During your first few weeks in Korea you begin to notice a lot of the country’s quirks. There are things that are done slightly different from the way you are used to at home, things that make you grin and chuckle, and things that make you raise your eyebrows and wonder ‘Whaaaa?’ Here’s a little compilation of some of the eccentricities I’ve observed over the past few months.
The Matching Couple Outfits
So you’ve been dating a girl for a few months and things are starting to get more serious, but you’re not quite ready to pull out the diamond ring. What do you do? Get matching t-shirts! Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like wearing the same striped polo t-shirt as your hubby. Some couples, the ones that are clearly going the distance, even wear matching shorts and matching running shoes. Heck, I have even seen couples with the same hair colour, and no, it wasn’t their natural colour.
Kai Bai Bo!
This is the Korean version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. If there is ever a disagreement in the classroom you just ask the students do Kai Bai Bo and that will settle the matter; no one will dispute the results! It always makes me giggle when I see people in their mid-twenties and even thirties doing Kai Bai Bo, but that is how you settle a disagreement in Korea. I think we could probably use this back in North America. Don’t want to do the dishes? Kai Bai Bo. Don’t want to take out the garbage? Kai Bai Bo. You want to get a puppy? Kai B… – okay, so maybe some things are worth discussing. 😉
This is a constant source of amusement for me. I have come across restaurants selling ‘luxury chicken’, fish markets offering ‘bastard halibut’, and a cafe called ‘happy virus’. I have started carrying my camera around wherever I go because I simply don’t know what brilliant use of the English language I may run into next! Sure, these businesses could pay a professional translation company, but I’m kind of glad they don’t because the quirky Engrish signs kind of brighten my day.
The Endless Supply of Sidedishes
There is no way a young ‘starving’ artist could ever go hungry in this country. The reason is the free refillable side dishes! When I first got to Korea and was kind of broke because my first paycheque hadn’t kicked in, I would order the cheapest thing on the menu – sometimes meat dumplings (고기만두) – and then I would proceed to stuff my face with the smorgasbord of side dishes that filled the table. (Don’t judge…) I’m talking soup, kimchi, pickled cucumbers, bean sprouts with red chilli paste, tofu, and tiny deep fried fish. For a mere 2,500 won (just over $2 USD), that’s a pretty good bang for your buck!
Ddong-chim a.k.a. Let me poke you in the Ass
This is something every foreign teacher in Korea will experience at some point during their contract – likely within the first few weeks. Dong-chim is a game Korean kids like to play where they clasp their hands together, index fingers pointed in the shape of a gun, and then they sneak up behind the teacher and just poke ’em in the arse! Shocking, I know. You’ll turn around all flustered to find a little seven year old with a huge grin plastered on their face… I am now paranoid every time I see I student standing near me. You’ve been warned!