The Kimchi-ite: 10 More Differences Between South Korea And The Rest Of The World

In the U.S., there is the art of tipping. In Finland, there is no such thing as college tuition; it’s almost completely subsidized by tax Euros. And in Ethiopia, food is eaten only with the bare right hand. Given South Korea‘s unique history and culture within Asia, there is no shortage of comparisons that can be made between it and the rest of the world. Even though I already reported on “10 Differences Between South Korea And The Rest Of The World,” more and more unique cultural curiosities are revealed to me everyday – things I couldn’t have possibly conceived of back in Florida.

1. Fan Death
Possibly the most internationally notorious Korean cultural quirk is the belief that if you fall asleep in a closed room with a fan on you will die. Theories include the fans causing hypothermia or even that the fan is removing all the oxygen from the room. Today, the myth is largely dying out with the new generation, none of my Korean friends believe it whatsoever, but they mention that they heard about it all the time when they were younger.

2. Koreans work more
On average, Koreans work 2,057 hours per year, 14% more than Americans, who on average work 1,797 hours per year. That’s an additional six workweeks per year. But that doesn’t really show the whole story and is probably only the officially reported and paid hours. It isn’t entirely uncommon for people to work 6 days a week, clocking in over 10 hours each day for a typical office job, with little or no overtime pay.3. Conscription
All South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to serve in the military for between 21 and 24 months. This two-year commitment is a matter of much pride, controversy and angst amongst Korean men.

4. Don’t whistle after dark
Whistling at night is considered bad luck; it’s thought that it will beckon snakes and spirits.

5. Free and amazing delivery
Delivery is gold is Seoul. You can order virtually anything, at anytime, anywhere you are. Usually there are no delivery fees and you will often get full-blown, non-disposable plates and metal utensils. All you have to do, is leave it all out front of your apartment and the delivery guy will come by and pick it up later. Many restaurants that are not known for delivering in the U.S. have fleets of delivery scooters in Seoul – even McDonald’s.

6. Please eat. Don’t let it get cold
If you eat dinner at a restaurant with others, you will almost definitely not receive your food at the same time as each other. Your food just comes as it is finished in the kitchen.

7. No falling or springing
When my Facebook feed was recently flooded with status updates from my American friends groaning over an hour of lost sleep due to daylight savings time, I just laughed and savored the fact that my sleep schedule was not affected. Like most of the rest of the Eastern world, Korea does not observe daylight savings time. I personally love it. It allows me to get a better feel on the passage of time over each year.

8. Rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Within Korean cuisine, there is no such thing as breakfast food or even specific lunch or dinner food. Most meals can be had during any time of the day, and all meals are accompanied by a helping of kimchi. McDonald’s does serve a typical Western breakfast menu, but the Korean restaurant next door does not.

9. No waiting on hold
Customer service is seen as essential, and business hotline wait times are kept to an extreme minimum, with people getting angry if they are left on hold for more than three or four minutes. When I tell people that it isn’t uncommon in the States for you to be on hold for an hour or more when calling the cable company on the weekend, they simply cannot believe it. One Korean friend who used to live in New York City once called the Metro Transit Authority and hung up after being on hold for 20 minutes, thinking that it was impossible to be left unattended to for so long and so her phone must be broken.

10. Limited travel patience
Earlier today, my Korean girlfriend asked me how far Disney World is from where I grew up in Miami. I replied, “Oh, not that far … less than a four-hour drive.” She simply could not believe that I would call four hours away “not that far.” South Korea is a relatively small country, about the size of Indiana. Driving from one extreme end of the country to the other takes five hours. Even then, there’s still the option of high-speed rail, which will cut down your travel time to just three hours.

Be sure to check out the first list of Korean eccentricities here. As always, you can find more on Korean culture, food and eccentricities from previous Kimchi-ite posts here.

[Photo credit: Jonathan Kramer]

8 Strategies For Avoiding The Spring Break Crowds

For the college crowd, spring break typically means one thing: raging parties. For everyone else, however, spring break brings on more of a raging headache.

Those traveling at the same time as the party crowd are faced with a number of dramas, ranging from laying wide awake at night listening to thumping music piercing the paper-thin walls of their hotel room, to having to explain to their seven-year-old why those scantily-clad college kids are puking on the sidewalk. Put up with it long enough and spring break has the ability to break down even the most tolerant traveler.

Is there any hope of avoiding the chaos? Thankfully, the answer is yes – I’ve certainly done it and lived to tell the tale. So, whether you forgot to check the school calendar when making your travel plans or you simply want to take a relaxing family vacation while the little ones are off from school, the good news is there are lots of steps you can take to avoid running into the spring breakers.1. Head to a city. If you still have some flexibility in your travel plans, then pick a destination that’ll allow you to avoid the partygoers. The majority of spring breakers are fleeing the metropolises and heading to sunny, sandy spots, which means now is a great time to visit a city.

2. Steer clear of party beaches. If you’re headed to a seaside destination, beware that certain beaches will be packed with partygoers and plan your stay accordingly. For example, if you go to Miami, you’ll want to avoid South Beach or Miami Beach and pick a quieter spot like Key Biscayne or Mid Beach to base yourself in instead.

3. Choose your hotel wisely. Even if you’re headed to a destination known for attracting spring breakers, you can often avoid the revelry as long as you keep away from party hotels – venues full of college kids there to enjoy the pool parties, live entertainment, and music around the clock. You can figure out which hotels are geared specifically to the party crowd by hunting down the spring break website for that destination. For example, you can see which hotels are set up for the event in Cancun here, and at Daytona Beach here.

4. Arm yourself with noise-canceling devices. No matter how well you research your hotel, you might not be able to prevent a group of noisy merry-makers from setting up camp in the room above you. So to be on the safe side, bring along some earplugs and even a white noise machine to muffle any sound. If you’re a business traveler or need to get work done while you’re in your hotel, noise-canceling headphones can be a lifesaver. It’s also worth asking the hotel to put you in a quiet corner of the hotel, far from any college kids, when checking in.

5. Wake up early. If you want to sightsee and enjoy the destination in peace, get up before the spring break crowd. Most of the partiers stay up late and sleep in the next morning nursing their hangovers, so by getting up earlier you can beat the crowds. Morning is also a good time to enjoy the popular party beaches before the crowds, kegs and DJs invade later in the day.

6. Do activities spring breakers tend to avoid. While many attractions will appeal to spring breakers and ordinary travelers alike, there are still plenty of things you can do where you won’t find a partier for miles. Examples include enjoying a round of golf, a quiet afternoon of fishing, or a private boat ride.

7. Head to the quieter watering holes. The party crowd will be busy hitting up nightclubs and bars offering kegs of beer and mixed drinks by the yard glass, so if you’re looking to sip a quiet drink or two, steer clear of these venues. A much better option is to head to wine bars, intimate cocktail lounges, vineyards and bars attached to restaurants. If you really want to go to one of the popular clubs or bars in town, check their event schedule and those of nearby venues. Depending on where the spring break action is on a given night, some venues can be pulsating and others can become ghost towns – which might be exactly what you’re looking for.

8. Research where the locals hang out. Particularly when it comes to the international destinations, many cities have a main tourist drag that’s lined with resorts and entertainment geared towards travelers (and in the case of spring break, the partiers) and a separate part of the city where the locals tend to congregate. I once visited Cancun, Mexico, during spring break (but not actually for spring break) and was able to avoid the party crowd by spending time at the beaches frequented by the locals and the downtown plazas few tourists ventured into. As an added bonus, these areas had a more authentic vibe, and the food, drinks and accommodation were significantly cheaper.

Have you traveled during spring break? Were you able to escape the party crowds?

[Photo credit: Flickr user BluEyedA73; martinvarsavsky; Fevi Yu; alexbrn]

The SXSW Of Cruise Travel Starts Monday

cruise travel

Considered by many as the SXSW of cruise travel, Cruise Shipping Miami is an annual mega-convention that starts Monday in Miami, Florida. On hand will be cruise line executives and travel experts participating in panel discussions, workshops and more during the four-day event, on track to draw record attendance this year.

The four-day trade show highlights all the latest and greatest would-be cruise ship features that we might see in the future. Press conferences, including a “State of the Industry” panel, will surely address the ongoing issue of safety at sea as well as new, upcoming trends.

As cruise lines focus on differentiating themselves from one another, seminars on everything from expedition cruising to social media, environmental issues and refurbishing older ships. Gadling will be on hand, looking for answers to questions readers have raised since last year’s show.At the 2011 Cruise Shipping Miami conference, we investigated new things you might see on a cruise ship in the future, some of which made it – others not so much. Last year we saw a focus on new ports, top-deck features and safety issues in the wake of the Costa Concordia grounding. Gadling will be on hand this year as well, reporting back with a roundup of the conference and answers to your questions.

Have something you’re dying to know about cruise travel? Now is the time to ask with a comment below. Follow @CruiseShipping and the hashtag #CSM2013 on Twitter for live updates throughout the event.

Cruise Shipping Miami also features exhibits and demonstrations from destinations around the world. At last year’s show, Japanese Taiko Drumming was one such event as we see in this video.




[Photo credit – Flickr user Trondheim Havn]

Stricken Cruise Ship Passengers Make Most Of Bad Situation

cruise shipLife on board stricken cruise ship Carnival Triumph is far from the travel brochure promise of sandy beaches and warm Caribbean nights. As the ship is being towed to shore after an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, passengers have had quite a different experience than what they bargained for. Still, experienced travelers know that not everything goes as planned and making the best of a bad situation often depends on how we choose to react when bad things happen along the way.

“I do want to commend our guests on board the Carnival Triumph … for doing a great job dealing with a difficult situation. I happen to believe that is the nature of the Carnival guests who happen to be very optimistic people (who) enjoy life,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill at a press conference held Tuesday night at Carnival’s Miami headquarters.

Operating with limited services (although the bars are open and drinks are free), 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday. Once there, the ship’s passengers will be disembarked quickly, given hot food and a night in one of 1,500 hotel rooms being held by the cruise line. That will no doubt be a welcome change to cold sandwiches and showers along with hot, unventilated cabins.

While reports from passengers on board via Twitter and Facebook vary from describing the situation as a “cruise from hell” to a more positive “we’ll sure remember this one,” odds are everyone will be happy when the sailing is over.”Generally speaking, the mood on board is good under the circumstances and most guests are making the most of it,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Travel Pulse.

On Friday, 20 charter flights will take passengers back to Houston where arrangements have been made to get them back home. Those on the ship right now will receive a full refund of what they paid for the cruise along with any non-refundable travel services and a complimentary cruise in the future.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident.

Here is that press conference from Carnival’s Miami headquarters last night.



[Photo Credit- U.S. Coast Guard]

American Airlines’ New Look Just One Part Of Master Plan

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines is still sorting out options for how it will operate, if a merger makes sense and other restructuring-related issues in a tentative financial future. But when it comes to what they do in the air, the course has been charted and is well underway.

American’s current fleet numbers almost 900 aircraft. As part of a 2011 order for an additional 550 new aircraft, 60 will go into service this year, positioning American Airlines to be one of the most modern fleets in the air.

“Since placing our landmark aircraft order in July of 2011, we’ve been building anticipation toward a moment in time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we’ve made to modernize our airline on the inside,” said Tom Horton, American’s Chairman and CEO in a press release.

American Airlines unveiled a new logo and exterior for its planes recently, including the already delivered Flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft set to fly on Jan. 31.

“You’ve been hearing a lot about how the modern travel experience is going to feel, ” says American Airlines President and CEO Tom Horton in this new video, “and today we’re going to show you how it’s going to look.”




What else is new for American Airlines?

Expanded International Service to more destinations worldwide, including more international and domestic routes from Dallas/Fort Worth, more European and domestic service from Chicago O’Hare, new service to Europe from New York, and new service from Miami to Latin America and the Caribbean.

An Airport Technology Update for flight attendants, pilots and maintenance workers brings real-time tablet devices to increase efficiency. Next year, passengers too will see the result of increased technology that promises to make the travel experience more enjoyable.

On-board Enhancements in premium class cabins on international routes with new china, menu choices, and restaurant-style, personalized service. Increased availability of Samsung Galaxy tablets for entertainment use in the premium cabins is coming too.

[Photo Credit- American Airlines]