So I spent four days in Korea in the nice port town of Pusan. I wanted to go somewhere outside Japan for Golden Week and was keen to keep it cheap so I hopped on the Beetle (a passenger HYDROFOIL!! Cool, eh?) and hopped across the Sea of Japan, which I guess is called the East Sea by Korea since they say they claimed it long before Japan ever did. Sounds like a Civil War/War of Northern War of Aggression kind of issue to me, so I’m staying out of it.
Anyway, in retrospect I think 4 days by myself might have been a bit much. It wasn’t that it was a boring place but I think my lack of Korean language skills (which consisted of ‘thank you’) really hindered the experience. This is no one’s fat, stupid fault but my own. What IS everyone else’s fault is the degree to which I was led to believe that languages Ican speak are spoken in Korea, which is what I based my decision to stay 4 whole days on. I can’t count the number of people who told me, “Oh yeah, don’t worry, everyone speaks English and if they don’t they’ll speak Japanese.”
In four days of gallavanting around, going to restaurants, stores, riding in taxis, going to tourist-y spots, I ran into a total of three people that spoke English and one person who spoke Japanese. Again, I’m not trying to attack Korea because most people don’t speak English, why should they? I’m blaming myself for being duped into having an expectation there was no reason to believe. So the lack of communication coupled with the fact that I couldn’t read menus or even tell what kind of food a particular restaurant had, I didn’t have quite as much fun as I was anticipating. Ah, well.
I still enjoyed walking around the city and seeing a place that wasn’t Japan, it’s been too long since I’ve done that. It’s always fun to see all the little cultural quirks that make up a place, almost more-so than the the big quirks.
For example, I noticed that Koreans really seem to like physical contact. Like any time I saw a couple girls who were friends walking somewhere they were invariably holding hands or walking arm in arm, and I don’t think I was seeing only the lesbians for four straight days. It wasn’t just the girls either. On many occasions I’d see guys walking, one with an arm around the others shoulder hanging off him while they were walking down the street. I’m not homophobic at all, but if one of my friends put his arm around my shoulder while walking or otherwise, I’d rip it off and beat him to death with it. It’s just a personal bubble type of thing. Chalk it up to a cultural difference I guess. 😛
I’ll also say this, the Koreans appear to be sitting enthusiasts! There were places to sit everywhere! No matter where I went there were chairs, and usually people sitting in them, on the sides of roads, in back alleys, couches on the sidewalk, you name it! I was navigating through a dense residential area on the side of a hill (pics on the pic pages I’ll mention in a sec) and was walking through a random back-alley, and there was this old lady just chilling on a home-made stool with her cordless phone from inside the house just sitting there. She wasn’t reading a paper or talking on the phone or enjoying a Gin and Tonic, she was just sitting. It’s like if there were so much as two square feet of space in front of a little shop on a narrow street somewhere I’d expect to hear a conversation like this:
Guy: Dude… there’s like a couple square feet of space here.
Dude: Hey, you know what? This would be an awesome place to set up a chair and, like, sit in it!!
Guy: Oh dude, I know!!
So yeah, they like to sit.
So all in all, even despite my communication problems, I did quite like the town. Pusan is also one of the most photogenic cities I’ve been to, sooooo I guess we’ll be doing the photo-sharing thing again as per usual (Tokyo, Kyoto, et al). Take a gander if you so desire.