Tuesday, November 10, 2009

cultural differences

sometimes, after living in a different culture there is a sense of comfortability with the cultural differences. you usually just smile and nod and think "only in korea", some differences you just leave smiling and grateful for such experiences, and then there are sometimes where the differences are so maddening that they make you want to rip your hair out.

here are a couple that happened on the same day, all involving taxis :-p

last monday was a terrible rainy day. usually i walk to school, but with the rain i decided to take a taxi. i crossed the street and tried to hail a couple of taxis. a man was on the other side of the street. he saw me trying to hail a taxi. he crossed the street and walked towards the traffic a little bit so he was about 20 feet away from me. when he stopped he started trying to get a taxi! he totally cut in front of line! he knew i was trying to get a taxi, but that didnt stop him. (this hasn't been a one time thing. "lines" in korea are very amorphous)

i was really upset, cold, and wet from the rain. then to make matters worse the taxis were stopping to ask the guy where he was going, and tried to piggy back a fair with him. (piggy-backing is normal in taxis in korea) they didnt pick him up, and then when i tried to wave them down they would stop and ask me, even though the taxis had some of my students in them and it would be easy to piggy back fairs. i decided to start walking to school, and catch a taxi further down the street 'cause there was no way i was going to get a taxi any time soon due to "line-jumper"

i finally got a taxi after walking in the rain for 20 minutes, my socks and shoes thoroughly soaked. i was in a terrible state of mind.

while in the taxi, stewing, we passed the main intersection by my school. there is a "cop dude" who directs traffic in the mornings, since there are 1,000 students at my school it needs a "cop-dude" to direct traffic. when i see him every morning he bows and says "good-morning" with the biggest smile on his face, proud of himself to be able to communicate with someone in another language. i always respond with a bow and saying hello in korea. he loves it. he is a very cute old man. he makes my mornings :-) again, faithfully, he was there in the rain, in his poncho directing traffic.

after school,with my socks still wet, i was still in a grumbling state of mind. its tough when you are raised thinking that an action is totally rude, and go to another culture and it be "normal"

so i was grumbly, and it was still rainy, so i took a taxi home. i saw a taxi coming and did the customary waiving to get the taxi to pick me up. in the rain, through the windshield, i saw the taxi driver and it was the "cop crossing-guard dude"! (some taxi drivers wear uniforms that can be confused as cop uniforms) he recognized me while still in his taxi stopping and was waving to me excitedly. he had the biggest smile on his face, and the frostiness in my heart started to melt a little. when i got in he was so excited, and happy to see me. he, very animatedly, tried to tell me that he was the same guy that i saw every morning, and he was the same person who said hello every morning. he did this all in korean, but i understood enough to know what we was saying. i tried to tell him that yes i remember him. i think he understood me :-p

at this point i was starting to forget the "line-jumper" and started to think more about the small things that i LOVE about korea. this guy, i dont even know his name, and the extent of our conversations is a "hello" every other morning was so happy to see me! he truly felt like we had a connection, and even though, to me, that connection might be shallow, to him it was a deep connection.

its so true when people tell you to try and ignore some of the cultural differences that you cant understand, and focus on the positives. in all honesty, i/we have found that the people who are having the toughest times in korea seem to only focus on the differences they cant understand.

i choose to focus on "random cop looking but really a taxi driver who moonlights as a glorified crossing guard" over the "line-jumper" :-p


  1. Ah..so...is this an example of the glass being half-full or half-empty ? ? NO, WAIT...it should probably be an example of the socks being "almost dry" or "mostly wet" ? :-)

    It sounds to me as though you very capably handled the frustrations of the day, and, with your usual quiet grace, put the entire day in perspective! ! Kudos ~ to you, once again! You are a champ! BIGGEST GRAMMA HUGS !