To the left – no, your other left, no right.
So I was reading in the Korean Herald the other day (only the second time I’ve gotten the English Korean paper) that Korea is planning on instituting making pedestrian traffic move to the right. Hip hip hooray! Only, I have serious doubts whether it can be implemented or not…Back in the day when Korea was occupied by the Japanese, they began this walking on the left thing, and even as Korea became westernized in most every other urban way, those that were alive then kept the preference for walking on the left alive. And in the subways, the pedestrian arrows still reflect that tradition.
And sometimes not.
So, there is a lot of confusion because walking on the left has become part of the culture, and walking on the right is the modern way, and walking in the middle is what people do when they can’t figure out which way is dominant. The government took a poll, and it turns out there is an almost 50:50 ratio of preference for one side or another, with walking on the right just slightly more. So, because Korera wants to be analogous to most of the other major western cities, walking to the right has won.
But if you’ve ever experienced walking through the subways, like me you’ll be highly skeptical this can be implemented any time soon.
No double dipping
Today I had my adult English class discuss cultural differences, and one of the items was about sharing food. I didn’t have my laptop with me, so I couldn’t show them the Seinfeld episode where George willfully double dips his tortilla chip to the dismay of a guy who then tries to take his chip dipping priviledges.
The teachers didn’t understand why this was so awful, but then I explained about directly passing germs, and that germs can be transferred by contaminating shared food. The nurse broke in and said that America is doing it the right way, that it’s true, and that Koreans shouldn’t put their utensils in common food. To which she looked at me and informed me that this practice would be changing very soon.
Again, I’m pretty skeptical, but you never know…
Good Citizen or Penny Pinchers?
Take recycling, for example, Koreans are ten times better at recycling than Americans are, and it is because their recycling is free and they only pay for having the non-recyclable waste to be hauled away. You can’t just put your garbage in a bin and walk away. You have to purchase an expensive bag marked as garbage. So, to cut down on that expense, Koreans have become fastidious sorters of recycling and trading of used items.
Prior to arriving in Korea, on eatyourkimchi.com I ran across video footage of the waste baskets next to Korean toilets filled with soiled toilet paper ostensibly because toilet paper wads in the toilets will clog the plumbing. The assumption was that the toilet paper is perfumed to reduce the odor of quantities of the soiled paper in the baskets.
However, my toilet paper isn’t perfumed, the plumbing works fine, and most places I go the waste baskets next to the toilets have very few items in them: certainly not enough to indicate that this is a defacto thing all Korean citizens must do. So, I am guessing the times where the baskets ARE full of soiled wads of t.p. is probably due to a sign, in Korean, asking for cooperation at one site with particularly bad plumbing. So no, foreigners, every visit to a public bathroom does not have to be a culturally traumatic euwww-ick! experience for you.
You DO, however, need to check and see what the status of the toilet paper situation is. Many places will only have one toilet paper dispenser and it won’t be in the individual stalls, but placed in a location handy to all of them. So you must estimate what you need PRIOR to going into a stall.
Squat toilets are a little strange at first, as you’ll need to learn to hold your clothing out of the way. The further towards the back you place your feet for urinating, the better. And for solids, the opposite is true. And it’s really nice to just step on the flusher. The only drag is if the floor is wet. Probably left by a foreigner!
And just a warning: there are few places with liquid handsoap dispensers. Instead, there is a wand with a bar of soap engulfing it. So to soap up your hands is quite similar to giving a handjob, and THAT is a little bit of an embarassing association for those with experience in those things! But the soap is a really pretty blue color, so that makes up for it somewhat…
K. Just wanted to share that with you, and hope you enjoy visiting Korea.