NSFW Warning: includes toilet topics, little bit of feelings and food.
Action that comes with the culture
A habit means a tendency or practice of doing something on a regular basis. In addition, habit is kind of strong word that also implies that the tendency isn’t easily wiped off; something that’s hard to quit. Guess you could call drinking out on every weekend a bad habit. On this subject, I’m referring to life habits, kind of like different processes that you do daily. Taking a dump, eating breakfast, carrying a backpack, drinking x amount of water. Of course, when you enter a new culture, you’re forced to adapt into new habits since the old ones just don’t work as well in here. For me, that has been somewhat of a main topic for first few days.
Not as roomy as I’d thought
When I arrived on the first day, the first thing I did was unpacking. Yeah, the room wasn’t as luxurious as I’d fantasize it would be (hotel room with own rooms for both of us roommates and separate toilet), but I thought that the image in my head wasn’t too realistic in the end. I heard from one guy who was here last year too that they had their own rooms back then in a building next to us, which is a dorm for international students. The place we’re at is for normal Korean students, but the international dorm is pretty packed this year so they couldn’t fit us in there. My roommate is a British guy, who also enjoys having a little space of his own, kind of like myself. So far I think we’ve coped pretty well in this small room.
Keep trying until it starts work out
My first relearning habit was with the chopsticks on the airport, but more of a remarkable one happened later on the evening. I felt like taking a dump, so I went to toilet, sat down and looked around. There’s no paper. Ahh, hell. I check other stalls, nothing there. I gotta have my own paper? I think I saw a convenience store down on the dorm lobby. Some time later, I get back with paper and towelette (kosteuspyyhe in Finnish). After I get done, a new problem arises:
Well, that’s not too bad. I don’t even forget to follow it. It’s due to that the paper can get stuck more easier on the sewer pipes than in Finland. However:
Also, I forgot to mention, I felt a pretty miserable when I saw there were no handshowers in the toilet. Apparently, it was included as one of the options above. The thing is, I can’t do hangul (Korean alphabet) yet, so I had to try pressing the buttons to find an option to flush my producelings down to the hole. By default, the toilet here has already more water inside, since the design is a bit different. It was sort of creepy situation when I pressed the Ass-Shower button and I wouldn’t go off by itself. The water level rose pretty much due to that and seemed that my producelings wanted to return to the dark place where they came from.
Always have friends, so they can come up with ideas
I ask my seoulmate (student tutor-kind-of) and some of my finnish friends in chat. Seoulmate doesn’t respond initially, but the finnish friends suggest trying Google translate app, which has a translator that works automatically when you take a picture of the text you want to translate. I download that, and haggle a while with it, translating the contents slowly but surely.
Turns out, that none of these options are flush. What the hell, I’m surprised. I take a glance on the top of the porcelain, and there are no buttons either. In finnish toilets, the flush is always located in there (on new toilets). Well, I hope this isn’t a design flaw. I bounce around while sitting as much as I can, and there it is! A silver lever, on the right side, somewhat hidden. What a relief! It’s been 15 minutes already. I can finally get back. When I’m washing hands, I notice that there is a soap piece, but no hand towels or paper to dry hands. Guess I’d have to bring my own as well.
In fact, I was informed later that dorm kind of has its own special conditions, meaning that things they lack here (toilet paper etc.) are very common on other public places, so if you’re heading to Korea in future and feel discouraged by my experience, don’t be : ) I’m only portraying my own experience, which is likely 1% sure to happen to you as well.
Just toilet talk?!
Ah. You might be wondering why I just shared somewhat of an awkward story. Well, when writing about my experiences in here, I could avoid certain subjects. If I’d want. But I don’t. There are some cool things that I might to write about much, but I only write about things that made a clear impact on me. The bigger the impact, the more I write. It’s just that I want to be able to provide a wide shot of things that occur to me in here, not afraid to post about even bad things.
Yeah, there’s talk about feelings too!
The next habit that changes a lot, even more than the previous one, is eating. I cannot just walk to grocery store anymore and buy some mincemeat or chicken and potatoes, then to go home and cook them up. There’s no microwave in my room where I can throw water and oatmeal to make my famous ‘cardboard-taste’ porridge. The student kitchen in dorm is really small, so cooking ourselves sadly isn’t a very good option. I thought that each floor of dorm would have their own kitchen area, but there’s only one in the lobby floor, and it’s usually full of local students.
Using the student restaurants is much more common, and they’re mostly open from morning to evening. Of course, since we’re inside a city, one could always wonder around few kilometer radius and find some place to eat. Like I did, with my seoulmate. Some other students figured they’d gather a bunch and go to few drinks after eating / while eating, but I was pretty tired and really hungry at that point, so my seoulmate suggested that we’d find some other place before them and go straight back to dorm after that. What a guy!
In that situation, it was kind of taken granted that we’d already be part of that other group and should wait, despite being hungry. Also, after eating, it would be difficult to decline from the drinking invitation. Then, he realizes this as well, but despite that suggests that we could go just by ourselves to another place. He really got my respect on that situation. The other guys wanted to go eat some sort of chicken, but I wanted to try a more local option, so all the more reason for us to leave already!
But why was I so amazed about this? Because in Finland, you can see situations like this arise pretty often. But no one actually stands against the group’s decision, and just goes with it. Sometimes you can see on people’s faces that they don’t really like being there, but they still won’t say anything about it. Just being that kind of a straightforward as my seoulmate was, was really cool!
Let’s eat ‘homemade’ food instead of KFC!
My seoulmate isn’t too sure where he should take us. I think he doesn’t want me to have stomachache on the first day. Well. I can only figure that out by trying different stuff. We get in a small place, where there’s no other customers. He tells me that tourists don’t usually go places like this, only locals. Hehe, just what I was looking for. Kind of hidden gems. We order the stuff above. In clockwise order: tofu, some vegetables I guess?, salad?, spicy pork, beef and vegetables in a hot pot, kimchi (too spicy cabbage), looks-like-kebab-but-I-dunno. The beef thingy was really good, and pork was alright. Using chopsticks for second time in my life (with a correct way), I’m still having some difficulties.
I already was a quite slow eater back home, now I’m like super-slow. That’s kind of a bad thing, too, since in Korean food culture you share what you make or buy. So if you’re eating slowly, the food vanishes before you can get full. Of course, you don’t need to share in for example student restaraunts, but in normal restaurants it is a tradition. It’s not a bad thing really, since you can have more than one dish that way.
So it required me 2 posts to sum up day 1. And it’s already day 3 today. Oh well. Guess I won’t be able to talk about all the things that happen here. Perhaps, less toilet talk in future?
If you have anything you want to ask me, please comment on below!