Monday, April 27, 2009

Gimme one reason to stay here

Remember that Facebook note that was going around like crazy a little while ago - 25 things about me?

Well, here are 25 things about life in Korea (this may be a long one!):

1. The driving here is WILD. Roads are too narrow, parking spots seem big enough for only smart cars, and traffic signs appear to be considered suggestions, not the law. Many people treat red lights as 4 way stops, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way and riding in vehicles can be terrifying. That being said, Koreans are spectacular driers for being able to navigate these conditions. To make matters worse - I've yet to see a kid in a car seat here. They're usually sitting on parents laps or hanging out the windows in the back seat - scary.

2. Everyone is polite, even the construction workers! Each morning I walk by a huge construction site and have yet to be whistled at, hollered at, or felt uncomfortable at all. When I walk by each morning and night the guy at the gate bows and say hello, good-morning or good-evening- so nice! This morning he very apologetically told me I was beautiful and gave me a thumbs up and a smile.

3. My newest food obsessions are this incredible aloe water (basically just bottled water with aloe chunks floating in it) and these chocolate filled cereal snacks. Both available 24 hours a day at the convenience store in my building. And he also stocks diet coke, which I've had a hard time finding elsewhere ... sweeet!! My go-to post bar snack seems to be these "drumstick"-like ice cream cones ... I guess its better then poutine and deep fried pickles from city lights!

4. Koreans are obsessed with their cell phones. From grade 1's to elderly people you see Koreans talking, texting or playing games all the time. The phones here are also incredible. They have translators, subway maps, some even have free tv connection. That being said, its SO hard for foreigners to get phones which is frustrating. It's not like at home where you can go into a convenience store and buy a prepaid phone.

5. The public transportation here is great. The subway is minutes from our door, and takes us anywhere in the city. There are also buses that are very convenient. Another note on the subway - it's incredibly clean. The floor actually sparkles! A major contrast from public transportation in any city I've ever been to.

6. Korean women are all about the high heels, at work, out on the town, hiking, on the beach (seriously). When they're not wearing heels (rare), they have on sweet sneakers, preferably Converse. Since I don't do heels, I picked myself up a pair of sneakers after being here a week, but they don't look as adorable on my big feet! Why am I so anti-heel? First of all I'm already towering over alot of people, but most importantly the streets here are dangerous - uneven, broken sidewalks that I roll my ankle on when I'm in flats. I don't need the added risk of heels!

7. Corporal punishment is technically illegal here but it still goes on. I've seen my co-teachers smack a few kids. It's not so much to hurt them, but to get their attention and remind them who's boss, but it still really bugs me. The most common is a flick to the ear, but I have seen a few open handed slaps to the back of the head, although I've yet to see anyone cry, so it must not be that hard (I hope).

8. Eating out is cheap here. The most expensive dinner we've had is a grand total of $15 each, and that's piles of food, beer and unlimited sides. Most nights I'll pay around $5. So far it's been cheaper then cooking at home because Western style groceries are pricey. Also - you don't tip, it's amazing how much money is saved that way!

9. People don't have dryers here. You hang clothes to dry. I'm annoyed with this already, since most of my stuff needs a good shrinking after being worn. I've also had to actually iron - booo!

10. Shopping here is amazing, especially if you're a size 0-2. I've done alot of browsing, and have determined that they do have my size in Korea, it's just one of the biggest, and not as common in the cute little boutiques that surround my apartment. This is probably a positive thing for my savings! Did I mention that Koreans are super stylish? I constantly feel under dressed, but hope to build my wardrobe bit by bit.

11. Squat toilets are quite common here. At subways stations, rest stops, tourist attractions they are the most prevalent, but most of these places have at least 1 Western style toilet. Schools and restaurants have Western style toilets (from what I've seen so far!)

12. There are no smoking bylaws in Korea. This is definitely my biggest issue with life here! People smoke in restaurants, bars, public washrooms - and I hate smoke ... ewww!

13. Cabs are so cheap here. Again no tipping, and a 20 minute ride will cost about $8.

14. Koreans like to drink. A LOT. I constantly see Korean business men stumbling home drunk, carrying each other in the early hours of the morning. Bars are also open all night here - no 2am last call! For example, this morning at 7:40am on my way to the bus I saw 2 men carrying a third down the street after leaving the singing room across from my apartment.

15. There seems to be a serious shortage of garbage cans on the streets. You can go for kms and not see one. Maybe adding some more would cut down on littering? Just a thought.

16. There are water coolers everywhere. In every store, restaurant, school, and even on some buses. This is great since I replaced my diet coke obsession with a water obsession. My favourite is when instead of little paper cone shaped cups there are mini paper bags ... bags of water - genius!

17. Dogs in Korea are funny. Most are little purse sized dogs, I think I've only seen about 5 big dogs in the last month. They're usually tiny and dressed up in some ridiculous outfit consisting of coats, skirts, shoes, sweaters, ribbons, hair clips, or have been died blue or pink. Poor little things! They are also allowed to wander off-leash and hang out on the beach so I guess life is not all bad.

18. Every car I've been in (cabs included) has a sweet GPS. Waaay better then anything I've seen at home, and so much more widespread. Maybe because there are no street names, all directions are given based on landmarks. Street signs have recently gone up, but noone learns them or uses them

19. Korea has a great home delivery system. We've had furniture and plants delivered free of charge, but have yet to venture into the food delivery, mainly because we don't know enough Korean to order over the phone or make them understand where our apartment is. But once we get that under control I'm sure we'll take full advantage. McDonalds even has McDelivery scooters that operate 24hrs a day!

20. From what I've seen and heard, Korean are very image conscious. Everyone is super well-dressed, even the little kids. The is also not a lot of variations on the popular style, for example, the whole emo-teen look that is so huge at home seems to be non-existent here.

21. There are so many sweets here. On the main street near my house there are 3 bakeries within a block. The stuff is amazing in small doses, but when I get sugary toast or hot-dog buns it's a bit much!

22. It can be hard to get the point across to cab drivers here, especially when trying to get to the beach. If you say beach correctly they will not understand, but if you say beechIE, no problem! Same goes for shopping for Coach bags, they are coachIE.

23. How am I managing to fulfill my need to be insanely competitive without tri class or a gym membership? I like to run up all the stairs at the subway station, racing the 95% of passengers who chose to take the escalator (I always win). George and I also stay entertained by calling both elevators to our floor and racing downstairs - the epitome of maturity, I know!

24. Sunbathing is not done here. Everyone is all about the long sleeves and umbrellas on the beach- so very healthy. I prefer to bake in the sun ... which is why 40 year old Korean women have nicer skin then me!

25. To further build on the last point, workout and hiking gear is full coverage. Even in 25 degree weather everyone seems to be in long-sleeves, or even coats, while I'm sweating in a tank-top. I ran last week in my long bike shorts and got chirped by an old lady hahah.

26. I love Korean pop music, K-pop for a true fan like me! Get yourself over to youtube and check out "Gee" by Girls Generation (a 9 member girl group!), "Nobody", "So Hot" and "Irony" by the Wonder Girls and "One more time" by Jewelry ... so catchy! And since the chorusus are in English I can guarentee that if I say any of those words in class students will break out in song!

Alright, that's the end of this novel ... stay tuned for updates on teacher's volleyball, shopping at nampo-dong market and my 2nd giants game.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! All this is very interesting! I'm surprised they're all size 1 or 2 when going out to eat is so cheap and theportions sre generous, coupled with their constant interacting with technology.
    I'm sure I wouldn't see my size 12 there either! :)