exchange rate per dollar.
KEB/Hana Bank: I established a long-term banking (at least 6 months); with good rating and approval, I was able to get a cash-back credit card.
Seasons: South Korea has distinct four seasons.
Spring: March-May; nationwide, viewing of cherry blossoms is much anticipated highlight of spring.
Summer: June-August; hot and humid; heavy rain pours in late June and late July; Korean women avoid sun exposure, utlizing parasols—a secret to smooth, wrinkle-free skin of Korean women?
Autumn: September-November; temperature clearly decreases, cooling off humidity and heat; deciduous trees transform leaves into magnificent colors, blanketing the city to most picturesque season.
Winter: December-February; Songdo can be bitterly cold with biting wind; restaurants and stores can be quite warm, so be prepared with layered clothing.
Weather: T(F) = T(C) x 1.8 +32
The city of Songdo is 2-3 degrees cooler than the neighboring Incheon due to the cooling effect of Yellow Sea; in winter, Songdo is well known for its extremely gusty and bitterly cold wind.
Smog: At times, fog-like smog drifts into the city of Songdo from China; you’ll see many residents wearing a mask to cover the mouth and nose; a mask is recommended for anyone with low immune system; download a free smog-level watch app on your cell phone so that you can check the smog level daily or hourly; if there’s a warning of high smog level, avoid outdoor walking/running on that day.
Postal service: I’m glad I live so close to the G-Tower, since it has a large post office that has almost everything I need to send a package or a letter; you’ll find all mailing supplies at the post office; you can purchase the envelopes/boxes of all sizes; the tapes/scissors/cutters are all available for use freely; make sure you take a number to get serviced, no matter how small or quick your business may be. Open Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm. Closed on weekends and holidays.
- Kakao Talk: Free chat/texting with WiFi
- Naver and Daum: Web search portals in South Korea
- Air Checker: Check on air quality index (watching level of smog)
Etiquettes in S. Korea:
- NO tipping! The hassle-free no-tipping, whether in taxis or restaurants, rids you of calculating tips; it also helps all patrons to be treated equally.
- I found out that asking a high school student in junior/senior year, where he/she intends to apply for university or asking what the future plan is extremely impolite and inappropriate; it’s due to the culture of the severe judgement of how successfully he/she had studied by the level of universities/colleges accepted.
- Warning for women: S. Korean women dress themselves modestly; dress yourself comfortably, but be aware of few stares you may get if you show too much of cleavage; young females wearing short mini skirts or shorts is acceptable but bearing their shoulders/cleavage is frowned upon.
- The loud throat clearing/burping can be heard in all public areas; regardless whether it’s from a man or woman/young or old, it’s tolerated; I can never get used to it; I also avoid the subway rides during the after-dinner hour to avoid hearing generally accepted public burping.
- Take a packet of Kleenex/tissues and hand-sanitizer wherever you go, just in case there’s none available in public restrooms; although the public restrooms have evolved greatly and there are clean restrooms available everywhere you go, it’s best to be prepared; in some public restrooms, toilet paper dispenser is located at the entry of restroom, not in the stall; sometimes, you’ll find a bar of soap on a stick by the faucet; I found it odd and uneasy to use; but if there’s nothing available, it’s better than nothing. Right?
- Don’t be offended if someone bumps into you and he/she does not excuse him/herself; the personal space is very narrow amongst Koreans; you can excuse yourself but don’t expect a response back.
- If you happen to find someone who speaks English (most young adults can help you with limited conversational English) and obtain help, compliment him/her on his/her English speaking skill; you may have just made his/her day.
- Be a defensive pedestrian and biker; ALWAYS abide by the traffic light; jay-walking is frowned upon, since in general, the S. Koreans abide by the crosswalk/traffic light signals. Warning for the bikers: Pedestrians share the bike paths with the bikers, so make full use of your bike bells and be ready to skid-stop if the person doesn’t move aside; sometimes the pedestrian freezes up so that the biker can weave around him/her; I’ve fallen off my bike many times, trying to avoid a collision with a moped, walker and delivery motorcycles; a biker has no right of way on bike path; yes, I found this to be very odd; proper procedure to cross the road for the bikers is to get off the bike and walk the bike across.