There may be some eyebrows raised by those of you who’ve never been to Korea, but what I’m about to tell you is true. It may also seem like it is exaggerated, or in need of censorship, but this is a serious anthropological study.

In Korea, humour often pertains to the anus, much like in the West. Penises aren’t as funny here, and we NEVER speak about breasts or vaginas. Everything revolves around the ass – from childhood to old age, everyone laughs at a cartoon piece of poop, or a man being raped by a large spear.

On TV, one will frequently chance upon a talking turd, or a cartoon boy with his pants down and his back turned. Combine these images and you have the funniest image of all – someone taking a dump. All kids – boys AND girls will gladly show you what it looks like, by smiling, squatting and pretending to fire one out in the middle of a classroom. There is no explaining the feeling of disgust one gets watching such a realistic display. When the kids wince and grunt, I wonder if they’ll actually soil themselves…

“I’ll never trust another old person,” Bart Simpson once said, and for that nugget of wisdom I’ve always half-respected him. The fact is the elderly are as capable of screwing you over as a menacing looking teenager, or a hardass, stoneface punk twenty-something. Worse, the elderly won’t just take you for a ride… They’ll say they ‘fleeced’ you and call you a ‘rube’. Of course, if you trust the elderly, you can have no complaints about being called a ‘rube’. That’s just exactly what you are.

And that’s exactly what I am. A rube. A pure-bred, plain-as-day rube. I met an old man and let him have his wicked way, and he damn well did it on national TV. No, not Korean national TV, which is of interest only to Koreans, and which is so backward, racist and pedophilic that no one could seriously give a fuck what is said there… but the BBC!

Being fleeced like a rube on the BBC is like being pantsed at your wedding, or outed at your funeral. It makes you look more foolish for not realizing that you were being watched… by several million people. You didn’t just fail to notice one person rape your dignity – you failed to notice an audience of millions, or their cameras, lighting or sound equipment.

 

It’s strange, but as an immature male who is learning another language, I’ve never really thought a lot about swearing in Korean… I know a few words, but not many, and I’m not even sure if the ones I know are real, or if people are just screwing with me and telling me fake words. Mostly, I learn bad words through my friend, Brian, who in turn learns them from the Korean players on his football team. So when I do learn a word, it’s never written down or put entirely in context, and I’m left to wonder whether the pronunciation is lost, like in Chinese Whispers…

I’ve never owned a Korean dictionary, either, because I use two textbooks when I learn (Korean Made Easy andFirst Step in Korean). Consequently, my grasp of grammar is decent enough, whereas my vocabulary sucks. The people who help me learn are generally co-workers, and random people I meet when out and about. Not many of them talk about genitals or excrement.

Indeed, it may be “the cabbage you can ravage with the chilli paste taste,” but kimchi isn’t that amazing. I mean, taste is subjective and everything, but can anything really be so awesome that an entire nation of people could be obsessed with it? Even in America people vary their fast-food diets. One day it’s fried chicken and the next it’s hamburgers, and sometimes it’s a pizza. But in Korea, people are so crazy about kimchi that it goes beyond ridiculous. It’s something that has to be experienced to be understood, and I think it’s impossible to exaggerate the love Koreans have for their national dish.

I’d never even heard of the stuff until I came to Korea, and when I was presented with a side dish of it at dinner, I thought, Hmm, this is ok. It was indeed palatable, but nothing special. The next day I was given it for lunch, then dinner. And the next day. And the next. Pretty soon I opted to pass over the kimchi. It wasn’t that it tasted awful, but rather that it just wasn’t good enough to eat twice a day.