When I was in high school, we had to read, “The Great Gatsby,” as I’m sure everyone reading this had to. I will never forget my English teacher telling us how smart it was that F. Scott Fitzgerald set the big fight between Tom and Gatsby during the summer. He made us picture the setting: a hot, muggy, humid hotel room on a hot, muggy, humid day. Two people with obvious tension between them, stuck in this small, hot room together- something was about to pop off. That’s what heat does to you. It wasn’t until these past few weeks living in the WORST heat I’ve ever experienced that I really appreciated just how brilliant of a move Fitzgerald made. I never noticed how much heat can affect you, your attitude, and your outlook on life. I recently taught my co-teacher the phrase “hot as balls” because it is the best way for me to describe the weather in Korea. The humidity is killer here. I stayed in Korea for my vacation and thought I would spend time exploring the cool places here BUT I mostly spent it in my room, AC and Netflix on BLAST. It was way too hot to enjoy anything. Every morning I would wake up DETERMINED to have a good day, only to find myself SWEATING through my clothes, hair stuck to the back of my neck, and the sun searing my eyes shut. The humidity made it feel like you were walking in honey and no matter how much I tried to convince myself to have a good time, it was just too hot to be anything but miserable. Plus, I wear a fall wardrobe year round. I don’t change my outfits based on season, really, so I’m sure that adds to the problem.
Last week, I wrote about all of the great things about Korea- I left some off now that I look back over it- so this week I wanted to write about the things I don’t like…
- Humidity– This one is only bad for..let’s see.. oh yeah- THE WHOLE SUMMER -__- At first, I thought people were exaggerating about how bad the humidity is. Chicago gets humid, so it’s not like I’ve never experienced it before, but this is on another level. If some gypsy woman were to grant me an all expense paid trip to Thailand, I would have a few questions BUT one of the main ones would be, “When?” and if she said anytime during the summer, I would flat out refuse. Even if she said I could paddle board with Orlando Bloom.
2. Red Bean Paste– Honestly, the real silent killer. Red beans and red bean paste are so popular in Korea. It’s basically their equivalent to chocolate…only…it’s beans. Red beans taste exactly like BEANS so I have no idea who the effffff decided they were appropriate for desserts! The worst thing about them is that SOMETIMES you think it’s chocolate. Imagine thinking you’re about to bite into a chocolate filled pastry ONLY to taste frijoles! It’s the worst and they use it in so many of their desserts! Just beans on top of and in ice cream, cake, etc.
3. NO Sandwiches– Korea has sandwiches…but not really. You can’t buy actual, real deli meat unless you wanna pay up the butt for it and even then, it’s all pork, etc. You can’t go to any restaurant and just grab a sandwich to go. I never realized how essential sandwiches are to my diet. Having to pack a lunch was kinda weird at first because I actually had to cook part of my lunch, when normally I could just grab Jimmy John’s or something. I tell you what- I would do some TERRIBLE things for a Jimmy John’s sandwich.
4. Staring– Relentless. STARING. There is NO shame in a Korean’s stare game. They will literally try to burn a hole into your soul. They don’t look away. They are statues. Now I just stare right back,but it barely does anything.
5. Anxiety– Korean people have anxiety.Except, there’s no medication for it. It’s a way of life. It is in the air here and they breathe it in and it binds with their red blood cells and then becomes a part of their tissues. That’s real science there, folks. Sometimes I just watch them panicking about NOTHING and I can see them physically crumbling. It’s disheartening, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to truly break away from this.
6. Timing– I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a foreigner, but Koreans are so last minute with everything. I’ve mentioned several examples in my other posts, but it’s just so relevant to your life here and such an inconvenience. I would not be surprised if they were like, “Hey today is the naked parade. Be there in 3 minutes, naked.” And then you would have to show up and just walk in the parade! They give no notice for anything at work and it’s always such a pain!
7. Nothing to Do– I find Korea to be boring. Now, this could be because my city- Daegu- isn’t exactly a hub of energy, but I find it true everywhere. Maybe if I was a hiker or really, really into the outdoors, it would be different. Other than climbing mountains and eating, there is nothing exciting here. This could also be because I love big cities and find the energy to be entertainment enough, but there are plenty of weekends spent here wishing there was more to do!
8. Movies– Korea doesn’t get too many of the same movies we get back home. You’re really only guaranteed to see superhero movies. Other than that, it’s pretty hit or miss.
9. Internet & TV Monitoring– Korea monitors internet and what you see on TV. I will never forget watching TV and seeing that a cigarette was blurred out. I thought the person was smoking a dick, but no, it was just a regular ol’ cigarette. As for the internet, any/all porn is blocked. You’re probably thinking, “Um…TMI,” but porn is a VERY broad term here. This even includes kissing! Sometimes I’ll try to catch up on my reality TV shows and if there’s even a whiff of a kiss, the ENTIRE website will be blocked. Even YouTube is heavily monitored!
10. Trash System– Recycling and trash separation are very important here, which sounds amazing, but I’m a lazy American person. They have special red bins that collect food waste, and then you have to separate EVERYTHING else. I tried this for maybe a month? But then I was needing way too many garbage bags. Now I just throw everything away in the same bag and so far, so good.
11. Stress- I mentioned that people here are very anxious, which also makes them unnecessarily stressed. Koreans get SO stressed over nothing. When my co-teachers are lesson planning for THIRD GRADE, you would think they were in charge of writing the speech to end violence and hunger worldwide. They get so stressed about what to do and whether the kids will like it, meanwhile I’m like open YouTube and call it a day -_-.
12. Collective Mindset– In Korea, the individual is nowhere near as important as the collective group. This sounds beautiful, but it actually sucks ass. People here also get stressed about going out alone and can’t handle being alone in any situation! When my co-teachers find out that I travel, eat, and see movies alone, they get all wide-eyed and start covering their mouths like I just showed them a third nipple. They always ask, “Why? Don’t you have a friend?” And I always ask them, “What if I want to do something they don’t want to do and vice versa?” and they pretty much tell me to compromise. Um…what? Compromise what I want to do in the ONE lifetime I have here? I think not… Eating lunch is especially confusing for them. Like most humans, I don’t enjoy spending EVERY minute at work with my co-workers. Sometimes I choose to have lunch in the office alone and they always stare at each other uneasily as if I’m gonna start going through their purses the second they leave the room! This also means that they rarely stick up for themselves. They just take abuse from their superiors and peers and let it manifest into stress and anxiety.
13. Lack of Creativity- I can’t tell you how many times my co-teachers have shot something down because they don’t think the students will learn from it. Anytime coloring or art is suggested, they basically roll their eyes. Even the kids have trouble when given free reign. Everyone here wants specific instructions. They don’t know how to be creative. This is even evident in Korean styles and trends.They all believe they’re being creative and unique BUT they look the same. I always think of Meryl Streep’s monologue from “The Devil Wears Prada” when she says the whole bit about Andy’s sweater being chosen for her.
14. Personal Space– Forget about it. You could be standing with your back against a wall and turn around only to see that someone somehow wedged themselves in there! It’s insane. People are basically standing on top of you in lines, shouldering the fuck out of you in the streets, and standing crotch to face on subways.
15. Spitting– It’s like they’re all auditioning for “Titanic” and they’re reading from the “spit like a man” scene -_-. If you hold a seashell up to your ear in Korea, you can hear someone hawking a loogie. Spitting is just part of life here and they spit any/everywhere.
16. Sneezing– Lord. Help me. People here should be in the Olympics for sneezing because they would win gold EVERY TIME. Korean people sneeze out in the open- no dabbing, no hand over the mouth. They are totally open and honest with their sneezing.
17. Cats– They’re everywhere and they’re gross.
18. Pork– Pork is a flavor here in Korea. Even if something has “no meat” they don’t consider pork to be meat, just extra flavoring. Sometimes, even the beef has pork in it! I have definitely loosened up my “no pork” stance since moving here. I won’t full out eat a piece of pork, but I’ve stopped asking if it’s in everything I eat.
19. SUGAR– Yet again, LORD. Everything in Korea is sweet. SWEET. ANY sort of pizza sauce, pizza snack, red sauce, burrito- anything. Everything is really sweet. If I were to order dirt, it would either have sugar added or come with a side of mayonnaise. Burritos are filled with coleslaw and mayo. I would give anything for some salt and vinegar chips- ANYTHING!
20. Random man– Every Monday or Tuesday, a random Korean man comes into my office and has to use my computer. I have NO idea what he’s doing. Sometimes he’s on here for 5 minutes, other times it’s up to 15 minutes. Sounds like nothing BUT it so annoying. I think he’s just checking his bank statement to be honest. I have to stop everything I’m doing, leave, and stand in the hallway or walk around until he’s finished.
21. Buses– Anytime I ride the buses in Korea, I get headaches and awful motion sickness. I actually had to get patches and pills JUST for the bus! The bus drivers here are psychos and stop and go, weave, cut, and everything else in traffic! They come to these HARD stops, where you get jerked all the way to the right or left of where you’re standing. ALSO you have to use the back door to get out. That’s so annoying, especially if you’re carrying a ton of groceries and sit at the front and then have to walk to the back just to get off!
22. Clothes Shopping– Ugh. First off, all of the shirts here literally come up to your throat! Also, it’s rare if you’re allowed to try on clothes. If you are, you definitely CANNOT try on shirts half the time! Only pants, for some reason. It’s the worst! Unless you go to H&M or some other international brand, you’re S.O.L.
23. BANKING– You already know about this one, but just for good measure- KOREAN BANKING IS THE DUMBEST THING THAT HAS EVER EXISTED. IT IS ALMOST AS BAD AS HITLER. I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW IT’S AN ACTUAL THING. *smoothes hair back into place and takes a seat*
24. Nosiness– Koreans are extremely nosy. Not only do they stare at you, they also want to know what you’re reading, what apps you’re using, what you’re looking at, etc.
25. Being Helpful…but not really– The best way to explain this one is to recount a tale of trying to find a bus terminal to leave Daegu and travel somewhere else. A friend and I were trying to leave for the weekend, but were told to go to the wrong bus terminal. When someone told us where the RIGHT terminal was, we were running low on time and decided to take a cab. The cab drivers kept looking at our paper and trying to tell us something. Finally, someone spoke English and told us that they were trying to tell us that the tickets for our bus were probably sold out already…WE ALREADY HAD THE TICKETS THOUGH! They were basically giving us the most useless information and making us even more late because they were trying to be helpful. This happens all the time. Show them an address and ask how to get somewhere and they’re trying to tell you it’ll be closed on Christmas….
26. Cab Drivers– WHY. Cab drivers in Korea are so sheisty. They will try and take you all over town to run the meter and you really can’t do anything about it. Also, they can and usually will refuse to drive you places. On the same trip I was talking about earlier, we tried to take a cab to the new bus terminal and the drivers REFUSED to take us because it was “too close.” It was a good 10-15 minute walk from where we were!
27. Getting The Check– In Korea, you get the check RIGHT after you order. They just place it on the table and if you want anything else, they have to get you a new one. They also get anxious if you order something else! It’s like an unspoken rule that if they already gave you the check, just try and do without anything else!
28. Soap– In bathrooms, they use bars of soap or soap on a weird hook that looks like you’re jerking it off when you wanna wash your hands. This is if the bathrooms even have soap!
29. Toilet Paper– Toilet paper is NOT a priority in Korea. It is totally normal for there to be no toilet paper and if there is, the dispenser is located outside of the stall! You just have to take what you think you’ll need and pray you have good judgement. My school hasn’t had toilet paper since the week after I got here. They say there’s no budget for that. I really wanna see the budget for the schools here! No toilet paper, soap, OR A/C?! WTF are they using it for?!
30. Shop Attendants– “Get off my dick,” I think to myself EVERY TIME I am shopping. Shop attendants here stand RIGHT next to you as you shop. Even if an uncomfortable amount of time has passed, they will still be standing there. You can’t really “look” in shops here. It’s the least helpful thing in the world. They don’t even speak English half the time (not their fault of course) but they’ll still sit there talking to me in Korean until I just get frustrated and leave!
31. Getting cut– Getting cut in lines here is so normal and so annoying. I could literally be pressed against the counter at the front of the line and waiting to order and someone will just cut in or shout their order out loud. Even if you’re watching a public performance and obviously standing in a good spot, these people have no qualms about shoving in front of you and pushing you into a shitty position.
32. Cheapo Portions– I know that I’m coming from the States and our portions are just out of control, but it is totally normal to get a McFlurry that is half empty or a cup of ice cream where you can literally see the bottom of the cup! They are the worst! I WANNA EAT MORE. Just fill it up until it’s spilling over the side and let me deal with the repercussions!
33. STOPLIGHTS– AGH! You know how when you’re waiting to cross the street, your body can kind of tell when it’s time to go? Your mind kind of judges the time and knows how much waiting time is enough. HERE stoplights can be up to 5 FULL MINUTES. Every car has a chance to turn and then some. It is insane how long they are!
34. Going Out Alone– I mentioned that Koreans hate going out alone, but actually going out alone can also suck! Almost every restaurant caters to pairs and groups. Some places you can’t even go eat alone because food is priced for two and it’s expensive. Movie ticket stubs are printed on one ticket so you can’t go into a movie without both people going in together. Nothing here is meant for only one person. That’s why restaurants are so expensive here sometimes. A bucket of chicken is almost $20 and there is no single, divorced dad portion here!
35. Watching TV– UGH. Besides shitty Netflix, it’s really hard to watch TV shows here. Even using a VPN and having subscriptions to certain outlets. It’s one of the toughest things about being out here!
36. Hand-Washing– Don’t expect it from everyone! I have been in the bathroom and heard fellow teachers AND students just leave, without even so much as a glance towards the sink. It is really common to not wash your hands here. BARF.
37. Passive Aggressive– You already knew about this one, but again, just for good measure. I almost wish they would just be confrontational and tell me what they want to say. SPIT IT OUT! Remember that scene in “The First Wives Club” when Diane Keaton beat the shit out of her therapist with that styrofoam, Q-tip looking thing, but the therapist was just happy she was at least reacting? I WISH! I would actually be happy if one of them just said, “Let’s fight about it, bitch.”
38. Soda- Coke and Pepsi taste like garbage. Definitely not the same here.
39. Menus- If you go to a restaurant with a group of 600 people, restaurants will only give you one menu. This ties into the “everything being tailored for pairs or groups,” but in Korea, if you go to a restaurant, you will only get one menu per table. It’s annoying and I always ask for more menus and they’re always taken back the request.
40. Fruit- Honestly, forget about fruit in Korea. It is ridiculously expensive, mostly because you have to buy a whole big bunch at one time. It’s not like back home where you can just buy what you will eat. When I finally break down and get fruit, half of it usually goes to waste because it’s just me trying to eat it. All foreigners get excited when there’s free fruit because it’s actually a treat here -_-.
I promise I am about two minutes from starting a topless revolt and releasing these people from the ties that bind them! I’m working on a good war cry, but till then…Of course, there are also things I am leaving off of this list, but I think 40 is good for now. I also want to add that lots of the things I’m griping about are cultural and I know I CHOSE to live here. But then I remember that I can and will complain about anything I want to in life and no one can stop me! MUAH HA HA!!!! Thanks for reading yet another blog, I really do appreciate it!