Now that I've spent a couple weeks in Korea, I feel secure in judging all aspects of Korean culture that I've encountered. In fact, I'll take it a step further and just go ahead and judge all aspects of Korean culture whether I encountered it, generalized it from the actions of an isolated individual or just completely made it up. With this in mind, I present a brief list of positive and negative aspects of living in Korea.
+ The Korean Coffee Education Society. The other day while I stood in line for my copy americano (there is no 'f' sound in Korean. This receives neutral ranking in my book) I noticed a certificate proclaiming the girl making my coffee to be a level 2 barista as certified by the Korean Coffee Education Society. I can only assume that this certificate is akin to a B.A. in Liberal Arts in the states and commend Korea for going ahead and calling a spade a spade.
- Maids. Oh sure, it sounds like nice idea to have someone come and clean your room everyday. Except when your room is a small dorm room and you don't really have anything in there anyway and all they apparently do is make the bed. Not that I really object to the bed being made. Whatever. The problem is that they also insist on opening the window and letting hordes of mosquitoes in the room. I have no idea why they open the window, it's god awful hot and humid outside. And the screens, which they generally do leave closed have a bunch of holes lining them (not old and falling apart, the holes are cut into the metal frame), thus defeating the purpose of a screen.
+ Chicken and Hof. I'm not really sure why chicken and hof (seems to classify drinking places that offer a small selection of food as opposed to straight up bars or restaurants) is better than wing places back in the states, but it is. Chicken and Hof will ensure I don't lose weight in Korea.
- Long pants. I suppose as far as dress codes go, just requiring long pants isn't the worst thing in worl. But, as mentioned above, it's freaking hot and humid here. And while there is air conditioning inside, it seems to struggle with overcoming the heat produced by the 5 to 1 ratio of large electronics to people in my office. Oh, and I only brought 2 pairs of pants. 1 being dressy and reserved for such necessary occasions, the other being a pair of jeans that apparently have begun to disintegrate. Both knees are totally gone and holes are forming in low stress along my thigh and other low stress locations. The jeans are falling apart enough that I feel retarded wearing them (more b/c I'm afraid people will think I'm trying to be stylish than b/c I care that you can see my boxers, but whatever), otherwise this would've been a perfect opportunity to try and break my personal record of 1 month in 1 unwashed pair of pants set back in May.
+ Traditional Markets. Undoubtedly much to the relief of my family, I have purchased new pants since being here. Two pair for under $30 thanks to haggling at the market. I thought I entirely loathed shopping. Turns out, I just hate malls and department stores. If you set your clothes on a table in the street right next to a guy selling mutilated pig parts, I'm all about it.
- No drinks at meals. I'm working on making my peace with spicy food. I don't know that I'll ever enjoy it, but I have a feeling I'll tolerate it by the time I'm out of here. That said, I don't think I'll ever understand the 'not having anything to drink while you eat spicy food' idea. This mostly applies to the cafeteria, since I think all the restaurants have provided water, but it's still strange. On the way out of the cafeteria is a pile of cups and water faucets. It's weird.
+ Healthy food. Actually, I don't really buy it all, but it seems like the whole country has collectively decided that everything they eat is healthy. Kimchi makes you immune to Sars and the Swine flue (though they still were checking all temperatures exiting the plane and quarantining people w/ symptoms). Chicken Ginseng soup has been studied by Korean ancestors to raise the dead or something. And this isn't an isolated, quirky thing. Many times, by many people, random crap is recommended under the guise of health. Last night I was offered some bark shavings b/c it was 'good for health'. Awesome.
- Urinals. For some reason urinals don't like me here. They just keep flushing. Like 3 or 4 times while I'm standing there. This doesn't seem to happen to other people. It is the greatest mystery.