You might recall that a few weeks ago I published a post called 5 Things I Miss About South Korea. I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to include into that list, not by a long shot, in fact I think I’d need a Friday Five-Hundred in order to cover everything I miss about Korea. Well, I’m feeling nostalgic for the Land of the Morning Clam today and have decided that it’s time for the next installment of that list with 5 More Things I Miss About South Korea.
#1 Matching Couples: Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like; one boy, one girl, a bit of hand-holding and two T-shirts (or entire outfits) that are exactly the same. And I’m not talking just an ‘Oops, we both wore blue T-shirts today’ kind of matching, but deliberately purchased identical items of clothing worn simultaneously and on purpose by a couple.
This is something that has given me hour upon hour of amusement and paparazzi-style photo taking opportunities and it’s one of my all-time absolute favourite discoveries in Korea. A+ entertainment value in one simple outfit… times two.
#2 The Bangs: No, I’m not talking about hairstyles with a fringe, in Korean bang (방) means room – and not just a 4 walls and a ceiling type arrangement, but a commercial space that offers some form of entertainment for its occupants. Korea loves a good bang there are stacks to choose from when you’re looking for something fun to do; noraebang (singing room – think private Karaoke), PC Bang (internet café – some of the most luxurious I’ve had the pleasure of geeking in), DVDbang (kind of like private mini-cinema with couches and DVDs – basically a private lounge room for rent), Manhwa bang (comic book reading room – like a library only better), jjimjilbang (public bath house – lots of steam and naked scrubbing involved), and even Board Game bang (rooms in which you can rent and play board games… obviously) – and that’s just to name a few! Seriously, if you can’t find a bang that suits your entertainment desires, well, there might be something wrong with you.
#3 The JASVs: A JASV (pronounced ‘jas-vuh’) is a term that I (and possibly I alone) use when referring to the dozens of passed out drunks you are almost guaranteed to see on any Korean sidewalk (or stairwell) after about 7pm. JASV = Just Another Soju Victim… they’re everywhere. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill alcoholics, but regular people (very often business men) who have succumbed to the potent and often crippling effects of a night on the Soju – the spirit of choice for 99.99% of Koreans (I’m fairly sure that’s a scientific fact). Soju’s rocket-fuel-like effect (and taste) can turn even the most demure and polite Korean into a raving, dribbling, stumbling, sleepy mess.
#4 Cartoons and/or dancing for EVERYTHING: If I learnt one thing in Korea it’s that cartoons and/or dancing are never not appropriate. Seriously, you’ll find cartoon illustrations on just about anything, like oh I don’t know, building site hazard signs (like the one pictured below), police stations, the clothing of grown men… And then there are the dancing-girls (and sometimes boys) who are employed to joyfully bop around to blaring cheesy music for any occasion from an hourly mini-dance at your local supermarket, to the opening of a new shop, or my personal favourite, the campaign trail of electoral candidates (no joke)… and they’re for real! Honestly, it’s nothing short of brilliant.
#5 Kawi-Bawi-Bo!: This is the Korean name for the typical kids game, Rock, Paper, Scissors (Kawi = scissors, Bawi= paper, Bo = rock). Except in Korea it’s not just a kids game, it’s the default rule of life – that everyone lives by. Here’s how it works; Out for a night on the town with mates and can’t decide on a bar? Easy, Kawi-Bawi-Bo it. Stuck at loggerheads in a tricky business deal? No problem, Kawi-Bawi-Bo will find the answer. Faced with a hung jury in a troubling legal matter? Kawi-Bawi-Bo holds the solution for you (OK, I might have made that last one up, but you get the picture).
Yes, it seems that in Korea there is nothing that can’t be solved by selecting just one of three simple hand gestures. Ingenious. In fact, I’m surprised the North and South haven’t already settled their differences by a few quick rounds of the old kawi-bawi-bo.
Korea, I heart you.