I’ve been getting this ask quite a bit! So I’m just gonna make a long post about how I am communicating in Korea with literally only knowing the basics.
I can’t read Korean. I can’t speak Korean except for the formalities (hello, goodbye, thank you, and other phrases you use when address strangers or retail workers).
So, how do I communicate? Through looking at body language and having PATIENCE. I’m in a foreign country. I AM THE FOREIGNER. I cannot and should not get mad at Korean people for not understanding my English. I’ve seen so many other tourists do this and it makes me so angry. Just be patient, try explaining a different way. Try using different body movements. Just don’t be an ass and people will be receptive towards you communicating with them. And a lot of Koreans try their best to speak English!
How do I get around? Well, the subway and buses are all clearly labeled and there many signs with directions. Also, the most of the announcements and names for stops are in Korean, Japanese, English and Chinese.
If you are used to any form of public transit system you should be just fine navigating the public transit system.
Honestly, the only thing I have struggled with is all the alleys and side streets. Chicago is on a grid system so I am not used to having streets wiggle around and turn and loop. I got lost several times trying to get to and from my air bnb the first two days before I figured it out.
But yeah. My tips are to just be patient and if you’re really stuck, just ask! Download google translate!