OK, so I like to make lists, why? Probably because I'm an organizer junkie and making lists helps me arrange things, even in my head. But anyways, this list will included just about anything that I may find fascinating, or not, in Korea. I will be adding to it of course as I spend more time here, this is just to get started.
1. Costumer service is off the roof! And you thought that small boutiques were the only ones capable of great costumer service, wrong! Here, when you walk into a store, a sales person WILL acknowledge you. Now, if you just walk down the aisles nothing else will happen, but if you start browsing and looking at products closely, someone will approach you. Not knowing Korean, I have no idea what they say hahaha. But I can guess that they try to ask what you are looking for so that they can match a product to your needs. They will make suggestions and point out things on sale. These people should really export its costumer service to America! The downside to this is that this can get a bit annoying sometimes because they will not go away until you make a choice, I just simply say thank you and walk away. This has happened at almost ALL stores I've been to, even supermarkets. Yes, supermarkets similar to Walmart. Which takes me to my number two.
2. Home Plus, E-Mart, and Top-Mart are awesome!! These are stores which are similar to Walmart and Target. They have everything! Walmart and its new addition of groceries is nothing compared to Home Plus!...They have products which I was not expecting to find in Korea. And here I though I was going to go insane without some delicious fettuccini alfredo.
3. Free samples? heck yeah!...My first experience of this was at a bar. We were having some beer when the waitress brought a plate of french fries. My first reaction of course was "We didn't order this, don't touch it, I don't want to get charged for this!" But others at the table (who knew about this great thing about Korea) said that it was for free...and they explained that it is very common in Korea to get free things and samples. My reaction? "=O did you really say free?" At a cafe, we got sliced apples and some other fruit. At a cosmetics store I got samples of a facial cleansing cream. So yeah, hooray Korea!
4. Am I in Las Vegas? NO! But I can also drink on the streets! Vegas has just been demoted. This coming summer, the beach and I have a date with a nice glass of beer...can't wait!
5. Who can wear slippers to work? I CAN! So you know how in many Asian houses you take off your shoes when you go inside? At schools here it is the same thing, but instead of having 600 barefoot children running around, they all have "inside" shoes. These can be bought at the local stationary stores (or as I call them papelerias hehe). Many kids wear the same style of “inside” shoe, boys in blue and girls in pink; they are like tennis shoes. Teachers also do this; some of them just have a pair of "clean" shoes, others, like me hehehe, wear slippers. Unfortunately, we can't wear our fuzzy slippers :/. Children carry their "inside" shoes in a bag, which I though was a lunch bag at the beginning, and they change into them at the entrance.
6. "Can I have an extra side of veggies?" Not in Korea! I don't have to order anything extra. All meals come with plenty of vegetables, rice, and sometimes soup (usually vegetarian, or with sea food). This is all I need. There is always something I can eat at school for lunch...which leads to number seven.
7. I get lunch for less than $2 a day at work. And like I said, it is always something yummy and healthy. Pizza? Lunchables? Donuts? None of that. Everybody eats the same food. Even the little kindergarteners. Who says you can't make little kids eat veggies? You know, that's the trick. Get your kids to eat healthy since the beginning....If only American schools would realize this and stop serving junk food.
8. Tortillas? No sir, I have lettuce wraps. Many meals here are served with lettuce leaves which are used to make little wraps: add rice, then either meat or fish, add a little of that yummy red sauce, and eat! The trick is to make them bite size because every wrap is supposed to be eaten whole, not like a taco where you take bites. I'm sure I will start missing tortillas at some point, but now I'm good.
9. The school bells are not some annoying buzzard that make you feel like you are at a basketball game. They are nice little jingles.
10. I get free internet and TV in my building =).
11. You don't have to say "bless you" every time somebody sneezes. What do you do? Ignore it. Why? I have no clue yet.
12. Mosquitoes loooove foreigners so beware. My case wasn't too bad, but still the bites got really itchy and annoying. Apparently, after I have eaten enough kimchi, they will stop biting...or so I've been told.
13. My Korean bank's ATM machines have an English option so I had no trouble withdrawing money. Oh and my internet banking is also in English. Sweet!
14. Teachers are WELL respected here. They are trusted and other people recognize what they are doing for their children. I say this because when I first got here and my head co-teacher helped me take care of some things (banking, medical check up, immigration, cell phone), they were all super nice to her and she kept telling me it was because she is a teacher. At the bank, because she was helping me, they took away some of the usual fees that come with an account. Can I see some changes California?
15. Here I thought that we Mexicans were cool 'cause we have green, blue, and pink tortillas. Koreans have purple rice!...though they actually call it black rice.
16. Public transportation is not bad after all. Being spoiled by having a car in SD, at first I dreaded public transportation. I kept thinking that I did not want to leave my house because I did not want to ride the buses. But this morning, for some odd reason, I woke up and thought, "Hey, it's not so bad" I think I just needed to open that little door and embrace it. And it's very convenient and cheap. If you buy one of those rechargeable cards, you pay 1,000W (about 80 cents) every time you get on a bus. You can also use this card to pay for a taxi, if it has enough money in it.
17. Many young Korean women wear high heels everywhere. I've been told that it's because they want to look taller, and I get that. But to wear them constantly? Yikes! I've also been told that they wear them when they go hiking!! I could not put my feet through that. They will probably regret it in a few years when their feet are all messed up.
18. K-Pop...at the moment, I can't stand more than once song at a time. It's too bubbly, wannabe cute, or wannabe bad boy/bad girl, too cheesy. Everybody is into it though. Seems like many non-Koreans are also into it...Maybe I'll give in one of these days? I don't know. I've been there you know, I've HAD my "pop" phase, twice! Early 90's with Mexican pop (Jeans, Kabah, Onda Vaselina, MDO, Mercurio, Fey, etc), and late 90's with American boy bands (no need to mention them 'cause you all know them I'm sure). At the moment, I feel like if I give in, I'll be taking a step back in my taste in music, I've come a looong way since my "pop" music days. But maybe this is another way to open up to other music? But it's still pop! I mean, I like many other genres and music from other countries so it's not that I'm "closed" to other genres. Whatever, I'll let you know what happens haha.
19. I forgot to mention how crazy students go when I say something in Korean. Too cute!
20. I'm glad to know that my recent years of eating lots of sushi in SD with chopsticks have paid off because everybody seems to be impressed with my skills. And I mean everybody, co-teachers, students, staff, vice-principal, and principal. So yeah, if you're planning on coming to Korea, practice because it seems to help to get on their good side hehehe.
21. A friend from orientation pointed out that a lot of cars in Korea are only black, white, and gray. I hadn't noticed it, but it's somewhat true. He said that it has to due with some sort of belief about colors and how some are taboo, or something like that. However, I have seen some red, green, and brownish cars, but they are for sure outnumbered. There are also some orange cars, but I think those are cabs or something. I asked my Korean friend Will about this, and he said that it's because Koreans simply prefer these colors. Though I don't know the exact answer, it is noticeable on the streets either way.
22. There are cameras on the highways that check for speeding. However, if you have a GPS in the car, it will let you know when the camera is coming up with enough warning so that you can slow down.
23. Need makeup foundation? Well, make sure you buy 3 shades lighter than your color haha. Some Korean girls apparently want to look whiter, but all that I see is the difference between their face and neck color. I'm not hating on Korean girls, I'm just pointing it out because it's something new to me, ok? That goes for the high heels thing too.
Yikes this turned out longer than I expected. Sorry! I felt like I needed to get a lot out haha.
Good night Korea, good morning SD!