Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Interesting Tidbits

Disclaimer: As always, my comments on Korean life are of a foreigner and therefore, when I think things are "different", I am comparing them to what I know, which is life in the United States. Secondly, these views do not reflect everyone in Korea, only what I've experienced in my three months here. (Whoa, can you believe it's been three months!?)

First of all, Korea seems to love wheat. Wheat tea, wheat milk, and wheat chocolate cookies are only a few of the products that you can find here in a normal supermarket. When I first came here (and unfortunately a few times since), I was the victim of a number of surprise attacks when I thought I had bought something, and it was really just a wheat product. The taste of these products is not bad; however, I have never been a lover of the wheat flavor. I don't even like beer! Perhaps Korea is onto something and there are magical properties that make you live forever within these products, but thinking you bought coffee milk and opening it to take a big gulp of wheat milk is really disappointing (and a bit revolting).

Secondly, I think it's really interesting how much Asian countries (Korea and Japan, I'm looking at you) love spam. I've heard spam is a big deal in Hawaii as well, but I still find it surprising when I order a meal, and the meat that they selected for the dish is spam! Maybe it's because while I was growing up, spam was one of those things that you never ate because it was described as "sketchy", but I never even considered it to be a real food choice until I came here! Now I enjoy spam inside my kimbap and chopped spam inside my rice is actually delicious! Korea has opened my eyes to a whole variety of ways you can use spam and I have to say, it's quite liberating! :D

Thirdly, I want to bring up a topic that I've noticed ever since I've come here, but now I have finally started to become used to it. This is the issue of personal space. I know that many cities have crowded subways and people have to get close at times, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the fact that on an empty subway car, an old man will choose to stand right next to you, breathing down your neck the entire ride. This has happened on many occasions, which I then make a move to slowly inch away until I have my own personal space. People here don't find invading personal space to be a problem, nor do they even realize that it could make someone uncomfortable. I find that there's a missing sense of neighbor awareness when it comes to people who live here, which is so interesting to me, since there is also a large sense of group awareness. People will focus more on the group happiness here, but when it comes to treating a single person with respect, there is often a lack of caring. This may sound harsh (and I've possibly only experienced this since I am seen only as "the foreigner") but Korean people have a tendency to make actions that badly affect another person, and I don't think they even realize that they are doing this. For example, public drunkenness is a huge problem here and yet, it is so common that people don't seem to even realize how rude they are when they are drunk. Or when people run into you while you are walking down the street and they will never say "sorry" or "excuse me", they just keep walking. In our orientation on our second day here, our program directors told us that people are not trying to be rude, it's just common here. It's taken me awhile to get used to this, though I've only really been able to not become offended anymore, it still surprises me when something happens.

Lastly, I'm going to discuss a tidbit of celebrity here. Idol singers (or for better lack of words "pop stars") are extremely popular here and are constantly under the scrutiny of everyone watching them. Korea has come up with the term "airport fashion" because so many fans come to see the idols off or welcome them home, that the singers have to be well dressed even after a long flight! I've read about stories where idols will wear one outfit to the airport, get dressed into comfortable clothes once they're on the plane, then change into an entirely different outfit for their departure from the airport! It seems so ridiculous to me since flying on a long plane ride is one of those times where people should never have to wear heels or be in make-up! Also, if celebrities are seen wearing the same clothes twice (shocking!) they are called out online immediately for it.  But "airport fashion" has become its own distinct section along with "street fashion" and "runway fashion". In my fashion business class here, someone brought it up in a presentation they were having about fashion topics for next season as it is a very common term.

Wheat Tea on the left: It's actually not terrible. I've bought this one a few times and it was drinkable, but there are others that have a much stronger flavor that I couldn't get through! You have to be careful!
Wheat Milk on the right: It was terrible. Down-right bad. I took two sips and then couldn't drink any more. I should have known since I can read all the Korean on it and it clearly states itself as wheat milk; however, I hoped it would taste like coffee with just a bit of wheat flavor or something. I mean, it says "Latte" on it! But it wasn't joking, it was a big ol' gulp of creamy wheat. 
Airport fashion examples. It's crazy how highly celebrities are tracked here. There is even a special name for the crazy fans called "사생팬" (Sasaeng Fan) who are not even fans, but more like stalkers. They camp out in front of the idol's houses and wait for them to come out or break into the homes of celebrities to get pictures of them while they sleep. The weird part is that these stalker-fans mostly comprise of middle school students! It's really scary. 

Spam and Kimchi Kimbap. I actually bought this for the first time today because I've had tuna kimbap, bacon kimbap, bulgogi kimbap, and spicy kimchi kimbap before but I have always skipped over the ones that say "spam" on them because of the reason that was talked about before. Anyway, I gave it a shot and it was delicious! I'll definitely be buying this one again! It's not pretty, but it is really tasty!


  1. Replies
    1. So, I've found a love of tuna and mayo through the tuna kimbap and I get it whenever I can (it's always the first to go off the shelves), but I think my most reoccurring kimbap purchase is the bulgogi kimbap. Rice and meat packed into a tiny package is just so perfect! It's feels like a complete meal, while the tuna kimbap feels like a snack. However, I really enjoyed the spam and kimchi together, so this may change soon :)