Friday, August 26, 2011


Ahhhh... culture, culture, culture! There's a lot of it here, and definitely a lot to learn. So far, I've realized that Koreans love English (whether or not that extends to its speakers, I have yet to decide), but they all take the opportunity to exercise whatever level of English that they have. I cannot tell you how many times complete strangers have said hello to me on the street... but that's also part of culture. Whenever I see, well... anyone, really, I'm supposed to give my "안녕하세요?" and bow. I don't mind, really... it's kind of fun to see them smile at my attempt to use Korean. (I impressed my employers with a "반갑습니다," today. They were almost as excited as I was.

Everything here is very much a hierarchy. For example, of the three Koreans with whom I work most closely (Jenny, Terry, and Jeff), Jeff is the newest to the program, so when we go out to eat, he is always the one who has to go ask for more things at a restaurant or take the annoying jobs (like taking us on a tour of the city), and he happily does so. (I don't know if all Koreans are content in this system, because Jeff is just a generally happy guy, but I get the impression that they're okay with it.) Anyone who is of a higher position than you is to be shown extreme respect and addressed by their title. For example, I will be "Teacher Anne" (if I'm lucky... somehow, they got it into their heads that I'm Anna... which worries me, because most of their English is learned from movies and pop culture...), and my principal will be "Principal [whoever]" or "Dr. [whoever]." You don't call someone of a higher respect level by their first name... ever. (Think of manners in the Deep South.) Eye contact goes with this too... You're not to make eye contact with someone of a higher respect level, or else you'll be seen as confrontational... You're more of to aim for the chin or neck, which is just as well, as I'd prefer to be attempting to read lips when I'm working with non-native-speakers, anyway.

My 아파트 is a pretty good example of Korean culture, from what I've been able to tell. It's small, of course, but things its previous owners decided they didn't need have been left here (apparently my bed frame is included in that list... not all the teachers have one). Mostly, it's about functionality, with lots of tape residue all over the walls, but that tape is also evidence of another part of Korean culture: a love for hanging "cute" things all over the wall (all the 3M hooks were some of the things left by previous owners). Also, Jenny, Terry, and Jeff, made sure to leave me a shelf full of essentials, so I wouldn't have to worry about finding these things in stores while I'm still jet lagged. Some of those things have been dispersed through my apartment (for example, the blow dryer they left me has been moved, box and all, into the bathroom, in the hopes that I will convince myself to learn to use it), but I was so grateful to them for this that I almost started to cry when I saw them. I was also left a pair of house shoes, and shower shoes, that are most helpful... which brings me to the shower itself. Like I said before, Koreans are big into functionality over aesthetics, so prepare yourself...
Ready? Here we go:
Yup... no shower curtain. The whole floor is made of a waterproof plastic tile, so it is just expected to go everywhere. It's always been dry by morning, so I assume the system works. It's really not too bad... it just is taking some getting used to.

Okay, I think that's probably enough information overload for you today. (Trust me, though, this doesn't even begin to touch the overload I'm currently feeling... but I think this is a good overload.) I want to reiterate that I love it here... almost as much as I love you all. Have a good rest of the day! And, seeing as I see the rest of the day before you do, I can tell you that it only goes uphill throughout the day. ;)


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