If you are a regular commuter in South Korea, you would be surprised by so many things happening on a public transportation almost everyday. When I go to the hagwon and come back home, I take the bus and the train. It’s about an hour and a half commute, so you can just imagine how boring and tiring the travel can be.
I used to bring a book to read or my MP3 to listen to, but I have finished all the books I bought last month and I’m tired of listening to the same songs over and over again. I should really find time to go to Kyobo bookstore to buy me a new set of books, and maybe if my laptop works faster tonight, I will download new songs.
When there’s nothing else to do during my long commute, I can always take a nap, but perhaps it won’t do me any good when I’m exhausted. I missed my stop a few times before. I was so tired that I slept all the way to the last station! (Good thing, I have a “husband-in-shining-armor” who comes to the rescue all the time. ^^)
Now I’m trying to stay awake, at least on the train. It takes only 10-15 minutes anyway. In the process of “trying to stay awake”, I have developed the skill of observing other passengers‘ peculiarities and uncouth behavior.
Here are some of the annoying passengers you may encounter on your commute:
THE NOISY HIKERS
They usually come in groups, geared up for a hike. Most of them are ajummas and ajossis who seem to enjoy talking in high decibel level. Some of them are friendly. Yesterday, three ajumma hikers chatted with a group of teenage boys who got on the train and were “dressed like K-pop stars”. Though the ajummas asked the boys too many questions, the teens didn’t seem to mind, as the ajummas kept complimenting them.
Some of these noisy hikers can be pretty annoying, too, especially when they sit beside you and they won’t give your ears rest from their non-stop chatting. There are also those who think they own all the seats on the train. They put their big bags on the seat next to them, and no matter how many times you clear your throat so that they would put their bag down or on their lap to let you have that seat, you’d end up being ignored or worst… stared at.
THE DRUNKEN AJOSSIS
There is nothing acceptable about these drunkards who take pleasure in shouting, cursing and badgering other passengers. I thought that after my unnerving encounter with a drunk man on the bus, I would never again witness another drunk man making public nuisance during my commute, but a few months ago, there was an intoxicated ajossi who was forced to get off the train when he threw the soju bottle he was bringing and scared other passengers. That was the first time I have seen the train/subway guards in action. No one was hurt, except maybe the intoxicated man who had to be dragged out of the train at the next station.
I’m not talking about a mechanical device attached to the front or rear end of a car to absorb impact in a collision. I’m referring to those inconsiderate commuters who won’t wait for the passengers getting off the train to all step out before they enter. They bump into you like they don’t see you at all and they won’t even say sorry. They are merciless. They don’t care who gets hurt; they just care about getting on the train ASAP. Sometimes, Korean pali-pali culture can be a disadvantage, too.
THE VIRUS SPREADERS
Why won’t some people cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze in public? Surely they know that coughs and sneezes spread germs that can make others sick.
While standing on the bus one night, a man kept coughing on me. It felt like I was having a shower of germs above my head. I moved away from him as far as I could, but I couldn’t wait to get home and wash my hair.
Sometimes you will see a Korean spitting on the ground, but have you ever seen one spit inside a train? An old man left a souvenir just before he got off the train, and it was disgusting. Why, of all places, would he choose the train to spit on? Some people ought to be taught manners.
THOSE WHO WOULDN’T ANSWER THEIR PHONE
I do this sometimes, and it’s not a crime. If you don’t want to answer your phone when it’s ringing, it’s your choice, right? However, if you have the habit of IGNORING calls, why not put your phone in silent or vibration mode? Better yet, turn off the darn phone.
On the train ride home, an ajumma got angry when a young lady didn’t answer her mobile phone that had been ringing loud enough to wake up the dead… err… the sleeping ajumma.
The other night, an old couple did the same thing. Their phone had been ringing, but they didn’t seem to mind it. The passengers were obviously annoyed, but no one dared to speak. Maybe because they didn’t want to mess with an ajumma and an ajossi.
THE “LOUD SPEAKERS”
They talk on their phone EXTREMELY loud as if the person on the other line suffers from a hearing impairment, and because this has become such a common thing in our society (not only in SK), no one cares anymore… no matter how irritating.
I have read an amusing letter to the person talking loudly on his cell phone in public. How I wish it could be translated in Korean and be put up in every bus stop or train/subway station here.
Anywhere in the world, there are those who seem to forget their manners and act rude and selfish. We may have to deal with them here in Korea, in other countries, even in our own homeland, but there isn’t really much we can do by complaining or ignoring them, just like what happened to this poor old man who tried to reprimand a “barbaric” woman from smoking (and drinking) in the subway, and ended up soaked with the woman’s beer which she deliberately poured on him.
Change begins with the person himself. If we can’t change the way a person acts in public, the best we can do is to set a good example and not be like the rest of the boorish population of commuters.
See these foreigners? They think it’s cool to do what some less disciplined and inconsiderate Koreans do in public, or maybe they think no one would give a damn or speak to them in English… but they only angered passengers on the train. Good thing, a Korean college student who was studying in Canada, named Han Jeong-hyeon, stood up for the others who couldn’t talk to the ill-mannered foreigners.
(Read the rest of the story in Korean.)
I’m going to end this post by sharing a kindergarten poem about MANNERS, and what impact it makes on the lives of others.
My Dog Has Got No Manners
- My dog has got no manners.
I think he’s very rude.
He always whines at dinnertime
while we are eating food.And when he’s feeling thirsty
and wants to take a drink,
he takes it from the toilet
instead of from the sink.He never wears a pair of pants.
He doesn’t wear a shirt.
But worse, he will not shower
to wash away the dirt.He’s not polite to strangers.
He bites them on the rear.
And when I’m on the telephone,
he barks so I can’t hear.When I complained to Mommy,
- I thought you knew:
the reason that his manners stink—
he learns by watching you.
- (© 2004 by Bruce Lansky. Adapted from the poem in Rolling in the Aisles, published by Meadowbrook Press. This classroom theater play version of “My Dog Has Got No Manners ” is © 2005 by Meadowbrook Press.)
- Don’t Mess with Ajumma (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Things I Do in Korea that I Never Did in Pinas (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Seoul Subway Song (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Upset Woman Attacks Another Passenger on The Plane (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Korea’s “Pali-pali” Culture and It’s Dynamism (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Buying Oranges in Seoul: a moral dilemma (mappingwords.com)
- Chicken Tonight? (elwood5566.net)
- Should you consider a bicycle commute? (blessingcafe.wordpress.com)