Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Things that would not fly in the States.

Over the span of almost two years the boy and I have composed a nice little list of all of the things that happen in Korea that would never happen back home.   From parking (and driving) on sidewalks and hard liquor in claw machines to leaving your baby in their stroller while you have a coffee in Dunkin' Donuts and donning high heels while hiking; there are just some things that are unique to Korea. 

Today I bring you my top 3 things that I think would not fly back home. 

Corporal Punishment.

What can I say?  In Korea it's perfectly normal to see a Korean teacher hit a student.  Students are usually hit on the hands with some type of wooden rod.

At my previous school students knew when they were about to get hit and would blow on their hands and rub them together feverishly.  I never saw blood and I never saw tears.  In fact, it seemed to me that the teacher's who were known for hitting, were also the most admired and respected by the students. 

If you could see how my old co-teachers acted towards the students you would be astounded.  Almost daily they would have one backed against a wall, pretending to knee or punch him or her while frantically shouting in Korean.  It was all (mostly) in jest, but either way, if that were to happen in the States, the school would be slapped with a lawsuit faster than you could say "Jake Gyllenhall".

My direct and abundant use of the word "panties".  Just let me explain. 

If there's one important teaching technique that I learned from Aria it's that Korean children love the word "panties".  They love it.  It's kind of dirty and gritty, but still a little fun to say at the same time and the kids go nuts. 

It took me 3 months for my students at my old school to remember that the tricky little "y" has to be changed to "ies" to become plural.  Party- parties.  Berry- berries.  Ferry- ferries.  Nope.  They just couldn't get it.  There was no easy way to get it ingrained in their heads.

This year I used the word "panty" as an example, and let me tell you, these students haven't forgotten once.  Not once. (yes, I know that panties are always plural, but give a girl a break)

I even have a huge class of 6 year olds and there's one little girl that can barely read, write, or understand a word that comes out of my mouth, but you best believe that she'll randomly shout, "fire panties" throughout the class.  I'm hoping that "fire panties" will eventually lead to a more tactful exclamation, but I'll take what little I can get. 

Nude spas (Jjimjilbangs)

I'm not saying that it wouldn't necessarily fly in the States, I'm just saying that it probably wouldn't be nearly as popular or common as it is here. 

What do you do if you're feeling tired, stressed, and your muscles are aching?  In Korea, one would go to a spa. 

What is a spa like in Korea?  Let me paint you a picture. 

The boy and I went to a spa about a month or two after joining hapkido.  We were sore and tired and we thought that a relaxing day at the spa was just what we needed.  I thought it was awesome.  You pay about six dollars and they give you a nifty little outfit to wear throughout your experience and you get to stay there as long as you want.  You can even spend the night!  There are several different levels and men and women have their own floors. 

The beau and I went on a Saturday and boy, it was poppin'!  There were women everywhere.  They were in the saunas, they were in the showers, there were at least 20 women in every pool.  There were women lined up along a river in the floor, sitting in between each others legs, scrubbing down their friends.

It was awkward.  Just a little.  Awkward for me and only me because I had never experienced anything like it before.  I had never really paraded around so many people with all my cash and prizes hanging out.  It was how I had expected Mardi Gras in New Orleans to be minus the booze and beads. 

But after ten minutes, all the awkwardness and nervousness subsided.  I had found a pool that was the perfect temperature and I didn't even have a second thought about my surroundings.

And there you have it.  There are some things about Korea that I will probably never understand, but that's the beauty of it all.  The boy and I yearn to question and be challenged and Korea certainly does both.  While I can't see myself incorporating corporal punishment into my classroom any time soon, I will be casually frequenting the local spas.


  1. Hey there, I just stumbled upon your blog. I used to live in Korea as well. I taught English there for about a year and a half. What a crazy time! I find myself missing it dearly though. I just wanted to say hi along with address your jimjilbang fact that it would never fly in the States. Wrong, I just went to one here. Crazy, I know! I was absolutely expensive ($35/24hrs) but it was 100% Korean. I couldn't get over it! Anyway, happy Lunar New Year!

  2. That.is.awesome! You'll have to tell me where this jimjilbang is. I'll have to hit it up when I get home. I'm glad that you came across the site. Would love to hear more from you.


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