Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's That Time...again: 애교 Overdrive

It's that time of the year where even though it's been growing cold pretty consistently that suddenly it's REALLY cold now. So everyone, is walking around shivering, rubbing their hands together and otherwise going on about how cold it is.

"Cho!" or "Cold!" is the frequent refrain heard when you're wandering around. (Note: My Romanization of the term might be completely off...if so, correct me...thanks.)

My thing is I didn't grow up in this country or in a place that is consistently quite cold during the winter. I was born and raised in consistently temperate state of California. I've grown to love the colder months and the distinct changes of season. In fact, this year, the changing of the leaves seems to be particularly beautiful, or I'm just consistenly hormonal. Maybe it's both. This, yes, in spite of the fact that I think Koreans stress too much the "we have four seasons" talk, but the country does have a distinct change of seasons which I've enjoyed experiencing. You can literally feel it when the heat and humidity switches off, and, like today, you can literally feel it when it's time to fire up the humidifier and unpack the winter gear.

Stories of how cold it can get here is something you'll learn if you read even a brief summary of the Korean War.

The Korean winter I've seen described as both "brutal" and "savage". I can't say I disagree with either when winter hits its peak. And, I know that being further south on the peninsula means that I've still not seen the worst of it.

Knowing that there is a clear cycle that means I know that when the leaves start turning and the wind kicks up that I ought to break out the warm coat, warm hat, gloves and a winter scarf. Maybe part of that is because being an insulin dependent diabetic I get sick much more easily than someone without a compromised immune system, but, whatever the reason, still I know to bundle up.

This morning I bundled up and headed out for the day. The cold isn't the only part of this yearly cycle.

The near consistent whining about it is also part of the cycle. I think this is part of the culture. There is a distinct way of communicating here called 애교, egg-yo (thanks to Jen for giving me the term.) My crude explaination is this: whining to get what you want. Both men and women do it here, but it is more predominant with woman. However, I've heard men also turn it on pretty heavy in some situations. Granted, people talk about the weather everywhere. It's the default conversation of choice if it's just time for small talk or there isn't really much to talk about with someone. However, here it feels like it's more predominant, and my untested and, based purely on anedotal evidence is 애교 is a big part of what is going on.

This is a yearly thing. I'm doing my thing bundled up all nice, warm and going about my business, and then I see people who seem to have not bothered to look out the window before opening the door and who didn't notice the cold swoosh of wind when they opened their door. These are adult Koreans I deal with, for the most part, so I always wonder what the surprise is.

I don't get the shock and awe that cold brings to the people who've lived here their whole lives. Photobucket

It's a yearly occurrence! Beyond the culture of 애교, egg-yo, maybe I'm missing a nuanced understanding of the significance of bonding through whining. Maybe today there was a precipitous dip in the temperature, but, even then, it's mid-November. 'Tis the season for precipitous dips in them temperature.

I say just bundle up and enjoy the cold. And, if you're one to get sick more than you ought like me, don't forget to get yourself a flu shot too ;)

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  1. I was in Korea during the 70's and had only ondol heating. The plumbing was outdoors and if you were sick......you get the idea.
    And the classrooms has one pot belly stove to heat the room and it never EVER did that as the the 70 students froze and their poor little hands were always red with cold.
    And I was always sick.
    Good times....

  2. And THAT would be a reason to whine. I teach college, and I think I hear more whining from them than I've ever heard from little kids (I've taught a few English camps in the winter.)

    However, I'll go to work today and the heater will be on blast and it will probably be so warm that I'll have to turn it down a bit after 30 or so minutes. So what are they whining for?

  3. It's amazing how much sense you make when you aren't swimming in sociopolitical goo...

    I love four seasons, couldn't live without them. And I think it's closer to Chu..or chuwayo! (isn't it so cold).

    Maybe you should consider Chicago upon your return to the Motherland ;) California weather might not cut it after experiencing meteorological diversity.

  4. I'm lucid even when mired in politics.

    Anyway, it's a frequent mistake to assume there isn't snow in Cali. There is. You just have to drive to the snow if you're in L.A. or San Francisco.

    I'll pass on Chi-town for now.

  5. My Cali friends always say that..."well you can ski and surf in one day!!!!"..

    But the thing about four intense seasons is the way it affects EVERYTHING amongst EVERYBODY...nature, clothing, aromas, exercise regimes, diet, sleeping patterns, sex life, poetry writing, economy, and even emotions...

    Plus, as you alluded to in your post, there is an intrinsic rhythm to the change of seasons that everyone is riding together...

    It provides a social glue and communal time stamp that I often have sensed is lacking in my visits to uniclimatic places...

  6. You're right about the "glue". What I like are the seasonal foods and how the little oranges are just everywhere when it gets cold.

    However, it's when people just can't describe where they live but try to take it to Cali that I get offended. Be secure and just love the region you grew up in without hating on mine and we'll be cool. I think that's exactly what's offensive when Koreans go on and on about Korea having four seasons. We'll duh, yeah. But the leaves turn in warm Cali too. It's just not as magnificent.

    I love the cold weather, the distinct turning of the leaves, but it's just that when a Korean who hasn't really been anywhere BUT Korea is going on and on, it's just eye-roll inducing. You pretty much know, in that case, they're saying what they've been told.

    I'll miss it when I go, but I'm more likely to move to the East Coast than Midwest. The American NE has legendary autumn scenery.

  7. easily one of the greatest things about Korea's seasonal transitions is the way the oranges from jeju, packed with vitamin c, show up at incredibly cheap prices at just the perfect time, right when fall turns to winter.

    talk about perfect timing. It's like little balls of vitamin C sunshine are there for you at every turn, right at the time when they are most needed.

  8. Little balls of sunshine are exactly what they are. It still doesn't cut the amount of sneezing and coughing without people covering their mouths that I see in Korea or the fact that people don't seem to realize that running cold water over your hands after leaving the toilet DOESN'T kill anything. I'm just glad that being here has forced me to find some great cold remedies.


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