If the Spice in Korea Doesn’t Kill You, These Five Things Will

I’ll invite you to my funeral. I promise.

Life in Korea is just one long episode of Wipeout and your obituary is more likely to say “death by sidewalk”.

Don’t get me wrong, generally Korea is one of the safest places I’ve ever been to. There are no muggings, murderers or banana slip-ups on the road.

There are, however, a few small things that you wouldn’t think of that can send you to your grave real quick.

So, listen closely little ones. That way, you can enjoy everything Korea has to offer without taking a detour on the Highway to Hell.


1. They’re not cars. They’re fire-breathing dragons on wheels.

Instead of screaming “Off with her head!”, the Queen of Hearts should’ve just dropped everyone into the middle of Korean traffic and saved her vocal cords. I mean have you seen the way they drive?!

Well you probably haven’t if you’ve never been here but cars are just zooming down six lane roads and swerving through traffic like it’s a game of GTA: Live.

You can’t even depend on pedestrian crossings when it comes with a “Use at your own discretion” disclaimer. Two-wheelers, cars, and the Dothraki just barreling down the street in any direction you can think of – up, down, sideways.

You name it.

You really need 10,000 eyes and the skills of Neo to make it across the street in one piece. On the positive side, everyone is on time.

Except the pedestrians of course.


2. It’s not grocery shopping when you’re part of a human stampede.

Home Plus (in Korean 홈플러스, which is just Home Plus with a Korean accent) at 6pm on any day but especially on a Sunday.

What more is there to say?

It’s like a horde of cavemen discovered the last remaining food reservoir and sent a mass Facebook invite for a Pillage-fest. The Discovery Channel would get a real kick out of this, I swear.

Really though, going to any market on a Sunday is a one-way ticket to “death by shopping cart”.

The place is just filled with a bazillion and one people. You can’t even navigate the wine aisle without being trampled over by frantic families and rampant children.

The only way to brave the masses is by gearing up with some weapons of mass destruction. 35000 Moltov cocktails, bazooka guns, toenail clippings, and stale curry all bundled up in a nice care package.


3. Introducing AlienEating’s Newest Merch: Perfume a la Asphyxiation.

It’s not Korea if you aren’t drooling over the scrumptious, mouth-watering, Michelin-star worthy sewer aroma. By that I mean, you’ll need a gas mask because the sewage smells could rival the fatality rate of mustard gas.

Imagine this.

Walking along the street enjoying the sun and all of a sudden being smacked in the face with an ungodly smell that has you retching and gagging. Put all of the world’s worst odours into one big crock-pot and slow-cook it for 10 hours: sour milk, kid farts, and all the boys locker rooms in the world to make one big Stench Stew.

Try it sometime. There’s really nothing like walking through a perfume factory prepping for a Korea-wide distribution of mass produced sewage smells.

Trash in Korea
Don’t be fooled. This isn’t unique.


4. Simply getting from Point A to Point B.

Walking down the street is like being set free in a wild jungle with all the dangers of disarming a bomb:

  • A McDonald’s delivery scooter speeding towards you at a whopping 90 miles an hour.
  • A hulking cement truck honking at you from behind like it’s the last Honk in Honk-istory
  • Oh, and both those drivers have cataracts.
  • A fruit truck swerving its way around the cement truck while blaring out pear prices.
  • Old people viciously shoving past and tossing you into the oncoming car stampede.
  • Trash shrapnel littered everywhere since a landfill grenade just went off
  • Also, a perilous obstacle course of 10 foot deep potholes, stray cats, and immortal seniors.
  • The road is 5 foot wide. It’s also a  two-way.
  • Cars, strollers, ATVs, wagons, trick scooters and any other mode of transportation is parked on both sides of a street the size of a Steak ‘n Shake fry.

And you’ve just stepped out of your house to go get some bread, bleach, and body bags from the local mart.


5. It’s like opening up a sardine can. But of people.

Getting off the bus in Korea, especially during rush hour, is an adventure that everyone should not experience.

Picture this.

You’re an animal herded into a little vehicle and Perfume a la Asphyxiation is being circulated through the vents. Everyone is pressed against one another. The windows are sealed shut. It’s a hot, steamy, rancid bus-coaster of potholes and turns with a dash of a Speedy Gonzales driver.

There’s no escape.

Until you finally get to your stop and everyone topples out like potatoes rolling out of a bag in the trunk of your car.

Congrats, you made it out of the jungle. Until your shift is over and you have to ride the bus home.

What it feels like on the bus in Korea


There you have it. If you’re looking for a reason to come to Korea what more could you need? Good eats and even better ways to bite the dust. Like I said, Korea is actually one of the safest places to live in.

I’ve lost my wallet three times and got it back all three times. Bank cards and ID included. One time, it was even delivered straight to my house in a different city.

It is important to remember though that living here just needs a little bit more common sense than your Average Joe.

  • Check the road multiple times so that you don’t end up in the hospital with all 206 bones broken.
  • Get a T-Money or CashBee bus card. It’s quick, convenient, and easy since it can be recharged at any convenience store or ticket machine (if available). It’ll also save a few extra seconds on the bus to snag that seat.
  • Take the bus before or after rush hour. Obviously.
  • Try to take a bus that comes less often. These are usually less crowded and you even get to sit. What a concept!
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look up and check behind you occasionally to make sure there’s nothing flying towards you at light speed.
  • Head over to your local grocery store at around 9 or 10 at night. If you’re going to a market, go before 6pm. It’s the only way to avoid being crushed by carts, people, and galloping babies.
  • Make a shopping list. This way you won’t be standing in the middle of the pasta aisle with fifty people shoving you to snatch that 1 kg of $3 spaghetti.


What dangerous things do you experience in your city on a daily basis? Any thing that can beat Hunger Games: Korean edition? Let me know in the comments or email me at alieneatingblog@gmail.com!

If the Spice in Korea Doesn’t Kill You, These Five Things Will


  • Sandi Gibbs

    Prachi, thank you for the entertaining blog on helpful things to avoid. I wish I would have known your tips when I visited last year.
    Your humor and truthful stories of your daily life in S. Korea are invaluable and fun to read.

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