From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

The Annoying People You May Meet On Your Commute


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:


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.

This photo shows a group of hikers perched in the middle of the subway going to Seoul Chuncheon Line. They were not only blocking the doors, they were also noisy and some of them were even drinking.


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.

Commuters pack a platform at Seoul Station in central Seoul after a subway train broke down and halted operations on line No. 1 for nearly five hours during morning rush hour. Korea Times photo by Kim Joo-sung


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.


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.


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 native land, 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,
she said,


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.)



7 thoughts on “The Annoying People You May Meet On Your Commute

  1. Reblogged this on Blessing Cafe and commented:
    A follow up to commuting:


  2. hahaha If sa pinas yan mangyari I am sure he will wake up naked. Wala na ang shoes nya, ang walet nya, ang suite nya baka pati ang undies nya. lol.. buti hindi pa nila itry gawin yan sa mga bandang Quiapo Manila. 🙂

    and as for away. Naku, hindi ko naman ugali yun. Wag lang ako uumpisahan. 🙂


  3. As for the poem, maganda nga na ituro yan sa kids… funny but with a moral. I used that to teach MANNERS to my ESL students eh. ^^

    Thanks for sharing your unpleasant experiences on commuting. Di pala ako nag-iisa. ^^

    Ingat ka… don’t make away ha? Baka ikaw naman ang next kong mapanood sa Youtube na inaaway ng ajumma or ajossi. Naku, wag naman sana, sis. =)


  4. I’ve seen the pic, Deym. ^^ Kung sa Pinas yan, gigisingin yan at itataboy, for sure. Dito kasi in Korea, common thing na lang ang ganyan na may nakahiga sa train and lasing na lasing, right?

    Nakwento ng Mommy ko… they saw a man lying on the ground just in front of our gate. Akala nila dead, then they noticed he was drunk lang pala… and he’s Korean. They wanted to help but they didn’t want to touch him, kasi baka mapagbintangan pa sila should something happen to the drunk man. (Alam mo naman ang mga Koreans sa Pinas.) So they called one of our Korean neighbors in the subdivision, and yun… they carried the drunk man home. Kakilala ata nila. My mom and my uncles were so surprised… feeling ata nila parang shooting sa pelikula. I told them here in Korea, people usually just ignore them kahit mahiga pa yan sa kalye or sa subway. ^^


  5. That’s what my husband tells me, too… people who act like those I have described in this post are Koreans who don’t have proper breeding.

    There are others, however, who are very considerate of others. I’ve seen some passengers who would offer their seat to an elderly who’s standing on the bus. In Seoul, younger people wait for leaving passengers to get off the train/subway before they board. (I’ve noticed that most ajummas and ajossis just barge in.) At least, it’s great to know that the youth know better than some older Koreans who think they are the king or queen of the world. ^^


  6. Hahahaha…I don’t usually take public transportations here in SK..However, I’ve observed those situations and some of them happened to me…Well, I was so disappointed by knowing that some of them were lack of discipline and insensitive..So irritating..My hubby is keep on telling me that those kind of people here are not well educated,rude and arrogant..hihihihi…disgusting..


  7. First, I really like the poem 🙂 Maybe I would share it to my piglets someday 🙂 it’s very cute..

    Second, I wanna share this pic I took when we attended the world marathon held here in Daegu last year. They extended the subway’s operation hours to accommodate the passengers who will attend the event. And here is what we saw when we get into the train. It was around 12am.

    This picture caught the attention of my fb friends and asked what if you’ll gonna do the same thing in the public transportation in the PH. hehehe

    I have lots of bad memories while commuting here in KR. I still remember my first ride on a subway, I am 7months pregnant at that time, since the train is jammed, my hubs lets me sit in the chair intended for old,disabled and pregnant people I had a big bulging belly and definitely I look like pregnant. But the three ajumma’s in front of me keep on saying “is she pregnant? or disabled?” and they keep on arguing whether I am pregnant or disabled. hahaha my annoyed hubs shouted at them and said “mind your own business and FYI she is 7months pregnant!”

    another experience was just recently, when an old guy ask me to give up my seat for him. but still he squish my arms and forced me to stand and give up my seat.. So I just asked him “do you have any disabilities sir? or maybe your brain is not functioning well?” He then started to curse me and that’s the start of our fight inside the bus :)) I wont be surprise if I could see a video of mine having a fight with that old guy on youtube or

    Anyway, I really have lots of funny experiences while commuting and I still hope some bad things wont happen again. hahahaha


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