On Hydration

There’s a really funny thread on Waygook.org right now that has kept my attention for the past 24 hours. It’s slightly entertaining (and often irritating) to watch strangers bicker over really mundane, though often apropos, observations of life as a Waygook. Things like if it’s cool that Koreans ask you to take pictures with them. Or whether or not this teaching gig will look good on a resume later on.

If you live in Korea, you know that looks fucking delicious

The particular topic I’m interested in today is “Do Koreans drink enough water?” The original poster simply finds it strange that Koreans don’t appear to drink much water at all, a doubt which OP and I share, and which I have long gotten over. But this person’s wondering has incensed many KOREA-CAN-DO-NO-WRONGers. Since I have no interest in arguing with people on an increasingly troll-y and uptight message forum, I have decided pontificate here, on my blog, where I am the ultimate authority.

I will be fair and make my comparisons only to the U.S, since I really don’t know how much water the rest of you English speakers drink. I suspect America overdoes it a little (though, it’s certainly not in our character to be intemperate).

Things that make me feel like Koreans drink significantly less water than Americans (possibly to their detriment):

1.) The overt stares I get for drinking water in public (i.e. not a restaurant or school), and the especially puzzled gawking I get for carrying around a big bottle of water even when it’s 839° outside and I appear to have just run through a sprinkler.

I am aware this child is Chinese. I'm only 50% racist.

2.) The fact that in BOTH of my schools, my office has no access to water other than that which flows from the faucets in the revolting, poop-smeared swamp bathrooms, (unless you find a kid and bribe them to run to the other building where the cafeteria is and fill a jug for you from the metallic water “cooler” that is never cool. This requires depending on a kid so it doesn’t count as a reliable or regular method of water-fetching).

2.5) When I read on Waygook.org that some people actually do have water coolers in their offices, my reaction was, “Shut up! No way! For real?!”

3.) When a few bottles of water do appear in my center school office, they are used primarily for making coffee and tea. It is rare (read: NEVER) that I see my Koreans pour water directly into their cups and drink it. And yes, to the naysayers who have countered, “Well, um, do you see EVERYTHING that Koreans do?” The answer is, “Yes. Yes I do”. Because the water issue is interesting to me and so, especially when I first got here and understood that my need to be hydrated made me a freak, I started paying close attention.

How I look to Koreans

4.) That my students GASP! and whisper amongst themselves when they see me drink from my liter bottle. Seriously, the other day they reacted the way I would react if someone randomly started chugging a bottle of sriracha.

5.) The pee ALWAYS left in the toilets is ALWAYS dark yellow, undiluted. Yep.

6.) That my coteachers were initially very confused when I started bringing my own big water bottle to school, and assured me I was allowed to drink from the single liter, weekly-rationed bottle that five people share. I had to explain that there’d be no water for anyone else if I drank the amount I needed.

7.) When I go to a restaurant (without a water cooler) with a friend and we are given about 16 ounces of water and gulp through it in 2 minutes while waiting for our food, the server is visibly baffled (and sometimes put upon) by our repeated requests for more water.

Honing our Modern Jackass skills, some foreigners have tried to account for the missing water in Korean diets with hypotheses like these:

1.) Koreans drink a lot of coffee during the day. Awesome. Real coffee is a diuretic, so no, that wouldn’t count, but it’s not like Koreans actually drink coffee anyway. They drink instant coffee packets, which are nothing more than sugar, dried milk and coffee flavor mixed with a thimble of water. This does not count as a water intake. I’m sorry Defenders.

2.) Koreans drink a lot of tea during the day. True. I kind of think of tea as water when I drink it, especially if it has no sugar or milk or anything. Koreans do drink a lot of thimbles of tea. Which might add up to at least a Western sized cup. This may explain why they don’t quite look like this:

I don't remember them looking so turdish.

3.) Koreans eat soup with every meal. True, BUT soup is often loaded with salt is not a substitute for water. That’s almost the same as saying that drinking coke and coffee are the same as drinking water too because water’s their base. I mean I get that they’re getting some bit of hydration, but not what most Americans would consider ‘enough’.

4.) Koreans eat a lot of fruit through which they get water. True again, Koreans do eat quite a bit of fruit (more than the average American anyway). But that cannot constitute even a glass of water. Or a dixie cup.

Obvious signals that Koreans might not be drinking enough water:

1.) Beauty products like the MAGIC PILLS (H2O pills!) that you take for clearer skin. HELLO! DRINK A GLASS OF WATER. A REAL GLASS.

2.) My kids desperately pleading for MY water because there is no water fountain or place for them to get water and they are dying of thirst now that it’s starting to get warm. That has happened three times in the past two weeks.

All Modern Jackassery aside though, the way I know that Koreans probably don’t drink as much water as they ought is simply that when I am at work and spend a day eating and drinking like my coteachers, by the time I get home I feel like death. I’m not one of those (my mother) who in America has a water bottle with them at all times. Not even close. But here,  I’m so dehydrated that working out after school is like dying.  My head hurts, my muscles won’t cooperate and I’m dizzy enough to fall down.

That’s all the science I need.

11 responses to “On Hydration

  1. Maybe they don’t have to consume as much water because they don’t sweat… or maybe they don’t sweat because they don’t drink enough water (heat stroke all the time?). 😀

    • Dr. Megan says: I suspect the failure to sweat is related to water intake too. I also posited long ago that the disgusting state of bathrooms in this country is a result of people never going to the bathroom because they don’t drink enough water to have to pee. It’s all related. I just know it.

  2. This was fucking high-larious, megan. Loved this post.

    Ever since you’ve been in Korea, I, too, have been fascinated by this culture’s complete disregard of drinking water. Totally fucking bizarre. I’m glad you find it equally bizarre, and are on the ground running as my surrogate foreign reporter on Korean hydration. 🙂

  3. On another note, can we talk about that thread for a minute? It perfectly encapsulates everything that is terrible, stupid, and awesome about Waygook right now. It goes from plaintive, gentle opening post to neck-veined shit-show in about eight posts, and all the regular trolls and douchebags flood out to scream about how this sort of thing is like putting Korean people in internment camps with our words or whatever the hell. Glorious!

    • I know! It’s super obnoxious and totally entertaining at the same time. I’ll see a post keep getting bumped to the top, and some of them, you just know it’s a fight before you even click on it even though to the casual observer the topic would appear totally benign. Waygook these days….

  4. You’re right. A water bottle wherever I go! And if it’s not cold enough? Ugh. And if your brothers ask for a drink of it? Hah. Ugh again.

  5. Yes, sorry to say some people can’t resist the urge to vomit their thoughts all over every thread on waygook.org. Or, can’t resist the urge to post for public consumption every observation they make about Korea, as if they’ve become more wise since turning 24.

  6. I’ve noticed this lack of water drinking as well. We have a water cooler in my office, but I’m the only one constantly going to it to fill up my water bottle. I try to drink water often since our school doesn’t allow the air conditioning to be turned on the classrooms. (Bastards.) The kiddos are just as miserable as I am. They keep giving my water bottle the hungry eye.
    And when I went to Daegu yesterday, within about ten minutes of walking around outside, I felt as though I needed I shower. I was soaked. All I could think about was getting to the next convenience store to get water. (And air conditioning.) And it irked me to no end to see the Korean women look pristine and completely sweat-free.
    How do they do that?

  7. Pingback: On Hydration **UPDATE** | The Wanderlust Diary

  8. my students all point at my 2L water bottle and die laughing. i told them i drink the whole thing in ONE DAY. disbelief on all of their faces. my co-teachers drink 1 500ml water bottle a day. or sometimes over 2 days.

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