3.01.2009

Money & Sex.

Koreans don't seem to have any of the hangups we Americans do about knocking on doors/ringing doorbells. It startles me every time, because the way it's done here is something akin to how an American would only treat a closed door in the case of the building being on fire.

It does make me think though, what are we so shy about?

American style:

Tiptoe up to the door and take a moment to adjust yourself, before taking a breath and pushing the doorbell button one time, stepping back a few paces. Wait nervously approximately two and a half minutes, before debating with yourself about whether you should ring the bell again. Maybe it's broken? Maybe you should knock? But you don't want to seem rude, over-eager....

Korean style:

Charge up the stairs and immediately fall upon the doorbell, while simultaneous knocking -- rapidly and with great force -- and shouting a loud greeting, as well as your purpose for visiting. Continue all three activities without pause until someone opens the door, or until exactly five minutes have elapsed, whichever comes first.

The gas man visited today. Well. Not the gas man -- a man who was checking for gas leaks. When I opened the door, already expecting trouble, because he was shouting in Korean at it, which means he didn't already know I was a foreigner, he quickly rambled something in Korean.

"Uh... hangukmal.... uh....."

Fucking. What? I know this. Hangukmal what....? Fuck!

Okay. Let's take a different approach.

"Hangukmal." I shake my head no, while doing my best to look ashamed of myself.

"Oh! Uh.... gas check!"

He pokes around for a while, all the time making small talk in Korean. I guess it's just habit. Then, "Uh..... sign-uh-chuseyo."

At least now I know I won't be dying from a gas leak anytime soon.

Hangukmal muteyo.

What's so fucking hard about that?

Hm.

Well, Mike and I realized we have a different definition of "nonsense" yesterday, after meeting up with and staying out with (As Friends) until 5 am Saturday morning. Should have clarified. I am of the opinion we have stuck to our no-nonsense pact, while he argues that we distinctly broke it on Friday night.

My definition of no-nonsense: No body's vomiting, everyone knows (vaguely) who/where they are, and no one is sexually harassing anyone else. In a way that they mind, anyway.

Mike: Everything after 2 am is nonsense. Regardless.

I'm becoming some sort of strange lad's lad/feminist hybrid. What do I mean by that? I'm not quite sure. But it's a product of my peculiar position here, as a Western female. And the kind of Western female that I am, to begin with.

Exhibit A --

The Boys: I don't know about Korean women. It seems like there's just not a whole lot going on. They act kind of immature.

Me: You're going to have to trust me on this one, but there is a whole hell of a lot going on. You just don't get to see it, because you're men. And guards go up around men. But they are fucking brilliant, some of them at least. Totally fucking aware of exactly what's going on, and really fucking critical of it. Some of the most socially aware people I've met yet.

Exhibit B --

The Boy: You must hate Angelina Jolie, on some level though...

Me: Why?

The Boy: Well, because every man wants her....

Me: Are you kidding? I'd fuck Angelina Jolie in a fucking heartbeat. I want her....

The Boy: Well, I sincerely hope that happens. And give me a ring, if it does....

Me: Fucking. I wish. And so do you.

This poor boy. Mike and I have decided he's ultimately harmless -- he's just a small town boy, which makes him inherently socially awkward, easily shocked and more than a little naive. After he ran to the shops for some smokes, he returned apologizing for a joke he had made earlier that I don't even remember. He did mention that it involved kimbap, somehow, and my automatic assumption (in that case) was that it must have been dirty. I promptly informed him that I'm fairly certain Mike and I are the two least-easily offended people in all of Korea. At which point Mike and I re-assumed our game of, "That's what she said," as if to demonstrate.

He's a good fella, though -- my radar was right about that part, in the beginning. A genuine nice guy. Just gets a bit... well, fucking Irish after a few. Which, for the most part, is alright. His best for the evening? Conversation had gotten a bit heavy as we discussed the various cases of Koreans inventing totally sincere (basically) lies about what great friends you are going to be, how many wonderful things you're going to do together, and then promptly forgetting all about it and ignoring you on as many occasions as they have the opportunity. I pointed out to Mike that we sort of did the same thing with international students at university, except we wouldn't go as far as even speaking to them in the first place.

Earlier in the evening, Mike and I were loitering around in the Sea of Men, having just finished dinner, when the young PE teacher who speaks English came out of the restaurant adjacent with some pals. I somehow knew the second I laid eyes on him that I was going to be, definitively, blanked. Of course, I can't ever resist making these things worse for myself, and decided the best course of action would be to stare directly at his face until he left the premises. Blanked, I was, my friends. As Mike put it, rather sarcastically, "Maybe he didn't recognize you." Right. I'm pretty easy to miss, being a big fat foreigner standing directly in front of your face and all.

It bothered me more than it should have. Only because it's a perfect summarizing example of how we are treated in general, all too often. I'm not becoming bitter or anything -- just less naive. For most Koreans, the truth of the matter is, we just don't factor into their lives on any real level.

At any rate, after I finished conveying this story to Small Town, in response to a similar story he had told us, imploring a more senior expat opinion on the matter, we all looked down at our pints in silence for a moment.

Small Town then said, "Well, anyway. Do you know what the wisest thing anyone ever said was?"

"No. What?"

"Fook it."

Lovely. And true.

Another classic of the evening, and a better example of the hybrid situation, was when Small Town returned from the bathroom to find Mike and I engaged in an argument over the fact that Mike had taken two steps to the right, effectively blocking my view of a pool game going on between two Korean men, and was refusing to move back.

"What's going on, then?"

"Oh, she's upset because I've interrupted her ogling."

"I'm not ogling. I'm watching the game..."

"Right..."

"So, you find Korean men attractive, do you?"

Well, they're men, aren't they?

"Oh."

More than a little surprise in the tone there. I get tired of that, out of Western men. Western women too, for that matter, I suppose. There are a fair number of white ladies who will claim they "just don't find Korean men attractive". They're morons. And they aren't doing anything to help the superiority complex our Western brothers develop while they're here. Or Korean-Westerner relations, in general.

Almost all of the animosity seems to come down to two things: the complexity of a system that drives its people to learn (expensive) English, or else fail at life, and sex.

So you could say, it's all down to money and sex. What else is new?

2 comments:

MikejGrey said...

See? The thing with the women is frustrating because the wall is another form of korean society (that i perceive as bullshit as a vulgar westerner) and will never be able to break down because I'm only going to be here, and can only say I can't speak korean in korean

Well so far

Ugh

Anyway.

The only way to answer that is with a fart.

*Fart*

I'm no Picasso said...

Yeah I know. It's like the wall for me with the men.

Speaking of, the gay tech guy was just in. You ask how it's so easy for me to tell? Because he's not uncomfortable around me at all, always says hello, and even casually touches me sometimes, with no hesitation. Gay as the day is long. That's how I know.

The fag hag tag is international, my friend.