Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The largest Korean bill is 10,000 won, which is only like $10 (actually only about 3 cents at the current exchange rate). So you gotta carry a wad when you want serious change on your person. The money is different sizes and colors, and I still confuse them because there's so many fucking zeros. Much like American money, Korean money features old dead guys.


I love my Korean bank. Oh, did I say I love my Korean bank? I'm sorry, I meant I hate my Korean bank. Korean banks in general are incredibly inefficient and you usually have to take a number and wait 20 minutes to see a teller. Plus their hours are retarded, usually M-F 8:30-4:30. Hey, that sounds familiar...? Oh yeah, that's my work schedule, so I always have to go during work hours. I have time between classes and at lunch, but it'd be nice to have a few Saturday hours available.

Oh, but here's the real nifty part: to use the ATM, your own bank's ATM, you have to pay a fee on the weekend and after business hours! It's only a small fee, like 50 cents, but still - does using an ATM on the weekend costs the bank more? I don't think so.

The banks are also incredibly insecure. There's a guy who assists people when they come in and he has a gun. But the tellers aren't behind glass and I've seen stacks of cash just sitting behind the counter. I don't think Korea has a lot of armed robbery.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: a lot of Korea is stuck in the 1950s and is just waiting for its Beat Generation and 1960s to revamp and revitalize it. The only things holding it back are the country's small size, large population, and desperate economy. People have to conform if they want to survive and get a job. I don't envy the youth of Korea. Plus, men have to serve two years in the army.

Most Koreans I know have studied or traveled abroad, and as they continue to do so they'll bring bits of the world back to Korea. Change is inevitable. An expanded international consciousness, less alcohol, a healthy marijuana culture, and meditation would greatly improve Korea. These things will also destroy a lot of traditional Korean culture, a lot of the stifling elements, and some of the softer aspects unfortunately.

As an English teacher, the thing I find most amusing is their attitude to English. The public schools don't begin English lessons till 3rd grade! Why wait so long? Do you want to learn English or don't you? If they really want to learn it, start as soon as possible. Instead they wait and the kids have an accent and struggle for years with English, cramming and going to hagwons. Why is it like this?

From what I understand, older Koreans are afraid English will destroy traditional Korean culture. And that's understandable. Nobody likes to have another culture come in and say, "Start talking like us because our language is more important than yours." But English is more important to Korea's economy, and every Korean college student knows this.

Okay, I'm just rattling on now.

Having lived here four months, I understand the idea of culture shock better now. Maybe it's not shock... maybe it's "culture irritation". There will always be things about Korean culture that make me angry and think WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE SO FUCKING STUPID? But I suppose foreigners feel the same way in America and elsewhere. And there are things about Korea that run smoother and easier. It's just a trade-off, I guess.

I had six classes today! Two of them I did solo (no co-teacher) and they were beginner classes. Maybe they're what annoy me about the English curriculum in Korea. The classes are too large with too many speaking levels in one class, and I know a lot of those beginners don't learn anything from me. There are few things as frustrating as teaching someone English when they don't speak any English and you don't speak any Korean. Plus you have 37 other students to deal with. Fortunately Korea is desperate for white English teachers, believing they magically speak and teach purer English, and always preferring them to Asian or (gasp) black teachers.

Anyway, I love Korean money. It'd be nice if it had more value than toilet paper. I have a ton of it, and I'd love to send it back to the US and pay off my loan etc. But I just can't bring myself to do it at the current exchange rate... it'd be throwing too much away. I wonder if it will ever rise again. The president says so (the Korean president), but he seems like an asshole to me, like a Korean Giuliani (eww, weird image), saying whatever the people want to hear. And Korean politics have so much crap about saving face and honor and respect and bleh, it almost makes American politics refreshing (almost).

Alright, it's been good to rant - I usually don't allow myself to do it long in the blog and it's nice to get it out. Most of the things I'm whining about aren't a big deal. The exchange rate is all I really want to improve. Everything else I can live with.

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