Friday, March 26, 2010

Tourist Troubles in Korea?

The Korea Herald published an article called "Tourists Irked by Shopping, Taxis." Basically, it followed the complaints of Japanese and Chinese tourists, that they feel they are getting ripped off by taxis and have had a few issues with customer service and shopping.  It was interesting to note that "Complaints from Westerners aren't as numerous."  I wonder if it's because of the style of guide books. American guide books tend to offer cultural tips on the differences that people should be prepared to encounter as well as comprehensive instructions on how to use the public transportation.

My personal experience with taxis is that even when they do drive you in a circle or two, they never manage to add more than a thousand won or two to the fare (a bit under 1-2 USD). I have had taxi drivers patiently try to understand my atrocious accent for 5 minutes before starting the meter, look up things on their GPS, struggle to read my handwritten Korean address and be really sweet about it. When I first got to Korea, I attempted the public transit as much as possible, only giving in and getting in a taxi when I got hopelessly lost or had to be somewhere really quickly.  I've only had 1 bad experience my entire time in Korea...the rest of the time they are much more likely to ask me where I'm from, how I like Korea, or if there English is really good (or they overestimate my Korean abilities) tell me about their available son who I should meet.

Yes, drivers hit the roads like maniacs and don't always have working seat belts but for the most part, I love taking cabs here.

Shopping. Shopping in every country is a vastly different and often overwhelming experience. I have been known to get anxiety bouts while over eager shop keepers barrage me with products. It's all part of the experience. Traveling is suppose to push your comfort zones...when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And in Korea, that means just going with the flow. Don't expect poor shop clerks to speak 5 languages---if they did they might have a better job. Try to learn a few phrases in the local language, even if it's just hello, thank you and 'sorry I don't speak ____.'


Kyle Crum said...

Everything should be done exactly how it is done in America because that's where I'm from and it is the best country in the world. Fuck yea!

Nancy K said...

Go with the flow is my mantra when traveling. You are not in America and it's not like home. If it were expecting it to be the same, why did you leave home?

Brian said...

I'll probably mention this in a couple days and throw a link this way. I chuckled at the Yonsama socks, but it's insane, Japanese people do love him (my fiancee's Japanese, and when her mother visited Korea they went up to see the drama set in Chuncheon).

It's interesting walking around with her, especially in Busan, across the water from Japan, where many shopkeepers speak Japanese. They're a lot friendlier to her than to me. Not that people are rude to me, usually, but when I walk by people either ignore me or they shout "Hey" or "you" or "whassup" to my white face, but they're considerably more polite and more talkative to her. Maybe because they know Japanese people have money when they come to Korea.

Since I'm here I'll add that I've never had a problem with taxi drivers in Korea, I consider them on the whole very friendly, and I'm impressed that most of them drive new cars with fancy stuff inside. Last time I took a cab in the US was in Philadelphia. It was a beat up p.o.s. with the radio held on with packing tape, ripped up seats, and the obligatory piece of glass between us and the driver. And, he expected a tip when he was done doing his job. Korean cab drivers get no complaints from me.

Alex said...

Agreed @Nancy and Brian.

Korean ideas on customer service are certainly different than other countries but they do a very good job, especially with things like taxis. To be perfectly honest, sometimes the taxi drivers in the US speak less English than the guys here...

snowmon said...

"To be perfectly honest, sometimes the taxi drivers in the US speak less English than the guys here..."

lol that made me laugh because it's true xD I know this because I play club soccer with bunch of Afghanistans and they're mostly cab drivers(of course I'm not saying all cab drivers are Middle Easterns)