Tag Archives: ajumas

Ajumas for a Friday

20 Apr

It’s Friday! My Fridays are actually one of my busiest days. I have three lessons back to back in the morning, which is no fun. Especially as it’s grade 2 then grade 3, then grade 2 again! I get so confused…

Anyway, I get a little break around lunch time, but it isn’t long enough for me to get stuck into my lesson planning (and it’s a light load next week anyway) but it’s too much time to be able to waste on Facebook, so I’m going to post about ajumas.

Ajumas are a phenomenon that every waygook (that’s foreigner) who comes to Korea will become very familiar with. The term basically means older married woman, but it becomes synonymous with Korean old ladies.

Korean old ladies all have the same spiral perm, and the same uniform of outdoor wear (usually North Face hiking gear from head to toe, sometimes in multiple clashing colours) and a visor. They’re little, and adorable, and also the bossiest, rudest, pushiest people on the planet!

In Korea, being elderly means everyone has to respect you, and no one can tell you off, so you can get away with anything. Mostly this manifests as pushing people about, especially on public transport. I mean this literally – if I’m trying to get off a packed subway train and there’s an ajuma behind me, most often she’ll wedge her forearm across my lower back and use me like a snow plough to barge her way through the press of people. I’ve come to expect it, and I now know exactly how much resistance to put up to make sure I stay on my feet, but get out of the way!

The ajumas of Dongdaesin-dong (my local area) seem to be a friendly bunch. One day whilst I was waiting for a subway train, an ajuma decided to chat to me. Undeterred by the fact that I didn’t understand a word she was saying, she babbled away at me in Korean until the train arrived, when she gave me a handful of hard-boiled sweets and a a huge grin for my trouble.

Recently in my local pharmacy, I was set upon by a gaggle of older ladies telling me (in Korean, but with miming) how beautiful and tall and thin I am (Koreans seem fascinated by my height as I’m about 10cm taller than the national average). When I said thank you in Korean (“gamsa hapnida”) they burst out laughing, repeating me and nodding and smacking me on the back. When I smiled and bowed they were even more pleased, and started patting me all over like a dog who’d mastered a particularly impressive trick. It was completely adorable.

So there you go! I’m sure I’m likely to have even more run-ins with Korean ajumas during my time here. Personally I enjoy their cantankerous old lady shtick, so I’ll continue to accept my sweets, pats, shoves, and tellings-off with a smile.

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