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My personal experiences in Korea

I have gone to Korea on two seperate occassions. Once in 1990 for two months and again in 1997 for three months. The memories from those trips are the ones that I treasure the most. I've been to different parts of the U.S., Canada and Ireland. But Korea has always been my favorite. These are some of the things I remember from my trips.

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If you've got any stories about Korea, send them to me. I'll put them up onto a page very soon. Mail them here

1. The People

Yes, the rumours are true. Koreans are probably the most rudest people you'll ever meet. I say this not to bad-mouth my own people but, to bring to the attention to Koreans of their bad habits. You'll run into some very rude people. Ingore them. Not everyone you meet will be rude. You will find that the Koreans that aren't rude, are probably the most friendliest people on the face of the Earth. This is not a lie. I remember being on a bus, going to my cousin's apartment. An elderly woman sitting beside me turns to me and offers me some peanuts. She also did this for the gentleman on the other side of her. Now, I know that sounds kind of stupid. But really it isn't. She didn't have to offer anything to me or the forgein gentleman beside her. You'll probably never see this happen in Canada or the United States.

How can I call Koreans rude? All my experiences come from riding the subway. On the subway, I always give up my seat for seniors. Hey, I'm a young guy. I can stand for long periods of time. Other Koreans my age and older will continue to sit while these seniors with canes try to remain standing as the trains rocks back and forth. Koreans will push you out of the way in order to get on to a already full train. Once, I fell down and twisted my ankle on the subway platform thanks to the guy who pushed me. No one came to help me. Thanks a lot. Oh well, just hope you meet the kind Koreans when you go to Korea.

2. A Scary Moment

I was walking down a crowded street when I got fed up of bumping into other people every couple of seconds. I saw an empty street with hardly any people walking down it. So I turned down the empty street. Not long after, I came up to a crowd blocking the entire street. I kept thinking that I had come upon a market. So I started to weave my way through the crowd. Suddenly, megaphones are shouting instructions into the air. It seems I had wandered into a demonstration. I quickly tried to go back but people were jumping and waving their fists all around me. Then I saw the riot police. They were hauling people away into awaiting vans. I just started to push people out of my way to get out of the crowd. You never know what you can be wandering into in Korea.

3. The Gang Member

This is just a little aside, good for a laugh. Right outside of my cousin's apartment complex, was a very nice basketball court. It had asphalt instead of the common dirt or gravel basketball courts. The first time my cousin and I went to the basketball court, we met this peculiar man. Asking my cousin who he was, it turned out that he was a former gamg member. Very tough. Everybody who played at the court was afraid of him. Me, my cousin from Canada(who made the trip with me) and a friend from Canada(also making the trip) couldn't care less who he was. I remember one time when some kid's ball hit his guitar, he immediately took off his shirt and walked up to the kid. The guy had tons of knife scars all over his body. No wonder everybody was afraid of him. The incident went without a hinch. The kid gave his name and the guy said he would pay him a visit if there were any damages to the guitar. I don't think anything happened.

I later found out that the guy actually slept at the courts. It was his home. All his possessions could be counted on two hands. This guy was one weird guy. Later on, just before I left Korea, his brother joined him at the courts. Just weird.

Summer like you've never seen before.

The one thing I will never forget about my stays in Korea, is the summer weather. Every day I was there, the temperature was at least 30 degrees. This meant a lot of laundry during the week. It's funny, I don't think I saw many Koreans sweating under the blistering heat. I was usually sweating by the time I locked the door to my apartment. Don't be freaked out by the clothes that the guys wear. It's seems like a custom there. Guys aren't expected to wear shorts. Instead, they will most likely be wearing pants or jeans. I hated this the most. I had to wear pants for a good portion of the day. If I left the apartment for any amount of time over half an hour, then I had to wear pants. It just wouldn't look right. But luckily if I had to make a quick run to the corner store, I would wear shorts and not be look down upon. I guess it's your choice if you want to wear pants or shorts. Most foreigners will wear shorts. I think I'll stay with wearing pants. Girls have it easy. From what I saw, girls can wear whatever they want. Be it revealing, too short, frilly or even see-through.

What to do about the heat

Alright, so the heat's killing you. What do you do? You take a hot bath or shower. The hotter the better. Once you come out, you'll feel like you're at the North Pole. Whatever you do, don't take a really cold shower (my mistake my first day in Korea). Although it will feel refreshing while you're showering, it will kill you once you get out. Take my word for it. It feels like many people slapping you all over your body. OUCH. Got a fan? Most places do. But don't keep it running all night directed at you. I remember hearing stories on the news about people dying while they're sleeping. After many nights with the fan on, your body might come down with a cold. Continuing in using the fan might cause some sort of heart attack. I don't remember too well, my Korean wasn't that good.

The Students

I think it's safe to say that all Korean students are like my cousin. This kid is 16 years old and has only three functions in life: Study, Eat, and Sleep. I don't ever remember him without a book in his hand. Of course, my aunt and uncle had to put it into his hands. But all the same, once it was in there, the damn thing never came out. Ditto for my little cousin. She was always doing her work. Man, are those two ever smart. I know that both of them are smarter than me, a university grad. The students in Korea are under a system that puts so much pressure on them. Us Koreans living in Canada and the U.S. don't know how lucky we are. From elementry school to the end of high school, these studnets basically have no life. It's forced on to them by their parents. When I was there, I tried to do things with my cousins. Things they had never done. There was this shooting gallery place just down the road. They had never been there even though it was a kids place. It was hard to get them to have fun, especially during the school term. You have to admire the work ethic in Korea. Of course, those students you find on the street in the afternoons, are the ones that don't do very well in school. I'd probably be there too if I was going to school in Korea.


Korea is one of those places where sex is hidden from the society. It is very unlike Canada and the US where sex is everywhere around us. You won't find sex in any of the Korean programs like you do in Canada. I remember when I rented a movie, I wasn't allowed to watch it at my uncle's house just because there was a little nudity in it. But there are places like strip joints and brothels in the main cities. I never saw them, but people always told me of them. I detest those kinds of establishments but the way they are run in Korea seem very interesting. You could be walking by a very nice looking building and think it's an office place. But in reality, it's a sex den for the rich businessmen. If you're not connected, you'll never step foot into one of these places. Don't bother talking about sex to anybody in Korea. It's just not acceptable.

Center of Attention?

You may think that there are not a lot of foreigners in Korea, but you are wrong. I was surprised to find foreigners in small towns away from the main cities. My guess would be that they are mostly English teachers. I think being a visible minority in Korea has it benefits. I'm not a visible minority, but I'm still a foreigner. Many of the female Koreans I met were very impressed with my lack of Korean knowledge. Every attempt I made to speak Korean was met by little giggles. This can also be transfered to the visible foreigners. The younger Koreans were try to hang around foreigners their own age. It's the cool thing to do. It also allows them to practice their English without paying for it.

The Main Attraction

When I went to Korea just last year, I felt like I was a part of some show. For the first couple of weeks, friends of my uncle and aunt's would drop by with their daughters. I was the Canadian, who was also Korean, with the different hairstyle. They all commented on the way I combed my hair. It's very common in Canada and the US but not in Korea. It was flattering but at the same time, a little unnerving. I just wanted some peace and quiet. Instead, I ran into a monkey show. Tickets, please?

The Incident

One week, I went down to Pusan to visit my friend. He had told everybody he knew that I was coming to visit him. We both came from Canada but he spent most of his summers in Korea. I was kind of shocked to find out that most people expected me to not know any Korean. Even though I am Korean, it was thought that I could not understand or speak Korean because I was from Canada. After a couple of days, my friend took me down to his workplace. It was a clothing store for men and women. All the workers there were females. After I was introduced, my friend excused himself and went into a backroom. As I stood there, the girls started to talk about me. I started to blush after hearing some of the things they said. I guess I'm weird that way. I can understand Korean but I can speak it very well. Well, my friend comes out while the girls are speaking and hears what they're saying. He looks over at me and asks if I understood what they said. I nodded. He told them that I understood what they had said and began laughing. After that day, the girls would never say anything to me or to each other when I was present.

If you've got any stories about Korea, send them to me. I'll put them up onto a page very soon. Mail them here

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