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.


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.  😀  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.  😀
Hope you’re having a lovely week!

Favorite Things About Korea–Part 3 of 3

8. Carrying pizzas/watermelon
So, this might be a thing in other cities, but I’ve never lived in a city big/dense enough where people walked everywhere.  Here (everywhere in Korea), when you buy a pizza “take out”/to-go, they wrap it up in a pretty little ribbon…like so:

It acts as a handle for when you carry the pizza home.  Pretty nifty!  😀
Same for watermelon:

Here’s a link to show you them in action.  Thanks to EatYourKimchi for the video 😀

And one more that’s related:

Also related to the trashbag/all plastic shopping bags/etc. post—In Korea, all shopping bags (paper or plastic) cost an extra 20 cents or so (except in won…not cents obviously).  Also, re-usable canvas bags are a pretty big thing here.  Anyway, yay for environmentally friendly things!  😀
I still pay the 20 cents for the bags, but it encourages you to use less of them…but even if I use them a lot, I still re-use them for my garbage.

9. Food Delivery

^^Menus that are often taped to doors or left in mailboxes

You can have just about anything delivered to your door here…pizza, noodles/Korean food, McDonalds, etc.
Yes yes, I know we have delivery in the US too, but I just think this bit is interesting.  Some places (usually Korean food restaurants) will bring plates and dishes for you and you just leave them outside your door when you’re finished.  Later, someone will swing back by and pick them up.

I like the idea, but I also think it contributes to bugs, and considering I had a pretty long stint with cockroaches, I don’t know how I feel about this anymore.  McDonalds delivery is still pretty cool…imagine having breakfast delivered to your door.
My Korean isn’t strong enough to order anything off the phone, but it’s my goal.  I just want to order a pizza and then I’ll be the happiest little lady on this side of the Atlantic.

The motorbike guys do the deliveries…much faster than cars because they can (and do…) zip in and out of traffic.

Korean Food Delivery Video:
Start at about 2:00
Thanks again, Eat Your Kimchi 😀

10. Baseball games

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

I love going to games in the US, but Korean baseball games are preettttttyyyy fantastic.
Here’s a mini-list why:
1. You can bring food into the games–Pizza?  Yes!  Beer?  Yes!  Chicken?  Yes!  Candy?  Ice Cream?  Fruit?  Yes, yes and yes!
There are actually food stalls outside the baseball stadiums where people will sell you food before you go inside.  (Or you can buy it inside…either is ok.)  This brings me to point number 2…
2. FOOD IS NOT OVERPRICED.–Food costs about the same as it would if you went to the store to get it.  No $10 beers here.  So, it doesn’t matter if you buy the food inside the gate or outside of it.  There’s just more selection outside of the gates.
3. Cheering Section–Each stadium has a cheering section where the cheers originate.  People are super into the games and it’s not much of a sit-back and relax atmosphere.  Well, unless you want it to be.
There are songs for each players and different chants to sing.  There are cheerleaders/dancers, mascots (same as US) running around, etc.  It’s a lot louder.

4.  Team Names are Different–I separated this one, because it’s a difference but not one that I particularly care for.  In the US, the teams are named after the city: LA Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, etc.
In Korea, different cities have teams (some big ones, like Seoul, have more than one team), but they’re named after companies: Samsung Lions, Hanwha Eagles, LG Twins, Lotte Giants, Kia Tigers, etc.

This one is pretty simple.  There are no overdraft fees at the bank.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this.
If you run out of money, it will pull you to zero, but nothing further than that.  Then, once money is back in your account, it will automatically withdraw the money required from your account.

I really hate the whole concept of overdraft fees.  I have had a few experiences with them and it drives me insane.  Obviously I don’t have the money, so you’re going to charge me more money that I don’t have.  Oh, and another day went by where I don’t have money…there’s another fee.
So if you’re off by even $1, you could be -$100 before you know it.  Especially in this age with automatic withdrawal and such.
I try my best to keep everything well above zero, but when you’re broke (as I was before), it makes it even more difficult to keep your head above water.

12. Land of the Free Samples

When you go to the grocery store, there are free samples on nearly every endcap and also in the aisles themselves.  Samples for watermelon, bananas, milk, juice, mandu (dumplings), coffee, wine, etc etc.
I was at the store the other day and a lady was sampling the pasta sauce so she had made a big pot of a cream pasta and was giving samples of it.

Free samples also extend to makeup stores.  They give free samples when you enter the store and typically more when you buy stuff.  Usually they’re like facemasks and creams and such.

13. Service (“ser-be-suh”)
This ties into the last one, but it’s free stuff just for buying stuff.  When I was at the baseball game, we bought a pizza, chicken and beer (chicken and beer is a HUGE thing here.  Sort of like hamburger and fries or pizza and beer? in the US) and the vendor gave us a free water with our purchase.
If you go out for Korean BBQ, sometimes they’ll give you an extra plate of meat (rare, but sometimes).
Or if you go to a noraebang (singing room, or karaoke room) they’ll give you an extra hour for free.

It’s supposed to act as a thank you for your business.  🙂

Noraebang (노래방)
Norae= sing/singing
bang = room
(The “a” in bang is more of an “ah”, like you’re at the dentist.)

Bring a group of friends (typically after the bars) for a few hours of karaoke in your own room.  Microphones and tambourines included.

Korean BBQ

Ahhhh…I don’t remember if this was on my list…but it should be.  Anyway, it’s yummy and you cook your own meat at the table.

Whew.  It’s on the list.  🙂

ANNNNND finished.