Crazy culture in Kimchiland!

15 Apr

(Sigh of relief) On Tuesday I moved into my new place.  The school organised a mover and a truck to assist me.  My Korean possessions can be summed up to one suitcase of clothing, two boxes of random crap, a table, two chairs, a bed and a closet. Not much I know, but nonetheless what a mission to carry all of it down 4 flights of stairs.  Jeepers.  And to make things even funnier, the mover guy and I could not understand each other.  It was a challenge, because I did not know when to lift, or to turn left or anything.  It reminded me of that Friends episode with  “pivot” ().  In no time we had everything loaded onto the truck and off we went on our treacherous journey to my new place.  I mean 800 meters, phew!  Got there and got everything settled into my new place.  Nicola and I moved my room and started to unpack.  We didn’t finish because we got hungry and tired.  I didn’t spend the night at my new place because the school still has to get me a fridge, TV and washing machine.  So until I have all my goodies I will remain a guest at Nicola’s!  During this whole moving thing I started to think about Korean culture and how some of the things annoy me and others amuse me.  All part of the culture shock I guess.  Now Koreans do not wear shoes in their houses.  So if you keep your shoes on in a Korean home it is a sign of disrespect.  Because Koreans do much of their living on their floors (they sit on the floor when eating, they sometimes sleep on the floor), their floors are always clean.  And also you never know in what kinds of crap you step in on the pavements.  Koreans spit everywhere.  And not just spit, I mean they go in deep to get everything out!  When my furniture got delivered to my fist apartment the delivery guys took of their shoes whilst holding a heavy closet.  It is imprinted in their being!  They do not wear shoes indoors.  So on Tuesday when the mover helped me with my furniture he did not take off his shoes.  Not in my old place and not in my new place.  There can be many reasons for this but in my mind, taking the Korean culture into consideration, that was a major show of disrespect.  And that is something that I have also noticed in the Korean culture, there is no such thing as “you get what you give”.  They expect everything from you but are not always willing to do the same for you.  And it is understandable because the History of Korea shows you that this country has almost always pulled on the shortest string.  Japan and China has invaded this small country countless times and tried to take over.  Then the Korean War happened and so many people were displaced.  Koreans have a history of always of being disregarded.  Therefore now in times of democracy it still comes across as if they have to prove themselves.  I don’t know it just seems a bit ambiguous.  They advocate the pureness of their culture and how they are the supreme race.  I read somewhere that 1 in 5 Korean men pay for sex on a regular basis.  And the worst part is that they make no attempt to hide it.  There are VIP salons everywhere.  “Come cut your and get a happy ending”.  Nicola and I asked one of her co-teachers about these VIP places when we passed one and her reply was “this is bad bad place where all the bad people go”.  So is a quarter of the population “bad”?  Also Korea is one of the top destination countries for human trafficking.  Many Russian woman and eastern European woman are lured in to coming to Korea under the impression they will get a lucrative job.  Wham bam!  These woman are forced into prostitution in this oh so holy Confucius country.  Another annoying Korean attribute can partly be ascribed to their history but mainly due to the fact that almost 50 million people are squashed into an area that was meant for 20 million.  Korea is a small country and much like an island.  Because South Korea is bordered by only North Korea the only means to leave the country is by boat or plane.  Korea is an Island.  And Koreans have small islander syndrome.  They permanently bump, push, cut in line, shove, etc.  In this overcrowded country its not about how old you are or if you were fisrt.  Its about getting done what you want to do in the shortest possible time.  At our orientation one or other Korean dude said something about the difference between Koreans and Japanese.  Japanese will always read the instruction manual fist and follow the instructions step by step.  Koreans on the other hand will try to figure it out without the manual and always try to speed up the process.  Now Koreans describe this as Dynamic Korea and the fact that they are very efficient.  I just call it impatience.  They are very impatient.  But its their way of life!

Some of the aspects of their culture that amuse me include the fact that it is considered rude to blow your nose at the dinner table. This creates a few problems.  Korean food is spicy as hell and causes a runny nose.  Second Koreans stuff their faces, and spit food out, and chew with their mouths open and speak with food in their mouths so that you can actually witness a part of the digestion process – but blowing your nose is considered rude!  That just made me smile.  As a foreigner in this oh so foreign country we get many many stares.  Children are always excited to see us and immediately blurt out the limited extent of their English “Hallo, How are you, nice to met you”.  But the older folkies, they’re the ones that give you the uncomfortable glare.  Do they look at you because you look different from them, or do they look at you because they are secretly cursing at you in their mind. And although in the beginning it was quite funny it is starting to get on my nerves now.  So my remedy is to just stare back.  And the staring quickly stops!  It makes them very uncomfortable I guess!  But its fun and it is something to kill time on the busses and the subway!

Korea is a mystical place that never seizes to amaze me.  Confusing but amazing!

Cheers from my dodgy Korean Alley – oh no wait, I moved!

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3 Responses to “Crazy culture in Kimchiland!”

  1. Jackie April 15, 2010 at 14:19 #

    ^_^

  2. Diane April 16, 2010 at 00:02 #

    I think the staring is another cultural misunderstanding….possibly. I mean, I don’t necessarily think they (or most of them) are glaring. I like to sneak glances at the locals any time I’m with other Westerners to see how they react, and I do see people always looking at us, but I don’t think it’s meant to be a glare.

    • christodewit April 16, 2010 at 08:39 #

      Diane, you can focus for more than 5 seconds! Thanks for reading! I know, its just my point of view!

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