Also, Koreans don’t like saying no, so when you ask someone in a store for directions, he might get out from behind his desk, take you outside, walk a block or two and offer to keep going until you get to the spot. True story. There’s the honor system of leaving your umbrellas/gym shoes in the lobby of your school/gym and knowing with 100% certainty it will never be stolen, but I’m not going to mention any of that.
Those are cultural phenomenon’s and acts of kindness that may take place in other countries that are friendly towards foreigners. What I’m talking about are specific things that have happened to me that will never, EVER, happen in America.
ONE - About a month ago I was craving some fried chicken. Who wouldn’t crave chicken after seeing this commercial?
I heard this restaurant is one of the best fried chicken joints in Korea, and I love some fried chicken. Went there with my buddy one afternoon, we noticed no one was inside and were losing hope. The door was open so we walked in and by communicating, we found out they were closed, all they were doing at the time take out and they won’t be open for seating any time soon. As we are about to walk out, someone else came up to the register and communicated to us that it’s okay and we can come in despite being closed. We went out to the patio where they have nice seats along the street and had some great chicken. No big deal right? Well, for any American reading this, imagine a couple of Mexicans who don’t speak English walking into a closed restaurant in the US and being treated the same. No chance in hell.
TWO - Two weekends ago I bought a t-shirt. I love the shirt. I was slightly hungover that day, so my cognitive skills weren’t up to par. I headed to a pool to relax and spend the day in the sun. I went to the bathroom to change. While I was in there I rested my brand new shirt on a counter, got ready, then laid down.
A few hours later I was getting ready to leave and realized I left my shirt in the bathroom. I was pissed since I JUST bought it that day. A shot in the dark, I went to the lost and found, and although I know VERY little Korean, and the person I spoke with knew little English, I was able to translate a few key things to her: “purple…shirt…penguin.” I gave her my name and phone number, then went to get my bag and head out of there. Suddenly, over a loudspeaker an announcement came out and the only word I understood was penguin. Yes, they made an announcement to everyone that a shirt was lost and if they found it they should return it. I was pleasantly surprised, but also embarrassed as I’m sure people got a chuckle about the description of the item being announced.
I went home and my fantastic weekend ended on a slightly bad note. The next day, I got a phone call from someone who barely spoke English. My Korean coworkers weren’t around so I had no one to hand the phone to. I hung up, texted back my address, and prayed. A few days later, my shirt arrived safe and sound. Unreal.
THREE - Last weekend I made my monthly trip to the E-Mart (I guess a Korean version of Walmart) to do some shopping. My “shopping list” is usually just Gatorade and Mr. Potato.
This week I was picking up a tube to use when I go to the swimming pools as well. BIG sale on Gatorade, two 1.5 liter (50 ounces) for 2,000 won ($1.65). Why not go all out and possibly not have to make another shopping trip? I stocked up and got 9 packs (18 total) total. My eyes were bigger than my arms, and I was STRUGGLING to carry the bags out of the store. Luckily a cab was strolling up to the front, I managed getting over there, and was about to hop in. Then, two women and a baby come running behind me screaming. Despite the huge language barrier, I manage to realize they called for the taxi so I can't get in. Now, I have to walk a little bit, and hope another cab comes by. Looking defeated, they tell me to come in and we’ll share a cab.
In the cab, I can tell them where I live, that I’m a teacher, an American, 27, have been here 10 months, that’s about it. They get out first, and PAY FOR THE CAB. You cannot refuse help from a Korean, it’s very difficult to do. They handed the cab driver more money than they should have given him, and got out. I looked like a pathetic chump. I can’t imagine that happening in the US, unless some really attractive female was about to get into a cab that belonged to some dorky guy with a lot of cash and was trying to impress her/get a date, then paid for the whole thing.
The cabbie brought me to my place, I gave him a tip (despite his refusal since tipping is not commonplace here either), and walked up to my place feeling shamed, but also feeling reminded about how much I love this country.