Published On: Tue, Dec 13th, 2011

10+ things I hate about Korea

  1. Last minute

    I like to plan things in advance if possible and I am sure a lot of people can agree with this. Although you get used to it fast because you have not choice, Korea should be known as the last minute country. It’s much better in public schools however but in private academies (hagwons) it sucks. You will find out about a new student in your class as you are going to class. You will find out about your vacation days two days before your vacation. You have to ask before you can know. If you don’t ask you are doomed for surprises and even if you ask, you don’t always get the answer that you need.

  2. The mosquitoes

    The mosquitoes in Korea are as big as a fly. When one of them bites you, you feel like you just donated blood. The scar they leave is as gigantic as the mosquito itself. If a mosquito bites you in Korea, the area it bites looks like you have a boil. I guess this is how they mark their territory.

  3. The smells

    I don’t know what it is but sometimes when I am walking down the street I get harassed by the foulest smell. Other foreigners I spend some time with have talked about this mysterious smell. It is a distinct smell but not as harsh as the mysterious smell I hear from people who have visited India. It is a unique aroma that attacks your nose unsuspectingly and you can almost taste it. Maybe it is from the urine of the drunk guy I saw pissing on the side of the street the other night when I was walking home from work. Maybe it is from the kimchi I saw a lady leave on the side of the road for the garbage man. Whatever it is, know one thing, it is the foulest smell to venture into my nostrils.

  4. Cutting in the line

    This one has happened to me almost every time I have gone to the bank. In fact it happened to me today when I went to use the ATM. I was waiting in line for my turn to use the ATM, but when the gentleman in front of me finished, another older guy came out of nowhere and jumped in front of me and started to use the ATM ignoring my presence. Steam came out of my nose but I remembered what I read about Korea before coming. Seniority in age is everything and Confucianism governs the society. Confucius says,

    “man who jumps in front of line might be jumping in front of fist”

    That’s my Confucius quote of the day.

  5. Blatant Racism

    It’s everywhere in the world. I don’t understand it, it makes no sense and it never will to me but it happens. But the thing is this most Koreans are not racist but like everywhere else some are. The difference is unlike in a lot of places where it is hidden from you, in Korea it’s in your face. Don’t believe me, read “You’r black so that makes you a monkey”.

  6. Personal space

    Koreans seem to have little regard when it comes to personal space. People touch you, especially the kids, but it is really unnerving when done by anyone other than a child who might be curious as to why your skin is different from his or hers. This happens less often with prolonged stay however.

  7. Staring

    Oh the hypocrisy. I read and was told that it is rude to stare at people in Korea. I think this is true in any culture but I find here in Korea that they are the ones doing the staring while telling me that it is rude. I get stared down, up, side to side, from above from Korean ninjas (joking). But all jokes aside, what are you looking at? When you stare at people, what is that you are looking for? If it is a beautiful woman I can understand that but why are you looking me? I am not fascinating in any sense of the word. You should be getting eye sores looking at me and I am not fishing for a compliment here. I have briefly talked about this before when I first got here and I was so flabbergasted at the hypocrisy that I decided to only express my thoughts in poetry. See Poems from South Korea.

  8. Pedestrians first

    There is no such thing as pedestrians first in Korea. It seems like cars have the right of way rather than people. Earlier today, I was going to a coffee shop I frequent when I had to stop and wait for a car that was parking on the side walk before I could squeeze my way around it to get by.

  9. Urgency

    There is no sense of urgency on things that matter most to Westerners and even Koreans themselves. For instance, we get paid in increments sometimes. I still do not understand this one. Do I do my job in increments? Don’t be surprised if you have not received your entire pay on pay day ESL Teachers and perhaps others working abroad.

  10. Criticism

    This one should be number one. Koreans don’t like it when and if you don’t like something about Korea. They get defensive as if it was a personal attack or that you are not suppose to have an opinion about their country. This baffles me, I don’t expect Koreans like everything about the U.S. In fact, some yell and say things in Korean to foreigners about U.S military bases and overall U.S occupation here.

  11. Forgetting that I am not Korean

    It is frustrating when Koreans expect you to abide and respect their culture and tradition then turn around and disrespect your own by assuming that since you are in Korea, you are Korean and should be treated as such. This is a huge problem for English Teachers that come to Korea and perhaps other countries. Some put up with it; some leave and some adjust.

  12. Constant reminder to learn Korean

    Learning Korean is not what I am here for; I am here to teach English. Although I want to learn the language I don’t need you reminding me to do so constantly. So if I want to learn Korean, I will learn Korean not because you remind me everyday, but because I want to, so stop telling me please.

Fin

The best thing about traveling is the people and the experiences you share with those people. However, being that we come from and are raised in different cultures and hold strong prejudice about how to live and what is acceptable and unacceptable, there are going to be things we like and don’t like about different cultures. With that said, the best things to take with you to another culture are understanding, tolerance and an open mind.

There are also 10+ things I love about Korea

Personal note
I don’t hate any culture or people, I simple dislike the habit or habits of that person or culture. Remember, just because something is different does not mean it is wrong. I write these because they are so and they can be annoying sometimes because it is not again, in accord with the rules of my culture. What do you think?

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Displaying 7 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. James says:

    Dude. I really do not mean to be respectful, but you really have to remember that this is a very homogeneous society not exposed to multicultural liberal dogma. If you do not learn Korean, you will simply not be respected the same way Hispanics are disrespected in America. This is a country with very dark history with strong nationalistic pride that only recently began to open up to the world, and you either have to respect it or leave it. Newer generation has indeed gotten a lot better when it comes to embracing people of different color and culture due to the higher percentage of them studying abroad (mostly in Korea). Your quasi racist comments about ninjas and city smelling of kimchi does not make me doubt that some people would indeed hold certain dislikes toward you and your american superiority complex. I personally find Americans who hold onto such beliefs despite their “higher education” much more irritating and annoying. So I suggest that you grow a pair and stick with it like many expat Americans who actually tries to learn a language, or get the hell out.

    • Tate says:

      James, it’s not wise to make such a connection between Hispanics and Teachers visiting Korean for a year, two or three versus Hispanics that look to make America their home. The variables between the two are too many to make a valid point. I have learned enough Korean to do, get around and be able to communicate my needs but not all Koreans think it’s enough regardless of how long I have been in Korea. But I don’t hold that against them I just keep trying.

      I meet two types of Teachers in Korea: those that hate it and only point out the negatives and those that love it and only point out the positive and attack those that stand between the two. No one can love or hate everything about any country. So I don’t know which one you fall into or whether you have been in Korea or not but your comment speaks for itself. The ninja comment is a theme the students and I joke about in my classes whether Koreans or other Asian or Western countries make the best ninjas and being that you also fail to notice the “joking” I put next to it speaks for itself. The smells are a fact not an opinion or something made up; it just is and like my home town in America there are smells too although not as foul whether because I am used to them or for whatever reason that’s another story.

      I hold no “superiority complex” to anyone or any society because it is ignorant to think that I or anyone is better than anyone else. I was raised better than that and I resent people that hold such a view or would try to pass that judgment about someone else based on their own misinterpretation. Your last lines are not even worth replying to since I am still in Korea, loving it while being objective and trying to provide resources for others interested in Korea.

      If you don’t like this article maybe you should read my other one about 10+ things I love about Korea.

  2. Jason says:

    All places have negative things about them; it’s very whiny to complain about most things. However, a few things are disturbing. For instance, the racism and prejudice toward handicapped and mixed race people. Of course, this stuff is true everywhere, but other places tend to cover it up with political correctness. I guess the best thing to do is not be so sensitive. However, sometimes the social problems in Korea can cause one to lose their job or compromise their integrity. For instance, why should a teachers say “I hate Japan” when they really don’t. The motivation only being to make Korean students happy. So sometimes it boils to down to your ethics vs keeping employment.

    • Tate says:

      True Jason, all places have negatives and positives about them. And as foreigners in a country we often forget that we are not in our native country where we are used to things being done a certain way. It takes some adjustment in ones perspective to start ignoring the little things and focus on why one is in that country in the first place and start having a good time. However like you say, racism of any kind something that cannot easily be overlooked even if it means losing ones employment.

  3. tedy says:

    all what u wrote are not really a serious things really happening in Korea. I want to write and show u about how shit Korean society is. they are idiot.

    • Ben Thompson says:

      The racism here is despicable. I am a fairly good-looking person, I wash daily and wear clean clothes, I do not smell, but just because I am a Caucasian, I cannot go to restaurants alone because nobody will sit near me, so the tables near me will all be empty. I don’t want to go to coffee shops for the same reason. On the bus, it is the same. The fact is that racism is getting worse here, as they puff themselves up and feel more and more smug. That having been said, my Korean friends are some of the best friends I have ever had. They will do anything for me, because I have been admitted to their sense of “uri”. What a difficult country! I loathe Koreans whom I don’t know for their rudeness in public, their shameless racism, their idiot nationalism, their stupid prejudices and fixed notions, but I absolutely love the ones I know. I feel like I have a split personality. I wish I could achieve some balance in my view of them.

  4. Kev says:

    You forgot food… The food here is tasteless. And meats? I ask for beef and I get bone, fat and cartilage. This country thinks beef is a chopped up cow pelvis.

    The worst part for me is the constant fear of losing my job that I don’t even like… I hate being a teacher. I hate the kids that complain behind my back about how boring my classes are just because I don’t dance like a monkey for them. If I get fired, I just won’t fucking care and I’ll leave like nothing even happened. So long as I can find my way back to the airport <_<.

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