A series on life in Korea
We have been in Korea for over three months now. Since we have been here there have been some weird, some interesting and some downright hilarious situations and realizations. I’m thinking about creating a kind of series on the blog documenting all of these as well as our funny moments with the kids. Here are 5 things in no particular order…
1) Now, I can’t speak for all of Asia (obviously), but I would like point out that the ‘Asian drivers’ stereotype is pretty accurate here in Korea. My goodness. They turn whenever they decide to, stop wherever they want to and park how ever they feel like parking. It’s just general chaos. Pedestrian crossings? Nah. Red robots? Optional. Kind of like this:
Nobody gets worked up about it. It’s just how it is.
2) It’s considered quite rude to smile at strangers here. That took some time to get used to! For me, it’s almost a reflex to smile at someone if I meet their eyes while walking past them. Not here though. One of the Korean teachers I work with explained that it’s kind of viewed that you smile at children, so by smiling at an adult you’re almost treating them like a child, or, that you are laughing at them. It makes sense, but takes ages to get used to. Far too many times I have started to smile at someone and then remembered halfway through and kind of turned it into an awkward grimace.
3) We need to talk about Maroon 5. They are everywhere! I feel like no matter where I go in Asia, ‘Sugar’ or ‘Animals’ is blasting from the stores. When I ask the kids what English music they like, most of the time they only know Maroon 5. First it was funny, then it was annoying and now I don’t even hear it.
4) On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I teach grade 3-6. One class in particular always makes me laugh. There are only 5 of them and they’re all crazy. Unfortunately for her, there is only 1 girl in the class. She sits in the corner by herself, doesn’t talk to them, and I swear she tries to set them on fire with her eyes. The boys irritate her constantly. Every time she lifts up her arms they make crazy underarm hair motions and pretend to die from the smell (typical 11 year old boys). They are always trying to ‘tell on’ each other to get the other one in trouble and it’s usually something silly or a joke.
The other day I had my back to them while I was writing on the board and they were all shouting something at once about what someone was doing. Assuming it was rubbish as usual I just ignored them. Eventually I turned around and caught it. This girl had drawn a zap sign on the back of her page and was holding it up every time one of the boys looked at her or spoke to her. Pretending I hadn’t seen it, I quickly turned around and started writing on the board again. She kind of had a point…
5) Okay. This is probably one of the craziest things I have heard here: fan death. Basically, most Koreans believe that if you are alone (particularly sleeping) with an electric fan blowing on you in an unventilated room you will die. Literally, die.
They offer a few explanations for this, but the most common is that the fast moving air around your face makes inhalation difficult and will lead to suffocation. If I walk into a classroom which has a fan running inside of it and close the door behind me a teacher or kid will run over and open the door or a window just a little. A few Koreans know that it isn’t true but it’s so ingrained into their culture that most of them avoid doing it anyway. At first I tried to explain it, but now I just go with it…