Habits, Tricks and Practices

Bowing when saying hello, goodbye or thank you to a Korean person.

Not bowing lower than the other person, unless it is my boss.

Not bowing to the greeter at E-mart.

Walking quickly to my destination.

Crossing uncontrolled intersections tenaciously and with purpose (right of way is up for grabs, so take it).

Crossing controlled intersections only after the light has turned green and all the cars have stopped but before the car in the right-hand lane turns.

Yielding less to other pedestrians (walking to work is like playing pedestrian chicken).

Using the word “neh” for the affirmative (more people understand “neh” than “yes”. Aniyo means “no.”).

Pretending I only speak Spanish when a drunk Korean person wants to practice their English with me (this one I got from a friend).

Lie to students about everything: Age, marital status, income, social status, level of education, college attended, number of children, favorite pets,  etc.

How to tell which cabs are available for passengers.

How to tell the cab driver “there (chogi) , “here” (yogi-oh) and “thank you” “comsa hamnida.”

Refraining from smiling at strangers, or at least do not expect a smile in return. In fact, it might be considered crazy.

Refrain from getting offended when people forcefully bump into me as they walk by (especially elderly Korean women).

Get in there with all the other Korean women and grab whatever tangerines I want, cuz they ain’t gonna move or wait for me.

Always get my produce weighed and tagged by the woman at the scale in the grocery store.

When the clerk at the grocery store turns and says something to me, she probably wants to know how many bags I want for my groceries. “Hana” means one, “doogay” means two, and “segay” means three.

Which Korean words the kids say that they shouldn’t say (they are swear words).

Crossing of the forearms means “NO.”

Walk fast, burst into a little run, walk fast again. Everyone does it. I don’t know why exactly, except that there is always a sense of urgency here. I’ve started doing it too.

Running to catch the light, running to catch the elevator, running to catch the bus, running to catch the subway, running to catch the student…

Where to find underground pedestrian crossings in my ‘hood.

Where to find “better than McDonald’s” hamburgers in PC or BG.

How to get to Itaewon, Gangdam, Dongdaemun and Seoul Grand Station by subway.

Counting down the days until I return home.

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