Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Monday, March 05, 2007

The Korean Restaurant & Hair Salon Experience

In Korea, you never tip in taxis, hair salons or restaurants. Taxes are also included in the price. I can't seem to shake the habit of calculating 15% like I did in Canada. There are exceptions; some American eateries like VIPS steakhouse add a 10% service charge to the bill.

I much prefer the Korean restaurant experience. Instead of a waiter hovering over your table with a cheese grater and pepper shaker, asking, "everything alright?" you're served your meal and left alone. You even pour your own water from a pitcher on the table.

There isn't a coffee and desert custom here. Koreans rarely eat desert after dinner and, although there's a coffee shop on every corner in Seoul, you'll be hard pressed to get a good cup of coffee at a Korean restaurant.

Minimum wage in Korea is surprisingly low: 3,480 W/ 3.50 USD, an hour. But many restaurants are family owned and operated, so minimum wage doesn't apply. Tipping could even be interpreted as an insult. Times I've attempted to tip at a restaurant, I've been met with a furrowed brow. "Anayo, anayo." (No, no.)

There was one taxi driver who practically kissed my feet when I gave him 1000 won, but just save your money!

You never tip at hair salons, either. Compared to Montreal, Korea offers up a deal. The average cost is about 30,000 W, for a wash, cut, blow dry and if you're lucky- a cup of coffee. That's right. Get your coffee at the hair salon, not the restaurant.

Some Koreans have very thick, course hair, but it's generally straight. I've noticed a lot of Koreans with razored hair ends. That might work on glossy locks, but if you have wavy or curly hair (which is more porous), don't let your hair dresser come near you with a razor.

In fact, you might want to travel to Itaewon in Seoul, also known as Western town. There, you can find International restaurants and products. Hairdressers are likely more adapt at cutting international hair types.

It can be a dangerous area at night, though, and if you're going to run into a "happy ending" barber shop, it's probably there. After a hair trim, men may be shocked when asked if they want to be taken into the back. Prostitution has long been visible in Itaewon, and the centre of prostitution in Itaewon is called "Hooker Hill."


Fox said...

I hear you do't have to tip hair stylists over there.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Hi "Fox"

You're right.

There's no tipping at restaurants, in taxis or hair salons here.

Fox said...

damn, how much is the tax? Usually countries that have no tipping tax you 40% or something like that, like Northern Europe.

I should know these things! I am half Korean you see.

Anonymous said...

Itaewon is dangerous at night? You must have been talking to Koreans about Itaewon. Generally, foreigners do not find Itaewon scary at night but many Koreans are very much afraid of the place. I think that the notion of danger comes from the presence of West Africans in Itaewon. Be careful of perpetuating the stereotype.

As for "happy endings" in Itaewon - they are available but not at barber shops in Itaewon. I am hardpressed to think of any such barber shops in the Itaewon area.

The place where many of my male friends go for a legit haircut are Meongdong and Hongdae. For women, the Ehwa University area is popular.

I recommend the chain Juno.

Fox said...

Quebec blows... 14% tax...

Albera rules! 6% tax with Freebie Cheques! heh heh

But Korea sounds like she's got some great deals with no tip things. Saves a lot of time and effort, eh? How convenient.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Hi Anonymous,

When I visited Itaewon alone at night, I was scared! Mind you, I was wandering small streets looking for a black market Western shop to buy shampoo and stuff, but I was hooted at by a few white guys: "hey baby, come out with us," - that kind of crap. I was pretty uncomfortable.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

And I know someone in Suwon who unknowingly visited a barber shop and was asked if he wanted to go in the back. I'm sure it happens in Itaewon, too... no? said...

hey eva,

i'm very impressed with your knack for cultural observation. i'm doubly impressed that you notate your observations of korea, the people, culture, food, etc. in an anecdotal, unbiased and empathetic fashion.

i've read a number of such blogs - and am always disappointed by what i perceive to be an ingrained sense of cultural superiority in many of them (not all). you have none, and it's a refreshing read.

for myself, i'm ethnically korean, but was adopted into an irish/italian family. i've spent a number of years living in korea - and enjoy recollecting some of the very same experiences you are having now. best of luck on the rest of your stay - i'll be back in seoul sometime this summer...i can't wait - nyc is fun, but seoul really never sleeps!


ps i used to work in itaewon - and i would say that it's generally not as safe a place as other areas of seoul - i'd avoid anything except what's off the main drag after dark. but it's gotten alot better over the years.

pps those twirling barber shop polls - yeah, don't go to any of them after say, 8 or 9pm. you have to raise an eyebrow if a barber shop is still open at 1am.

ppps anonymous was pretty much spot on, myong dong, hongdae, and edae tend to be good areas for reasonably priced hair cuts.

Anonymous said...

"I was hooted at by a few white guys: "hey baby, come out with us,""

Probably GI's.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

John- Thanks for your thoughtful message! I'll email you a reply.

Anonymous said...

you are in a lively bar district and you are scared that you were hooted at by a group of guys?

well with the US running out of canon-fodder - it is probably true that some of the GIs in itaewon are not the best and brightest - uncouth and immature, sure - but not dangerous

also, i guess coming from suwon - itaewon might appear sinister ;-)

anyway - the above praise of your blog is deserved.

Anonymous said...

"And I know someone in Suwon who unknowingly visited a barber shop and was asked if he wanted to go in the back. I'm sure it happens in Itaewon, too... no?"

It happens everywhere you see two spinning barber poles. My point is that you don't see many, if any, in Itaewon. Those particular places are much more common in other, more Korean areas of Seoul.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Ohh, good specific info: "two spinning barber poles."

I know, I sound like a prude! In Montreal I'd be fine. It was my second time ever in Seoul, and Itaewon did feel a bit sinister ; )

If I remember correctly, the street wasn't very well lit and ag, I don't know.

Ed said...

Tipping is considered insulting because in doing so, you are basically demeaning that person's job, telling them that they don't make enough money and you are giving them charity rather than their due for the labour. I wouldn't take it personally, though. Koreans know that it's customary to tip in North America and they're just trying to show you your mistake.

Do you know my buddy Gdog from The Daily Kimchi? I know he's also teaching English in Korea.

Anonymous said...

Сделали ремонт и решили заказать в рассрочку [url=]встроенный шкаф на заказ[/url] подскажите что то, ассортимент сейчас большой запуталась я

Anonymous said...

[url=][b]Юбилей больнице[/b][/url], которая находиться в[b] городе на Иже[/b], может стоит поздравить?!

Anonymous said...

Ребята расслабтесь, побалуйте себя клубничкой там, где нагрузиться такие [url=]flash игры[/url]

Montreal Hair Salons said...

Thanks to share the blog!

Anonymous said...

Набрел сайт в интеренете. Одновременно затем регистрации дают [b]халявные 100$[/b].
Я уже получил. Спешите и Вы

Anonymous said...

Шины и диски на любой вкус shinway ru. Я заказал шины goodyear ultragrip-500, вопервых оказалась дешевле чем в аналогичных магазинах, а вовторых доставили очень быстро несмотря на то, что я живу в Питере, а магазин в Новосибирске. Всем рекомендую очень хороший [url=]интнрнет-магазин[/url].

Anonymous said...

Tata Safari, 1998 Сентябрь 29 Wiesmann Roadster 1.7л., 2009 Porsche 911 $22600 2002 Meninni Urania Сентябрь 04 Skoda Superb, 1997 г.в. Geo tracker, 2009 Hotel Renomal Intercontinental The Lalit Royal Reef Volkswagen Phaeton, 1991 Bonaca Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron, $93400, 1991 By The Sea Dive Inn Resort Hotel Minelli TF 1800 0.8л., $98500, 1993 г.в. Centrum 5* Сентябрь 15 Комментарии на: Melia Vendome 4* Jeep Cherokee 7.9л., $52000, 1994 Geely Beauty Leopard 1л., $61400, 2005 г.в. другая

Anonymous said...

3D эротика и конкурсы на сайте

Anonymous said...

Наши сайты:
Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove Fiesta Hotel Paraiso Floral Moevenpick Resort Spa Dead Sea Sun Tower Punta Cana Tortuga Bay Papillon Zeugma The Villa Ofelia Apartment Hotel (Residence Villa Ofelia) Vinpearl Paleokastritsa Hotel Mega Track 7.5л 73300 1993 Lifan Breeze 62005 Saleen S7 2000 Lexus LS 1995 Lamborghini Murcielago 1997 Tofas Siena 93600 2000 Chevrolet Nubira 2.9 79700 1996 AC Ace 2.7 31900 2008 Mahindra Commander 2.6 34000 2006 Koenigsegg CC 3.5 2008 Les Colombes Монако Marriott Pattaya Plymouth Grand Voyager $10500 2004 Caterham Super Seven $95000 2004 Pontiac Vibe 1.7л 2008

Anonymous said...

Николай Басков нашел себе новую возлюбленную?! Подробности только у нас

Anonymous said...

Ваша мысль пригодится

Anonymous said...

Hello, I’m hair stylist myself. I’m qualified in the UK and have 8 years experience. If someone need professional hair cut and hair tinting, don’t hesitate to contact me. I leave my mobile No. 010 5188 0502

Anonymous said...

Hi! My wife and I frequently write guest posts
for other web site owners to help gain publicity to our work,
as well as provide superb content to blog owners. It really is
a win win situation! If you happen to be interested feel free to e-mail me at: so we can discuss further.
Thanks alot :)!

My homepage :: Lost data

Anonymous said...

Would you mind if I quote a several of your blogposts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your
I'll aslo be sure to give you the proper anchor-text hyperlink using your website title: Blogger: Travel Blog. Please let me know if this is acceptable with you. Thank you

My web blog :: help

Anonymous said...

Производственная компания «М-СЕТ» специализируется на производстве сварных сеток в рулонах, имеющих широкое применение в различных строительных работах.
Производство сварной сетки выполняется на многоточечных сварных машинах, методом контактно-точечной сварки крестообразных соединений. Все пересечения и стыки прутьев тщательно сварены, благодаря чему конструкция отличается превосходным качеством и является одной из самых прочных.
На нашем сайте Вы можете посмотреть образцы нашей продукции и связаться с нами
[url=]сварная сетка в рулонах Волжский