People are taller, skirts are shorter, and there are fewer frozen yogurt shops. This is my comparison of 2004 Korea and 2010 Korea.
The younger people are in fact pretty tall; someone said that Koreans are the largest of the Asian races. Before I got here I stocked up on pants because I was convinced my status here would be Chubby Giant and any attempt to clothe myself with Korean-made garments would be fruitless, but I've seen myself enough larger-framed folks to give me hope. To recap my logic: I am bigger than the average Korean bear- better stock up- oh not everyone's tiny- I can go shopping! I'll stay away from the skirt racks though; I am shocked at the consistency at which I see micro-mini skirts and dresses just barely covering the bum. Koreans value pale and clear skin, big eyes, and long legs, and while they won't show off much up top, they'll hike up them hem lines. Generally though, the entire populace of Seoul is much more fashionable and dressed more formally than any city I've lived in. The men here love shiny suits (SHINY, for realsies), and the women are all in heels. The subway stations around universities especially may as well be catalogues. This CG's getting lessons on lookin' sharp!
I'm brushing up on my Korean. During orientation, there was an introductory class, and the teacher went over counting numbers. Hana, dul, set, net... and the way she said them- all slowly and seriously- triggered something of a stress reaction for me; it reminded me of when my mom used to count at us when she was angry ("I'll give you to the count of ten, or else...). *shudder. *love you Oma! Anyhoo, a lot of Korean's coming back to me, but I need to start some kind of formal study regimen. There are expats who have lived here for years and are still clueless about the language. For shame! The other day, though, I called my grandma and was just tickled I could have a rudimentary convo with her- "I'm at a restaurant eating Korean food, and it's raining outside. I miss you. I love you."
All of my fellow SMOE teachers are scared to put the garbage out. There are so many rules here and not enough people who can explain them and not enough public garbage cans. I've heard tales of midnight chores- people will take their banana peels and candy wrappers out under cover of night, ditch the evidence, and scamper back hoping they weren't seen. Who knew banana peels a criminal could make. What's inconsistent, though, is that while recycling is mandatory, Koreans I've seen aren't very particular about food waste. My mom's friend taught me how to ask to take our leftovers "to go" (pojahng hehjuesayo) and then explained how the practice was pretty un-Korean.
I had frisbee practice this weekend (yay!). There were between 30 and 40 folks gearing up for the big Korean tournament on Jeju island the first weekend in May. I'd say the ratio was about 3:1 foreigner to native Korean and 1:0 friendly to not. I heart frisbeers.
^^V is an emoticon that George showed me- it emulates the Korean habit of throwing up the Peace or Victory sign when being photographed. I asked him, "Victory over what?" and he said: "Everything."