Monday, May 18, 2009

People don't sit next to me on subways, whinge whinge

This has been festering in my brain for about a month now. This is a subject that I have seen a few times on other blogs, and I overheard a group of about five English speakers talking about this on a subway in Busan. I can assume that these people were other English teachers because a few were carrying backpacks on a subway.

Now, from conversations that I have heard in English, I have heard a lot of comment about how Koreans are so similar and think alike. I think that it is something of note that a lot of times, these very same people who say that all Koreans are the same end up having the same conversations about Korea.

One popular subject is about how Koreans never sit next to them on buses or subways. To this query I what?

Really.... is not sitting next so someone on a bus or subway really a big deal. The last time I was in Seoul, I took a subway where an old man decided he had to vomit all over the place. The man even lacked the common courtesy to get off of the damn train. To his credit he puked in a bag for a few minutes, but he really could have gotten off at one of the stops when he started to feel sick. He could have horked all over the third rail if he had to go that bad, at least no one would have had to have stepped in it, or better yet found a bathroom. He instead, decided that he had to stay on the train until it was finally his stop, while intermittently cleaning up his red chunks with a napkin.

Yes, I'm sure it is all good to say that you wish that Koreans would sit next to you on buses and subways, but if you are from largely depopulated masses like North America or Australia, I'm willing to bet that you enjoy the extra leg room.

Secondly, I wonder if these people wishing for bus and subway companions enjoy the free English lessons that they have to give to the people that do sit next to them from time to time. In another post I told a story about a woman who was intent on preventing me from enjoying my lunch. Since then I have made a bus friend in a retired elementary teacher who seems to be in his seventies.

Now this guy seems extremely nice, but his volume is also extremely loud. I don't mind talking to him about how Communism is bad and how democracy is good, but I wish it could be at a lower volume so that the other passengers don't get annoyed. My last conversation with him also seemed to be after he had a lunch of garlic and alcohol. Once again, don't really mind the conversation, but for all of the people wishing that people would sit next to them, they should bear in mind the consequences of what really happens when people sit next to them when they take public transportation.


kim said...

as you know, most koreans are not familiar with foreigners yet. not because they don't like you, but because they need more time to get used to foreigners.

secondly. many koreans are afraid of being questioned in "English". so,they would worry about showing how their english is poor even before they sit next you.
this is one of a problems that english teachers here are supposed to solve, these "FEARS".

i already know that you don't care about the 'quality' of english conversation with somebody sitting next you in subways. therefore, i sit next anybody, white, black, yellow, red, even green. :)

if you feel any kind of assault on you, that is from my poor english writing skill. have a nice day.

3gyupsal said...

Kim, I don't feel any assault on me at all. I am happy because you are the third person to comment on my blog, and I am happy that some people are reading it, so I would like to thank you.

Actually the purpose of this blog post is to point out how people not sitting next to foreigners on subways isn't really a problem. At the heart of it is more about how I'd prefer to be left alone than have an English conversation with somebody, and how English teachers who complain about not being sat next to on subways is really a silly complaint.

That being said, I have never actually experienced people not sitting next to me. To the contrary. In the town of Jinju, I used to take bus 88 to work every morning. On bus 88 there was a group of 아주마 who worked in a factory that packaged hot peppers, fresh from the farm. There was one woman who was the "Captain," and who would tell people where to sit. After riding that bus so often, they got interested in me and started to talk to me and help try to find a seat to me on the bus. I started to take an earlier bus to work because it was less crowded, and I could get some more planning done before my clases, but still, ocassionally if I end up taking bus 88 I enjoy the company of the ,고추 아주마.

So don't get me wrong, I think the whole "Koreans don't sit next to me on public transportation," complaint is a complete fallacy.

kim said...

i have a blog which nobody comes to see. so i feel same feeling as yours :) and it's my honor to be a third person commenting here.

you are right. i misunderstood your post and missed some points. i have seen many foreigners who complain about who is sitting next to me problem. actually, i am the one who wants to keep my space in a subway or bus. your comment makes clear what you meaned. and i totally agree with you.

about your blog. it is true that your blog is not so well decorated nor has many pictures or surprising video clips. but i think posts here are interesting. i have read your blog through rss feed and i am sure that people more than you think how many, read this blog through rss. so keep good posting.

ps. if you like 3gyupsal, you may try 5gyupsal. i like it. :)

3gyupsal said...

Kim, thank you for the constructive criticism. I know my pictures and video clips aren't that great. I am not a photographer. I do have some plans to make better video clips as soon as I get a mac desk top with a final cut program on it. Also I am still not great at using my video camera. It is a Sony HD handicam that is practically worthless on my computer since I can't edit H.D. videos with window movie maker, hence I want to get a mac.

And yes I do like both samgyupsal and ohgyupsal, but I am trying to diet now, and the last time I had samgyupsal I got incredibly sick. This was due to a company hwoe shic and there could be a few reasons for the sickness.

The oriental medicine reason: Pork and Soju are both "cold" foods and shouldn't be mixed despite them being "Chingus"

The practical reason: I drank a lot of soju.

Another practical reason: My coworkers and I all drank a lot of soju, and probably ate meat that wasn't cooked all the way.

In the meantime I'll stick to Kalbi, and Naengmyun (I absolutely love Naengmyun) I'll also check out your blog. Thanks again for posting.

Anonymous said...

I really like your perspectives and views. Its fair and very objective. You are the kind of foreigner that most Asian/other countries would love to have as visitor/guest.

Please continue sharing more of your thoughts in this blog and in other blogs that you frequently visits to provide a balance conversation. As for me, i have my complaints about Korea but i tried to be reasonable and objective as much as possible.

Chloe said...

I agree that foreigners should see it as the blessing it is rather than an annoyance. Often times when I get a subway companion, I get stares, which are annoying, insistent English conversation, even though I'm usually reading or sometimes even talking on my cell!, and sometimes I get the ajumas that want to touch my skin or hair (I'm black and I have dreadlocks)--then I have to get up and move away because they won't take no for an answer.

If I don't have a long ride, sometimes I'll stand even if there are empty seats to avoid the hassle (even that doesn't always work! I've had people GET UP to walk over and talk to me)

So they should be thankful if they have peace and quiet on their bus and subway rides.

3gyupsal said...

Chloe thanks for commenting. Compared to you, I'm lucky since I don't live in a place large enough to have a subway so the only time I can ride it is when I go to a place that does have one. All that aside, I think that a lot of times the people who bother people from other countries like that often have some kind of mental problem, so you are definitely within your rights in trying to avoid them since it may be dangerous to talk to crazy people.

I don't mean to say that they are all crazy, some just might be lonely, but still you have your right to not be bothered in public. Thanks for stopping by.