Beneath that Shiny Circle of Everyday Korea

It's the new year folks, again. There's so much new year every year that my head spins. We have the actual new year and then the lunar new year and then you have the nepali new year, the lhosar and then the newari new year. holy shit, that's a lot of new years to cope up with. 

If you ask me, I dig the lunar holidays, not just because you get bonus but also because that's the only time I can cut some slack and go all potato couchy. One of my favorite things to do when back home was just to take no responsibility whatsoever, turn on the tv, layover on the sofa not-so-stretched (I stopped fitting in) and watch what whatever the hell was on. You know, let the box do the thinking and not me. 

On of those shows in discovery, they had this 30 min run on all things weird about a specific nation. The producers had an eye for detail and obviously had done their research and it was fun see things from an inside out perspective. Unfortunately, they never aired a show on south korea, which was, kinda sad because at the time, the only thing I knew about the country was arirang, the name of the channel that used to air on tv and kimchi, the red cabbagy goodness that I never dared to try. 

Well, having spent here a considerable time, I have for you, after all these years, put a random list of all things random and unexpected, fun and not-so-fun in everyday Korea.

1. Dogs here don't bark: 

Which is weird, isn't it? you see a dog which looks at a stranger and doesn't do shit.  Having being so used to seeing dogs run after me and having had my own dog bit me a couple of times, it feels so unnatural that these animals don't have a word to say. I almost feel sorry that they can't look at me and just say "get the hell out my way." 

I guess this happens in most developed countries.

2. Walking in the Sauna naked: 

Back in the school, there were a couple of moments where I had to involuntarily go all naked but to do that in front of other strange men staring at you is taking it to a whole new level. What's worse is when your friend asks you to go to the sauna with him. I have no interest in seeing anyone's manhood, much less my friends. Thanks, but no thanks buddy. 

Good thing I go all blind when my glasses go off. 

You can read more [HERE]

3. Fruit selling Ajashi's listening to melodic death metal:

Metal isn't palatable for most individuals. In fact, most sane people avoid it, at all cost. Strange looking males and females going gore and long hairy and all blacky with dark, almost depressing lyrics that are sung on notes that sounds like someone who had just lost his/her voice on a cold winter afternoon. Add a few lines of mixed blast beats and power riffs in the backdrop and everything goes all muddy. 

Well, guess what, I have found a couple of food vendors listing to melodic death, gore and black here in Korea. After all these years living in Kathmandu, I have yet to find one there. 

4. Alcoholism is so rampant that it's almost encouraged:

Drinking well in Korea, like Japan, is not frowned upon but encouraged. In fact, on average, an adult consumes 1.95 shots per day leading to two popular brands of Soju, the local drink here, claiming the first and fourth position in most consumed drinks. 

While this is fine, what's surprising is that when you tell someone, even your Prof, that he or she drinks exceptionally well, you can see it on their faces that they can't hide their smile. 

Just think about it for a moment, where on earth can you get away saying that?

You can read more [HERE]

5. People (including girls) flat on the street floor completely passed out:

The title's pretty self explanatory. Needless to say, it does look pretty safe to have the luxury to do so.

6. Age Hierarchy:

One of the first things you get asked after your name here in Korea is your age. I mean, who gives a shit about it right? especially when you are in university taking lectures with random assortment of students from different backgrounds and ages. 

Not here though. A years difference can mean a hell lot. In a strict hierarchical community where the difference between who makes coffee and who takes the trash and who doesn't largely depends on individual's age, it does matter. It's no wonder that you hardly debate anything that your senior says to you. 

Trust me, I have learned that the hard way.

7. Toxically, awkwardly too polite and indirect:

While I have nothing against people being polite, and while I also agree that being blunt and impolite is much worse than faking being polite, what you feel here is that the mass, in general, are so polite that it actually feels awkward. Maybe it's because I come from a nation where politeness is strictly reserved for people you actually know and not so much for people who you don't know but there you go.

It could well be also because the language itself here is so indirect. If someone has to say something from A to B, the person explains from A, detours it all the way around the Himalayas, across china, into north and finally to point B. By this time, the listener has to carefully connect the dots and draw a straight line from A to B.
That's why I love english, less bullshit and more of straight up shit. 

8. Prostitution is so rampant that it's almost legal. Almost.

"Indeed, the sex industry (in the face of laws criminalizing and stigmatizing it) is so open that prostitutes periodically stage public protests to express their anger over anti-prostitution laws. Bizarrely, like Tibetan monks protesting China’s brutal rule of their homeland, some Korean prostitutes even set themselves on fire to promote their cause.
Naturally, demand is high."
The number's speak for themselves; according to reports an estimated 1 million women work in the flesh trade bringing the number to almost a woman in every 25 involved in the sex industry. It's undeniably huge as coffee shops to motels to so called juicy bars to full option karaoke offer prostitution for people who have the buck.

And they do.

Unreported cases where companies "pay" their workers to "keep them happy" is not unheard of. Small companies, who constantly depend on business being done, even look towards these woman to do the business for them instead. Here's a pretty interesting read on that subject matter [HERE]

That should be it for today.
Happy new year if it means new year to you, have yourself a great holiday!


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