Truths about Koreans
1. “Driving while asian”
So, this is a sort of slang phrase I used to hear when I was in the states. Whenever you’d see a really bad driver, I remember hearing people joke that a) the driver must be old (depending on the make or model of the car) or b) the driver must be asian.
We all know that as we age, our sight and ability to respond tends to slow down, hence why people make the joke that slow drivers are probably elderly. The asian thing, I never really got, but I remember people joking about bad drivers usually being asian women. Now that I’ve been in Korea for sometime, I’d argue that this term was coined IN Korea. To be fair, I haven’t traveled to enough asian countries to make that sort of blatant generalization, but its not like this developing country is doing anything to change the bad driving situation.
To put it lightly, Koreans suck at driving. Oh, was that too honest? I’m not kidding, they literally can get their drivers license out of a cracker jack box. However, I think its sort of a trendy thing to say you have a license, even if you can’t drive. I know of many Koreans who cannot drive and yet somehow possess driver’s licenses. Literally, they only drove for two weeks and somehow passed their driving test and have never driven since.
I was informed that if you take your driving test here, you drive on a special designated course and you also get to use a car provided by the driver’s license agency.
What makes me say that Koreans are such bad drivers? Well, they drive through red lights, they’ll cut you off and park in front of you while you’re walking on the sidewalk. Have you ever heard of a rolling stop? Well, that’s kind of the only stop people do here. Drivers typically won’t wait for you to cross the street, you just have to go and they’ll slow down enough to almost touch you. Don’t wait for them to wait for you, or you’ll be waiting A LONG TIME. Let’s not also add that they can watch TV while they’re driving.
Thankfully, the public transportation system rocks here, so driving isn’t a necessity. Be careful though, bus drivers are crazy.
2. Vanity is perfectly okay
This is something I’ve struggled with myself in a whole lot of ways for years. I had the impression that I’d already come from an appearance obsessed culture (southern California), but we like to pretend that we didn’t take that long to get ready. Girls will primp and prime themselves in front of their friends, but we won’t really do it for excessive amounts of time because, let’s face it, it can make us appear rather vain and superficial.
Koreans take the image issues to a whole other level. You will never will not see a girl in a coffee shop failing to pull out a gigantic mirror to stare at herself or a guy walking into an elevator, spending the whole duration of the ride adjusting his hair or outfit. In this country, you needn’t be timid or shy when staring at yourself in public!
So, if this sort of behavior is deemed as normal, you can imagine the sort of acceptance that exists around plastic surgery.
3. Drinking any time is a good time
I miss the prized happy hours in the late afternoon and evenings. I miss watching people leisurely sip beer and wine on the patio of a restaurant. The one thing that I’ve always found strange is that many Koreans don’t usually commence drinking until after 8pm. They don’t usually drink with meals either, unless its meat. But, unlike American culture, drinking anytime, with anyone, at anytime of the week is totally acceptable.
The one thing I appreciate about this culture is I never really feel judged. I mean, I know that Koreans do a lot of comparing with each other, but it seems perfectly acceptable to say that I got completely blitzed the night before. It isn’t to say that I do that, c’mon, you know me being a disciplined yogi and all.
Anyway, I’ve always felt really accepted by the community here, despite some awkward moments.
4. Koreans are really reliable friends
When I’ve asked for help from my students or friends, they will go above and beyond the call of duty. Not only will they call and make an appointment at the doctor, they’ll escort me there. When my boyfriend came to Korea, one of my students wrote out notecards with Korean and English on them so I could either speak or show someone what I was looking for. She also typed up the bus and train schedule for my various destinations.
Basically, I have found them to be incredibly reliable and accommodating, even if them walking me to the elevator to make sure I get in safe is a little strange. A friend has never left me stranded in this country, I’ve never felt left out or not included either. They’re really all about community and I think its easy to make friends with the locals here. I’ve learned a lot about friendship here, even if they aren’t the deepest or longest lasting of relationships, they are always filled with loads of generosity.