Kai Boi Boh

Kai Bai Boh

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

fan death

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…


Kai Bai Boh

Kai Bai Boh

1) Dong Chim: this is probably one of the most terrifying things here. It pretty much translates to ‘poop needle’. Kids clasp their hands together in a kind of gun shape and then…ram those fingers right up your butt. There are even statues dedicated to this madness. dongchim It’s basically the Asian version of the wedgie and they think it’s hilarious! The best targets have their back turned and are usually concentrating on something else. I very quickly learnt not to turn my back around little kids. You have to always be on the lookout for small children creeping up behind you. As violated as you feel you can’t really make a big deal about it because all of the adults think it’s pretty funny too. It’s just seen as a harmless, childish prank. You just need to be on the look out or you’ll end up looking like this: 2) A really odd thing (for me) here is that kids come to school no matter how sick they are. Adults also usually don’t have sick leave and will be at work no matter what. So it kind of makes sense why they would send their kids to school when they’re really sick, but still. As a teacher it is the worst. We have kids coming here straight from the hospital with plasters over their hand where the drip was, throwing up, with crazy fevers and most commonly a terrible cough. I feel bad for them, I really do, but mostly I want to run away because they somehow always end up right in your face and breathing/ coughing directly on you. I’m just like…. 3) These kids go crazy for ‘candy’! It can be a tiny little lollipop or the smallest chewy sweet and they will do pretty much anything for it. It holds a ridiculous amount of power and makes bribery a dream. They go from crazy little monsters to this as soon as I say the word ‘candy’: I have had kids follow me to class chanting “candy candy candy” and when I write 10 new vocab words that they need to use in a sentence they somehow manage to make each one of those sentences about candy. It’s actually pretty impressive. 5) On being spoken to in rapid Korean. In no way can I speak Korean. Buuuuut, if someone speaks slowly to me I can usually recognize a few words and put them together with their hand gestures to figure out what they are saying. I get stuck pretty often. The other day I went to the Pharmacy to pick up some medicine. The pharmacist asked me (in Korean) if I speak Korean. Now, I have a pretty bad habit of just saying yes and nodding if I have no idea what someone is saying. I wasn’t concentrating and said yes. And then I realized what she had asked me. But, by then it was too late. She was chattering away in rapid Korean and I just stood there like: 5) This last one is another one of the odd things my kids do. Whenever someone is absent and I ask where they are or even acknowledge that they’re absent the class launches into an explanation and tell me the craziest stories to explain where the missing kid is. Spoiler alert: it always ends up in them dead. It usually involves someone killing them, being hit by a bus or being eaten. These ridiculous stories are their favorite way to kill time in the beginning of the class. The more creative ones are actually pretty entertaining. Sometimes. Mostly it’s just