Friday, May 20, 2011

Stuff Koreans Like

Prepare yourself readers (if there are any of you out there). This post is not like the others. It is hopefully offensively funny, and it features a guest author. If you have not perused the site "Stuff White People Like", I suggest wasting an afternoon and treating yourself to the humorous insights this site has to offer. This post was inspired by the exaggerated white customs that Stuff White People Like so brilliantly discusses. Before you enjoy the fruits of our labor here is the disclaimer:

-Neither myself or Shea Karssing (the co-author of this post) are experts on Korean culture and habits. We are merely pretending to "be an expert on your (Korean) culture" .
-Everything written here are exaggerations of our observations, experiences, and the observations and experiences of others in Korean.
-We both actually like Korea a lot. But we also like laughing at peculiarities around the world.
-If you are sensitive to generalizations and overall un-political correctness do not read this post and do not hate Shea or I.
-Please do not compare Shea and Rachel's writing (it will become painfully obvious who wrote which sections). Shea studied English and Journalism while Rachel spent four years taking notes from engineering professors who have worse spelling than the average Korean English student (but to be fair Koreans are pretty incredible at spelling).

Part I (expect future posts on this subject): Stuff Koreans Like

1. America

Who doesn't love good ol' "Uh-murrica"
No one can deny that America is the greatest country in the world, not even Koreans. Because Korea is so small obviously America must be the greatest and of course the only country better than Korea. All white English speakers (and all white people are English speakers of course) are from America.

If you are white, regardless of where you are actually from, you will frequently get stopped on the streets with “미?” (America?) and looks of awe from admiring Koreans. It’s best to just say yes and you are guaranteed new Korean friends. 

Besides making instant friends upon the realization that you are both white and American, you can expect to be treated to the wonders of American chains: Baskin Robbins (or in Korean: Baskin Lobbins), Starbucks (don't look far there's one on every corner), Dunkin Donuts, Outback Steakhouse (if you're ever craving a processed meat hamburger looking "steak-uh"), TGIF, Coldstone Creamery, even the rare Taco Bell and Subway to name a few. 

Lastly, with the large numbers of Korean Americans in America perhaps Korea is secretly plotting a plan to overrun America with Koreans so that really America will become Korea. I must say it's a clever plan and Koreans continue to dominate America's top universities and companies. See future posts for more on the relationship between Koreans and America. 

2. Obama

Koreans love Barack Obama. There are two main reasons for their love of Obama. 
1. He’s the president of America and Koreans love America. See "America". 
2. Obama is of course related to all other black people in the world so clearly he has more influence than just being president of the United States. Ask any good Korean student who Nelson Mandela is and you will discover that he is fact Obama’s father. Usian Bolt? Obama’s brother. You also might want to have a talk with your black friends about their family history because if you show pictures of these friends to any Korean student they will inform you that your friend is perhaps Obama’s cousin or aunt or uncle. Because of Obama's fame and influence he also often gets mistaken for other famous black figures. Who is Martin Luther King Jr.? Obama of course. Click here for more on this subject. 
Perhaps those skeptical of Obama's American birth
should know that Mandela is Obama's father. Maybe
 further investigation should be done into his birth
certificate after all. 

Not only is Obama president of America he is also president of Korea. Just consult the trusty English board in Bupyeong Nam elementary in Incheon, South Korea. A display proudly reads: “Our New President: Obama”. 
Ken comes to Korea

3. A thing for bling

A Korean accessories store is an epileptic experience for the magpie eye. Enter a world in which each accessory fulfils a far greater purpose than the mundane brown belt or paisley tie to which Westerners are prone. Beyonce got it all wrong: If you like it, then you gotta put a bling on it. Jewelry, cellphone danglies, shoes, waistcoats, ties, bags, suits, male undies – the blingier the better. If it has a surface, why not encrust on it some precious jewel, hand-cut in a Chinese sweat shop or mined from the depths of Taiwanese manufacturing?  Indeed, all that glitters is not gold, but who wants gold when cheap diamante catches the light so much better anyway?

4. Korean manufacturing

“Kaka jusseyo?” Cue sweet smile and fluttering eyelashes of the foreigner who conveniently speaks enough Korean so that it’s endearing when she asks for discount on some black patent shoes, but just not enough to be a valid attendee of the staff meeting that lasts for hours every Monday afternoon.
“Made In Korea!”
Nod. Smile. Batter. “Um, OK. Kaka jusseyo?
“No! No! Made in Korea! “
Endearing Discount Face relaxes back to normal. I’ll save it for the shop next door with the identical pair of Jap crap.

5. Smoking

Korean hospital patients don’t drag their drips outside for a breath of fresh 7.30am air. Rather, they use the hand not propping up their life support machines to suck periodically on white coffin nails. Oh, but only the men of course.  Aside from the fact that Korean women would never subject their printed pajama-clad selves to the scrutiny of the public eye, they’re not supposed to smoke anyway – whether outside a hospital or in the clandestine corners of a smoggy bar.  According to stats from the World Health Organisation, 67% of Korean men smoked in 2000, compared to 6.7% of Korean women (or the 6.7% who admitted to it). So for every 10 men steaming up their samgypsal and soju with ciggies in a crowded restaurant, there is one woman squatting over a toilet and dropping ash onto the seat for the next occupant to enjoy. Culturally, it is considered rude for women to smoke. But at least the men more than make up for the women’s’ poor contribution to the national smoke quota, treating the roadside jogger to a billowing faceful of Raison Red, or dusting your Vodka and Cranberry juice “cocktail” with the ash from a Vogue chick stick – a brand far too effeminate for a man hand, especially when the smoke is seeping into an accompanying sparkly tie (see “Bling”). Safe to say, Koreans may not like gays, but they most certainly enjoy their fags.  

6. Rice

In Korea, it’s not a foodstuff.  You would think each grain was a tear from God himself.  
Don't even consider skimping on the rice. 
School lunch: One of the dishes today is spaghetti. There is potato in the soup and ddeok (a kind of rice cake made with pounded rice flour) in the stew. Enough complex carbs to feed a North Korean factory for a week. I take a scant serving of the rice. Pause. Delve back into the rice cooker and dump a glutinous mountain onto my tray.  I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t. Rice: 1; Thighs: 0.
In Korean, the word for rice is “bap”. Unsurprisingly, this word also means food or meal. In the past, the first meal of a newborn was thin rice gruel and the last thing offered to the dead was a spoon of rice.  Rice is not a food, it’s a life cycle – and apparently it’s also very descriptive: If you are struggling financially you “just manage to eat rice every day”;  losing a job means “a source of rice is gone”;  a person who doesn’t live up to expectations “doesn’t deserve the price of rice”; an angry person has “grains of rice standing on end in their stomach”;  a person who makes you upset is “the one who makes you lose your appetite for rice”; if you want to keep a secret you “do not show others the inside of the rice pot and your mind; and “did you eat rice today?” can double as a greeting. Needless to say, the idioms abound.
As do the varieties. Rice is pounded, steamed, liquefied, and glorified into noodles, milk, wine, cakes, to name but a few. Cake? Yes, “cake”.  I still have a hard time calling a brick of steamed rice flour studded with beans, peas and other unidentified bits of black “cake”. But there’s no denying  I love to eat the damn things.
It says in the Bible that “man shall not live by bread alone”. A Korean would probably proudly retort that without rice there would be no life in the first place. See “Green Tea” for further concerns. 

7. Green Tea

You may look nonchalant for now
Miss AreyouaWesternerorhaveyouhadplasticsurgery...
Yes, you may find it in a cup. But conscious consumer take heed: this green alien is taking over the world, starting in Korea. It may have humble beginnings as a harmless beverage, but today green tea is infiltrating its way into and onto human society in many ways. Deceitfully disguised as “healthy”, the sugar, flavorants, and other unpronounceable ingredients concealed by the lurid green colorants are finding their way into your ice-cream, yoghurt, shampoo, lattes, pancakes, toothpaste, cookies.
But the biggest hidden threat to mankind?  The conspiratorial collaboration of green tea and rice in the ever-popular “Green Tea with Brown Rice” (see “Rice” for more details). Koreans, they have you fooled and, frankly, it’s frightening.

8. Heels

Korea probably has the highest number of heel wearers in the world as a percentage of its population. Yes, heels are considered fashionable around the world and yes they make your legs look leaner and longer but where else in the world can you find the general population sporting heels in virtually all environments, weather, and occasions?

The new beach footwear? 
Take a stroll down the street and you will spot women of all ages teetering along in heels of all varieties—sneaker heels, pointy heels, wedge heels, leopard print heels… Okay, wearing heels on a pleasant afternoon in a high fashion city like Seoul is not so strange right? Visit the beach then and you might witness a stranger sight. May is not high beach season in Korea but your average beach will still be packed with ajummas, ajoshis, children, and couples “enjoying” the beach. “Enjoying” is interpreted slightly differently in Korea. Unlike the sun worshipers of the western world, Koreans, with their brightly colored visors, and portable tents stocked with homemade kimbap; will be found protected from the sun’s relentless quest to ruin their perfect white skin. Swimming? Lying on the beach with a book? Scantily clad women (of all shapes and sizes) soaking up the sun’s deadly rays to bronze their skin? Flip-flops? Nope. But what might you spot that will cause your western eyes to take a second look? Stylish women attempting to walk in the sand in their heels. It is quite likely that you might find more women in heels than people in swimwear at a Korean beach.

While health is of the utmost importance in Korea it comes second only to appearance and fashion. Women go the physical therapist complaining of back pain. The PT’s advice? Stop wearing heels. Weeks later the women return (in their heels of course) with continued pain. In the end fashion will win over pain, or practicality.   

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