Welcome to Daegu
OK, Korea. Alright then.
I wish there was a first thing I noticed, something so immediately and insistently different that I just had to share it right away. But there isn’t. Instead, things are different here in a million little ways that add up to something completely alien.
They don’t do sizes in coffee shops. If you want a coffee or a latte, you get one small 8 OZ cup no matter what. It’s pretty expensive, at least compared to everything else. I just got back from lunch, where I had a bowl of udon noodle soup with fried tofu, a sushi roll (they don’t call it sushi, which is something different, but there was seaweed, rice and crab) and a drink, which came out to under $6 American, or 5,600 Won. A coffee will run you about as much as an American Starbucks, but when you can get a three course meal for the same amount, it starts to feel pretty steep.
Also, no tipping. They don’t tip here. Some restaurants, but by no means all, will leave a tip jar on the bar, but tipping for service is neither required nor expected. I still feel guilty dropping a 10,000 Won bill for a 9,500 Won meal then waiting for change, but the one time I tried to leave something on the table the waiter ran after me and gave it back. Oh well, when in Rome I guess.
The Koreans are largely friendly, though there is a definite strain of xenophobia in the country. They have spent their entire history as a consolation prize in the endless war between China and Japan, with each country taking turns occupying the peninsula in accordance with a rise or fall in their military fortunes. The Japanese had them last, and there is still a lot of bitterness about WW2 around here. Some of my students have helpfully explained the perils of trusting the inherently devious Japanese, and none of them particularly like the half Japanese kid in the class, the poor guy.
Their work ethic is incredible, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about it later, but for now I’ll just let everyone know that the Korean people have collectively discovered a miraculous new synthetic material. It is harder than diamond or quartz, and completely resistant to any pressure applied to it. Instead of using this new material to enhance their space program, or even as a form of body armor, they have decided to make their mattresses out of it. I can only assume that they mistrust a comfortable night’s sleep, regarding it as a gateway to sloth and idleness.
I’m going to have to save most of my cultural observations for later, since it’s almost time for me to head to work and do my part to mold young Korean minds. I’ll only say that I am exploring and learning new things each day. I have been spending a lot of time with my predecessor, Molly a 23-year-old Tennesseean (Tennesseeite? Tenneseeian? She’s from Tennessee) who is basically straight out of central casting as the sweet, pretty southern girl. She leaves tomorrow, and I will definitely miss her.
Goodbye everyone, and more to come