Friday, 31 August 2012

10 Things about living in Korea that I won't ever get used to...

1. The Smells I'm happily skipping down the road, my classes have gone well that day, the naughty girl hasn't played up at school, the sun is shining, but for once it's not too hot, the man throwing business cards at the pavement hasn't hit me so far and I haven't tripped for at least 5 minutes on the uneven paving that Korea is built upon, when all of a sudden the most grotesque, vomit inducing, sex panther-esque smell fills your nostrils, just reminding you not to get too carried away with your current situation, there is always something to drag you down. You can run into the subway to try and escape the smell, but then you're surrounded by middle aged men who all smell like they think a vampire invasion is imminent so they've decided to safe guard themselves by brushing their teeth with kimchi. Why is it only the men though? That's what I'd like to know.

2.Pickled Radish  It doesn't taste toooo bad, but I think this is one of the worst culprits for the smells in Korea. Who would have thought these small white pickled cubes could make such a stink? Hours before lunch time I know when it's on the menu as the smell wafts up from the kitchen. It smells like stagnant trumps mixed with rotten vegetables. What's worse is that it got delivered with an order of fried chicken to the school. The teachers semi opened it, but then popped it in the fridge so they could enjoy it later, but then forgot. Weeks later it decided to make it's presence known by letting out a smell worthy of requiring a gas mask, every single time someone opened the fridge. Bleugh.

3. The use of the word Maybe
Teacher: "There's a parent's meal tonight, maybe you will come?"
Me: "Oh, I have plans tonight, sorry"
Teacher: "Maybe you will cancel them though?"
Me:  "I guess maybe I will."

Teacher""We have a class in 10 minutes, maybe you could make a powerpoint presentation on the past participle third person singular?"
Me: "Yes, Maybe I could..."
Teacher: "Maybe it could have pictures and animation too?"

 How has maybe turned into such a threatening word ?!

4. Their love of clapping  There seems to be a belief in Korea that the correlation of sales in a shop is directly linked to the volume/frequency of clapping that is done by the sales assistants. They stand in the street and clap really loudly in your face as you walk past. Whenever it happens I walk away feeling slightly violated. Once I was sat in the phone shop, when I saw one young gentleman gather his co-workers together, they all marched out of the shop and started clapping less than enthusiastically at innocent passes-by in the street. Strange but true.

5. Korean Boys asking for Phone Numbers Why? Just because we speak English doesn't mean that we want to give you English lessons. Most of the time I hope that these are genuine requests, but sometimes I feel like these are hopeful suitors disguising their dreams under the cloak of a language barrier. This has been spurred on from a bad experience I had on Sunday night. I was sat on the subway with a male friend, and happened to notice a young Korean man smiling at me, but I just ignored it. Eventually my friend left, and so I tried to look absorbed in my phone. Unfortunately the man got off at the same stop as me, so I hung back, but he must have noticed, so I hopped into my local supermarket and spent a good ten minutes in there. When I came out I started the walk back upto my house, when I realised that I was being followed, I turned around and was greeted by the guy thrusting his phone in my face with a note on the screen that was begging for English lessons. No you creepy person.

6. Only one song seeming to be big at a time...and at the moment it's this that's being played to death. Enjoy!


7. Not being able to try things on in shops  Every item of clothing in Korea seems to be 'Fixed size' which is rather ambiguous. Will it, won't it fit over my thighs that inadvertently aren't as skinny as a stick of celery? To add to the mystery of the size the shop assistants will not let you try things on. Before I learnt this lesson I asked a few times if I could try, and was always met by filthy looks that would drive me straight out of the shop. Why won't they let this 5ft 11, sweaty, white monster try on their delicate looking dresses?!

8. The Toilets First of all they don't usually have toilet roll in the cubicles, just a big roll near the entrance of the bathroom. Therefore whenever you want to go, you have to carefully judge how much loo roll you need, and pray that you don't have a sneaky wee that seems to stop, but then just carries on. Once you're over this trauma there's the ash trays, I can't imagine wanting to smoke while I'm sat in a public loo, but then I don't smoke so I don't know what nicotine cravings do to people. Next, while you're having a drag on your cigarette, you can check yourself out. Yes, they have mirrors at eye level when you're sat on the toilet. I think this shows that the Koreans have taken vanity to a whole new level, who would want to look themselves in the eye when they're doing their business? The worst thing about this is that I went to a bathroom that only had the squat style toilets, and even in there, you can look at yourself while you squat over a potty that smells like pee, and try not to slip on the puddles where other people have obviously missed (probably because they were too busy smoking and doing their make up while they were having a good old squat). After using some of the worse toilets you feel like you need a good wash, but when you approach the sinks there are these strange looking soap contraptions, think soap on a rope, but it's on a metal stick instead, and you have to do some obscene hand gestures to get yourself properly soaped up...sometimes you can't help but laugh at everyone doing it with perfectly straight faces...oh Korea!

9. Sitting on the floor Maybe it's just from all the years of being provided a comfy chair to sit on when I go to a restaurant that means I struggle with sitting on the floor. I spend the whole time wriggling about trying to get comfy, legs to the side, crossed, straight out in front, a combination of all three which ends in the crescendo of an awful bout of pins and needles, by which time I've gone off my food. Maybe that's their secret to staying to slim.

10. The Spitting  It's usually old men that make the real song and dance about clearing their lungs onto the floor, but I've seen demure K Pop esque girls doing it, even a student at our school who is very cute with pigtails and glasses has been known to do it. It makes the kida at home who hang around off licences trying to find an adult to buy them fags seem like they're being discreet when they spit a big green blob on the floor. Charming.