I’ve been in Korea for two full weeks now, and things are certainly different from the States. There’s the good, bad, ugly, fascinating, hilarious, and everything in between.
1. A foreign-born Korean is known as a gyopo. From what I can tell, we are looked upon in status somewhere between the homless and mentally ill. “Anyong ah seyo! <more korean>” Oh…uhm…I’m sorry, I can’t speak Korean. ಠ_ಠ
2. There is a distinct difference between barber shops with one pole and barber shops with two poles: the latter has fewer barbers and more hookers.
3. Koreans don’t really cook their own food, and there is a restaurant every other block. Some offer delicious treats. Others…do not.
4. If you don’t know what it is, eat it, but ask what it is at your own risk. Advise grading it as delicious, meh, or disgusting. (Never) order again as appropriate.
5. Korean gender roles are…no, I have no idea. Example: Korean woman is yelling at drunk Korean man who has her wrist in a death lock, and is demanding help. A friend and I remove the man’s hand from her wrist, she runs away…and then right back to him. I…whatever.
6. The water gets perfectly hot, but only if you don’t go beyond 75% water pressure potential. If you turn the water on too much, the heater can’t keep up with the water. This was discovered after one very short, very cold shower.
7. Washing clothes is an adventure. First, everything is (as you might expect) in Korean. So you push buttons and hope for the best. Koreans do not really believe in dryers, so you dry your clothes on a rack in your 12×20 foot studio apartment.
8. Drinking in public is 100% culturally acceptable, even beyond New Orleans standards. Sidewalk parties are prevalent. Recipe for making instant-friends, courtesy of Alex Lewis: bring a flask of cheap vodka, and buy cups and OJ from the nearest 7-11. Start mixing drinks for anyone interested. Also prevalent are drunk Korean men screaming what may or may not be obscenities, but for all I know they could be screaming “REFRIGERATORRRRRR!!!” Probably not, though.
9. Anyone who has ever complained about American women should go out in Korea. Korean girl at a bar comes up and says “Buy me a drink?” Uhm, why don’t we talk for a few minutes and then we’ll see about it. Not interested. Turns to the guy next to me who witnessed the whole thing. “Buy me a drink?” The guy’s wallet is out before she’s done asking.
10.If your student gives you the Korean middle finger (peace sign with back of hand toward you), and you chew him out, he will just look at you as if he has no idea what you’re upset about. This is because you have confused the British middle finger with the Korean middle finger (“got-your-nose” with thumb between middle and index finger). You should then buy this student a snickers bar and apologize.
11. Your students under the age of 11 are extremely cute, and they know it. They will use this as a weapon against you. Do not give in to their sad-faces. Do not accept their snacks. Do not ever show any weakness.
12. If you live in Seoul, your shower will probably be in the middle of your bathroom, and just drain into a hole in the floor. Do not be alarmed. It is probably fine.
13. Just about every electronic will make musical beeping sounds like children’s toys. This goes for cell phones, air conditioners, washers, everything. This is cute the first time, and only the first time.
14. Koreans don’t use butter. It’s nearly impossible to find anything but margarine. Absolutely baffling.
15. The Korean subway is immaculately clean, and immaculately smooth. Handles are 100% optional. They also have anti-suicide doors on the platforms that line up with the train doors and only open when the train doors open.
16. Korean buses are not immaculately smooth. Do not stand unless absolutely necessary. If you do stand, grab on to something. Preferably a handle, but the nearest person’s head will do in a desperate pinch. If you do not hold on to something, you will die immediately.
17. Soju is evil (20% abv), cheap ($1 for 500 ml), and everywhere.
18. There is a 7-11/minimart/othercornerstore every 20 feet for easy soju purchasing and sidewalk party supplies.