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https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3001741/china-blame-south-koreas-air-pollution-really

(A woman looks at a view of Seoul shrouded by fine dust.)

To the untrained eye, it seems like a foggy day in Seoul. The air is thick enough to taste and the visibility is just metres. Out of the haze emerge businessmen hurrying to work, women heading to the shops, mothers and children on the school run. Even in this fashion conscious city, they are all wearing the same thing: surgical style masks, as if scared to show their faces.

I know what "the air is thick", kind of foggy and dusty,

but what does it mean by "air is thick enough to taste"? Is it a figurative expression?

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It means just that, "taste" as in "sense with your mouth". There is no hidden meaning. It's a figurative expression that should translate easily.

Normally air can be smelled, but not tasted. Air you can taste would be unpleasantly full of particles or smoke or some substance that stays in the mouth long enough to be sensed.

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