South Koreans have thought of everything. At least, that’s what I thought when I visited Busan and Seoul last summer. Everywhere I went during my trip I felt that the cities were set up to make life easier for everyone, even in the simplest of ways. From amazing tech infrastructure to simple instructions for foreigners, here’s how South Korea made its cities accommodating and organized.
Taking the T in Boston feels a lot like punishing yourself for something you never did. Everyone crams in and out of the train doors at once, so it’s madness without a method. In South Korea, they solved this problem so simply! Train doors open from the same points on the platform every time, so arrows guide the way for those entering and exiting. You’ll never worry about bumping into fellow passengers because everyone follows the correct arrow directions.
For a foreigner like me, reading a sign in Korean that possibly says when the next train is arriving is pointless. Instead of struggling to identify a familiar character, I just listened for a short jingle over the speakers that signaled the next train was approaching. While riding the subway, the music plays again when you’re pulling into a station to remind you to get your bum up and out the door (in an orderly fashion, of course).
Rather than lugging a suitcase up never-ending staircases when there’s no elevator in site, Koreans have the luxury of simply dragging their suitcases upwards on a ramp built next to the stairs. This was perhaps the simplest infrastructure hack we saw on our trip, but it was the one that stuck with us the most. Carrying my bag up the stairs when subway stops don’t have elevators or escalators is a pain – this was such an easy solution to an annoying problem!
Auto Lights & Locks
We stayed at my friend’s apartment in Busan, but even in her tiny living space we were impressed with two simple tech time and energy savers: automatics lights and locks. The light in her entryway only turned on when it detected movement – either from someone walking into the apartment or looking for their shoes near the door. Her apartment was also outfitted with an a door that automatically locked behind you and required a code to get in. I’d take that over a key any day!
Have you encountered any simple life improvements in your travels that you wish existed at home?
photo credit Luke Pineda