Korean Culture 101

The first few days of being in Daegu was a time of great exploration, fascination, acclamation, and fornication. Not really fornication, I was testing your level of concentration.

It takes about 25 minutes on the subway to get to the heart of downtown- not a bad right at all. The subways are so smooth and tidy that spending time on them is not a hassle. There is a certain section designated for the elderly. It is things like this that remind me that I am in South Korea, and the fact that I am constantly being stared and pointed at by children because I am such a minority. The only issue I have with this is that if I have food or something on my face I won’t be clued in by people staring because it’s such a regularity. Needless to say, I have been thoroughly wiping my mouth after each meal.

A large pack of bikers in downtown Daegu. I think they were riding for a good cause, like my arrival to the country.


On my second day I woke up to the ringing of the phone on my wall. Naturally, I answered it. Apparently it is my door bell which I realized as someone was yelling something from the outside hallway.  I opened the door and a small gentleman briskly walked passed me with a large box. He dropped it in the middle of my room and made several more trips, each time delivering more things. I really liked him because he assembled my bed and dropped off a desk, a chair, and a small dresser. Now I’m just waiting on my refrigerator, TV, washer, and my life’s purpose.

My favorite thing about my place is the shower. There is no separate area in the bathroom to shower or bath, rather the shower head is connected to the sink which results in a wet floor after each shower.  The floor is at a slight slant so the water flows down the drain on the floor. I don’t really mind that I have to wait a little bit for the floor to dry. You just have to make sure to brush your teeth and do other bathroom related shit before showering. Why I like this setup so much I don’t know myself, maybe its merely the appeal of new and different things.It causes some inconveniences : 1)  it takes considerably skill to avoid getting my toilet paper wet, 2) on more than one occasion I soaked myself while fully clothed because I failed to notice that nob was turned for the water to flow from the shower head rather than the faucet.

I have fully adjusted to the 13 hour time difference here but I wake up periodically in the night because of buzzing in my ear. The mosquitoes here must be a different breed. They prefer to hover around your ear for a while before drawing blood as if to taunt you, and they can because they are hard to catch. They are quicker and much more deceptive than lazy American mosquitoes and they are also able to jump. I learned this when I woke up at 3 am,turned the lights on, and struggled for ten minutes to squish one little bastard.

The food here is really good. After the delivery man left on Saturday I ventured out into my neighborhood solo. Throughout the day I had no idea what I was ordering and I limited my dining options by only going to places that had pictures of the food. I would point and say ‘chuseyo’ meaning ‘please give me’ in Korean. I do not deal incredibly well with spicy food and most dishes here have hot pepper in them. I can tell the servers and patrons get pleasure out of seeing me struggle with the spice. Pork is featured in many dishes and beef and chicken are more expensive because of the lower supply of them in the country. I have taken a particular liking to mandu.

Elderly people here are very active and many of them are out hustling selling produce and prepared food.

On Sunday I went for a run to get my heart pumping and to take in the area. I got lost and ended up running for an 1 hr and 10 minutes rather than the 45 minutes that I had originally planned. There are two parks in the general vicinity. Without internet service I couldn’t check out a map so I ended up trying to follow street signs to Aspan Park. As my legs became heavy I asked a young guy if he knew where the park was and he pointed toward a mountain and said “too far, take taxi.” I ran back home.

The weather has been perfect: Warm sunny days in the 70’s and pleasantly cool evenings. The fall and spring seasons are the best time of year to be outdoors in South Korea.

It is good etiquette to remove your shoes inside many restaurants. When I take them off I feel like I should be going inside of a planetarium or jumping in a giant ball pit rather than enjoying noodle soup.

My first days at Avalon school have been smooth as I am doing my training before assuming full teaching responsibilities. All of the foreign teachers have been cool and the Korean teachers have been quiet but friendly. There is an interesting dynamic in the office and I think I am going to like working there. Basically I have been required to sit in on classes and observe the teacher and take notes. The students ask me who I am and what I am doing. Some tell me to leave while others like to interact. Their familiarity of New York consists of ‘I Love NY’ tees and the Statue of Liberty. The observation has allowed me to understand what works and what doesn’t. I get the feeling I am going to be playing a lot of hang-man.

Dining at a BBQ place with some of the teachers.


Preview for next blog post: Introduction to Soju and Norabang


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  1. #1 by Kerry on October 7, 2010 - 3:21 pm

    Hey Dan! I’m sure you don’t remember me because you were so little the last time I saw you, but I’m thrilled you have this great opportunity to teach overseas. I’ve been reading your blog and love it! What an exciting time for you! I’m looking forward to hearing all about your experiences there so please keep writing!

    ~Kerry (your cousin in Boston)

    • #2 by Daniel Martin Katz on October 7, 2010 - 5:36 pm

      Hey, Kerry – come on, over course I remember you! I hear you’re going to be in NY for Thanksgiving, sorry I’ll miss you. Thanks for the nice words, I’m glad you have taken an interest. I hope everything is good your way.

  2. #3 by David Katz on October 7, 2010 - 6:12 pm

    Hey Dan, thanks for another entertaining post. I am learning a lot and it closes the distance between us to hear about your days. Love you, Dad

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