Take the Best, Leave the Rest

Living in Korea is truly a unique experience. The mix of capitalism, conservative values, and highly developed infrastructure make Korea stand out in many aspects, for better and worse compared to Germany.

In Korea, work and school is more important than health and family. Being rich trumps everything, and higher taxes for the ultrarich are unthinkable, because you could one day be it yourself. Public transportation is world class but still clogged up during rush hour, and while most people still own a car, traffic jams seem to be the norm everywhere in Seoul except from 10PM to 5AM. Anti-feminist movements are common among young males; them wanting not a woman, but an obedient slave. Housing is an investment bubble, with buildings being build as cheap and with the lowest standards possible. Pet dogs and cats have their own Instagram page and are being treated better than children, while ethical standards for domestic animals are completely missing.

While Korea technologically surpasses Germany and most other countries around the world, its society with its conservative values is still stuck in the 1970s.

I can download and print official government documents at home by myself, pay everywhere by card or phone and can make appointments for everything online. If I want a haircut I can check the saloon, their rating, rates, their staff and how each of them cuts on their Instagram page, and make appointments for the hair dresser I like the most. But when I am in the saloon, I get asked if I approve of my wife getting a short haircut.

In Germany it can take weeks to get government documents, I can rarely check anything online, most appointment are made with a phone call, and people still prefer cash, but at least I don’t get a weird 70s sexism vibe from anyone.

For most of the older generations in Korea, the man is the head of the family, the woman the mother and housewife. If they want to live in such a constellation, so be it, as long as they don’t tell their kids and everyone else that it is the correct and only way to live. But this conservatism also ties into the country being strongly religious. Again, nothing wrong with being religious, but it makes one better understand why the culture and the society are so deeply conservative, even among the young generation.

But influences from the rest of the world brings forth the advantages and disadvantages of Koreas society to the youngest generation, just as it is for me coming from Germany to Korea. I get a better understanding of how each country is fucked up in their own way. I will praise and implement the good, and try to fix the rest.

Besides printing government documents at home and making my haircut appointment online, one amazing thing I learned about is ZeroPay; a government payment system that in contrast to card providers charges no fees for stores who use it.

Not only is that amazing for smaller stores, not having a few percent cut from their sale by card companies, but it also incentivizes the card companies to compete, have promotions and cashbacks for people to keep using their cards. A concept I would love to see everywhere else around the world.