I love living in Asia. I really do. And I love specifically living in Korea, where I can wear what I want because high fashion hasn’t reached the East coast, eat out every night because ripping off foreigners hasn’t reached the RoK, and feel like I’m Big News because where I live us round-eyes are still a bit of a novelty.
Having said that, this will be Husband and I’s last year here as the countdown – and collection of immigration documents – has begun for a more permanent relocation to New Zealand. With what is intended to be less than 12 months to go, I think it’s a good time for reflection over what I will and won’t miss about living in Korea.
Some things I hate so much, and are so obvious, they’ll never be missed. Prime
example: the cursed rubber shoes I have to wear in work (Why? I don’t need to be earthed to teach English!).
Other things are less obvious, and can’t really be explained other than with the phrase, Oh, Korea! Ubiquitous amongst foreigners, its capacity to convey unspoken understanding beyond those two simple words knows no bounds. Something strange / weird / quirky / culturally unheard of to the point where this couldn’t actually be a thing? Oh, Korea! Something factually peaceful yet so emotionally frustrating you’re bordering on full-blown confusion and rage? Oh, Korea! It’s like the Korean equivalent of saying, Fogeddaboutit!
Like earlier this afternoon.
I am bordering on sick, so came to work today armed with builder’s tea shipped in from the UK, an animal-covered mug, milk and a teaspoon. Illness is no time for my usual mate or rooibos.
It’s also no time for the tepid health-and-safety sanctioned water from the machine. I need boiling water from one of the three actual kettles I usually steer clear of. So afternoon I headed over to arrange just that, and noticed that the kettle was almost empty yet boiling. A colleague’s mug containing freeze-dried coffee sat next to it, providing me with a clue as to why I couldn’t just bowl in and help myself. And where was he? Having an in-depth chat with the IT woman.
Kettle etiquette in my office isn’t something I’m versed in, but I do know this: It would be bad form to just take the water without replacing it; and, people in my office have an irrational fear of tap water even when boiled. Which means I’d have to refill it at the machine.
My fastest choice was to take the kettle, throw in some machine water, re-boil it and have it ready by the time he was finished. Ha! Turns out, the kettle doesn’t fit under the machine. I scuttled back only to find him there and waiting, so as I handed the kettle over and asked, “Should I use the machine to fill this up, or can I use the tap?”
His look told me no way was the tap acceptable, but just for good measure he said, “Not the tap. Use the machine.”
“Ok, so the kettle doesn’t fit under the machine…How do you fill it up?”
A suck in of breath and slight shake of the head, then, “It’s up to you.” And off he sauntered with his boiling mug of coffee, leaving me standing there with an empty kettle and embargo on the tap.
My plan is to spend the next few days doing reconnaissance on all three of the kettles in my office in the hope that someone will let me in to the secret of the re-fill. Until then, I have sourced a glass teapot which I’m covertly using, just to keep everyone happy.
On the plus side, the lady in the shop sold me a packet of Dr. You’s Digets (Korea’s answer to McVitie’s Digestives) for a buck because they’re going out of date tomorrow. Result! I mean, Oh, Korea!