Life in Korea 한국

Changing Habits…Shifting Patterns

Living in another country, your habits start to change. At first, you think it won’t happen. But slowly changes begin to occur without you noticing. Slowly you assimilate yourself into the other culture without knowing.  Intrinsically we all want to belong. We want to fit in where we are currently living.  Most of our habits and who we are as a person remains the same. Yet, bits and pieces will change to make life easier.

There are a few habits I never thought I would start. Anyone who knows me knows I love my coffee with cream and sugar. Half and half is delightful. Half and half doesn’t exist in Korea.  And milk just does not cut it. Therefore, slowly I have been switching my coffee drinking habit. I tend to really like the pre-made powdered mixes of coffee, with cream and sugar in the packet and you add water.

But its progressed even further to where I can drink my coffee black with sugar. Or if it is brewed well just a cup of black coffee. If you had asked me 3 months ago to drink my coffee black, I would have told you to fuck off. I’m having my coffee with cream and sugar. So, I have adapted and at this point I won’t be surprised if I am drinking  my coffee black by the end of the year.

The second habit is brushing my teeth. I brush my teeth twice a day like most people. The new habit is brushing my teeth after lunch. Back in the states it isn’t common to see people walking to the bathroom brushing their teeth. Working in the schools all the teachers and most of the students brush their teeth after lunch. Everyone has a toothbrush and toothpaste at school. So I am getting in the habit of also doing the same. Which makes me realize my question as to why many Koreans don’t go to the dentist often might be from the good brushing teeth habits they have had ingrained in them since elementary school.

One difference that drives me crazy but somehow I have adapted is the habit of colds. What is it? Back home if you have a runny nose someone will tell you to blow the damn thing already. And we do, some people sound like a trumpet. Some are a bit quieter. People don’t blow their nose in public in Korea. It is socially not acceptable. So if you have a runny nose, you better suck that back in. Sneaking to the bathroom to blow my nose has been my tactic, but this could be the reason colds prolong here. You need to get that shit out to get better.

Being polite when leaving school for the day or the lunch table before the principal or vice-principal. I always say “먼저 가겠습니다” “I’m leaving first.” Or “먼저 일어나겠습니다.” “I’m getting up first.” ( This is used during lunchtime when I leave the table to go back to the office.)

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