Location: Manila

Is it possible to fly to Korea without learning their unique alphabet?

This goes out to all those who are planning, dreaming or currently booking a flight to South Korea.

Our 2014 trip to Seoul would’ve been easier if I had this guide book 2 years ago. Sometimes we ignorantly assume that locals outside our country would know English simply because it’s the universal language. Sadly, there are just as many people who don’t speak the language as much as those who do. In South Korea, most of the older population didn’t bother learning English. (or some did but don’t always use it)

Good thing I was already studying the Korean language before our trip. I could read the signs and bus stops already which was a relief especially to my company. So how will you survive going to Korea if you’re not eager to learn the language in depth, not even the Korean alphabet at least?

Fast forward to 2016 and I already laid my hands on the books of Talk To Me In Korean and read through Survival Korean.

There may be a lot of other guides you can use, even for free, but what sets “Survival Korean” apart? I mean, there’s Google Translate and Google Maps, right? There are free travel leaflets you can also pickup at the airport, why bother? This is a story based on experience. Google Translate gives you word per word translation of your sentences. In the ears of a local, you’re just uttering nonsense. Leaflets found at the Incheon airport are decent but focuses more on places you could visit.

This is why I think Survival Korean would be heaps useful for our next trip to Korea. My mom doesn’t know anything about the Korean language aside from “annyeonghaseyo” and she can’t even say it properly. She always tells the story how she struggled buying a kimbap because the vendor can’t speak English.



_DSC4513There are a couple of pages dedicated to helping us learn Hangeul or the Korean alphabet. If you’re not interested in this, you could skip it and learn the number system instead. This would be particularly good to refer to if you’re a travel shopper.


The team divided the topics into 20 different sections and picked phrases you’re most likely to use if you’re traveling or living in Korea. The phrases come with cultural explanations and tips so things make sense.

What I find personally useful in Survival Korean is the wide array of topics it covers. If you’re planning to live in Korea, and not just pass by for a couple of days, they offer living activities, too. There’s shopping, daily life, banking, etc. I hope the time comes I’m already planning for staying in Korea for a couple of years. *dreams away*

Even if you’re just a visitor, you’d find the cultural tidbits handy to understand Koreans especially if you don’t watch Korean dramas, variety shows, etc. I found myself having tons of lightbulb moments while I was reading and that is coming from someone big on the Korean culture.

The book covers how to order something without knowing what it’s called in Korean. It also features how to tell a bus driver you’re getting off at the next stop (hint: you wouldn’t have to say a word). And many more to make your stay local-ish.

What I hope they included here though: a subway map or a map of the country so we wouldn’t have to rely on our phones especially when they go dead.



Dad plans to go shopping if we go back to Seoul? Haha


Another post on useful apps to use when in Korea when I actually find myself using them. Lol

If you think this book could help you if you ever find yourself in Korea, you can get a copy of Survival Korean in Talk To Me In Korean’s online bookstore. If your trip is just a few weeks or days away, you could grab one at a Kyobo Bookstore instead. :-) If you did get a copy let me know if it was useful!

Is Korea in your bucketlist? Let me know so we can spaz about the country together!

Thanks, Tay for being my model. Haha

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  • Reply Elaine

    Love this, P! I myself just rely on the Talk To Me In Korean app and other learn Korean apps so I think this will help me a lot in learning the language! I watch too many Kdramas and variety shows so I dream of watching them without subs. Haha!

    May 17, 2016 at 17:28
    • Reply P

      TTMIK’s android app sadly do not work well on my phone :( Or are you an iPhone user? I find the cultural tidbits especially useful! Helps in understanding why certain things happen in some kdramas, hehe. Same! Hopefully soon we can watch without subs! What kdrama are you currently watching? :)

      May 17, 2016 at 17:30
      • Reply Elaine

        It used to work in Android phones but IDK what happened it now kept on crashing. I just finished watching DOTS, She Was Pretty and Kill Me, Heal Me. I’m planning to watch Entertainer next. How about you? :)

        May 18, 2016 at 20:37
        • Reply P

          I got their books na lang actually and listen to their podcasts. :)
          All are so good (except I haven’t watched DOTS, too cheesy for my ice cold heart, haha)!!! I’m currently watching Mrs. Cop cause I dig the thriller, action-filled, 1% romance korean dramas. :( I’ve heard fangirl squeals about DOTS though, haha.

          May 19, 2016 at 08:04
  • Reply Tania

    Hi! Loved the post. Was wondering if this book included recommendations of places to visit that aren’t the typical touristy places (eg Myeongdong)? And is the book for complete beginners, because so many of the books I’ve bought only explains the most basic of the language (like Korean characters & “annyeonghasaeyo”. Btw, I, too, think I was a Korean in my past life :p So happy I found your blog!

    April 14, 2016 at 12:13
    • Reply P

      Hi, Tania!
      Sadly, no, the book does not give “un-toursity” places to visit but I think TTMIK’s Youtube channel would be helpful for this. (Or you can check out and for hipster places!) The book mainly focuses on phrases to use while travelling so you get to go around easier. :) Luckily, the phrases used here aren’t for total beginners. I think it reaches the intermediate – advanced levels even but still handy if you’re still learning!
      So happy you found the time to visit my little universe <3 Let's be "Koreans" together! Hahaha

      April 14, 2016 at 12:59

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