Archive | July, 2012

Dogs Don’t Like Boys, Dogs Like Cars and Money

20 Jul

Remember that time I went to the cat cafe? And I likened it to a brothel? And enjoyed mauling the captive kitties? Well, I found something even better.

First, a little background. I love animals. I especially love all the fuzzy kinds of animals, and for the most part they seem to like me back just fine. Cats, horses, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, dogs, ferrets… I have owned or looked after them all at some point in my life. I am, however, an unashamed cat person. I love their aloofness. I love scrambling for their approval. I love being treated like a lackey, ignored until it’s convenient, and woken up when they’re bored. I love the knowledge that they would probably eat me alive if they were tiger-sized. I love their blood-lust, and their laziness, and the way they do really stupid stuff at about 2am when they revert back to kitten-hood and the house is suddenly filled with crazy invisible gremlins that only they can catch.

Me with our family cat Jeffrey and my brother with the family dog (here just a tiny puppy!) Dexter. Yes, we have matching T-shirts because we’re just that cool.

As a proud member of Team Cat, it pains me to admit that the best place to get my fix of animal lovin’ in Korea was the dog cafe (and as this is Korea I should probably clarify that this is a cafe with dogs in, not a cafe that serves dog). Dogs, it turns out, make much better cuddle-whores. Which makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, what do dogs do better than give humans attention in the vague hope of pats, or food, or just some acknowledgement? To dogs, even being told that they’re stinky little idiots is glorious, glorious attention.

Sadly, I have to conclude that the dogs are better at showering paying strangers with affection.

Painted Jezebel – canine version. Yes, the dog has dyed cheeks. Photo by Caroline Quick.

The dog cafe I went to is in Jangsan. There were some larger dogs in one area, and then a whole bunch of little guys in the main cafe where you can sit down and enjoy the complimentary cake buffet. For my 8,000 won entrance fee I got access to the cake buffet, a free smoothie, and licks, cuddles and chews from at least four dogs.

Photo by Caroline Quick

This guy was my favourite. He was a sturdy little fellow with a snub nose and well trimmed moustache. I couldn’t figure out what breed he was, though. Perhaps some kind of shih tzu/terrier mix?

We nicknamed him “The Brigadier”. Photo by Caroline Quick

I was totally prepared for the place to be a little stinky with that many dogs, but the staff did a great job of swiftly cleaning up after the little guys and I found I didn’t really mind the over-powering odour of dog. I forgot it all in a haze of gleeful belly scratches and face nuzzles.

Cuddles! He insisted on being picked up before I could leave the cafe. Photo by Caroline Quick

Seeing as Korean apartments are often quite small, and that taking a pet home to the UK is costly and time-consuming, the dog cafe might be the only way I’ll get to spend some time with animals during my stay here. My mum can rest assured that for another week at least, I’ve managed to restrain myself from adopting a pet in Korea.

Anti-foreigner feeling in Korea

15 Jul

This weekend provided two very different run-ins with Korean strangers.

First, my friend and I encountered an aggressive Korean woman in a bar in Busan. We were in the bathroom, and she came in and started hammering loudly on the stall doors. When my friend came out of the stall, this woman confronted her angrily and demanded to know if we could speak Korean. She eventually stormed off after yelling at us in Korean some more. Essentially, this woman was angry because we were talking to each other in English in the bathroom.

A certain number of Koreans seem to genuinely hate foreigners. They get extremely angry at our audacity – hanging around places in Korea, being all foreign, speaking out foreign languages and being, you know, foreign-looking. There are some bars and restaurants that refuse to serve us. Sometimes people will shoot us evil glances, sometimes they’ll yell at us, and even push us around a little, and try to intimidate us.

Well, it’s pretty intimidating anyway, being a foreigner in one of the most homogeneous cultures on earth. We stand out, and we get stared at, and for the most part I don’t mind. I know I look different, and that people are curious about me, and often the extra attention is as harmless as that. Sometimes an old man will be staring at me on the subway, only to eventually come out with “I welcome you with all my heart” in broken English. I’m different, but not everyone hates me for it.

Then there are the people who get angry if they hear English being spoken. Another old man on the subway once punched the train wall in fury at the (quiet!) English conversation I was having with a friend. The woman in the bathroom on Friday night wanted us to shut the hell up or speak Korean. Feeling despised in the country you currently live and work is a horrible way to end an otherwise lovely evening.

Then on Saturday at a coffee shop in the BEXCO centre, a young Korean couple with an enormous cake decided they had way too much to eat alone, and offered a massive portion to my friends who were sitting next to them. Together we did our best to demolish the (delicious) dessert, whilst chatting as best we could in their limited English and our limited Korean. It was sweet. They were curious, and generous, and reminded us that most Koreans are extremely kind people who are interested in foreigners, but not hateful. Those two kids, university students from Daegu, had excellent timing.

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