“What year were you born?”

In almost every first encounter made in Korea, it is essential to figure out the age of the person you’re talking to. Since the Confucian idea of respecting your elders still holds true even with a one year age differential, knowing someone’s age is essential to figuring out if you’re higher on the social ladder than they are. Continue reading

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Fan Death

2014-06-06 12.57.18I don’t particularly care for Korean summers. The days are hot and disgustingly humid and the humidity causes the phenomenon known as “tropical night,” which are nights where the temperature stays above 25 degrees celsius (77 degrees fahrenheit) and it’s sticky and horrible. Although turning on the air conditioner can bring down both the temperature and humidity to survivable levels, constant air conditioning leads to high electric bills which are very expensive in Korea. Besides, air conditioners often don’t cover all the rooms in a house. I know this from personal experience, since for about fifteen years of my…fifteen years in Korea, all three of the rooms I’ve lived in have been isolated from the rest of the house from the life-giving winds of the air conditioner in the living room. But wait, you say, couldn’t you just turn on a fan in your room? Why, of course I could have, and I did have an electric fan that I had in my room. But my mom insisted that I set the timers on the fan for two hours, after which it would power down and the oppressive sticky heat would return in force. Why mother, why?

It wasn’t because of the aforementioned electric bill. Fans don’t consume quite as much electricity as air conditioners do, and I think that it might have been more cost-efficient to just set up five fans around the bed and blast them all night. But that would have caused my dear mother even greater amounts of consternation. Why? Because leaving the fan on overnight might have killed me. Continue reading