11 Things I Dislike About Korea–Part 2 of 2

I’ve written about my favorite things about Korea and this is part 2 of the things that irk, frustrate and really rub me the wrong way about life in South Korea.

Ka-Ja! (Let’s Go!)

7. THERE ARE SO MANY SMOKERS!! (*waves goodbye to her beautiful lungs*)
Self-explanatory, no?
Ok, fine, fine!  A wee bit of an explanation just in case I want one in 50 years when I read through this again.

This plays into #1 and 6 as well.
This is likely also due to the group-think mentality and peer pressure (see #11) that exists here.  I guess they haven’t had the D.A.R.E. program here and “Just Say No!”
Anyway, cigarette butts litter the street (I’m so punny, ha. haha.) and the smell of smoke is in most bars and restaurants.  I think they are working on banning it in public places, but uh…good luck with that.

I wonder if it’d be excessive to hang up one of those dirty lungs posters with “Don’t Smoke” written on it in my classroom.  They’re a bit young, but it’s never to early to start talking about it.  Anyway, that’s enough of an explanation.

Oh, and here.  (My teachers and university professors would kill me for using a Wikipedia as a source, but there you have it.)

Smoking in South Korea is similar to other developed countries in the OECD, with a daily smoking rate of 22.90% in 2012 compared to the OECD average of 21.13%. However, male smoking is among the highest at 40.80% while female smoking among the lowest at 5.20%.[1]

This also plays into #1 and #6 a bit.

8. Racism and Sexism
I believe this is mostly due to Korea being taken over by other countries so many times and a lack of exposure to different people and cultures.

Russian?”
If you come over and someone asks you “Ruh-she-an?”–They’re not asking if you’re from the country of Russia.  They’re asking if you’re a prostitute.  Yes, really.  And yes, I’ve been asked.  You’ll get it more if you have a lighter hair color and a lighter eye color.

*Black/African-American People
Can I admit this here?  But I honestly don’t know what the preferred term is anymore.  I don’t want to offend anyone by saying the wrong thing.

Oi.  Whew.  I hope someone is with me on this because I feel like some stereotypical white girl or some naive person.  Anyway, I just don’t normally run around classifying people by their color, so it can get a bit confusing when I actually have to do it.  (*runs and hides her head in shame*)

So, anyway, racism is still a really big problem here and is fueled in part by their media/TV shows/K-Pop singers.
I work to correct is when I see/hear about it in my classroom and so far, they seem to be catching on that I have a zero-tolerance “hate” policy.
Anyway, there is a particular TV show here called “Running Man” which is a slapstick humor style show and they’ve been criticized a few times for their usage of “black-face” in some of their sketches.  The shows will get a sort of slap on the wrist, but it’ll happen again later and no one seems to make that big of a deal of it except the foreign community.  Anyway, we’re getting there.
Also, I can’t speak for anyone besides myself obviously, but I’ve heard of issues with getting jobs (jobs asking for only white people and turning others away if they are darker than what they expected during the original interview, etc), BUT not everyone is like this.
It’s like this anywhere though…it’s NOT everyone.  I just want to stress that.  It DOES exist, sometimes more blatantly than others, but it’s there.

Just the other day, I was reading a book with my students and one of the characters appeared a bit darker in this particular version (more brown to my eyes) of the book and one of the kids said “Teacher, MONKEY!!”.   The whole class started laughing.  I let them have a short laugh then reeled it in and we had a liiiiiittle chat about it.
We read the same book the next day and not a  word was said and no one laughed at the picture again.

Anyway, I also try and show lots of videos with lots of different sorts of people so they have more exposure, and usually they’re pretty good about it, but it was that particular page that did them in.  I dunno…I guess more talking about different people and as much exposure to different people as I can try and give them.

9. Difficulty to get a decent haircut/Lack of English after so many years of learning it in school (hoooowwww?!?!!)

I’m just confused as to how English can be mandatory in schools from elementary school up through high school WITH major exams in high school that test on English, and yet, no one understands anything.  My main gripe is trying to get a haircut.  Everything else I can be pretty much left alone.
Oh, and I’m trying to get a gym membership and that…just….yeah, doesn’t happen. I’m actually going with a team of friends this weekend and we’re all going to try and push through the language barrier together.  haha.  It’s one of those things that you laugh about after but is incredibly frustrating while it’s happening.

It just reminds me of that ^^, haha  :D

10. ALCOHOLISM/Public drunkenness
Being drunk (or passed out) isn’t illegal here and you can see drunk (and beyond drunk) people (usually old men) stumbling around on most nights of the week.  These ajosshis (middle-aged men) go out for drinks with their bosses and co-workers after work and drink as a form of bonding.

The main issue (or one of many issues) I have with this is that people drink way past their limits because it’s part of the work culture.  It’s seen as incredibly rude to decline a drink (foreigners can get away with breaking this rule), but if your boss offers you a drink…you take it.  The seniors/bosses typically call the shots…and if you have an alcoholic boss…well, I hope you like the taste of your own vomit, or that you learn how to quickly hold your alcohol.

Anyway, again, drinking here is seen as a form of bonding and it’s done like this in social groups as well.   Not just with your co-workers.  (Yes, co-workers go out and get drunk together.  Yes, really.)

This also means that on a Sunday morning (or any morning if you’re up early enough), definitely watch your step.  Seeing vomit on the street is not unheard of.
Maybe that’s the *real* reason that people take off their shoes before entering a Korean (or Japanese) home.

I’m not against drinking or having a good time, I just don’t agree with pressuring people into drinking past their limits.  I also think that people should know their limits and respect them.  Basically, know when to call it a night.
If that makes me a party pooper, then so be it.

Here are a few videos for your viewing pleasure:
http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/how-to-drink-in-korea-in-seven-easy-steps/

Korean Drinking Games:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f7d5VRhLls

Blacked Out Dudes and Dudettes:
Black Out Korea

11. Peer Pressure/Group-think/Hierarchies in the Workplace

I honestly don’t feel like going too much into this, sorry.  It just seems like something that comes up enough in the news as is, but I just wanted to point out its affects on the public drunkenness, smoking, lack of family time/work stress, etc.

I don’t deal with this personally, I just have seen it in action, so I also don’t feel qualified to talk too much about it.  If you’re working for a larger corporation, you’ll get t experience it, but since I don’t, I’m just going to leave it at that.

12. Toilet paper/Soap/Dryers/Paper Towels in the Trashcans in the Restrooms!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQAsZaDYJs0

This goes along with the “messy/dirty” categories from earlier.  Watch the video first and then come back.

Ok, so that’s a pretty standard bathroom in Korea, except the toilet paper in the trashcans can get piled pretty high and sometimes even onto the floor.  Not sure who cleans it or WHEN, but it’s definitely one of my least favorite parts of Korea.  Leaky toilets plus tissue everywhere is not a pretty picture.   And yes, I also put mine in the toilet.  2+ years later and I have yet to have any sort of toilet issues, even in my own apartment.

Toilets in public places are often in the hallways between the different shops, so a floor of businesses can share one set of restrooms.  They often have some sort of key or doorcode combination that you’d get from the coffee shop/restaurant/etc that you’re visiting.

Most bigger restaurants will have their own restroom, which is usually cleaner.

ALSO, soap is usually bar soap on a stick or it’s sitting in a little dish…that is if it’s in the bathroom at all.  Combined with the fact that the majority of restrooms DO NOT have dryers of any sort nor do they have warm water.  Granted, some coffee shops and chain restaurants will have their own bathrooms that are modern, but most other bathrooms do not.
Example: my last school (hagwon) only had a cold water tap, with no soap or paper towels.  My current school has a cold water tap (also functions as a tall mop sink–mens bathroom has a regular sink but also only cold water).  We sometimes have soap on hand and never have paper towels.

So…picture this, you’re in a building (lacking insulation as well, per the norm) and ready to wash your hands in the frigid water without soap or any sort of warm dryer (or towels). Do you or do you not wash your hands?  Not judging, just posing a question.

Big News in the Life of Me

Ladies and Gentlemen…I have wifi in my apartment for the first time in my life.

Ok, so maybe not that big of news…but still pretty fantabulous.

In my apartments prior to this one (in the US), I’ve had a desktop computer (from 2005-2012ish) and then I got my laptop for when I moved overseas.  I have had internet but never got the wifi setup.  I thought it involved calling the internet guys to come back out and set something up, which would be more of a hassle than just dealing with the cords.  (Wifi/internet guys aren’t included in my Korean 1 textbook).  heh.

Apparently, wifi routers are plug and play/use here (directions and setup are all in Korean though).  Anyway, I had a bit of difficulty with one of the steps because it kept asking me for a password that I didn’t have.  I tried about 15 combinations and messaged one of the guys from the Korea (Expat) MacPC guys’ group on Facebook and one guy got me sorted with all the Korean menus.  Annnnd here we are!

Two main things I’m excited about:
1. NO CORD THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF MY BEDROOM…seriously.  I could do a jig I’m so happy.  The guy who set up my internet originally had the internet cord right next to my desk and then he moved it into the kitchen (two room apartment).  The problem with that was that the cord wasn’t long enough to reach to my desk without cutting straight through my bedroom.
I got used to it, but it was one of those things that sort of rubbed me the wrong way each time I looked at it…for about a year.  So…it’s gone and the cords are all nicely tucked away and I’m not at risk for tripping anymore.  More dance space, too!  Hoorah!

2.  Being able to look at recipes on my computer…in the kitchen.  :D  Hellllllloooooo baking with ease!

Anyway…what a happy end to my night :D  I’m beyond thrilled to have that sorted finally.

Let’s see, also I wanted to do a mini work update/vent (not a real vent, just talking out loud).
So, I’m one of two teachers that do my curriculum at my school and they’ve asked the both of us twice to make sure our schedules are the same.  The first time we saw that we did the same things and trimmed some things out to make it more cohesive.  The second time they said to make sure our schedules are EXACTLY the same.  Yes, exactly.
So, we planned out an hour-by-hour weekly schedule and made sure we do the same activities on the same days.
We gave that to the newer lady that asked for it.  She was brought in to help our directors/school/parents get more organized and on the same page.
Then, I just heard today that our director is going to come to both of us again asking for us to make our classes the same.  I’m getting a wee bit annoyed because I’m not sure how much more our classes can be the same.  We use the same books and workbooks.  The only things that would be different are the way that we teach the material and we use different grammar worksheets.  Aside from that, it’s pretty much a copy.

So, I understand wanting to make the classes the same or similar because there are siblings in each of the different classes and parents want to make sure they are getting the same thing.  I get that.  I’m just getting annoyed with them asking for us to “make it the same” again and again.  I’d rather them be more direct if there is something we’re not doing that they would like us to be doing.
I also do not want to make my class a mirror copy of someone else’s class.  I make my grammar worksheets based on my own student’s needs and what I see that my students have problems with.  As does he.  I’m not going to be doing my students any favors if I just blindly follow a syllabus and don’t address the needs that they have.  Everything is nearly the same except for the things that we’re able to personalize.  Sometimes it’s nice to just let the class flow in a certain direction if the students are enjoying a particular topic and it’s more enjoyable for me if the class has more freedom, but ah well.
Anyway, the classes are pretty much the exact same except for teaching styles and some worksheet differences (teacher preferences).  I dunno.  Just wanted to get that out so it feels like someone is listening.

I also really want to make music CDs for my kids with the 10 or so songs that we’ve done in class so they can listen to them at home.  Howeveerrrr, with this same class thing, I don’t think I’ll be doing it because I don’t want to force the other teacher to do it as well.
That also means no caramel apples, no special candy or treats when they do really well.  OI.

Oh!!  Also, more photos from the Daejeombie Runpocalpse 5K were released!
Our photographer was Phil from Phil Photography (www.philwphotography.com)
I’m madly in love with these photos!!

zombie1 zombie2 zombie3 zombie4

I also (man, I need a thesaurus…my teachers would rip this blog apart, haha) made a Powerpoint to show my kiddos about Halloween.
HALLOWEEN ppt

Feel free to check it out :D
I shared it with the other teachers at our school (3 others) so we can keep the…sameness.

Bye!

A Day in the Life of an ESL Hagwon (Private Academy) Teacher

I found this post and loved it, although her life seems a bit more…put together and structured than mine.  I thought it would be fun to write down how a “typical” day goes.

9:30 AM: My alarm goes off and I got out of bed.  I popped some oatmeal in the microwave and checked my email and Facebook.  I had some water, oatmeal and an apple and perused some new books on my Kindle.

10:15 AM: I got ready for work and went to an art store to pick up some white paper for my Halloween door (see the previous post).  (I use this time as my time for errands/work prep/laundry/cleaning/etc.)

11:30 AM: I returned home and started working on my door decor.  I cleaned up my apartment and finished the door.

12:30 PM: I made lunch for myself–spaghetti with leftover cooked chicken from last night.

1:10 PM: I put some apples, oranges, peanut butter and caramel in a bag and left for work–about a 10-15 minute walk.  I had a bag of about 8 oranges and things seem to mold very quickly around here, so I bring snacks in for my kiddos.  I also told my kiddos that they could try out apples with peanut butter and caramel yesterday.

1:20 PM:  I arrive at work, turn on the lights, unload all of my bags and turn on my computer.  (I write the date, the daily schedule and get things set up for the next day before I leave at night).

1:30 PM:  Organized the snacks, drew little pumpkin faces on the orange skin to surprise the kids and started working on correcting some student journals (Kids arrive around 1:50…usually…)  I also fill up my water bottle and get in a quick trip to the bathroom.  (I try to have as many of my materials pre-prepped before the day starts, so my mornings are usually pretty smooth.)

1:40 PM–Greet one of my students and chat to her a bit; grade journals; double check that I printed enough copies for today

1:50 PM–Students start to arrive and I remind them to get water, get out their homework and go to the bathroom.  I write the homework on the board.

2:00 PM–I close the door, remind students that it’s now class-time and to take out their homework. The students put their homework (English notebook and homework folder) on their desk and I check both and make sure they’re keeping their stuff organized.  Each kid takes home two reading books from their level home each night and they record it in their “Book Log” at the start of class.

2:15 PM: Reading time comes to a close and students use one of the four tablets in the room to take a reading test over one of their books.  They can do this by themselves, so I finish checking homework and take attendance.  I bring the attendance log to the front desk (conveniently right outside my door–small school).  I double-check the students test score (typically 3-5 questions) and write it down in their log.  Depending on their score (I take the general flow of the scores into account), I’ll bump them up a reading level, keep them at the same one or drop them down by one.  If they generally do well and bombed this particular test, I might have them take the books home again.
When students finished their book test (and got new reading books from the shelf and copied their homework), I gave them the next assignment for today which was multiple choice and matching grammar worksheet.  (Tuesday/Wednesday work)

2:30 PM: The stragglers are usually all here by now and I try to have all the testing/homework corrections and checking/etc all finished by this time.  I check that the students have copied the homework (again, all routine so they’re pretty good at this now).  If we get a new kid, I partner them up with someone else for about a week (or two…) until they learn the routine and feel comfortable.

2:30-2:50 PM: Everyone is working on their grammar and I check through it when they finish.  I use a different colored pen each time I check it.  I make the grammar sheets myself and try to put things that I know they have trouble with or things that I see they have issues with when they write in their diary/journal.

2:50-2:55 PM–5 minute break (not usually for me, unless I’m super quick)
They can have a small snack, work on the puzzle (I got a cheap one from the dollar store so they don’t run amok in the room) or work on a Halloween paper chain that I started up.  They can also finish copying homework and chat with their friends in Korean.  I remind them to use the  bathroom and get water.  (We have a bathroom pass so there’s only one out at a time).
Sometimes I’ll put a funny video or an English TV show clip on via Youtube and the Smartboard (Lucky us!)

3 PM (ish): Put away all of their class folders, pencils, etc.  We read our class book together with “Popcorn Reading”–the students say “Pop!” and pick who will read next.  We started this particular book already so it goes a bit faster today.

3:10-3:30PM–Work on parts of the workbook together

3:30-3:45 PM–They finish the workbook by themselves

3:45-3:50 PM–Cleanup: straighten the bookshelves, put away pencils, class folders (“yellow folders”) and I call them to the door to line up (based on how good they were today) and dismiss around 3:55.

The next class is lined up outside the door and they come in after the first class leaves.

Class 2 starts at 4PM

4-4:30 PM: Same as the first class

4:30-5:05 PM–Read their class reading book and start on their workbook (which is longer and more difficult)

5:05-5:10 PM–Break

5:15-5:45 PM–We finished the workbook for today(not all the way finished–on purpose because I have some kids that are MWF and I don’t want them to be too far behind tomorrow) and then did the grammar worksheet.  The 4PM and 6PM class have a longer worksheet than the first class (except two kids in the first class who are *nearly* strong enough to handle it, so I give the difficult one to them as a challenge).

5:45-6PM–Cleanup, Line-up and the last class comes in

I had two stragglers today and T/TH is a really small class so they got started around 6:10.  I chatted with the first kids as they got their stuff out.

6-6:20 PM (faster…usually)–These kids are older and my most advance (*my* most advanced, not *the* most advanced)
Book tests were finished then we popcorn read their book til about 6:55 then break.

7-7:15 PM–Worked on their workbook–We didn’t do a whole lot in it today because of the whole MWF//T/TH thing and missing students.  Gave them their grammar worksheet and they worked on it til 7:50 (nearly finished)

7:45-7:50 PM: Cleanup: straighten tables, desks, folders and the bookshelf (etc…) and dismiss around 7:55

Sometimes they help write tomorrow’s date on the board and change out the “Today is ______”/ “Tomorrow will be _________” velcro strips but we were running out of time, so we skipped it today.

I tidied up the room (cleaned the desks, straightened the bookshelf again), cleaned off my desk and shut off my computer.
I left around 8:10PM and came home to make dinner.

9:00-10:30 PM–Made a Powerpoint on Halloween traditions for Friday’s class, checked my email, looked at new pictures from the photographer for the Zombie Race, researched teaching certifications

11-12:15 AM (now)–Working on the blog then I’ll clean up from dinner, feed my hamster and get ready for bed

I usually work out in the evenings after dinner (around 10), but I wanted to get this Powerpoint finished.

With my classes, they’re roughly on a similar schedule:
Mondays:
New Vocab
Tuesday:
Grammar + New Book 1 + start on the workbook
Wednesday:
Wrap-up stuff from Tuesday + Book 1 + Workbook
Thursday:
Read Book 2 + Workbook
Friday:
Spelling Game and Tests + Finish Workbooks + Journaling/Movie/Wrap-up

Oh and the kids really liked the apple and PB//apple and caramel combos! :D  I have a “you must try a bite” rule when I bring stuff in.  I say it’s ok if they hate it, but I want them to try it.  They gave me concerned looks when I spooned the peanut butter and the caramel blobs onto their plate, but nearly everyone finished.
I only had enough apples for the first class (which is who I promised it to), but they were a big hit, so I’m going to get more apples for the later classes too.

Annnnd good night!

Latest Goings-on…

Last Saturday was my 28th birthday and I went out to dinner with some friends.   The Daejeon International Wine Festival was that weekend as well, so we hit that up before going to dinner.  It was a pretty nice day–nice and relaxed as I was hoping for.

This past weekend I participated in the 2nd Daejombie Charity 5K Run (Daejeon + Zombie).  It raises money for a local animal shelter that is run solely by one older Korean woman (and a lot of volunteers).  The charity is called Daejeon Paws.

Last year I helped organize the race and this year I wanted to be a participant.  Specifically, a zombie :D

zombie

:D

It was pretty fun.  They had professional/student make-up artists there to help us out if we wanted it (yes) and then groups of zombies were sent to various parts (or “infected zones”) on the course.  The runners would come through and we’d try to get one of their three life belts (think flag football).

It’s weird because I’m not usually that big on Halloween, but I think being a teacher has gotten me more into it.  I like decorating my classroom and sharing the holiday with my students because it’s not really a thing here (maybe in the future though because the kids get really excited about it).
I’m bringing in some caramel and apples today so they can dip them and have that experience too.  I was snacking on some peanut butter and apples yesterday and they were all so shocked at the combination.  It was kinda funny actually :)  So, I’m going to bring in some extra apples and have them test both (caramel and PB) out.

Oh, and I decorated my door at home too, haha.

This is what I was going for:

This is mine:

CAM03640

Maybe more paper? I dunno.  My neighbors probably think I’m nuts.
I’m actually torn a bit on whether or not decorating was a good idea.  I know they don’t celebrate it here and it’s fun for me…but I’m in a different country.  Anyway, I dunno.
That’s what I’ve been up to :)

Street Shoutouts

As an expat/foreigner in a country, especially one that’s as homogeneous as Korea, am I somehow obligated to responding to everyone when they shout “Hello!” to me?

This is me just thinking out loud, but I usually try and think of myself as an ambassador of sorts because foreigners definitely stick out here, but also because maybe I’m the one opportunity that a person will have with a foreigner or an American.
Sometimes people/strangers will shout or say “Hi” to me (about once a week) and I respond about 99.9% of the time.
They typically don’t have any intention of starting a conversation with you, just a “HELLO!” and then they giggle or talk about it with their buddy.
I’ve just been wondering where the line is drawn with this.  I usually walk with headphones in and it still happens and I know it’s something small because saying “hi” back is fairly simple.  But where does this “ambassador” line end and when do my rights as a person who just wants to walk peacefully down the street begin.
Did I forfeit this when I left the country?

Koreans don’t typically chat randomly with strangers at all, and if I were to do the same to them, or even start chatting away (assuming I could) with the lady at the grocery store, this would be seen as extremely weird.  So, it’s definitely only with foreigners.
Some people I know don’t say anything at all in response.
I also act differently if it’s a little kid as compared to an older man.

Also, if this happens in the US, I don’t respond at all.

Anyway, I’m not sure if there’s a real answer to this, but it’s been something that’s been on my mind.

—-
I also broke in my new gym membership today (feels sooooooooooo good to be back) and worked my arms.  It’s been like two hours and I’m already feeling the burn.  Should be good tomorrow when I can’t pick up cups or lift my fork to eat my birthday cake. Actually, that last one won’t be a problem.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  haha :)

Updates and Future Posts

Such a good day today.  My kiddos were pretty well-behaved and we were nice and productive…as compared to Wednesday when half of them seemed to have an overdose of crazy pills before class.

We got everything wrapped up from the week and I got to get some much-needed almost 1-1 time with two boys in my last class of the day who are having the most trouble. The other two boys (who are much more chatty and have better English) have been absent for two days and I’m getting quality time with the other two.  Good stuff (another bonus of working in the after-school/hagwon system versus at the school with 30+ kids.)

Anyway, I have a few posts that I’m working on at the moment.
1. The Korea Pet-Peeves/Dislikes–Part 2

2. A video of my kids (students) doing our song and dance to the song “Splish Splash“…which is addoooorable.
I choreographed the dance moves based on what I remembered from when I did the song in my elementary school music class and a few Youtube videos.
I didn’t focus on learning all of the words for this particular song, I just wanted them to have fun with English and get their butts out of their chairs.  Mission accomplished.  We didn’t have time for a video today so I’m going to try and get it done on Monday and uploaded shortly after.

3. The journal entries from my Harry Potter/Osaka trip.  I emailed the photos from my phone to my email account like 2 hours ago and they still haven’t come through.  But anyway, still working on that and hope to have some fun posts up soon.

In regards to #2–I’m also nearly finished with a new dance/song to The Loco-Motion by Little Eva (or this version by Kylie Minogue) and I’m super excited for it.  The last one was a big hit, so I’m hoping this one will be too.  It’s a bit slower as well, so hopefully I can get them to learn the lyrics as well (which we do with all of the other songs that I teach them.)

We’ll be having a Halloween Party at our school too and each teacher will have a group of students for 40 minutes and then we rotate the kids to the next room.  Each teacher has a different activity or game, and I was thinking it’d be fun to teach them a dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson.  A lot of them have no idea who Michael Jackson is and they love zombies…so that could be fun.
This whole post is turning into stuff about dance routines, but for the Halloween bit, I’ve done actual activities for the Halloween and Christmas parties last year because each group that you get can have a huge mix of kids…super low level to more advanced kids, and sometimes they bring their (non-English speaking) friends.  Having to cut/print/prepare enough scissors and glue etc is a bit of a pain when you don’t actually know who will be in your class.
The dance bit would let them get some energy out and have some fun at the same time.
I still have to get an OK from our director, but I think it should be fine.  I’d looooooove if we could get a blacklight or something and use that, but we’ll see.  I remember doing a special Halloween routine with this song when I was in dance class…er…in the 90s and our teacher let us use white gloves and we had a black light (and a strobe light, I believe?) and we did the Thriller dance in the dark.  It was super fun.  :D

Also, no work tomorrow/today (Friday) because of a public holiday annnnnd my 28th birthday on Saturday, which also happens to be payday!  Alllllso, I signed up at a gym today (with help from a friend) and I’m excited (but also a little not, because now I have no excuses and can’t be lazy anymore).  They have good hours, the price was reasonable AND it’s super close to my work, which is also fairly close to my apartment.
Hurrah!

Anyway, that’s a quick update.  Off to bed!   Have a great day/night/evening!

11 Things I Dislike About Korea–Part 1 of 2

…and some things that just rub me the wrong way.

I’ve already written quite a bit on the things that I do like (here, here and here), so I’d like to finally write about my dislikes.
These are not in any particular order and are not meant to offend or anything.  These are just my personal observations from the 2.5+ years that I’ve spent living, working and traveling in Korea.

1. Spitting
This is extremely common and done by men/boys in their teens all the way up through to old age.  You can be walking down the street and you’l hear a “hhahwwwkwkkkkkkkkkkkk puuuutuh.”  (The sound of hawking a loogy in case you didn’t know.)
I’ve been directly behind them and had to sidestep out of the way to avoid it.  So nasty.  I dunno, drink more water or something.

2. Poor driving (cars parking on sidewalks, motorbikes, red lights)
I’m so, so, so glad that I don’t drive here.  Red lights seem to be more of a suggestion as people will just honk their way through as they run the light.  Maybe this is a city thing?, but I’ve never seen anything like it in other cities that I’ve been to…but parking on sidewalks and just…anywhere seems to be an ok thing.

CAM03571 CAM03572

Delivery motorbikes zip in and out of traffic and drive on the bike paths on the sidewalks.  It’s a bit of a mess really.
Oh, and this is a common sight.

CAM03573CAM03582

Blocking the flow of traffic

I asked my friend and she said it was illegal but that people do it anyway because they don’t want to wait.  Which…you have to wait anyway because the cars in front aren’t moving and you block the flow of traffic for all of the other cars…but hey!  Why not?
That same friend had also said that she had been to the US and really liked how we seemed to have a system for 4-way stops (yes.)  In case you’re unaware, or not from the US, we operate under the “first-come, first-to-go” sort of policy.  If you’re there first, you stop, look and go.  Then the next person to arrive goes…and so it continues.
That doesn’t exist here.  If you wait your turn, you’ll never have one.

3. Lack of common sense (due to the need to follow directions all the time)

4. All work and no play makes Lee a dull boy.
The work-culture here is a bit insane.  People work incredibly long hours and sacrifice family time (if there is any) to advance at work.  Also, people will often come into work early and leave later because the amount of *time* spent at your job shows your dedication and commitment.  You might not be super productive during those hours, but if you’re there early and leave late, then you look better than those who are not.

This also affects the students because students are often at school from early in the morning til late at night.  Wealthier families try to send their kids to the after-school schools/cram schools/academies to get them ahead or extra tutoring.  Rather than have time playing games (OUTSIDE GAMES, not computer or phone games *headdesk*) or going to the park, they’re in school or at tae kwon do or at piano/flute/guitar/banjo/ballet/swimming/hapkido practice.

For example, I have one student in my 6-8 PM class that is always wearing his hapkido uniform because he has hapkido directly after our class.  It’s often school, then home for a snack and to change clothes, finish up some homework/play computer games (I’ve asked) and then off to hagwons (after school academies).

This leaves little time for kids to be kids or for any sort of self-exploration or discovery.  The schools don’t seem to have the same sort of club structure that we had in our schools (and yes, to each their own, but I think those school-sponsored clubs were a great way to discover your interests).

Anyway, I know this society is based on Confucianism and doesn’t really value individualism or developing your own hobbies and interests.  As a child, you’re basically told to do whatever your parents want you to do and that’s that.  It creates good rule-followers but does little to develop the self or any sort of creative instincts, which is very noticeable as a teacher.

5. Pushing/Shoving/Lack of Personal Space
Lines?  What lines?  Getting on the subway or train can be frustrating because everyone seems to be in a big hurry, which is part of the “bali bali” (“quick quick”/”hurry hurry”) culture.
It’s possible also that it stems from having so many people in such a small space.  However, when I visited Japan, people were still quite capable of making lines and not shoving eachother around.

I’ve also included this in a few of my classroom lessons.  Not sure if it’ll make a difference, but if I can stop it in my own classroom, then that will be enough for me and hopefully they can take those lessons outside of the classroom.
Unless someone is handing out free money or the train is leaving the platform in one minute, there isn’t a reason to shove other people.  So just calm down everyone.

I have students that push eachother to get to a chair when I open the door of my classroom and it’s like “Whoa there!  There are plenty of chairs for everyone.”  Maybe they’re all just super excited to be in my class.  :D  haha  Or trying to get that perfect chair in the room…I’m going to go with the former.

Here’s a great article on some of the pressures in Korean society.

6. Dirty Streets/Litter/Lack of Public Trashcans
Korea doesn’t have many public trashcans and it shows.  This is one of my top dislikes about Korea.  It makes it smell and it looks awful.  No, not awful…disgusting.

These were a few taken near my apartment, but it’s like this in a lot of places.

CAM03507CAM03509 CAM03510
Also, fliers are used as advertising and chucked all over the streets (and sometimes posters are taped to the ground) and it’s never really cleaned up.  A bunch of ajummas (older ladies) come by in the early mornings and pick things up, but the bright green tape is always there on the ground and the cigarette butts look like confetti on the sidewalks and streets.

//Taking a breather here because I just viewed it and this post looks a bit overwhelming and long.
Tune in next time for part 2.  It’s already outlined, I just need to add in some details.  :D
Hope you’re having a lovely week!