# 4 Koreans Dig Singing

17 Sep

Korean’s dig singing.  It’s no secret.  Any urban area in South Korea is flooded with Norea-bangs (노래방) literally translated song room or singing room.  And that is exactly what it is.  Little rooms with comfy couches a big flat screen TV or multiple regular TV’s, 2 mic’s, lights that take you back to the 70’s and a sound system.

The Norea bang is a very social activity and is a favourite with groups.  Business men go norea bang’ing during their lunch break or after work to have some Soju and blow off some steam.  Koreans conduct business over a bottle (or two or three) of Soju and what better way to lure in a potential business partner than to sing your lungs out.  Noreabangs are also a favourite among younger people.  Korean culture is all about respect and public appearance.  Therefore dating is Korea (and potential dating) is very nerve wrecking to the average Korean.  When two people want to go on a first date it very seldom happens that they would go on this date alone.  Friends of both tag along and usually end up noreabang’ing.  It’s a light hearted social way to break the ice and to see if both of them has the approval of the other’s friends.

The Noreabang experience is completely different from the Karaoke experience in the West.  As opposed to singing in front of an audience in a bar Korean Karaoke is done in a small room that can hold up to 10 people.  It’s usually around 15 000 per hour and the Noreabangs stay open until the wee hours of the morning.  A song book is supplied with songs in English, Korean and Japanese.  Thus Noreabang’ing is very popular among the expat community in Korea. Each song has a number and that is entered into a remote.  The song will start boosting through the sometimes too powerful sound system.  As soon as the song starts the disco lights will start flashing it feels complete like you’re in one or other ABBA music video.   Many Noreabang’s have tambourines scattered around to include everybody.  It’s one big goofy party.  Some Noreabangs do serve alcohol but there is no ‘no-alcohol’ policy in any noreabang.  Thus as the Soju keeps flowing the music keeps playing.

Even thoughKaraoke was developed in Japan in the form of KTV (Karaoke TV) the Korean adaptation is brilliant and most definitely a highlight in the Korean cultural tree.

Koreans dig singing!

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#3 Korean’s Dig Soju

8 Sep
Soju, distilled Korean alcoholic beverage

Image via Wikipedia

It’s just after 8 on a Wednesday morning.  The sun is steadily rising above the high rise apartment buildings that decorate my 25 minute walk to school.  Just past the second hill I am greeted by the usual suspects.  Usually three or four groups of Ajoshi’s (olde men) that squat in a circle playing one or other game and . . . drinking Soju.

Korean’s dig Soju.  They can’t get enough of this potent vodka tasting spirit.  They drink it about as often as they eat Kimchi.  Ajoshi’s drink it at sunrise, men at work drink it during lunch and the rest of Korea joins in at dinner.  Soju is made of rice  and contains a lot of sugar.  Soju is readily available everywhere in Korea and is dirt cheap.

It is estimated that the average Korean above the age of 20 consumes roughly 90 300ml bottles of this 25 – 40% alcohol beverage.  No joke.  Why they love it so much no one knows.  Soju is also the cause of what is known as the ‘korean blackout’.  It is not uncommon to find many Koreans completely passed out on the side of the street.  Koreans consume so much Soju that spontaneous drunken pass out is their destiny.

Koreans also advocate that Soju can solve all problems.  Even the TV ads make men believe that Soju will make all woman beautiful.  And even though there are no restrictions on woman drinking Soju, it seems that Soju consumption is a very manly thing to do among your male friends.  Soju is most often taken neat in a shot glass, but Koreans have invented other ways to divulge in this liquid devil.  Someak is Soju and and beer mixed.  By doing this it is clear that the consumer has only one thing in mind and that is to get completely annihilated.  As the combination of meakju (beer) and Soju is lethal.  And even though Koreans may all seem like raging alcoholics they will never miss a day of work because of a hangover.

Korean’s dig Soju.

#2 Korean’s Dig Sharing

30 Aug

Korean’s dig sharing.  They share everything from a collective mindset to soda’s and even mucus and saliva.  There is nothing that this East Asian nation won’t share.  It’s quite obvious that the culture of sharing has emerged in South Korea.  The Korean peninsula beneath the 38th parallel covers 99,392 square kilometers, that’s roughly the size of Portugal and a little bit smaller than Kentucky.  Due to a crap load of mountains, livable area in Korea is even less.  In this small living space about 50 million Koreans are packed like sardines.  Therefore it is necessary for Koreans to share soda’s, food, clothes and ideas because there just isn’t enough space for everybody to have their own stuff.

When Koreans go out to a restaurant the eldest person at the table will usually decide what the meal will be and the rest of the party does not have a choice but to eat it.  Oh no, Koreans cannot each order their own dish as such a menu rarely exists in Korean restaurants.  Korean food is served with tons and tons of side dishes and all the food is placed in the middle of the table and everybody just digs in.  In the case that Koreans visit western style restaurants (including McDonald’s and Burger King) one meal will be ordered for a party of two.  The Maccie D’s people will gladly cut the burger in half and supply two straws with the soda’s.  Now this is not necessarily such a bad thing as obesity is pretty much on the low down here and lets face it’s a great money saver.  In many restaurants here in Kimchiland restaurants have soda fountains with a piece of paper taped to it that reads “Service (ee)”.  This basically means it’s free and help your self.  The reason why restaurants haven’t gone under because of this venture can be ascribed to the whole sharing thing.  When us foreigners visit these restaurants we each have our own glass and refill it at least 2 times.  It’s free, dammit!

Koreans love to share clothes.  No wait, Koreans love to share “looks”.  It’s very common to see couples wearing the exact same outfits.  What the reason behind this strangeness is no one could ever explain to me.  Maybe it’s because in this, the second most densely populated country on earth it’s easy to lose someone in the crowd, and what easier way to keep track of each other than by wearing exactly the same clothes.  And it’s not just shirts, it’s the whole outfit – shirt, jeans, sneakers and even matching underwear.  That’s right, underwear stores downtown and department stores all boast mannequins with matching underwear.  The boys boxers will have the exact same print and fabric as the girls panties and bra!

It’s very common for Koreans to live with their parents until they get married.  This makes no sense to a westerner as high school graduation day usually means moving day for us.  But not in Korea, as many live with their parents well into their thirties.  Because Korea is so overcrowded I guess they hae no other option as there just isn’t enough space for everybody to just have their own apartments.  That’s why high-rise apartment buildings are more common over here than fresh air!

Sharing truly means caring here in Korea.  Koreans dig sharing!

#1 Korean’s Dig Kimchi

28 Aug
Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea

Image via Wikipedia

Kimchi is religion in Korea.  If you ever meet a Korean that is not fond of Kimchi it’s time to call the Guinness World Record people.  To Koreans Kimchi is not merely spicy fermented cabbage, it’s a way of life.  Koreans believe that Kimchi is the reason for their existence and without it they will perish.   It’s not uncommon for Koreans to eat Kimchi at least 3 times a day.  Kimchi equals Korea, so much that when Korean’s have their pictures taken ‘Kimchi’ is the smile phrase instead of ‘cheese’.  The marvels behind this pungent dish is that Koreans have been consuming it even before Jesus walked the earth.  That’s right, the earliest evidence of Kimchi dates back 3000 years.  Koreans also feel a sense of pride and achievement when they talk about this dish, and when they introduce this dish to a weary foreigner they shake their heads and immediately assume it’s too spicy.  Kimchi, according to Koreans, is a dish that only they can fully appreciate and is the cause of everything good that happens in this tiny country.  Not only does Kimchi enable Koreans to live forever but it also improves their beauty.  If you ever want to insult a Korean you should tell them that Kimchi is utterly disgusting.  And on the contrary if you want to win a Korean’s love and friendship exclaim your fondness for the dish.  Kimchi is also the result of Koreans’ fear of traveling abroad.  If Kimchi is not readily available in other countries Koreans will think twice before traveling there.  Kimchi is so deeply embedded in Korean blood that even Koreans born and raised outside of the peninsula absolutely love it.  If you are not grown on Kimchi it’s safe to say that Kimchi is an acquired taste.  What makes Kimchi even more attractive is that Kimchi contains ‘healthy bacteria’.  I just hate food that contains ‘unhealthy’ bacteria, I mean the Ebola is not for everyone!  But no seriously one portion of Kimchi contains 80% of the vitamins and minerals your body requires on a daily basis to be healthy.  In fact Korean scientists now believe that Kimchi prevents cancer and speeds up cancer recovery.  Maybe this could be an alternative to chemo?  In 2003, 200 chickens were force-fed Kimchi and ‘significant scientific proof’ revealed that those chickens became immune against SARS.  This is why it’s never fun to play the ‘if you could take one thing to a desert island, what would it be’ game with Koreans, because they all say Kimchi!

Kimchi can be regarded as the holy grail of Korean identity.  When a Japanese company proposed Kimchi as the official food of the Atlanta Olympics the Koreans immediately raised their brows.  Not only did they claim the Japanese did not follow the original recipe but also they stated that the ‘Japanese Kimchi’ is a different dish altogether.  This created so much havoc on the peninsula that an international Kimchi body was formed to determine set guidelines on how Kimchi should be prepared and what exactly qualifies as Kimchi.  The Koreans also developed special ‘space-friendly’ Kimci for the first Korean astronauts.  Kimchi is the reason why Koreans took so long to join the space race.  Super intelligent Korean wannabe astronauts refused to explore the outer limits without their trusty Kimchi!

Korean’s pride themselves in the fact that the average Korean will consume at least 40 pounds of Kimchi yearly.

Koreans dig Kimchi!