Korean Cultural Oddities Pt. 4

So, I’m killing some time before I meet a friend for dinner, so I’m going to post a long overdue Korean Cultural Oddity post.

  • One of my Korean friends is getting married in two weeks. (“I’m getting married.” “What day?” “9-1-1.” “September 11th?” “Terror Day.”) She’s been seeing her boyfriend for about two years, which is actual fairly unusual in Korea. Most people get married much quicker. Many Koreans get married on their first year anniversary. Another friend said his uncle married a woman after 15 days. This is obviously not normal either, but I’ve also heard more than several stories about people getting married under 6 months. While on the rise, divorce is nowhere near as common here as in the States, so many of these quick marriages end up in unfulfilling marriages kept together mainly for kids and the sake of saving face.
  • Also, the whole engagement and proposal process is completely backasswards here. When I found out my friend was getting married she said “He proposed to me yesterday.” I asked her why I’d noticed her ring last week then. When Koreans are in a serious relationship, they just kind of assume that they’ll get married. It’s like an unspoken agreement. Eventually a date is just set. Then, perhaps a week or two before the date, the man will finally actually ask her if she’ll marry him. She said it took like an hour and a half. He took her to church saying he forgot something, and there was a path of candles, he asked her to marry him, then sang a song, played a video of some kind, and read some kind of love letter to her or something. Romantic, I’m sure, but completely strange.
  • Of course, before marriage, it’s quite normal for men and women to live at home with their parents until they’re married. While this obviously has an upper limit, and some people do choose to live on their own after college, most unmarried young people still live with their parents.
  • This has a lot of interesting consequences. I’d say pre-marital sex is about the same level here as America. Obviously, it happens. A lot. But it’s not necessarily talked about. However, if you’re both still living with your parents, it definitely complicates things. So what’s the answer? Love motels.  Love motels vary greatly. Some will only rent for an hour or two at a time, until after midnight. I’ve heard some come with their own computer right in the room. These are the place to take a date (or a hooker) when discretion is necessary.
  • I’ve talked about the sex industry here multiple times. Actually, I’ve picked up some cards to show you guys exactly what they look like. Soon. There’s also the double barber pole which essentially means “This way for a handjob”. Newly educated to me are Korean anmas. The word anma just means “massage, shampooing”. I think they’re the closest thing in Korea to the stereotypical “Asian massage parlor”. For the paltry fee of 80,000 won ($67.75) you get a veritable cornucopia of sexing. I’m told it starts with a shower, then a massage (someone described it more as a “Turkey Bath” in which the girl oiled herself up and just rubbed herself on him), and then the deed.
  • On a completely unrelated note, one of the most frustrating things about Korea is the complete lack of businesses that actually display their operating hours. Many will advertise that they’re open 24 hours, but almost no stores ever actually post when they open and close. It’s infuriating. I suppose one is just supposed to use their God granted Korean intuition to judge when the establishment will open or close, but as I lack this, I constantly find myself arriving to places too early or late.
  • Out with two Koreans last night, I learned a lot about Korean drinking culture. First of all, drinking games that involve cards just don’t exist.  They simply don’t have any card games to drink to. Such a stark contrast with the abundance of card drinking games in America baffled me. I couldn’t believe that didn’t have a single one.
  • They compensate for this short-coming by having fucking insane drinking games. The King game involves people basically drawing straws. One person is the King, and he will pick two numbers at random (without knowing who they correspond to) and dare them to do something together – make out, take off clothes, go to another person’s table and drink their beer (yes, this is a completely normal game to play in public), etc… A common punishment for refusing to perform a dare is to drink some concoction . I don’t remember the Korean word. It’s especially common to punish freshman in college with it. Basically, they take any number of alcohols, beer, soju, wine, liquor, etc… and mix them together. For added shame, they may “filter” it through a sock, spit in it, stir it with their fingers, put cigarette butts in it, and to top it off, force the poor person to drink this poison from a shoe. I was goddamn appalled when they told me this. Apparently, people have fucking DIED doing this. Yet, because they’re the youngest and older people are telling them to do it, they have to. I responded that in America, if someone told me to do that, I’d say “go fuck yourself.”
  • Obviously, drinking is huge in Korea. However, there are those times when you simply can’t have another. So, what’s one to do? Get someone to drink it for you, naturally. They actually have a term for this person. For a man it’s 흑기사 (heuk-gi-sa, “dark knight”) or 흑장미 (heuk-jang-mi, “black rose”) for women. One can ask someone to be their black knight/rose, or someone can offer to do it, but once you’ve done it, you’re theirs for the rest of the night. Sometimes, if a girl is interested in a guy, she’ll ask him to drink for her. But what happens if you ask Sir Black Knight to drink for you and he refuses? You have to take two shots. You don’t want this to happen. Consequently, 흑기사 has become one of my all-time favorite Korean words, and I’ll probably say it to everyone at the bar, mostly because I think it’ll throw the Koreans into absolute stitches.
  • So, naturally, hella hangovers happen in Korea. But of course, this has it’s Korean solution. Haejang-guk, literally “hangover soup” in Korean, is commonly eaten after a night of heavy drinking to ease one’s troubles. I’m actually having it tonight for dinner with a friend I was with last night. It’s spicy and hot, which is apparently a good thing to eat when you’re in as delicate state as that.
  • Actually, just about all Korean food is served somewhere in the neighborhood of the the goddamn sun. While not necessarily spicy, Korean food is hot as hell. I can think of about three native Korean dishes that are served “cold” and that’s just room temperature instead of boiling lava hot.
  • I’ve aired a bit of a complaint with Koreans about this. When it’s the middle of the summer, I’m a lot more interested in eating something cool than hot. However, Koreans don’t agree with me on this point. Quite the contrary. There’s a Korean idiom “When you’re hot, eat hot.” Basically, the reasoning behind it is that hot food will make you sweat, which will cool you off from the outside. Personally, I prefer a nice cooling from the inside, rather than even more sweating.
  • In another topic, Korean people can be unnervingly anti-social.  I ride the bus a lot, and I’ve observed that Koreans simply don’t want to sit next to strangers on the bus. I mean, no one in America loves it either, but if you get on and there’s an open seat you sit in it. Not here. This is particularly the case if the person whom the seat is next to is the opposite sex as you, or a foreigner. I’ve been in packed buses with an open seat next to me and no one will sit in it. It’s really kind of insulting, but whatever. Eventually an older person will get on and sit next to me.
  • Older men, ajeossi, and older women, ajuma, have their own culture in Korea. There’s a long list of things that it’s normal for the middle-aged to elderly group of people to do. This includes hiking, eating certain things (even eating certain things at specific times), specific drinking methods, etc… My Korean friends often tease me and call me ajeossi, because I routinely like doing all these things that only 40+ year old men do. Whenever they tell me something is an ajeossi activity, I tell them I’d probably love it then.

One Response to “Korean Cultural Oddities Pt. 4”

  1. ‘There’s also the double barber pole which essentially means “This way for a handjob”. Newly educated to me are Korean anmas. The word anma just means “massage, shampooing”.’

    There’s one of these in Cheonan? Where is that? I have never seen one.

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