Friday, October 5, 2012

A Couple Cultural Quirks of Korea

A majority of the female population is always wearing heals. They wear them everywhere. They walk in them, they subway in them, they do everything in them. The other two shoe choices for the youngish female population are colorful sneakers or toms, maybe a pair of flats here and there. But SO many high heels.

Car Pads
I noticed that on many of the cars in Korea, there are little cushions by the door handles on the car. I asked someone what they were for and that person gave me two reasons. 1. So that the car looks like they "just bought it" and 2. So they don't get door dings or ding other peoples doors all the time. Personally, I feel like 2 is a much more viable option, especially since they only make the cars look tackier, not newer. The funny thing is they're usually on nicer cars but they have these bright blue pads sticking out on them. Sure sometimes they're black or another color or shape, but more often than not, they're bright, blue, ugly pads on their nice "new" cars. 

Mopeds in this country can go wherever they want, whenever they want. Do they drive in and out of stopped traffic? Yes. Do they drive on the sidewalk and almost run you over? Absolutely.

Hazard Lights
Your hazard lights can pretty much let you do anything you darn well please in this country. If you wanna stop in the middle of the road, all you have to do is flip on your hazards. Sure, a billion people will start honking at you because you're not being considerate of their needs to drive like normal people, but you sure as heck are gunna stop where you darn well please!

Man Purse
Sure a few men carry a man purse. That seems quite convenient since they often wear dress pants or pants that are too tight so they need somewhere else to put their things. But the BIG news is that if you are a Korean male, dating a female, you will more likely than not, carry her purse for her. How generous!

There are no apologies, excuse mes, I'm sorrys, bless yous, etc in this country. If you need to get by someone, you literally just shove them. They'll move and they won't think twice about it. The unfortunate thing is that I feel I'm becoming less polite because of it. But that's the norm here. 

Resilient Old Ladies
Some Americans have this stereotype of Asian people growing very very old. I have a theory as to why that may be our stereotype: When these old ladies go and visit Buddhist temples, they have to climb a TON of really steep stairs. Then when they get to the place they wish to worship, their prayers consist of a child’s pose ish position, to sitting up onto your knees, to standing up, and then repeating, I don’t even know how many times! Laziness is not an option here people. 

So far what they say is true about people trying to be very helpful as far as the traditions of their culture are concerned. If you’re doing something the wrong way in a restaurant, the person will come back and show you how to do it. And that’s just one example. Also, if you lose a wallet or your phone or something, people don't take the money and they don't keep it, they go out of their way to give it back. Pretty awesome. 

No Tips
Not at the bar, not at a restaurant, not to a taxi driver. None. 

No Public Trash
There is no public trash in this GIANT CITY. If you want to eat something on the go, you better have room for the trash in your purse or pocket because you won’t spot a garbage can for at least 10 blocks if you’re lucky. What’s the deal with that, Seoul? You have 10 million people and nowhere for them to put their waste while exploring you in all your glory?

Service and WIFI on Subways
That’s right. There is always service and wifi on the subways. Good thing, because it takes a while to get places. I don’t know if other subways are that way (I know NY’s is NOT like that in the slightest) but I was quite impressed.

Sun is bad. Pale skin is good. This dates back to the upper class/outdoor laborer separation whatever. I’m not sure if people still feel that way, but it was kinda funny at first to see people walking around with umbrellas when it was really sunny out.

Bodily Functions
To be real, Korean people let it rip all the time. Be it fart or belch, it doesn't matter. I really hear these things way more than I ever wished to in the world. Subway, street, name it, I've heard it. Don't get too excited, ladies, I've only ever heard males do it. They also pick their noses openly. They certainly don't keep much hidden. 

Korean Drivers
People here are TERRIBLE drivers. That being said, I have yet to see a car accident. And according to my friends that have been here a few weeks longer than me, the only “accidents” they've seen consist of small fender benders. People don’t get hurt from the accidents here if they occur. Maybe there is something to be learned of their shotty driving. They sure know how to pay attention!

Old Men
Above I referenced the women of Korea with more years under their belt. If you refer back to my story about getting here and being at the airport with a very persistent male taxi driver, that’s where this story starts. I was told that circumstances like that happened to Brigitte as well. That made me feel better. Then we were getting on the subway at 630 one morning and I was waiting for Brigitte (keep in mind this is probably my favorite story from Korea so far). A man walked past me (mind you this man is in his late 60’s, I’d say) put his things down, and walked back. He came and asked me where I was from. I told him “United States” “Where???” “United States!” “What?” “USA!” “mmmm where?” “America!” “Ohhhhh America!” Then he proceeded to ask me what I do. I told him I’m a teacher. He thought that was fantastic. Then he walked away. Then he came back and just kinda stared at me. Then Brigitte walked up and he walked away. Then he came back and started singing in our general direction in Korean. Then he walked away. Then the subway comes. We all get on. He wanders back towards us and I look at Brigitte and say “I think he’s in love with us.” Her response, “No girl, that’s all you.” This time he starts singing Can’t Help Falling in Love . At this point Brigitte is like “Don’t worry, we’re getting off at the next stop” and I’m sure my face is as red as can be. Although I can’t help but think how impressive his English was. It is rare to find a person his age with that much English speaking ability. Today I also had a less old man wave at me and blow me a kiss as I walked by (granted I had seen him yesterday as well so maybe he was just extra excited to show his Suji love). 

So far I love it and there is nothing to complain about! YAY fun adventures!


  1. That is hilarious. Love it. But need a British dude, not a Korean!

  2. This is my favorite post so far! Love the bit about the old men. I was sitting in my living room laughing so loud. I could just picture it so well