Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Top Ten Ways To Amuse Yourself In Korea

Korean Adventurer (May 3, 2002 Chautauqua)

The Top 10 Ways to Amuse Yourself In Korea

This list was sent to me by my friend, Blondie. It provides some insights about what life in general is like over here.

10.) Play chicken with cars on the sidewalk. This is a fairly common occurrence. Koreans park just about anywhere they damn well please. Cars, motorcycles, and bikes take advantage of any opening anywhere, road or sidewalk, to beat the traffic. I remember walking home from the store the other night, and I heard an engine behind me. I was almost up to a space between two other parked vehicles, and I didn't bother moving aside, as I thought the space was too small for the following vehicle to pass through. I was startled to hear the motor continue close behind me. I looked, and was confronted with the smallest car I have ever seen. It gave new meaning to the word "compact".

9.)Order Steak and Potato with Fiddleheads at EVERY Korean restaurant. I'm not exactly sure what this means, as I've not had this particular delicacy. I think it makes reference to the fact that "fiddleheads" can make you sick if you're not careful. It's not really funny, as there was a story in the "Korean Herald" last week, saying that the food in six different fast food chains (KFC and McDonald's among them) had tested positive for staph infections in the foods. Bad news for westerners who do not like Korean food.

8.) While sitting in a public spot, pretend to catch a fly with chopsticks. Celebrate loudly. Koreans are intensely interested in everything we westerners do, and do not hesitate to stare when they so you. They also like to examine the contents of your shopping basket. It's nothing hostile, just innocent curiosity.

7.) When something is said by one Korean to another that is slightly amusing, laugh hysterically. Don't stop. Well, this is just plain mean. Hee hee hee.

6.) Stand outside a Korean electronics store where the TVs are playing. Pretend to understand every word. Again, just mean. The kids in my school get very excited when I display any knowledge of their language, and it is difficult to stop them from testing me, and turn the lesson back to learning English.

5.) Remind a Korean man that he is short. Do this repeatedly. Be prepared for an a** kicking. It's true that there are a lot of short people here, but they are also very thin. One of the first things that struck me when I returned home last year was how many obese people there were, myself included. Most Koreans like to get out and do some regular physical activity, for which they should be commended. Also, there are quite a few who are as tall, if not taller than some westerners.

4. Convince them that both of your parents are Korean (oh yes, it can be done). The trick to arguing with Koreans is to remain calm at all times. Once you lose your temper, you've lost the argument.

3.) Wear Japanese flags. The Koreans really are very touchy when it comes to anything Japanese. A person who makes a reference to the "Sea of Japan" will be provided with the correct title, the "East Sea". There has always been some tension in their relations. Last year it was some textbooks, approved for use in Japanese schools, that did not deal adequately with Japan's conquests and behaviour during it's Imperial phase. It only just got smoothed over when the Japanese premier paid a visit to the shrine for Japanese war dead. Some of those memorialized are considered war criminals over here, and the visit has cast a pall over the upcoming joint Japanese/Korean hosting of the World Cup.

2.) Go to the cinema. After the preview for a Korean film, pump your fists in the air and yell, "I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THAT!". Actually, there have been some very good films made here recently. A few years back, a film called "JSA" won an Academy Award for best foreign film. It was a tense thriller about a South Korean soldier accused of murdering some North Korean counterparts. Another film, called "Friends", dealt with four rookie firemen that featured some thrilling firefighting scenes.

1.) Fix something. It always seems like there is something to be done when foreigners move into their (school-supplied) apartment. Usually, it's fairly simple to make it seem homey. My friends and I have managed to make our places comfy enough to be a close substitute for "home". We are convinced that we are the only ones to take the time and trouble. Some of the people we've had as room-mates have been less than...clean. Oh well, it takes all kinds, I guess.

Anyway, there is a lot more to tell about life in Korea. I hope I have not rambled on too long, and I hope you look forward to the next installment. Until then, anyong assayo (Peace be with you).

Ask Flint about the shopping basket thing, and then duck.
My description of the movie "Friends" is erroneous. It's actually about four Koreans who grew up in Busan. One became a cop and another became a criminal, with tragic results.
I remember helping Mick and Jane clean an apartment after another teacher had left. The filth was indescribable. I remember scrubbing layers of grime off of the tile in the bathroom and wondering how anyone could stand it.


  1. Shopping carts!?!?!? argh!!!!!

  2. point of order Mr Chairman. I refer my honourable anonymous colleague to previous's supposed to be 'racist fucking esl whitey loser.'

  3. No, it's okay. "Racist fucking esl whitey loser"'s are harder to get then "racist fuck"'s. We've got about four of the latter. One more and Flint and I each get a free machine coffee!

  4. Machine coffee? You can have a double. ;)