The whole ‘Let’s live abroad!’ experience is rife with change, this isn’t news. And on this blog we make sure everyone knows which big changes are not appreciated (beer and toilets, thank you). But what makes living in different countries such a unique experience is not simply the radical, life-changing, culture shock differences, but the minor ones, the fun ones that are often overlooked but always awesome to recall in some inane bar conversation years later.
Open Sesame! – From what I can tell, my ‘apartment’ is the only one in Korea that requires an actual physical key to enter: most doors in Korea are kept locked with a futuristic, keyless, beeping little keypad deadbolts. You have a four digit code for your keypad and like magic get in and out. As my building door is equipped with one but my personal door is not, I can only imagine it would be super convenient not to have to dig for your keys or worry about losing them in Seoul or dropping them on Korean bus or having some other key-related catastrophe that I am apt to have.
The only weird thing about these keypads is I find the ‘What to Do if You Have a Guest” protocol terribly confusing. There is no way to call into my apartment from downstairs, only an obnoxious doorbellphone outside my personal door that sings “Did You Ever See a Lassie?” for eternity, which Erin joyfully/obnoxiously rings every time she comes over. Before any of us had cellphones I had no idea what to do about alerting someone of my presence outside their door, so we all just exchanged door codes. I felt bad about this as it seems to conflict with the purpose of the lock (keeping out people who aren’t tenants). I worried when someone saw another foreigner coming into my apartment without me that it would initiate a terrible chain of phone calls from Landlord to Principal to Coteach to Me. When I asked a coteacher about it though, she laughed and said, “I don’t know!” Then I asked how the delivery people get in (because they do and they leave adshit all over my door), she said “They know code too”. And I said, “But how?” and she said “It’s their job.” Then I told another coteacher that I was confused and didn’t know what I should do, if it was okay that other people have the code. She said, “Oh”. So now I don’t worry about it, but I still think it’s amusing/interesting.
Scotty McTape Would Be Proud – For the first few weeks of school, I was puzzled and disturbed by the size and complexity of the scotch tape dispensers found in every classroom and office. They are incredibly large and bulky and struck me as something from the very distant past: nothing about these beasts had been streamlined. Then one day my coteacher started cranking the tape dispenser and lifted out three perfectly cut little pieces of tape. DUH. “Ohhhh, it cuts the tape for you!” All you do is turn the little wheeley handle crank thing and voila!: multiple pieces of same-sized tape, right at your finger tips, no struggling. This makes me sound tape-dispenser-impaired, but we’ve all been there with gift wrapping or hanging up turkey-hand cartoons your students made so as to make nice your classroom or making pretend tape finger nails, so shut up.
Fool Proof – Everything in Korea comes in plastic. I believe it’s because they are so meticulous about recycling plastic that they reproduce so much of it and need something to do with it again, so they put just about everything inside a super unnecessary plastic package. Food. Slippers. Wine keys from the gas station. Everything in the same little plastic envelope.
The upside to this is that these plastic packages are designed quite nicely. At the bottom they have that perfect little sticky sealed flap. This is the exact opposite of how, say, CDs are packaged in the US, and this kind of packaging requires no brute strength or special tools, only that you remember that this flap exists (Erin).
2Kute – The bus system here has cutesy little keychain tags on which you can load your bus fare, in place of, say, a card. Since most Koreans don’t have keys (keep up), they attach their little jobbers to their cellphones and everyone is happy. I find it way more convenient to snag my keys/cellphone out of my pocket and swipe than to take my wallet all the way out of my purse and then take the card all the way out of my wallet because swiping through the wallet never worked for me, and leaving the card in my pocket is how I stepped on it while undressing at least three times and had to go through the long and arduous process of begging the CTA to send me a new card in a reasonable amount of tim. But I digress. My tag is somewhat more sophisticated than most with a blue sky and clouds. But you can buy Hello! Kitty and Disney and any other barfy cute kind of tag to attach to your already cutified Korean cellphone.
Not the Sharpest Crayon in the Box – This doesn’t really make my life easier ever, but I find it interesting nonetheless. Korean crayons don’t look like crayons at all, they look like colored pencils. But upon closer inspection you will find a waxy crayon surrounded by perforated strips of paper and a small string. Pull the string, one of the perforated slips comes loose and you rip it off, revealing another centimeter (I live in Asia now guys) of crayon. Technically, it’s misleading to call it ‘self-sharpening’, but ‘self-elongating’ just gives you more penis imagery to worry about and there’s enough of that on this blog. Anyway, it’s sort of clever and makes the memory of trying to peel Crayolas with my tiny child finger nails and getting wax all underneath them even more ghastly than it was.
Waygooks: Anything I’m forgetting??