My Korean Top Ten
Now that I’ve been in South Korea about a week, I’m pretty much an expert on the way they roll over here and have come up with my very own, Korean Top Ten. The 5 things I like most about Korea and the 5 things I like least.
Let’s start with the things I like least, put them at the bottom of the list so I can end on a positive note.
#10 I don’t like the Korean delivery scooters.
They are ubiquitous, rude, alarmingly fast, and scare the hell out of me. It appears that most of them are food delivery scooters because they have the large square box on the back. Man, they haul ass-up and down Korean streets, sidewalks, and just about everywhere, including just inches from my own rear-end and the two rear-ends of the people I love most in the world.
# 9 Everything is in Korean here.
There’s no English, or a least muy poquito ingles. The restaurants, the stores, the subway directions, it’s all in Korean and I don’t appreciate that. I thought my language was the best and most important and everybody wants to learn and speak it. These people seem to be getting along fine without it and that’s hard on my Anglo-centrism.
#8 Korean people don’t like me.
I know this one to be true. It’s true, because everywhere else I have traveled, people have come up to me and told me how much they “love America” which makes me feel good about myself because I have self-esteem problems. Nobody does that here. I sense Korean people are pretty much content being Korean, otherwise they would stop me in the street and tell me they love me and my country but they don’t so that means I’m not very interesting to them and that’s hard.
#7 Everyone is thin and good-looking.
I’m not joking about this one. It is true. I mean they really are- everyone, thin and good looking is. I don’t crack mirrors, but I’m a long way from thin and they look good and, if I may, the women are particularly attractive, but they don’t know I’m here for me to impress them with my cleverness and so that doesn’t help either.
# 6 It’s not all that inexpensive here.
I’ve done most of my traveling in Latin America, where things are considerably cheaper. This simultaneously boosts my self-esteem and purchasing power. My money goes further which makes me feel better about myself because I tie my own self-worth into my relationship to the dollar. Less purchasing power means more self-recrimination. That’s how it works. Dollar to doughnuts.
Now for the Likes
# 5 Everything is very organized and in place.
This is also true. Things seem very neat and efficient and workable. In our stay in Seoul there was this water purifier that distributed cold water (blue button) and hot water (red button) and there was only a little waiting. I wanted to bring that on the rest of the trip with me, but thought better of it. All the soaps are in the same bottles and labeled, ‘body wash’, ‘shampoo’, ‘hand soap’. Also, in our current room, there are these electrical adapters just here in the room. I just dropped about $10 on one and there are three here for us. Those things would last about 10 seconds in Gringolandia.
#4 The food is very good
I’m getting a little tired of noodles and rice, but they do it well because it comes with all sorts of stuff. I had grilled squid for lunch before we got on the airplane and it came with rice pilaf and an egg in the middle. That was very fun and so was the very tasty lemonade. (BTW, I wish I drank beer, because they seem like they have a lot of if for sale here and I’m feeling a little left out. However, my wife would prefer I just deal with my isolationism and get over it.)
# 3 The Taxi guys have the best GPS systems
They really aren’t GPS systems, they are video games for the Korean driver. They have all kinds of graphics of buildings and parks and traffic circles and when I’m in a cab with this technology I have absolutely know crisis of confidence-which is rare for me. (I’m thinking the scooter guys have the same GPS maps as well. I’d like to hack into the scooter GPS and reroute those guys right into the drink.)
#2 It feels very safe here
I’m guessing they have crime and bad stuff happens, but nobody seems to be clutching their backpacks or telling us to be careful about walking around late at night. Maybe they would if they spoke English or we spoke Korean, but the little interchanges we’ve had with English-speaking Koreans has not been filled with carefuls and cautions.
#1 Koreans seem to possess a self-confidence and poise
I find this very interesting and appealing. It’s all around. It’s in the way people are dressed, the way they converse with one another, the way they go about their business not particularly interested in me or my family as we run around their country. I don’t sense they dislike that we are here. I sense more that it’s not all that important to them because they have plenty going on in their lives and their reality here is satisfying. It’s nice to be an anonymous traveler and not always targeted for economic exchange. It allows me to take more in and observe. Maybe one reason I’m kind of grouchy on this trip is because I’m not being entertaining to perfect strangers and have to stay in my own skin. I can manage for now. When we get to Japan, I’ll need some Karaoke applause if I’m going to make it back home.