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: