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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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?