Seoul Oddities, Part 2

After spending a week in Seoul, I’ve become a lot more accustomed to the Korean way of life. Being an Asian American in Korea is challenging because the locals assume I am Korean and start speaking to me in their native language. When I tell them I don’t understand, they repeat what they are saying in Korean, but slower. It’s the same thing Americans do. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I can tell how annoying the practice is.

I’m traveling with a German and two Indian Americans. The local Koreans speak English to them by default and excuse them from accidental rudeness because they look obviously foreign. However, if I do something inappropriate out of ignorance, the locals just think I am a local idiot. They don’t realize I am also a foreigner until they talk with me.

My classmates are running a tally of the number of locals who automatically think I am Korean vs. non-Korean. So far, only two people have guessed correctly.

Naked Museum! It’s open for ALL. What can I say? Sex sells.

“Corean Cafe.” One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that when you go to a sit-down restaurant, only one menu is given. In the U.S., every person at the table gets a menu. But in Korea, the oldest person at the table is expected to order on behalf of the group.

There is no shortage of Engrish in Korea. For example, this store is called SARI: The value want to possess. This is why Babelfish needs to be retired.

Warning! You may fall comically!

Many of the stores also have adorable names and logos. For example, this store is called Le Bunny Bleu. In Korea, cute is culturally acceptable for adults.

It’s the Catch Me If You Can musical, localized for Korea. Not pictured: Hairspray and Wicked. I’ll try to snap a picture of those posters the next time I walk around town.

Something I am still not used to is that in Korea, bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and pedestrians share the sidewalk. It’s common to see motorbikes speed through a busy walkway while civilians leap to the side to avoid being crushed, GTA-style.

The picture above is a cute rice bowl I found outside a Quiznos in Itaewon. I’ll write about Itaewon later. Suffice to say, it’s a sketchy part of Seoul where all of the foreign soldiers and English teachers hang out. You can probably guess what goes on there.

If you are a foreigner, the taxi drivers automatically ask you if you are going to Itaewon. I think the Korean people are collectively trying to keep all undesirable, loud foreigners in one district as part of an ingenious ‘containment’ strategy. Having walked around Itaewon and observed the locals, I completely sympathize.

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