Occasionally I stop at the nice dunkin donuts in the same building due to the high-quality coffee and incredibly helpful staff. Try asking for a little bit of soy milk in your coffee at a dunkin donuts on the east coast, I’m sure that you will receive neither soy, nor milk. The wait staff at this fine mirror-world establishment are also extremely polite and considerate to everyone. Greeting you with the most pleasant version of “Annyeong-haseyo” (Hello) you’re likely to hear while in Korea. I’m still not sure if this is scripted like in American stores or not; Most other Korean restaurateurs and shopkeepers say Hello and Goodbye as well.
However, everyone on the subway is politely inconsiderate to each other.
Yesterday while standing in the line — side note, the government created a policy a few years ago where everyone has to stand in a marked queue for each door on the train because otherwise people won’t even let anyone get off the train as they try to force their way into the too-crowded train — an old woman was standing behind me and basically hitting me in the back with her grocery bag every time she turned to look around. So I stepped an inch forward in line to get out of the way. Then she moved about a foot forward along with everyone in line behind her.
This is probably the example most representative of what people would think is incredibly rude about Korea. However, nobody intends to be rude, this is simply the way it is. The government and the people recognize that this is unfriendly for any visitors or regular tourists, and so they create policies like the one I mentioned earlier. Maybe every few years they’ll introduce more order into things until the populace appears polite enough so that folks like me won’t notice.
However, I doubt that they’ll be able to fix all of the problems. If you aren’t watching where you’re going here, you’ll get run over when crossing a street. What your mothers told you about looking both ways has never been so necessary and true. Drivers here race around corners at all times of the day or night. The only times I’ve seen them slow are when they’re being particularly nice to a certain red-headed foreigner who is obviously wearing his or her headphones and not paying attention to their surroundings.
I saw something on the BBC TV channel about an auto-inflatable airbag for motorcycle riders, primarily. I’m debating picking one up along with a flak-jacket just to survive the next attempt on my life.
Speaking of the BBC TV channel…