I’ve been having a hard time the past few weeks. The weather is changing, the holidays are coming. I really miss everyone at home. So, I’ve decided to write about a few things that have been bothering me about Korea.
The following are simply the opinions I’ve developed as a Western woman living and working in a new, unfamiliar society.
- The apparent lack of hygiene
– In about 90% of the public restrooms I’ve used, they only provide bar soap and fabric towels. Many don’t even have toilet paper. I’m sorry (not really), but this is disgusting. This is exactly how people get sick. Additionally, no one covers their mouth when they sneeze or cough. Also disgusting. I carry hand sanitizer and tissues in my purse all the time.
– For a country that is quite serious about making sure that garbage is separated properly (food, recyclables, miscellaneous) there sure is a lot of it on the street. And there are zero receptacles! People just chuck stuff on the ground and leave it there. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s okay.
- Pushing and shoving
– You will get pushed here. On the street. On the bus. On the subway. Everywhere. By everyone. High school kids. Grandmas. It doesn’t matter. At first, I wanted to scream “what the fuck?!” at everyone in my best raging Jersey accent every time it happened, but now I just kind of roll my eyes and sigh. Loudly.
- Driving and parking
– Never in my life have I seen such horrendous automotive skills by an entire society. People park on the sidewalks. And in the crosswalks. If you’re crossing the street (even when the little green man says you can), you still have to keep your eyes peeled for lunatics trying to run you down. Oh, and the speed! Every time I’m on a bus or in a taxi, I feel like I’m on Mr. Toad’s Wild Fucking Ride.
- The way students get treated
– I probably dislike this more than anything else on my list. Every day, I teach students who are too tired to function because it’s 9:30 at night and they’ve had classes all day since 7 AM. I think it’s an incredible disservice to children to make them suffer through 12+ hour days simply for the sake of getting a “good education.” People need sleep and down time. Especially kids. I also watch teachers hit them and yell at them and it makes me want to go home and cry. Sometimes I do.
- Work culture
– This is something particularly difficult for me to cope with. First of all, I find that there are really no guidelines and my work is not defined. Sometimes, I will come back to my desk to find a stack of journals to grade or a new text book to use for some class. No actual instructions, though. My boss will change my schedule at random and I will have no time to make preparations. Additionally, no one wants to answer questions. Ever. Everything is vague. I’m simply not used to not knowing exactly what I need to be doing. Or not being able to take a sick day. Or not knowing when my vacation is scheduled for.
Just a couple of things I needed to get out of my system. Don’t worry, though, this post will definitely be followed by one about all the things I LOVE about Korea. (There are really quite a few.)