So… Let me tell you about the good stuff.
You have to measure it to know if it’s too long or too short
The good far outweighs the bad and the list grows day by day.
Restaurants are cheap and the food is almost always delicious and when it’s not, it’s because you are eating fried bugs. But the most important thing is
that I can eat out for less than eating in. I compare it to London andfeel like I am getting an amazing deal. I think people take just enough to make a small margin, which makes me respect them tremendously.
Added to this, Koreans have a very good idea of customer service (again, I am comparing to London, so make mental allowance with the above). When you walk in, you are acknowledged with a warm “Annyong haseyo!” (hello) and made to feel welcome from the get-go. At your table you will most likely find a doorbell buzzer, so that if you want something, all you have to do is press the bell and they come running, eager to bring you what you need.
And in spite of all the above, there is no need to tip, in fact it is considered rude to tip.
2. Some kids at school
Some of the kids in my classes make teaching a lot easier and some of them make it a lot harder. The kids who make it easier fall into three categories:
The first category is the super-cute kids category. Some kids will come up to me and slip a sweet into my pocket with a big smile. Or they’ll come up to me and grab my leg and hug it, or when I bend down to correct their work, they start playing with my hair in fascination whilst softly speaking Korean.
In my favourite class, the kids occasionally call me Oppa, a term of respect used with someone who older, but not married, the name of whom they daren’t utter out of respect. I might add that this happened after I made a deliberate effort to learn their Korean names (for some strange reason all the kids get given English names) and we have reached a good level of mutual respect.
The second category is the rebel kids category. I fucking love these little blighters. They remind me of my school days and naturally I have a lot of respect for kids who are anti-authority, especially in this slightly repressed culture. I’ve had some fantastic insults thrown my way from these kids, the best was being told that I had trouble getting it up, which I found impossible not bursting into laughter at. Another kid said he was Kim Il-Sung when I first met him, which immediately earned him points. This particular kid is a mild nationalist who has an hilarious contempt for Japan and spends all my classes going off on incoherent rants about how great South Korea is. One of the other rebels will just randomly get up and shout “Oppa Gangnam Style!” and start doing the dance in class to which all the others will join in to.
The third category is the category made up of kids who are just amazing at English and love class. They are little geniuses and probably speak better English than most kids back home. Proper little Asian prodigies.
3. Everything is cute here
It’s insane how Koreans love cute things. And it’s acceptable for adults to have cute things too. The bus to work says a really cute “Kamsahamnida!” (thank you) when you tap in your bus card on it.
People wear cute socks, have their mobile phones’ headphones’ jack hole stuffed with cute little bunny ears, kids and adults alike walk about with furry animal hats protecting them from the cold. There’s even a smiley face on my bank card, for Christ’s sake. I could go into endless detail and give myself RSI in the process of telling you just how cute Korea can be. Instead, here is a picture of a fire engine’s logo I took the other day:
That’s rock-paper-scissors/scissors-paper-stone to you and I. They love this game so much that once it’s brought up it’s almost impossible to stop the little fuckers. They play it fast and furiously, and take it very, very seriously. It resolves disputes, makes taking turns in class easier and picks them up when they are tired. One thing I haven’t quite worked out yet is how the kids manage to play it in groups of five or more. They have a system I cannot get my head around…
…is cheap and it is seemingly socially acceptable to get wrecked any day of the week. Koreans love to get drunk and it seems like a thing here to join in with the people; a kind of social necessary evil. Bars are open until very late weekdays/until you are done (~2:30am) and you could easily have an alcoholic breakfast here on the weekends (~7am).
6. Being considered handsome
I get complimented by random Koreans on the street. Mostly drunk Koreans, but nonetheless.
7. Free stuff
AKA “service”. If people like you they will give you free stuff when you buy something. A few examples:
I went to a restaurant this evening and got a plate of blood sausage, a drink and ice cream for free. The other night I went to a restaurant and apart from the fact that I paid less than £3.00 for a meal, I got another main dish for free because I was waiting for more than ten minutes. It’s nuts! I can’t get a pint of milk and biscuits from a convenience store without getting another packet of biscuits for free. I have no idea how they work it out, but “service” is truly one of the best things about Korea.
8. PSY is making a killing off advertising.
PSY is ubiquitous here. He does ads for everything and they absolutely love him. I like the fact that he is as popular as he is and that nobody seems to see the irony of that song. For those interested in the phenomenon, here’s a solid article about the subversive message behind Gangnam Style.
9. Korean TV
It’s awesome. Unfortunately, I don’t have a TV, but sometimes I get to see it at friends’ and in bars. Gameshows are the best!
Underfloor heating is lovely and efficient. My heating bill was very low this month.
It’s beautiful. You get drunk, walk home and it’s snowing.
Recycling is important here. They take it seriously and everyone does it automatically.
Respect is big in Korea. When you enter any shop, restaurant, bar, etc, you are immediately acknowledged by the owner/person working there. People bow automatically, elders are respected and there is a good economy of respect going on. I will do an entire post about this, because it’s too much to get into and definitely too complicated for me to grasp as yet.
See Dispatch Fourth.
15. Being the most responsible person in the room
Teaching makes me the responsible one. Even though it’s a bit of a joke, I’m starting to like it. Little do they know I’m possibly the most irresponsible person in South Korea.