8 Things Foreigners Are Always Surprised About When Visiting a Korean Convenience Store
Walking into a Korean convenience store is an extremely stimulating experience.
The CU Pheonix Pyeongchang store is the only convenience store in the nation that sells live octopus, offering customers the chance to buy a meal using fresh, raw seafood caught and killed in-store (that’s usually still moving as it’s eaten). While this in itself is an eye-opening experience for foreigners, the popularity of squid in Korea is also a surprise – dried squid is kind of like Korea’s beef jerky, a popular snack and often paired with beer.
2. Foreign Currency Exchange
GS25 stores have started providing foreign exchange services during the Pyeongchang Olympics, and some stores around tourist areas in Seoul also allow foreign payment. Change is given in Korean Won.
3. Cup Ramen
Koreans love their instant ramen, which you can find in abundance in convenience stores around the country. Seeing so many happy locals slurping down hot noodles made a lot of foreigners hungry, and many now love the “ramen culture”. In some stores, you can use the kettle to cook the ramen right there and then, and then sit on tables outside or inside on barstools installed along the window to eat it while it’s hot.
4. Microwave Service
Just bought a ready-to-eat meal, but it needs heating? Why not head to the back of the store and use the microwave – most convenience stores have them for customers to heat their doshirak (lunchbox), instant rice, noodles or curry.
5. Buy And Make Hot Drinks
Koreans love their sachet drinks and they’re cheap! Not only that but more often than not you can make them right there and then using the urn or kettle. On a cold winter’s morning, you can get your coffee or hot chocolate fix in minutes, and for less than $1.
6. Large Variety Of Sausage Snacks
There are a lot of unique snacks in Korea, but one of the most popular and strange snacks are stick-like sausages made of cheese and sometimes fish. They come in many different flavors and brands and have been described as “squishy bread sausage”. Foreigners don’t really know what to do with them, but Koreans eat them all the time.
7. Event/Theme Gifts
With Valentine’s Day on 14 February, convenience stores were loaded with gifts and chocolates – and foreigners were surprised and impressed at the level of importance Koreans gave the day. Convenience stores are often decked out to celebrate specific holidays, including themed decorations and a large variety of gifts on offer (which makes last-minute gift giving a lot easier!)
Foreigners have been surprised but happy to discover most convenience stores in Korea are open 24 hours a day – meaning not only can they satisfy the midnight munchies, but they can also replenish their beer, wine or soju pile any time, day or night.