Things I like about Korea
I used to work as a flight attendant for Qatar Airways. Don’t ever work for them. It was there that I met my girlfriend, who still works for them. Just after we started going out, she visited home and gave me a box of Binch Biscuits that she bought for me. I ate the first one and I was hooked.
My addiction to these is as bad as it was with Cadbury’s Fingers in England, but if you think about it, then you will realise that they are essentially the same product. My way of controlling my addiction is to not buy the biscuits.
Last week I bought four boxes in preparation for my visit home. I bought them on Sunday and by Wednesday they were no more. The worse is, like Joey from Friends when he ate his date’s cake: “I’m not even sorry.” I had to buy four new boxes and it is been hell not touching them. One of them is no more.
Some of the busses are old and a few of the bus drivers are crazy, but the busses are regular, mostly on schedule and the bus and train drivers are so nice. If you are late for the bus, here in Icheon at least, then the bus will wait for you to run the last 20 metres. We have even stopped a little after the bus stop to pick someone up and more than once drivers let people off at a random place on the route because the bus was not moving at the time and the people asked.
It happened to me in Seoul that I arrived just as the doors closed for the train. I am not one of those people will run for the doors or throw my hands up when I don’t make it. There is always another train coming so, as usual I just walked towards the closing doors and took a position to wait for the next train, and wouldn’t you know it, the driver opened the doors, just for me. I had to wave to him before entering the train. You nice to me, me nice to you.
Everything is SO KOREAN
It seems stupid to say because I am in Korea, but sometimes you can’t explain things other than saying: “It is Korea!” or “Koreans!” This goes for all countries in the world and I am sure Koreans in South Africa do the same. I am from there and I often say: “South Africa!”
The Internet here is possibly the fastest in the world. YouTube clips start playing immediately and I can watch them on high quality. It takes me only two hours to download a 700 meg DVD Rip of that obscure film I can not find anywhere. Keeping up to date with news and Podcasts is a breeze.
I am not a geek yet, but I am definitely on the nerdy side. Maybe I can upgrade my status by getting some geek friend.
I do not mean just the mangles English or the strange direct translations like a sweet potato being a “potato friend”, but also the “English” written in Hangeul. You can often read a whole menu once you realise that it is actually English, written in Korean. Just Saturday I was a t-shirt that read “WOW the blond eats bananas”. A Korean mentioned that bananas are yellow, like blond hair. The only time I think of blond as yellow is when I see a really bad bleach job, but I can see the Asian view though.
Almost forgot, lyrics, not just in the songs, but in the way they are used in advertising and TV in general. Remember “Give me your banana” for Olympus Cameras?
This is going to fuel the gawking foreigner stereotype, but I love the short skirts here. Girls wear them so shot that one miss step will show me the girl’s whole ancestry.
I am a butt and leg man. Not many Korean girls have nice butts, but they beat Western girls and for sure African girls hands down when it comes to legs. What better way to show of legs than in a very short skirt.
The interesting thing is, I as a South African, tend to see the short skirts as slutty. I’m getting used to not looking at it in that way, but it is not easy. Koreans, on the other hand, think South Africans girls are often slutty for wearing revealing blouses and spaghetti string tops. Interesting, isn’t it? Naked up to your butt is OK, but don’t show your shoulders.
Things I dislike about Korea
People not walking straight
I know think sounds strange, but it is the only thing that I absolutely despise, hate and loath in this country. It drives me up the wall.
People seem to follow completely random lines when they walk. When you are the only one on the pavement or in the downtown area, then it is OK, but when there are people around you then surely you need to have a little more awareness.
I will be walking somewhere, keeping close to the relatively natural lines that things like bricks form, so I know I am walking straight. Then, for no apparent reason, someone will just slowly veer to the side and walk straight in front of me. When I want to pass on the other side they will just, veer to that side again. Amazingly they are then surprised that they nearly get tripped by someone who was right behind them. Tripping people has become one of my favourite activities. It helps relive my stress
Similar to this are the idiots in the cars who will stop right across the pedestrian crossing, just so that they can gain 2 metres to their destination.
I am sure all the Western looking people get this. You are walking, iPod or something in the ears, minding your own business when children scream “Hi” at you. They don’t know you from a bar of soap, but they SCREAM at you. If you don’t answer then they will continue until you are either gone or answer them. If you answer they will start laughing or to something equally stupid.
I understand that they don’t really get taught that Hi is akin to Annong, but even so. Will you scream at a Korean you don’t know until they greet you back? What will a older Korean do to them if children treat them like Ronald MacDonald.
A few weeks back a Primary school girl, I’m guessing final year, screamed “Hello” at me. She was still in the school grounds and about 25 meters BEHIND me. Also I had my iPod in my ears. When I didn’t answer she thought it OK to SCREAM “Hey! Waegugin!” at me. Waegugin means Foreigner or Foreign Person. When I came back from the shop I passed her again and this time she screamed: “Hey! Guy!”
Luckily I was in a strange mood. I have learned enough Korean by now to be able to ask her name, her grade and teacher’s name. If I had found that out she would have been my one and only target for school next year.
I put most of the blame for this at the feet of the parents. What are they teaching their children about non-Korean that the childen think it is OK to be that rude to someone unknown to them?
Interestingly, at this same school there is one little girl who, on about 3 occasions now, stopped in front of me, give a little bow, say “Annyeonghaseyo” before the walking on. I have no idea who she is. “Annyeonghaseyo” is the polite way to greet someone. It is, in a way, similar to saying “Good morning/afternoon/evening”. Well done to her parents.
Being out of the loop
This is, in a way, may fault. I am in Korea and it is, I feel, my obligation to learn their language.
Because I don’t understand the language, yet, I don’t get all the information about what is going on at school. I get told on the morning of the day what we are going to climb the mountain. Everyone knew about it days before and brought extra shoes and clothes. Let me not even talk about schedule changes that I get told about as I walk in to class. If I didn’t have the yearly plan that the one teachers game me in English, then I would have found out on Friday that I don’t have class for the first three days of this week. It happens to Korean Teachers as well, but not nearly one the same sale.
Racism and hypocrisy
These two, more often than not, go hand in hand. Let me state from the outset that not all Koreans are like this, and maybe not even most, but the ones who keep silent about the misdoings of their countrymen should accept part of the criticism for not speaking up.
Koreans sometimes act like they are the master race. Interesting that most people in the rich Western world will not be able to find Korea on a map if asked and know next to nothing about the country except that Samsung comes from there. Some people know that the Olympics and World was around here some time in the past.
Let me give some example to illustrate the Racism / Hypocrisy.
Hongdae is currently a big issue because lots of Western men go there to pick up Korean girls for one night stands. Who do you think gets blamed for this? The over sexed men, of course. Everyone knows that Korean girls who go there are all innocent virgins who would never have known about sex if it wasn’t for the Evil White Men.
According to the media all English Teachers are habitually use drugs just before class. As far as I know, if you look at the percentages, then drug use is double that of foreigners. I do admit that a teacher who is only here for a good time is more likely to use drugs, but even if they are twice as likely, then that only puts them on par with Koreans.
Crime is another big issue. Of course crime by Foreigners will increase. If you increase the number of foreigners then the amount of crime will increase. That is just obvious. The more realistic thing though is that Foreigners are more careful because we have more to loose by doing something wrong. We get deported. We don’t get a slap on the wrist and told not to that while drunk. If I am drunk then I am a problem, yet the general Korean society says it is OK for Korean men to walk the streets drunk every night. And in any case, how on earth does anyone really know what the crime levels are with a police force as useless as that of South Africa
Fake Qualifications. Hmmm. So, me, with my proper qualification have to suffer because the Korean Employers are too lazy to pick up the phone and call the university and ask if I studied there. Phone numbers to these institutions are not secret. My student number is not secret. Korea is not cut off from the rest of the world. Do your job and stop blaming others for your incompetence in checking.
The Sex Industry in general is the last thing I will mention. Somehow it is bad for foreigners to do anything sexual, and it is bad to have clubs where foreigners are allowed to pay for sexual favours, but once you find out what to look for you will see just how big the industry catering for Korean men is. Here in little Icheon there are about 7 or so Red Light room, that I know of. There is an amazing stationary smack bang in the middle of these and when I walk past I can see that there is more than one room per establishment.
Wait, one last thing. Foreign men and Korean girls. Let us say that 1% of the foreign girls are hot. Let say there about 10 000 Western girls in my general area (I include the ones who live relatively far away). That gives me 100 hot girls. Let us say, just to play with numbers, that only 0.5% of Koreans girls are hot. Most of the foreign teachers or the like will be about the same age, so let us say of the 10 million people living in Seoul, half are women, and maybe about 2 million of them are around my age. 0.5% of them will give me 10 000 girls. I’m my opinion, Korean girls are really pretty, and so I know there are way more than those, but still. Do you really expect the Western men to fight over 100 girls or do you think they will just say: “Why not one of the 10 000 really pretty Korean girls”.
The “Leave out girls alone! (but we can take yours)” mentality is quite common around the world though. It is better for me to have a black girlfriend in South African than for a girl to have a black boyfriend.
I do not think it is a crap hole or the worse country on the world.
I do not think Koreans are bad for being Korean.
I do not think any other county or the West in general is better than Korea or the East in general.
I do not think Koreans are Barbarians.
I did not renew my contract because I dislike Korea.
I do think Korean girls are pretty.
I do think Koreans are crazy, but show me the nationality that isn’t in some way.
I do wish to learn more about the country and stay here for a while, hence my renewed effort to learn to speak Korean.
I do feel Korea and Koreans have a lot of potential, once they get of their high horses, but even then Africa can learn from Korea. They are not even on high horses, they are on bloody gigantic horses. Come see here what can be done with a little hard work and what work actually mean.