Published: March 13th 2010March 13th 2010
Not nearly as studious as most ESL recruiters might make you think they were ;)
Hello world, I am back again. Instead of summarizing my life, I figured it's about time to tackle some Korean stereotypes. Hope this clears things up for you, or reaffirms what you know, or maybe even makes you chuckle.
Yes, Korea is an Asian country. Yes, Asian people are notorious for being of short stature. HOWEVER things are a changin'. Korea is known for having the highest average height in all of Asia (at 1.739 m [5 ft 8+1⁄2 in] across 19-year-olds in 2006). For those of you who don't understand that, in the United States, the average height for 20-29 year old [even more post-pubescent age than the Korean measurements, mind you] is 1.776 m (5 ft 10 in). What this means pretty much is that I am frequently dwarved by the my Korean peers, and that a shit-ton of Korean guys make my friend Andy (6'6") not look monstrously tall.
On the other hand, the elderly seem to have bowed-legs, hunched backs, and are rather short. Probably because they were malnourished as children/adolescents. It's actually kind of funny seeing old Koreans and young Koreans together because the height difference can be phenomenal!
Asian Student Stereotype
Playing with their high-tech phones and waiting for the bell to ring!
"Oh wow, you're teaching in Korea?! I bet your kids are all so much better-behaved than American kids!"
How I wish this were true. Alas, not so much. I did my time as a camp counselor back in the States (5 summers. 5 chaotic summers), and I can honestly say that no matter where you are in the world, kids are kids are kids. If anything, the kids here are more antsy than the ones back home because they got to school and academies all day. Seriously! One of my students told me his schedule: Violin lessons in the morning before school, breakfast, then school, then English Academy [or Chinese Academy on the days he does not have English Academy], dinner, then Computer Academy [or Tae Kwon Do on the days he doesn't have Computer Academy], and then homework, and then goes to bed at like 12.
Can you fathom that?! It's insane! No wonder these kids are itching to get up and run around the classroom; I would be, too!
I know, I know. When you're in your Western world, it's always fairly easy to pick out the smelly foreigner.
I can assure you this: that foreigner is in no way, shape, or form Korean. Koreans, for the most part, take hygiene to a new level. I can't even explain how much of their culture is actually based around bathing. There are the Jimjilbangs, the public bathhouses/spas, where you can literally hang in a sauna, tub, shower, etc. and get the scrub-down for literally HOURS. These are madd popular because Korean bathrooms are only equipped with showers. So the jimjilbangs are pretty abundant.
I will say, no, I have not yet gone. BUT I will do it before I leave. I have tons of Western friends that go regularly, and I think if I have a beer or two before I go, I can tackle the public nudity. haha
Before I came to Korea, everyone and their mom praised Korean technology as if it was some sort of alien gift to humanity-- like Korea was actually not from Earth, but in fact something from Star Wars.
Lies. Yes, there are some things that are definitely more technologically advanced here, clearly the people who wrote those blogs were not as, I guess, "tech-saavy" as I "am." (Because really, while I'm more tech-saavy than the average bear, I'm certainly no hacker/computer engineer/hardcore gamer). My internet is probably about the same as it is at home, and I find that to be standard both at work and in the PC Bangs. Though, my cable cuts out less often than Comcast (shove that in your pipe and smoke it, Comcast!).
GPS devices in cabs usually are accompanied by TVs with satellite of some sort. Now, I think if it was remotely safe for something like this, we'd probably implement it, too (think: how many of you have TVs/DVD players in your minivans anyway?). BUT as this is ON A GPS DEVICE... IN A TAXI... IN A METROPOLITAN AREA... clearly, unsafe and unpractical.
They *do* have TV on their phones, however, which is kind of sweet... but then again, like *everyone* uses public transportation here. It makes sense to pass time watching a game show (with headphones, thank you courteous Korea) on a subway car rather than on your daily commute into the city at home. Another cool thing about phones is that they come with updatable (is that even a word?) subway maps. So I plug my phone into the computer, and it downloads the new maps for the subways [that's right, folks. My phone has the number 9 beige line in Seoul on the master map!]. Additionally, it comes with a unit converter as well as a Korean-English dictionary. So useful. So I would say that while it's not "more advanced" than technology at home, it does have a lot of useful aspects that we just don't utilize.
Okay, so this might be just my opinion, BUT... the majority of Korean drivers are not bad. *Most* (definitely not all) of the cabs I ride it probably drive like I would. Mind you, I'm a pretty aggressive driver. There are some who are insane; instead of letting off the gas when the guy in front of them brakes... they will just keep gassing until they have to pass. Sometimes. And sometimes (like that frightful night to our hotel in Seoul back in November), you feel like you might actually die because you're just gonna follow your own rules of the road... thanks for not killing us, taxi man.
But seriously, this is a city, and I can imagine it being MUCH MUCH worse than it is. Soooo leave the Asian Driver stereotype at home... you're fine here.
6.) Business as Usual
From what I can garner, being a foreigner at a Korean-run business is kind of like stumbling around blindly in the dark and hoping every-so-often a lightning bug lights up enough to give you a remote idea as to where you are/where you are going/what you are doing. We find it extremely lucky when we are fortunate enough to receive some sort of notice before something happens.
Example, I found out the "Desk Teacher" at my branch moved to another branch. After she told us she'd see us on Monday. That's pretty much standard.
We were all super psyched when we found out several hours after the students did that there would be a "Point Party" the following week to redeem the "Points" they had acquired during the semester. It went like this: the desk teachers came into the classes with papers entirely in Korean [to be read by parents]. The kids went crazy. We resumed class. Later that night, we find out the papers told the students we'd be hosting a madd party to redeem points, etc. the following week. The day before the event, one hour before we left work, we actually planned the event. The next day was pretty much chaos. --Business as usual in Korea.
7.) Night Life
"Tick tock on the clock and the party never stops..." Sing it, Ke$ha! [idk why, but Koreans *loooove* that song.] In Korea, going out is epic. Every. Night. Every night you go out, you will be ridiculous. Why?
Well, at home, the bars serve last call at 2 AM. That's usually when you'll hit up the 24-hour McDonalds, drink some H20, sober up, and crash.
Not so much here. The bars DON'T CLOSE UNTIL 5 AM.
You do the math. --- That's 3 more hours of drinking, dancing, and making bad decisions. It's also the reason that most people I know are never out on Sunday day [recuperation time]. Not before 4 PM, anyway.
I think that is a pretty decent compilation of stereotypes for now. If you would like me to tackle any specific ones in the future, let me know. For now, I'm going to bed!