Tag Archives: seomyeon

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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In which I find where to get some tail in Busan.

4 May

Cat cafes are exactly what they sound like – a cafe full of cats. It’s a great idea for countries with a high-density population like Japan and South Korea. Most people in the cities here live in small apartments with limited space for pets, especially pets like cats which either have to go outside unattended (not a great idea in a busy city) or get all their exercise in a two room flat. Hmm… not ideal. So what do people who want cats, but don’t have the space for them, do? Well, they go to a cat cafe, of course!

As a cat lover with serious pet withdrawals I was excited to check out my local cat cafes. So far I’ve been to Yang Yang Cat Cafe in Nampo-dong, and a cat cafe in Seomyeon. Both times I only got some cat loving through grabbing a passing cat. The kitties are mostly in it for the treats, so if you don’t have any tuna you’re not going to get any tail. So to speak.

Many of the cats are beautiful purebreeds, so even just watching them hang out, play, and terrorise small Korean children was worth the 7,000 won entrance fee (for which you also get a cup of tea). When you arrive, you change into some slippers in the little anteroom, and then find a table. The staff are on hand to make sure the cats are safe and happy, and that the punters get some feline attention.

It’s basically a little kitty brothel. Is cat house a pun too far? Maybe. I loved it. At the place in Seomyeon we were passing a month old kitten around for cuddles. This is a genius idea if you ask me.

I was satisfied that the place was clean, and the cats well cared for. They seemed on the thin side, but not unhealthy. There was food and water constantly on offer, and plenty of places out of reach for the cats to retreat to if they were feeling harassed. Neither place smelled bad, and the staff were keeping an eye on everything to make sure the cats were happy. There were rules on the walls asking customers not to wake sleeping cats, or pull their tails, etc (I think – the rules were in Korean but there were some pictures!).

Next up, I’m going to have to try the dog equivalent! Currently I get all my dog loving by attacking passers-by whilst they walk their dogs on the beach…

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