Bowing, Shaking hands
One thing I like about Asia is bowing when greeting people. There is nothing about the bow itself that I particularly like. Rather, I like it that I'm not expected to shake hands with people.
1) Many men don't wash their hands. I would guess that in America that about half of men walk out of bathrooms without stopping to wash their hands. Some might turn on the water and get their hands a bit wet before walking out but they won't go so far as to use soap. In Korea, I think the percentage is more like 90 percent. I stopped shaking hands with people quite a while ago. I'd prefer to just wave or, when a hand is extended for a handshake, just give a fist-bump. I started that a few years ago. I was excited when Obama did his fist-bump with his wife, I was really hoping the fist-bump would catch on.
2) Don't take it personally if I choose not to shake hands with you. After all, even if you wash your hands you may be shaking hands with plenty of other people who don't.
More on bathrooms
Just to be clear, many of the bathrooms in Seoul are perfectly clean. For example, the bathrooms at my office. American chain restaurants. Many upscale Korean places.
There are plenty of places where the bathrooms are spotless. Okay, got the point? This is not about every bathroom in Korea.
3) Apparently they only bought one container of soap at most places and haven't refilled it. It appears that some bathrooms haven't ever been cleaned. If you'll show me your dirty side when you KNOW there's a good chance I'll see it then I fear what you may be doing back in the kitchen...
4) The Korean government is constantly trying to figure out how to get more people to Korea. The new head of the tourism office wants non-Koreans here to be Goodwill Ambassadors. A national movement to clean up the bathrooms would make life more pleasant for those people already here. Of course, like most people, the focus is on getting new people...
I want to be clear that I'm not kidding here:
5) Female janitors and cleaning ladies will enter the men's bathroom without knocking. A man can be standing at a urinal and the cleaning ladies will enter and clean up as men go about their business.
6) Very often the men's and women's bathrooms are side by side in the same bathroom. In some cases, a woman could be sitting right next to you or could enter as a man is standing at the urinal.
When in Rome...
I'm definitely fitting in.
I jay walked in front of a police officer today.
If I fit in any better then I'll be groping women on subways, fighting with drunken friends and politicians, and paying for coaches to have sex.
Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?
As I mentioned the other day I prefer not to eat spicy food. I can eat it and often do, it is tough to avoid in Korea. But in most cases, given a choice between food that is spicy and food that is not, I'll opt for the food that is not spicy.
I've noticed, if I'm understanding correctly, that my Korean colleagues will say in Korean that I hate to eat spicy food. I try to correct them but not too much. After all, I could eat up eating a pile of hot sauces with a couple of pieces of meat mixed in.
I'm willing to give them a pass. But I've also noticed that my AMERICAN colleagues say the same thing. They happen to love eating spicy food. I correct them but they say the same thing: Casey doesn't like spicy food.
Either you love spicy food or you don't seems to be the categories.
Swing! Swing! Swing my baby!
In addition to the weekly swing lessons that I started on Sunday we also have a weekly dance party. It was on Tuesday of this week but will be on Fridays starting next week.
Last night it was Three Ds.
I tried to get them to go singing. They finally agreed that we'll go out Friday of next week. A couple of them said they really enjoy singing. I quietly said that I also enjoy it, but in my mind I was speaking with the kind of confidence Mike Tyson had back in his prime--I can whip any man (or woman) at anytime.
Of course, I'm struggling to keep up with the conversation in Korean. Last night's gathering was no different. The ones who can speak some English are trying to help me by explaining when I can't catch up to the conversation in Korean. One woman who was there last night can speak Chinese so she was able to explain some things to me when her English was lacking.