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  • KimDuHan
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • January 15, 2015, 11:48:59 am
    • Seoul
The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« on: August 19, 2021, 04:41:04 am »
What was the first wtf moment you had in Korea?

For me it was getting off the plane and going to a goshiwon for a week and asking where the toilet was and being shown a squat toilet!!! Also being told to put the tp in the bucket beside the squat toilet!!


  • Adel
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2021, 05:43:24 am »
Getting off the plane after an overnight flight and being asked to teach at the hogwon that morning. After declining to teach but agreeing to visit the school that morning the truly WTF moment came when watching 3 or 4 year old kids playing unsupervised on a narrow side street as buses roared past within inches of crushing their skulls onto the road. There were several more WTFs to follow but that was the first when I felt almost paralysed in shock and incapable of a response. 
« Last Edit: August 19, 2021, 07:22:25 am by Adel »


  • VanIslander
  • Moderator LVL 1

    • 2680

    • June 02, 2011, 10:12:19 am
    • Seogwipo, Jeju Island
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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2021, 06:25:24 am »
I waited five hours at the airport to be picked up - as scheduled and confirmed days before - and the hagwon driver thereafter angrily raising his voice in heated argument with the recruiter employee in the shotgun seat of the van as they drove me from Gimhae to Geoje, the pretty young woman who was apparently my handler (the only one who spoke English) said they were "talking" about Rho Mu-hyun. It was election day 2002 and apparently Rho was a polarizing figure (my students later also argued whether he was good or bad, mimicking their parents surely). There was loud support and loud opposition to the newly elected president.

The next morning, my first one in the Land of the Morning Calm, I was awoken at 8:10 am by a blowhorn intense announcement, repeated over and over, emitted from a vehicle circling the block. Oh, no, was Kim Jong-il attacking? I jumped up, threw open the windows and saw a truck selling tangerines. :)  ... Oh, did I mention I walked at night by the glow of church crosses? (This was pre-7/11 and before its ilk took over the mom-and-pop convenience stores - more like auntie-sleeping-on-bench corner store - market, and shining lights to illuminate the streets all night long.)

I have in the past described my initial experience of the country as an introduction to democracy, capitalism and Christianity on steroids. ;)

No complaints in anything i've said. I found them surprising but interesting! and exactly the sort of things you expect to adapt to in a foreign culture.

"WTF?" needn't be about judging, but about expectations and puzzlement.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2021, 06:44:56 am by VanIslander »


  • pkjh
  • The Legend

    • 2146

    • May 02, 2012, 02:59:44 pm
    • Asia
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2021, 07:20:32 am »
When I stepped right of the plane onto the ramp, wearing long pants. I think it was like mid-July. The humidity hit my like a ton of bricks. It felt like my legs were covered in sweat immediately, never felt so gross in my life before.

Also, there used to be a lot more street dogs around a long time ago. Kind of like what you see with street cats. Not as many as cats, but it was noticeable. Most of them were small, to mid-sized and pretty docile, since I assume the more aggressive ones probably met the foot of an adjusshi. I did see one lone  husky once, that looked like it had a rough life. Again very docile, and just chilling. Often these dogs would sit calmly near someone eating food next to some corner store, or restaurant, and wait for someone to throw them some food.

Little kids, pre-school to early-elementary, just playing everywhere with no apparent adult supervision. That would prompt some Karen to call child-services back home.

Again, little kids taking public transportation alone. Back home you can barely walk to school without some 'concerned' adult wondering why your parents aren't driving you.


Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2021, 09:27:50 am »
Even though I spent a considerable amount of time with Korean friends in North America  in high school, college, and hanging out at the local Korea towns, and even though my Korean friends have tried to warn me about this before comming over here..... when that ajumma hit me hit her elbow, or that ajusshi pushed passed me and darted for that subway seat, and worst of all when that young woman at E-mart rammed her shopping cart into my back without apologizing I had that WFT moment. Public manners here are just appalling! My 3 week to Japan years ago was so pleasant and comfortable because of all the politeness over there.


Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2021, 09:57:41 am »
Hadn't slept at all the night before the flight coming here. Also couldn't sleep on the flight. Was too nervous and excited. Anyway, got word days earlier that my apartment wasn't quite ready, so I'd be spending a few days in a hotel that they paid for. Sweet. Had the address and everything. Got through the airport quickly and efficiently. Good start! Guy waiting for me with my name on a piece of paper. OK. Called my director and told him I was on my way. He said he'd meet me at the hotel. Sweet. Gave the address to the taxi driver and loaded up my bags in the taxi. He dropped me off at the hotel. It was in an alleyway with hotels on both sides, all little and with hearts. Hmmmm. Taxi driver unpacked me bags and pointed to the closest hotel.
"This is it?" I asked.
He nods.
I thank him and proceed to enter the hotel with my bags, only to have an old Korean guy come from behind the desk and scream at me in a way I've never been screamed at before. Eyes bulging, face red, and absolutely ripping into me. I hand him my paper with the address on it. He looks at it, looks back at me with pure rage in his eyes, and screams, "There!"
"There?"
"Yes, there!"
I walk out of the hotel, take 6-7 steps to the right, and enter an identical looking motel. My director is there, as are the mom and pop that run the hotel. I'm greeted like absolute royalty and they have filled my room with enough food to feed me for a week.


  • leaponover
  • Expert Waygook

    • 780

    • March 05, 2012, 12:08:16 pm
    • Iksan, S. Korea
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2021, 10:04:19 am »
Guess mine is corn on pizza?  I can't really remember back that far.  Might have been squat toilets too....that definitely was a "hell no!" for me.


  • tylerthegloob
  • The Legend

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    • September 28, 2016, 10:46:24 am
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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2021, 10:50:58 am »
i was at a 회식 and i sat near the vice principal (sorta weird, but OK english), the head teacher (not good at english), and the counselor teacher (a young woman). the vice principal says "shes the prettiest teacher in our school" which was pretty uncomfortable but NOWHERE NEAR AS UNCOMFORTABLE as what the head teacher was about to say: "and she's a virgin". the VP immediately recognized the other teacher's mistake and said "he meant she's single" but it was too late. fortunately, the counselor teacher was in another conversation and didn't appear to overhear anything
more gg more skill


  • 745sticky
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1654

    • March 26, 2020, 01:52:57 pm
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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2021, 11:02:33 am »
my first wtf moment in korea was the complete lack of public trash cans lol. well, not complete lack, but you really gotta learn how to spot 'em


  • Mr C
  • The Legend

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    • October 17, 2012, 03:00:40 pm
    • Seoul
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2021, 12:00:39 pm »
My first morning at orientation at  Yongin, seaweed soup for breakfast.


  • hangook77
  • The Legend

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    • September 14, 2017, 09:10:12 am
    • Near Busan
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2021, 12:07:14 pm »
Why is there no heat in the bathroom?  This was my first old villa where the bathroom was outside the main room and close to the outside hallway.  Also, wt.. was with running out of gas and having to call the gas company whenever to come and fill the canister?  Was I living in a 3rd world country?  Of course nowadays here in a bigger city, we have a gas line like every other developed place in the world.  (Well, technically not the Maritimes until the 2000's decade as we used electricity and not gas along with wood and oil for heating, but you get my point.)


  • pkjh
  • The Legend

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    • May 02, 2012, 02:59:44 pm
    • Asia
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2021, 12:26:28 pm »
Also, wt.. was with running out of gas and having to call the gas company whenever to come and fill the canister?  Was I living in a 3rd world country?  Of course nowadays here in a bigger city, we have a gas line like every other developed place in the world.  (Well, technically not the Maritimes until the 2000's decade as we used electricity and not gas along with wood and oil for heating, but you get my point.)
Is natural gas piped into the home a benchmark for the 1st world? Because large parts of Japan, and the US, don't have gas piped into houses.


Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2021, 01:20:49 pm »
I dunno, probably when I found out BBQ Chicken did not, in fact, sell BBQ Chicken.


  • Adel
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2021, 01:35:16 pm »
While not the first, a notable one, was seeing a toilet roll holder complete with roll on every table at the restaurant where I first tried bibimbap.


  • OnNut81
  • The Legend

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    • April 01, 2011, 03:01:41 pm
    • Anyang
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2021, 02:03:30 pm »
There were a few in my first day, including my arrival at the absolute dump of terminal 1 at Gimpo.  I definitely remember looking out at this bleak industrial landscape from the sh*ttiest airport I had ever been in and wondering WTF I had done?  Left my hometown, a stable job and a nice rented condo downtown because my gf convinced we'd have a real adventure teaching in Korea for a year. 

That was a minor wtf moment compared to the stunning WTF!!! moment less than 24 hours later after our company had done the old "no, no you won't be teaching on your first day, you're just visiting the school" and then dropped at us at our respective elementary schools for the entirety of the after school program.  As we went to leave I asked the Korean co-teacher how I would be getting home?  She didn't know where I lived, and the company it turned out, forgot to come and get me.  This was not a hakwan that was near to the apartment.  We had driven across the city of Jeonju to this school and I was jet lagged and had no idea where I lived or where I was.  The company was closed and that was the day of the beepee.  Korean teacher took me with her and I trudged around some supermarket helping this heavily pregnant woman do some shopping as she tried to figure out how to help me get home.  Eventually she said I'd have to come back and stay with her and her husband.  It was a warm night so I declined, resigned to sleeping in a park.  Walking around I noticed a sign that indicated the train station was down this road and our Cape Breton roommates had mentioned we weren't far from the train station.  I started to walk that way and look for anything I could recognize from the early hours of the morning when we arrived and the roommates had insisted we go out to this corner store called Full House and have some beers.  Eventually after walking in ever widening circles from the train station I spotted Full House and made my way home where I noted my gf was also not home (it was getting late) and being the concerned bf I was went went to bed.  She made it back fine.  Apparently a busty blonde Canadian girl is worth remembering.  Of course, no apologies were forthcoming. 



Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2021, 02:07:30 pm »
Very young children being left to fend for themselves all day, while both parents worked.

Two doors down, a 9 year old was tasked with looking after his 6 year old sister...including getting dressed, having breakfast, walking sister to kindy, and then himself to school. Then picking up his sister again mid afternoon, and coming home. Mom and dad left at 7 am, and got home around 6 pm. (My wife caught the kids in the hallway and questioned them)

I jumped up and down, but my wife said to get used to it. She didn't like it but said "It's just the way it is in Korea."
I'm still not comfortable with it.


Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2021, 02:24:43 pm »
probably the orientation breakfast of hot soup, salad, and rice.......out in the real world after orientation....corn on pizza or something like that


  • hangook77
  • The Legend

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    • September 14, 2017, 09:10:12 am
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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2021, 02:49:31 pm »
Is natural gas piped into the home a benchmark for the 1st world? Because large parts of Japan, and the US, don't have gas piped into houses.

No, I didn't have piped gas in the Maritimes as a kid.  It only came when I was an adult.  But we used electricity, oil, wood, etc (for heating).  We didn't have to call every few days to fill up a gas canister.  It seemed a bit primitive. 


  • Adel
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2021, 02:49:51 pm »
This one would have been within my first couple of months of my first gig. I came waltzing into the hoggy that morning and noticed a co-worker with toilet paper wrapped around his wrist as blood streamed onto floor while he was on his knees in the reception area pleading with the Hogwon director to keep his job. Another co-worker later explained that a student had triggered him with some comment and he had walked into an adjacent bathroom and  put his fist through a window. This chap in question was a former military intelligence officer with some notable social issues but was able to hang on to his position. Nonetheless it was one of the more profound WTF moment I experienced in the ROK.


  • CO2
  • Waygook Lord

    • 7288

    • March 02, 2015, 03:41:14 pm
    • Uiwang
Re: The first wtf moment you had in Korea?
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2021, 02:51:16 pm »
All the neon red crosses I could see from the highway whilst being driven to my hotel upon landing.

I'm from urban Canada, never been to The South, so I was VERY confused.