Since moving to Korea, I’ve realized how much I love hiking. Fresh air, epic views, and a good ol’ fashioned sweat: what’s not to like? Many things, actually. I love the peaceful nature of hiking and being alone in the forest. Korea is a big country for hiking, as the entire peninsula as well as Jeju Island is covered with mountains. You meet a lot of friendly people on the trails, too, who love to greet you and smile at the waegooks on the trail. That being said, Korean hiking can also be my worst nightmare. Below, I’ve prepared a list of behaviors to engage in if you want to be the worst, most annoying trekker.
Being a trail hog
Everyone who wants to hike should definitely do so. People go at their own pace and, obviously, some people are faster than others. While there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow, I feel like there needs to be some sense of self-awareness. In Korea, it is all too common to find yourself stuck behind a large group who don’t want to let you pass them. This is a bit rude, in addition to being irritating. Be aware of your surroundings on the trail and let people who are trying to pass do so. It’s just common courtesy.
Stopping for a photo and not moving
Majestic peaks, ascending above the clouds, deep multi-colored valleys: yeah, it’s definitely perfect for a photo opp. However, this one goes along with what I said above. Be conscious of those around you, especially during peak season. Try to move off to the side or, if you’re trying to get that perfect angle, wait until the people behind you have passed. It’s no secret that Koreans love taking selfies, and the invention of the extendable arm for smartphones has only reinforced this phenomenon. Photos are great. Stopping all your momentum for someone else to take 20 selfies with peace signs thrown up is not. Just saying.
Dragging kids along
Kids can be lovely. Kids exercising is even lovelier. But if you’re going to bring your child(ren) to climb a mountain all day, at least try to do it right. Those little legs need to rest sometimes, so take them off to the side at a grassy area or observation deck. Not doing so results in yet another Korean traffic jam that is very unpleasant for your fellow trail mates. Kids also tend to have an underdeveloped sense of self-awareness when it comes to physical space. It’s your job to make sure they stick to one side and don’t cause someone else to trip and tumble down the mountain.
Taking ages to rehydrate
Many hiking venues in Korea place watering holes (essentially) every couple of kilometers so that you can refresh and rehydrate. Some people opt for taking a break at these places. Makes sense, right? This does not mean that the water station is yours and yours alone. The other day I was hiking and a family pretended that my friend and I weren’t there, equally as thirsty but far more sweaty. Share the love (and more importantly, the water), folks.
Being unfriendly to fellow hikers
I feel like hiking is a kind of bonding experience for all those involved. Most people would prefer to be alone on the mountain, but hey, if you can’t, you might as well be friendly. More often than not, I’ve found older Koreans to be enthusiastically chipper on the trails, offering hellos and amazed expressions at seeing some waegooks on their mountains. However, not everyone is like this (and I think they should be). If I’m passing you (especially in tight quarters) and offer a cheerful hello, I kind of expect you to say it back. It makes for a much more pleasant hiking (and intercultural) experience. I don’t think this is unreasonable, do you?
When traveling in Korea, I’d highly recommend making a journey (or many) up one of the thousands of mountains. More than likely, you’ll have a mint time, especially if you go early in the morning and/or during the “off-season”. Just be prepared for the above-mentioned setbacks.
Oh my god, I literally just posted about the same thing. Korean hikers are in a league of their own.
Haha yes they are. Some are great! Some…not so much.
Good to see this as I get started on my hopefully (barring rain) first hike of fall here. The “Hello” is a difficult one when dealing with foreigners because I come from a small town. “City folk” don’t really like to throw one back and that can be a bit embarrassing.
Very true. I grew up in a city and was definitely like that until I started traveling through small villages abroad where everyone is immediately your best friend or your grandmother.
You left out one of the key annoyances. Hiking with a smartphone in their backpack or pocket blaring their favourite music. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve wanted to simply relieve them of the offending technology and casually toss it off the side of the mountain/trail.
Haha Sean fortunately I’ve never encountered that! Blasting music on Hallasan, really?! I couldn’t deal.
This past weekend we reached the summit and stopped to eat our snacks. On two occasions there was either music blaring OR (and even more annoying) a couple standing taking pictures with his radio fuzzy with white noise! EEK! Nature sounds beautiful! I’d like to enjoy it without bothering others!
Agreed! I wish everyone had the same sense of courtesy :-/
The blaring music while hiking bugs me as well. Another thing (this was usually other waygooks who were the perpetrators) is smoking while hiking. I came for the fresh air, not to breathe smoke!
Yes!! This is exactly what I was thinking Sean! Hate that!
Yeah, I’ve encnountered it on Halla and around the hiking trails around here, even the occasional cyclist will be blaring their choice of noise pollution as they go along.
Definitely near the top of my pet peeves list.
Agreed, especially about being unfriendly. You should expect to see other people on a trail, at least say “hi” and move on. It’s not like I’m trying to start a conversation!
I don’t hike much so I can’t really relate much but what I can say is that I do hate when people crowd the streets and walk very slowly (I like shopping). And the water thing is similar to Korea gyms- where they stand and chat infront of the water machine like you are not standing behind them equally hot and thirsty.
I was in need of some comic relief! Very funny post! I’m starting some humble hiking this autumn season, and I can totally see myself either doing this or watching other do it and chuckle at it. ?
Hiking is one of my favorite parts about Seoul and I’ve definitely experienced these. When I hike in the States or in NZ or anywhere, it’s always customary to offer a “hello” as you pass someone. And I do the same here, except I say “annyeonghaseyo” of course. It’s always been returned and usually with a delighted chuckle as if they can’t believe I actually learned how to say hello.
Much worse than hiking for me is just walking down crowded streets. It’s like no one told them the rule to move to the side you drive on. Every time I’m walking towards someone I feel like I’m playing a game of chicken.
Oh yes! I live in a crowded market. Leaving my apartment is a daily struggle haha. Even worse when I have my bicycle.
Haha this is so true. While I was in Seoraksan people would just stop on the steps to take a breath and not move aside. Why does no one move to the side? I haven’t met any unfriendly hikers though, I’ve actually met some of the nicest people on hikes here.
I was looking for tips on how to be more annoying so I’m glad I found this post. haha Just kidding… I’m not a big hiker, but I can relate to a lot of these just from walking around crowded areas. It’s frustrating for sure! And in response to the other comments… I can’t imagine if I had to walk up a mountain near someone that was playing music the whole way.
Leah, this is great! It made me chuckle, and it’s so true. (Or did it make me chuckle because it’s so true? hmm… things to ponder). As a newbie on the trails I’ll be sure to keep these in mind. Thanks for the lighthearted life lesson.
No problem ?
An entertaining post as always Leah. The two I thought of was smoking, being TOO drunk, and blaring their own personal music. But I will say that most of my experiences hiking have been so positive because of the people! I love getting offered snacks and booze on my way up, since we’re not really big hikers, hehe.