cultural insights galore

I’ve just been putting a lot on this blog about my personal life and not many of the cultural insights like what you find in my brothers blog. I will try to rectify this in future posts. As a disclaimer I would like to say that one reason I have refrained from a lot of the cultural anecdotes is because I did not want to be overly critical or to appear to be making fun of Koreans and I didn’t want to seem complainy.

Today I will tell you about PC Bangs and grocery stores since I went to both in the past 24 hours.

Bang (rhymes with song) means room in Korean. There is noribang (singing room) DVD bang (private DVD viewing rooms), etc. PC bang is a computer room. I’m in one right now and go to one everyday because my computer’s broken. It’s less than a dollar an hour and usually has high speed internet since 90% of the people at these places are teenage boys playing games. These games are usually loud shoot’em up games that are played at full volume. (imagine that times 20 or 30). You can smoke in the PC bang so they reek. You can get a ll sorts of drinks and basic food here and they’re usually open 24 hours so you can spend days here and rumor has it some people do. There’s a major gaming addiction here, seriously. It’s all most of my male students (and a good number of females too) talk about. Gaming is a big deal here, there is even a TV channel where you can watch ongoing games. (mindnumbing) The volume is a bummer for people like me who like to be able to think when they type. My favorite is when the people on either side of me are playing a game against each other so are then yelling at each other over my head. That’s the best. However, they are cheap, convenient, the seats are surprisingly comfy, and the proprieter is usually really nice. The guy at the one by my house always brings me coffee. I don’t want the sugary powdered coffee, but I choke it down with a smile… every day.

Grocery stores are weird. For one thing, they’re not always where I expect them to be. I found one in the basement of a building I walk by every day. I had no clue there was a grocery store there. How often to you walk down stairs and are surprised by a grocery store? You never know what random Western goods will be there. In my neighborhood I have canvased the various stores (well, the ones I know about) and know I can get tortillas at one, salsa at another, olives in all but one, sundried tomatoes in the far away one, and occasionally dijon mustard in the near one. I can rarely just by one or two of say a pepper or a tomatoe. I have to buy a kilo. A KILO. I usually then distibute them to everyone I know as that is a large amount of peppers/tomatoes. The music is the best — loud dance music, Korean and Western. Usually something outdated by at least a decade. Today, me and two old Korean ladies enjoyed the likes of CC Music Factory and New Kids on the Block– I am not kidding you.

OK, I’m tired now, more later…..