I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

I have a bunch of half-finished posts, but due to time constraints, and not having the necessary material (pictures/videos) I couldn’t make entries about them, so let me sum it all up. Some good things in here…

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That – It’s pretty common to see very young girls walking around holding hands with each other. Actually, it’s common to see girls in their 20s and 30s holding hands. It’s also not out of the ordinary to see two guys in their 20s sitting on the train next to each other, one of them resting his head on the other ones shoulder. Again, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Those that know me, are aware I’m a very open-minded person and have no problem with this whatsoever, all I’m saying is that seeing loads of girls in their 20s and 30s holding hands just as friends and guys resting on each others’ shoulders caught my attention, especially in a culture which isn’t known for its tolerance of homosexuality.

Fast Food – Pretty unique things get sold at fast food restaurants here. Cheese fries at Taco Bell, Kimchi flavored donuts at Dunkin Donuts, corn salad at McDonald’s, etc.

– Wow, where to begin. If you’re familiar with the premise of a Russian bathhouse, then you’ll understand Jimjilbangs better. Jimjilbangs are basically huge bath houses with different types of saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, massage parlors, etc. What makes them unique is that you are naked, there’s little kids running around, you can sleep in them and even get your haircut. I’ve been to clothed bathhouses before, but naked ones where fathers bring their little 5 year old son? Pretty weird.

I love Jimjilbangs though, for only $3.50 you can have a really nice time relaxing. They come in really handy for me too. On a number of occasions I’ve gotten back from a long hike, gone to the Jimjilbang, showered up, chilled in the hot tub for a bit to relax, got changed, and gone out. I don’t have to go home or anything, it’s amazing. This would never exist back home, too many creeps in the U.S. unfortunately.

PC Bang – Not everyone has computers in their house here, so they go to a PC Bang which is basically an internet lounge, except that everyone in there is playing computer games. These places are like dungeons; they are dark and have a room reserved for people who want to smoke and play computer games (sometimes they merely have a 5 foot wall which does nothing to separate the smokers from non-smokers). The lure of the PC Bang is they have extremely fast internet connection (probably 2-3 times faster than anything in the U.S.) which make gaming great, the monitors are very large, it’s cheap ($0.40-$1.00 for an hour), and they are open 24 hours. Some of my students spend 6 hours each weekend day at these places. It’s insane. They are always mobbed with people that are there for hours on end smoking, drinking soda and eating ramen noodles. People here are obsessed with computer games, there was a case recently about a couple that would go to a PC Bang and leave their infant child unattended at home. The child died of malnutrition. Another case of a guy dying at the PC Bang because he was on some insane bender, played for 50 hours straight.

Skiing in Korea – 24 hours at some places here. They have 5-7 hour ski sessions, and then go on a short break to blow snow at some places which have overnight skiing. I went once with my coworkers and we were skiing from 12am-5am. Something else weird is that most people don’t own their own ski clothes, they rent outfits when they get their equipment. Another funny thing is hearing Korean pop music blasting throughout the mountain. Also funny that 95% of people who snowboard take their board off when they got on the chairlift and carry it on with them. Another funny thing is seeing people in RIDICUOUS outfits, like full body rabbit, teddy bear, etc. outfits. I lost my memory card which had some great clips/pictures of this, I was pretty bummed.

Elections in Korea – I was unfortunate enough to be here in a year where there were elections nationwide. If you think elections in the U.S. are annoying, well, in Korea, it’s worse. On a busy street corner you’ll likely find all 4 corners taken up by various opposition. Each candidate will have it’s “support” on one corner. They are usually women in their 30s-50s who will be wearing neon colored shirts, and singing/dancing in unison. It’s ridiculous.

Korean Cafes – There’s some very interesting cafes here. They might be Hello Kitty themed, they might have birds flying around inside of them, cats walking around. You might have the option to wear various ridiculous dresses, or you can even go to a medical café where a doctor will do a quick checkup. Insane.

Cars Run Red Lights – I fear for my life sometimes crossing the street because cars have absolutely no respect for red lights. The irony behind this is that people will sometimes have to wait 3 minutes for a light to turn green so they can cross, and will wait despite their being absolutely no cars in sight. Not only do they wait, but they wait patiently. Put them in cars, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve been in cabs before where the guy was watching a baseball game when it was dark out, was stopped behind cars waiting for a red light, weaved into the OPPOSITE lane, got to the front of the cars waiting, got back in the lane, and then ran the red light and made his turn. It’s outrageous. Meanwhile, they snicker if you buckle your seatbelt, and many cabs don’t even have working seatbelts as well.

Misc. Facts

Cell Phone Chargers – ever been out and your battery dies? 7-11 and other 24 hour
convenience stores all over the place here, and all of them recharge your phone in 30 minutes for $1. It’s amazing.

Wedding Cards – They don’t really do them here. I had to search near and far for them. I mentioned it to my coworker and they said they usually just throw cash in a blank envelope.

Playing Cards – They run you about $12-15 at the convenience stores, I’m not kidding. I was slightly under the influence of alcohol and actually bought a pack. Good thing my brother didn’t buy me 2 packs of PINNACLE cards and bring them over for me.

All men have to serve in the military - some Olympians who win medals get special privileges and get excluded, or do a quick 4 weeks. Some other celebrities weasel their way out of it too. I think now you have to serve for 20 months, but I think the number will drop to 18 months pretty soon.

High Fives –Haven’t caught on yet fully over here. A number of my students flinch when I put my hand up passing them in the hallway hoping to get some dap back from them.

That's all I got right now.... Almost done here....


Anonymous said...

thumbs up

Anonymous said...

pretty weird things you see over there huh

Ben Gwynne said...

Weird things everywhere, the US has many strange things about it as well.

Anonymous said...

.....caught my attention, especially in a culture which isn’t known for its tolerance of homosexuality.

You do realize that that has nothing to do with homosexuality.
The relationships that many have in other countries besides the United States only seem odd to americans that have been led to belive that any "intimate" interaction among member of the same sex is "gay"
Maybe you don't mean it. But you sound very dense in your observations. evident in your discriptions. "pretty weird" "ridiculous". Thats no way to speak of the culture of the people that I am sure gave you a very warm welcome.
Its just sad.

Ben Gwynne said...

blah blah blah. I've lived in other countries besides the U.S. Maybe you missed the countless times on my blog (and in that post) where I mention things I love about Korea, and I'm sad we don't have in the US. Case and point, I love jimjilbangs, but they wouldn't fly in all parts of the US for various reasons, most of them being negative ones about American people, culture, rules, etc..

Maybe you didn't see the comments section where I said the US has some weird things as well. Again, blah blah blah. I love Korea and think it's great. Maybe you should read more before making a silly and defensive statement.

Kimosabi said...

Dear Ben,

I know what ya mean about girls/guys holding hads being a little wierd. In a traditional American sense, that stuff kind of creeps me out too...and im Korean! I moved to the States when I was 4, and I always knew how Korean people were always upfront, blunt, and affectionate. It seems everyone where's their heart on their sleeves in my country. Im in the US Army now, and I would've loved to do a tour in Korea...sadly, nothing but Iraq for 15 months, and Afghanistan for a full year for me. Maybe when I get out I can take a vacation back to the beautiful peninsula...just maybe. Plane tickets are outrageous...

As to the sensitive pussy cat, I wouldn't worry...everyone has their perspective, if your gonna give yours, you gotta respect everyone elses. So stop opressing your ideals and judging people on THEIR blog.

Ben - I love reading your blog, you make me want to take my wife and daughter to visit the mother land one day. Wife being Mexican, and daughter being half Korean/half latina, it'd definitely would be an experience for them. I know they would love it.

I appreciate your service, teaching our young kids English. God knows, knowledge can be a powerful thing...if used correctly :D

Hope you get to make it back, and enjoy the food, people, and culture some more. Cheers bro.

Ben Gwynne said...

Kimosabi. I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog. I no longer teach in Korea but maybe some day I'll be back. I hope you make it there too! Feel free to ask any questions if you have them.

Seo Eri said...

The funny thing is that, to buy a coffee can be as expensive as going to the jimjilbang...
I loved jimjilbang, I went there twice :3

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