things I may never get used to


At 7 pm two Korean girls wait for a taxi outside my building. It’s 50 degrees outside and they are wearing hotpants and fetish shoes.

It’s 1 a.m. on a Friday night, and two SEET English Town hagwon buses just went by.  One was empty, the other was not.

I keep longing to hear of someone in Korea who is happily married, but I guess the jury is out until I gather a larger sampling.  So far, it is about 12:2. (the two both being men)  Several of the women think they are lucky they are not wanting for anything and their husbands are responsible.  But love?  It’s not sounding so great.  Hopefully, the current young couples walking around openly physically affectionate will buck this trend.  Hmm…what else?

People skedaddling across the street – running when there’s no reason to run.  It’s called bali bali and means quickly! My kids used to poke fun at me if I did this (which is a lot less than their selective memory will recall) but it was usually because we started as the light was halfway to changing.  But here, it’s almost always run for some reason.  Rung across the street. Run to the bus.  Run to the subway.  Everyone’s always in a hurry, and it looks comical.

Adjummas cutting your foot at restaurants with big kitchen scissors.  Kind of reminds me of the first time in America when a waiter came to grind fresh pepper on my salad.  That grinder was about a foot long and kind of, well, intimidating…Same with the scissors, they kind of freak me out (but not in such a phallic way) and I also worry how sanitary they are, as people sometimes call them over to cut food I’m thinking they’ve already dipped their chopsticks in.  Similarly, if you get skewered street food, the stall owners will come and nip off your skewer so the meat or fishcake or whatever it happens to be is closer to the end.

The sound of hawking phlem as Koreans shower.  First time, I wondered why they would do that and figured it was an anomaly.  Second time, I still wondered why they did that and began to think it was cultural.  Now, third or fourth time I’m beginning to think all Koreans do this.

Seeing people walking and brushing wherever they happen to be.  Toothpaste foaming around their mouths and everything.  Dentists must be hard up for customers here, as everyone is OBSESSED with brushing.  Young-a took me to task for not brushing all the time, to the point I have PTSD about it.  I think I brush even less than before as a result.  I did manage to explain to someone that westerners think brushing is unattractive and a thing to do in private, but those that watch me (and I am always watched) must think I’m a heathen…

Teachers massaging the students.  To an excessive degree.  Some say it is to wake the children up.  Some say if done hard it is a gentle admonition.  Some say it is an apology for all the hours the students must spend at school studying.  But secretly, I think Mr. Lee just likes touching the boys too much.  In addition to the massaging is also patting the hands and arms, and to my discomfort it lingers far too long.

Students holding hands and rubbing and patting each other.  OK.  So I lived in Seattle.  I am NOT homophobic.  But I do get squeemish over excessive public displays of affection in inappropriate places.  There’s sometimes just an intimacy about it that makes me want to tell them to get a room…something about it beyond innocent friendship…like co-dependency manifest in young children…

(added) I know it’s probably just a cultural thing and harmless, but it’s always new and disturbing to this westerner every time I see it.

Here’s a funny video made by a gyopo, about adjusting to Korea.  Those of us here will appreciate it.  Except for the bowl cut thing, which might instead be a baby parma (half perm), it really hits close to home!

(added) The last scene where DK is back in America never letting go of his friend’s arm is really, really, how it is here…

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