You learn to love the weird and different

Aneesa:

Korea has my heart for many reasons upon which I will expand in another blog post at another time. But, I have been here for a while so the initial, “Oh My God, they do what?” experiences have been acclimatized into my daily life. Yet there are still things I find odd about Korea. So I thought I’d share them with you. These are not all my own pictures/experiences but still things that go on and that I see in Korea!

1. Korean girls are obsessed with appearance. One issue is, the whiter the face, the prettier you are. They believe silly things like if you drink milk while you’re pregnant, your baby will have whiter skin, and if you drink coke, your skin will become darker and uglier.
2. Fan Death…almost all Koreans actually believe this is real. They think if you sleep in the room with a fan on, and all doors and windows are closed, you will die. They swear (even doctors) that the fans suck out the air you need to breathe.

3. Koreans don’t entertain at home -ever- so everyone goes out. This leads to A LOT of public drunkenness, which is completely socially acceptable. Business men especially will get falling-down-drunk all the time and they will stagger up and down the streets in big packs, vomiting on street corners like Americans at a fraternity party.
4. Let’s clear something up: Koreans do eat dog meat, but rarely and only during a special two week holiday in August.  It is a part of some historical event and really only the old generation does it anymore.  Weird and sad, but it isn’t like you can buy dog meat in the grocery store.  However, they do eat live octopus, they cut it up and eat it while it is still moving and if you don’t chew it well enough the suction cups can stick to your throat and you have to go to the hospital to have them removed.  Not my cup of tea.

5. They REALLY, REALLY love Kimchi.  It is a matter of national pride and they eat 3 meals a day.  In the West we have different foods we eat at different meals (i.e. cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, etc.) that is a foreign concept here…fish head soup first thing in the morning! (with kimchi)
6. What really gets me is that a bathroom won’t have toilet paper but they will have this really crazy toilet seat contraption that has a built in seat warmer, air freshener, two kinds of bidets and a little “etiquette bell” so if you need to make an impolite sound you can instead play a refreshing chorus of running water or bells chiming. Crazy!
7. Maybe the most confusing thing is the Korean age system. The year you are in the womb is considered your first year, so the day you come out you are already one. But then, everyone in the whole country turns a year older on New Years, so if you are born December 21st, ten days later you will legally turn 2. This makes it difficult especially with kids because you will have a group of “8” year olds but really they may be as young as six. Some things shouldn’t be that complicated.
8. They put sweetcorn on all pizza; it comes standard, like sauce. You have to make a big fuss to get them to keep it off. Also they serve gherkins with all Italian and American food. Go into a Western restaurant (TGIF, Pizza Hut) and the first thing they bring you is a bowl of (sickeningly sweet) gherkins.
9. Korean people and kids love asking if you have a partner – This was one of the first questions I heard from students upon introducing myself. I told them my name, and then they asked where I was from, my age, height (weird), weight (weird) and if I have a boyfriend. There’s almost a look of disappointment if you tell them you don’t have one, and I think that has to do with the family values in Korea. Having a girlfriend/boyfriend makes you sort of…complete. Telling someone here you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend, will get you the same sort of response as if you ask someone in the SA what they do for work and they say they are unemployed, “Oh…(looking down/changing subject quickly)”
10. Lastly, Korean kids and people also love asking for your phone number – every class has asked for my phone number and/or email address. In general, it’s rude to say no to anyone over here. I get offered some weird snacks every day and the first time I said no thanks I got a very disappointed look from this girl and I felt bad. I ask people for directions and sometimes they want to BRING me to the place I ask them about, even if it means them jumping from behind their desk at work and going outside. Seriously! Anyway, I can’t think of anything wrong about having their phone numbers but it is pretty weird. In SA if kids had their teacher’s phone numbers they would be getting prank calls ALL the time. Here I just get random smses that say, “Hello teacher, this is Mario. Have a nice day.” It’s cute if a little strange.

Here are some interesting things that have been observed in Korea:

Balloons on their way to somewhere in Seoul

T-Shirt spotted along the main street in Asan

In Korea, the most popular non-alcoholic drink is one called Pocari Sweat. Yes, sweat. And they frequently have special offers where you get a paper towel for free.

Korean pizza with seaweed, prawns, potatoes and who-knows-what-else on it

Sign in a bathroom that literally translates to: “Cigarettes- this bathroom hates you!”

This is my friend Leah with a sock vending machine. In case you ever forget your socks somewhere…

People in wheelchairs being pushed on the road-normal!! I’ve also people in motorized wheelchairs flying down the street

Sign on a coffee shop- leave the insects and ghosts at home please

Korean kids understand life

Just another funny toilet sign!

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24 thoughts on “You learn to love the weird and different

  1. This is pretty interesting, and really funny too! I’m going to reblog this! 🙂 I especially like 1 and 7, but also the balloons going somewhere and keeping your ghosts outside!

  2. This made me crack up! I’m half Korean–my mother & her side of the family are from Korea. I’ve been before, and I agree–they sure do believe & do a lot of really weird things. Although, I have grown to really love kimchi…haha. 🙂 Koreans are very superstitious people. Also, like you said, crazily focused on looks. My sister lived there for three years and that was pretty hard on her because a healthy, skinny American woman looks obese next to any Korean woman!

    • But I feel that Korean women are so naturally pretty with great skin, wonderful hair and slim figures. I just don’t know what the obsession with plastic surgery and weight loss is all about!! Kudos to your sister if she didn’t let it affect her 🙂

  3. I recognize that pizza! I wrote about it too; it’s the 몽땅4랑해 combination from Mr. Pizza… I think they only have it on the menu so non-Korean bloggers can have something to talk about.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Yours is lovely. 🙂 I always enjoy reading about the weird and different things we all do in our own countries. ps- I really want to try that pizza!

  5. Haha! Pocari Sweat??? Wonder what they put in that stuff. That pizza looked yummy until you named the toppings. I can’t believe anyone would eat an octopus while it’s alive. Socks vending machines are certainly odd, but would come in handy. I lose my socks all the time! Wheelchairs on roads- whaaat? I want to see that! Oh! And I love the no ghosts and insects allowed signs *big grin* South Korea sounds more and more interesting!

  6. Ha! Great entry! The lack of toilet paper drives me nuts. I carry around tissue now, but there’s no remedy for having to leave the restaurant/cafe/etc you’re in to try and hunt down a toilet.

    About a month ago I was in the ER and patients were just coming and going. The doctors couldn’t figure out where they were when suddenly they’d just pop back up with a snack they bought at the convenience store or something. My Korean friend who was with me said that it’s considered sad if people’s families don’t come and bring them food or sneak them out for cigarettes if they smoke, so being in the hospital is pretty lax. That’s why you see people on the street in wheelchairs or toting around an IV bag in their pajamas!

  7. Pingback: 30 things Korea taught me | Live. Explore. Learn. Remember.

  8. Another great list, Aneesa, and right on target! Love them all, especially the sock vending machine! One thing for sure is that Koreans have a sense of humor. This takes me back and, despite the fact I said I would never miss Korea, I actually do find myself missing it from time to time! 🙂

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