Friday, December 15, 2006

Okay, Something Good About Korea

After running around this afternoon taking care of last minute things before my friend's wedding tomorrow (I'm a bridesmade), I went to my Friday night watering hole for one pint of British beer. I left with a nice buzz (I'm a lightweight these days) and got on the bus to go home.

Even though it was around 8:45pm on Friday night people were still getting out of work and commuting home, so the bus was crowded.

I had a bag with shoes I had made for tomorrow and new accessories (because give me a reason to accessorize and I will.) I also had my backpack because I have diabetes supplies I always carry with me.

In Asia it's common that if you're on the bus with tons of bags a person sitting down will offer to hold them for you. This isn't so common in Korea with younger people and because they're just a bit more rough around the edges, but in Japan it happens all the time when I'm there. Anyway, tonight an older gentlemen offered to hold my extra bags, and knowing it was a custom, I let him.

He started asking me questions and was happy to see that I could talk to him on a basic level. Turns out we live in the same area, so we walked and talked a bit after we got off the bus en route to our homes until we parted ways.

It was a nice moment to just talk to someone. While it was happening I was comparing how I would react back home versus here.

First, I'd never get on a bus with a buzz back home. I'd take a taxi. Second, I'd never let a stranger hold a bag full of new merchandise I'd just bought and my backpack. Third, I'd never divulge personal information to a stranger.

However, in Korea it's pretty common that all of these things happen fairly frequently with no negative consequences. Whereas, back home, I probably would have ended up chasing Mr. Yoo trying to get my bags back.

It's nice being able to have my defenses set to low here. Sadly, the only time my defenses get elevated is when I'm around other foreigners.

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  1. Interesting post! I hadn't thought about having let my defenses down since I've been here, but it's true. Something to keep in mind before I spend the next two weeks back in the states.

    I've also had people hold packages for me here, and I am glad that I read before hand that it's people trying to do you a favor. Otherwise, I am not sure how I would have reacted.

    Just curious...why wouldn't you take the bus with a buzz back home?

  2. Thanks for your comment cat!

    I feel the same way about reading up on the culture. I remember reading that somewhere too, so, like you, when it happened the first time, I understood what was going on. Otherwise, I probably would have been in "big US city mode" = high defense mode. That means I would have rejected the offer with suspicion not understanding that the person was just trying to help me.

    Well, I'm a born and raised big city gal. I've heard of some horrible stories of folks being out late, minding their own business and getting into trouble. I just wouldn't get on public transport buzzed alone. I would with a group of friends or with a boyfriend. Being on public transport buzzed or drunk alone is just asking for trouble. Your defenses are down and your reflexes are impaired. I play it very safe when I'm back home.

  3. Wow.

    Being able to have someone offer to hold your packages and not have the fear that they will bang you over the head, take your stuff, and run.

    I envy you.

    I envy that you can be at ease and not always have your guard up ALL the time. Believe me, that gets old, tiring and downright stressfull.
    And yeah, I agree with you about the "buzz" thing.

    One time I went to a wine festival. Sipping, testing out all kinds of wine products. Eating a little food, too.
    Come time to leave, it was dark, and I had to catch the bus.

    Yep, you guessed it. I had a buzz on.

    Anyway, I made it through on the bus, got off at my stop, AND walked home.
    Made it home safely, only by the grace of God.

    Needless to say, I will never do that again.

    Wine party was fabulous.

    I still have my wine glasses and plate souvenirs.

  4. Thanks for the comment!

    Yeah, the defense level here is set much lower. It only goes back up when I'm around other foreigners. I think that says a lot about the comfort level of living here even in the big city of Seoul.

    South Korea is safe like that. I'm wondering how long it will last. Things are changing here, but Japan is modernized to the hilt and it still happens there. The last time I was on the bus in Japan with packages a nice person offered to hold them, so it might not change.

    Speaking of a buzz, since I'm home and have a nice bottle of bokbun ja-joo (Korean raspberry wine), I think I'll have a glass or two, no buzz/bus risk if I'm at home.


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