When you live in another culture for a while, you notice some things people are really good at doing. I mean, Americans are good at some things, but we aren’t good at everything.
So here’s a list of things I’ve notice Koreans not only do, but do very well.
10. Wearing long pants and long sleeves in any level of heat, humidity, and activity level.
Koreans love having white skin. Like so white it’s can look ghastly. So when summer comes, it’s like the sun is their worst enemy. They still go out though. It’s just that they’re often covered up so they don’t tan.
I don’t know how they do it. I sweat way too much to wear long pants and long sleeves in the middle of summer. But these people, I have to hand it to them, they do it.
9, Cramming lots of people into tiny spaces, especially public transportation.
I’ve already commented on this a lot, but I can’t stress it enough. They PACK people into subway cars and buses. A good day is one when your lungs aren’t pinched. It’s too much for me. I think it’s a big part of why I’ve gotten sick here a lot.
8. Drinking heavily, including mixing alcohol.
I don’t drink, but I see it and hear it all night long. These people love to get drunk. They go out often and for long. There’s no shame in going to work hungover the next day.
7. Not being able to speak English or think critically, despite studying for more than 12 hours a day and valuing education.
I don’t get it. They work so hard at it, but their efforts are for naught. Too much emphasis is on memorization and going through the motions, versus thinking about how the subject plays out in the real world.
6. Holding a grudge.
You can add jealousy here too. If you’ve in any way wronged people here, they will never forget it. Japanese people will never truly be welcome.
5. Eating a lot and not gaining weight.
This is something most foreigners notice immediately when they arrive in Korea. There’s so much street food, quantities of food in restaurants are large, and there are tons of cafes serving sugary sweets and drinks. All of it gets consumed, often with some beer and soju along with it. And yet, most Koreans are very thin. Their metabolism is the envy of the world.
4. Brushing their teeth.
Koreans brush their teeth after every meal. This includes the bathrooms at work filling up with employees brushing their teeth. American dentists would rejoice.
3. Falling asleep anywhere.
I’m more used to it now, but it still amazes me. People will fall asleep anywhere here. On the subway. On a park bench. On the sidewalk. At a restaurant. At work. No, these aren’t homeless people. They’re normal people just taking a nap. No one bothers them and no one steals their stuff.
2. Getting work done at the last minute.
One thing I’ve had to get used to here is the lack of planning, which results in getting asked to do things at the last minute. Koreans are so used to this they will drop whatever they’re doing to complete a task at the last possible minute. This has included my co-teachers having to work on a report instead of helping in class because they were just asked to do it and it was due in an hour. It stresses people out and no one seems to like it, but it’s the norm so they don’t complain. I think American corporations would love Koreans.
1. Eating after having just vomited.
This takes true skill and it’s downright disgusting. But I’ve seen it. Oh, I’ve seen it. If you’re out drinking, there’s no giving up. If you’re sick with a stomach bug, you still go to work and you have lunch with your coworkers. I physically could not do it.