Korea has changed me in more ways than one. But the biggest change has to do with one word: SHOPPING. I was never a big fan of shopping back in the States. My sisters (all four of them at times) would drag me to the mall and I would get incredibly bored after 30 minutes… make me stay 2 hours? I was a big ball of hot-furry-can’t-stand-this-mall-I-am-getting-claustrophobic. Okay that last part is a lie, I tend to exaggerate and was only that dramatic when I was ten and still threw full out arms and legs kicking temper tantrums. Usually, after two hours of shopping I just dragged my feet and tried to hold my head up to mutter an un-enthusiastic: “yes, I like that shirt… yes the 374th one you tried on.”
If my sisters would just suck in up and spend their life-savings to come visit me in Korea they would see a changed woman. First of all, shopping is everywhere in Korea, the sidewalks, dark alleys, actual stores, subways, other random underground areas, your apartment building… you just can’t avoid it. So you have to LOVE IT. Which is what I have done. One of the better, nicer places to go shopping in Korea is Myeong-dong (they also have the cheapest and BEST ICE CREAM which is a very important detail). They have all kinds of stores, big department stores, cute little boutiques, and up and down every road are the street vendors, or whatever you call them.
The only problem with shopping in Korea is… well Koreans. I mean, the culture. I love Koreans. Really, I do. It’s just when you go in a store the workers are on you like bees on a flower, flies on a sticky tape sheet thing, they follow so close and speak to you in Korean trying to convince you to buy whatever it is you happened to glance at. This just isn’t something I am used to being from North America. People like space over there, here… not so much. They have girls dancing in short skirts outside shops screaming into a megaphone at you as you walk past. Most of them don’t even need a megaphone.
The worst most interesting tactic (I am trying really to stay away from negative words when it comes to describing Korea, I like it here- I like it!) is when people actually reach out and TOUCH YOU as they try to pull (yes physical pull) you over to their display or into their store. I was in Myeong-dong with some friends last week when I saw these cool plastic apples outside a beauty shop and I picked one up to look at it. This lady immediately came over, smiled, and spoke to me (in Korean, since I live in Korea, did you know?) motioning to the fake apples. I smiled and set it down and she didn’t like that so she reached out and grabbed my arm trying to get me to come into the store. I pulled my arm away and said in my head out loud, “don’t touch me, don’t touch me, don’t touch me!”
My friend Tami laughed and I realized I spoke a loud and tried to give an innocent shrug. WHAT? I don’t like strangers touching me!
I am wearing shorts under my dress at work right now. Weird? Well, let me tell you something, the last time my thighs didn’t touch was probably before I hit puberty and when you walk to work in the hot/muggy Korean summer heat (it’s the beginning of June and feels like the hottest day in July in Michigan) and you start to sweat it is just PLAIN uncomfortable when your legs rub together. So don’t judge me. No one can tell, I still have style.