Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Six Stages of Korean Anger

I am without any focus and with so much that needs to be done. I blame Seoul. I so dislike going to Seoul it just seems painful. Always so painful, the heat doesn't help, being lost doesn't help, commuting doesn't help.

Yesterday I am angry in Korean. Being angry in Korean actually takes special skills. I needed lunch. I'd arrived in Seoul and knew quite quickly that between the time I landed and heading to where I was going there would not be time for lunch. So I checked the time and figured I had time now.

I wanted a sandwich something simple, I also wanted protein. Being at the train station there were not a whole lot of options. I thought for a moment about getting a shrimp burger but I didn't want the fried, so I went upstairs and found the KFC.

KFC in Korea is confusing, but essentially the same things as in the US. They had a grilled chicken sandwich and I thought that might be nice for lunch. The problem was that this sandwich, which should have been slightly healthy, was slathered in mayonnaise, hot mustard sauce, and topped with a hash brown and cheese. For those of you who are reading from the States you might be thinking hash brown on the side, but you'd be wrong. There is a hash brown on the sandwich that is also covered in melted cheese.

So much for healthy.

Me, being me, I make to order. I ask for no mayo, no sauce of any kind really, and please, merry goddess, no hash brown. The harried Korean kid takes my money and I wait and get a sandwich and go sit down.

And open it up.

And it's the wrong sandwich.

Now, being that I'm trying to maintain a pleasantly good mood I go back up to the counter and ask in Korean for the kid, but the kid who is taking orders won't look at me. Instead an older cashier asks what's my problem. He asked in the rudest possible way in Korean, but hey, I'm trying to maintain a pleasantly good mood so I pretend not to notice that I've just been insulted all to hell and say that my sandwich is not correct and repeat the original order.

He gets huffy. That was sort of what pushed me over the edge. It is not common for people to custom order sandwiches anywhere in Korea. Actually a custom order of any kind is almost always confusing. There is a way things are made. This is the way they are made now. This is how they will be made tomorrow. This will not change. Don't expect it to change, and goodness there is no good reason to try to alter something which has been previously decided to be a good formula. Allergies, who cares? Dietary restrictions, unheard of. You order something you are going to get it Korean style, which is the scientifically determined best way to serve something. If it is a western something it will be served with lots of mayonnaise. If it is a Korean it will be served with lots and lots of red pepper. If it is a Chinese something it will be served with extra grease. If it is a Japanese something we will give it a Korean name and pretend it never came from Japan at all and is actually Korean and the Japanese are just confused. If it is an Italian something we will get a little confused and forget what we are doing and just make something that is the same color. Welcome to Korean Fusion cuisine. When in doubt add more red pepper, red beans, or mayo.

I don't really care that much. I know that it is a pain to custom order something. I know it always take at least five minutes of waiting to get a custom ordered something, no matter what or where I am, it will take extra time. I'm patient, I don't mind, and I rarely send anything back.

Unless you get huffy.

So they get huffy and I try to remain friendly while I wait another five minutes for the new sandwich. I sit down, I open it up.

I grip the table in white knuckled rage. A, my rage is coming out white knuckled now that can't be good. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe its Seoul, maybe it's the fact that they spent five minutes making a sandwich exactly the way it was advertised without making any changes, but adding extra potato and mayonnaise so I would be sure not to miss it. I was pissed.

At this point I'd spent twenty minutes playing with a fast food lunch. A lunch that I basically just needed to keep from passing out during the afternoon stuff I had going on. So now I was pissed.

I walked back up to the counter and called to both kid and older guy. I got no response.

That was when I got angry in Korean.

The first step to getting angry in Korean is the face. You must make an angry Korean face. The Korean angry face is not an easy thing to manage. It's sort of a special face that shows every once of displeasure you have ever managed to have put into a face that has the impact of being both puppydoggish and pissed.

First you make the face.

Step 2: Then you let your voice get low with a bit of a twist in your pronunciation.

Step 3: Then you add –sh to the end of all your sentences.

Korean sentences typically end in –yo which makes things rather polite.

Ending –sh is the equivalent of adding fuck to all of your sentences. For example:

Mak-ju ju-say-yo. (May I have a beer please?)

Makju ju-say-shhhhhh. (May I have a fucking beer?)

The second pronunciation while subtle, when intonated correctly will either get you a beer or help towards more quickly wearing a beer.

Now, having accomplished step one, two, and three, I was ready for step four, angry slamming of things.

Followed by step five which is the demanding temper tantrum.

And the final step six, which is the most upsetting step in being angry in Korean. Speaking English. Now this may sound like we have suddenly become angry in English, but we haven't. When you get angry in Korean it is very important that at some point you move from being coherent to blindly incoherent. I find that speaking in English really speeds up this process.

I was just so very angry and they were so very, very rude.

So I followed the proper procedure for being right pissed in Korea and demanded my money back, which they gave me very quickly when they realized I was right pissed. They gave me back my money and I took off almost late for my meeting and very hungry. I didn't get to eat until I got home around 830 pm which made for a long hungry, tiring day yesterday.

I honestly have no idea why food has been such an issue lately. I've always been picky but the last few days have been further increasing the unbearableness of my picky eating habits. Maybe I should just give up. It seems some days like everyone else gives up rather then coping. At least with the attempt to cope I get to experience the six stages of Korean anger.

Today is hot, and unfocused. At least I don't have to go to Seoul.


Tony said...

I love it! I like the six stages of Korean anger and it sounds as if you executed them flawlessly with the end result being what you needed. I broke out laughing when you revealed the greatest influence was when the rage progressed to ranting in English. I can imagine that would make one sound like a demon possessed lunatic under the right circumstances.

Thanks again for your wonderful storytelling.


They did that just to kiss you off. It is typical Korean passive-agressive behavior.
1. They didnt make it like you wanted even though they probably understood you.
2. Refused to talk to you after you tried to get the order right.
3. Packed on the extras you didnt want.
They probably are still laughing at you.I am not laughing at you. Sorry, sister, but this is Korea.

total-spender said...

"The second pronunciation while subtle, when intonated correctly will either get you a beer or help towards more quickly wearing a beer."

Love it.

(And yes, Seoul is a shit hole of the highest order).

Saradevil said...

Thanks for stopping in. Speaking English is wonderfully affective when done angry in Korea. If I can figure up a way to make it sound more poetic I might submit it to Bonez.

Mostly it was just annoying. It's not typical, but it is what I expect when I'm in Seoul. Yet one more reason why I do not live in Seoul.


I always debate whether I want to be drinking my alcohol or wearing my alcohol before ordering. It's usually the former, although it's so hot right now I'd consider both.

Tony said...

Hey, don't snazz it up for Bonez, Baby... just let your angry Korean English hang out all over the place and enjoy your freedom of expression to the max.

Uh... oh, were you sort of suggesting you may be interested in a co-authorship position on the Bonez Crew? We would be humbly honored if it were so.

Mike Bohemoth said...

Uh-oh...I think you might have backed down too early. Had the tantrum escalated to shouting and throwing shit, not only would you have gotten the correct sandwich but they either would have committed ritual seppukku (or what ever the gochu-jjang slathered Korean version is called)or signed the entire restaurant over to you right then and there, fleeing...with their shirts covering their faces.

Sorry to say, but an effective tantrum in Korea usually ends in not just getting what you originally asked for, but a great deal of "suh-biss" or the like. Constantly escalate...or remain disturbingly calm and then suddenly explode into a torrent of English and Korean expletives.

Special orders don't upset people here, they simply can't understand one person getting WHAT THEY WANT if it's different from what everyone else gets.

Jill said...

I never knew I could get angry in Korean! I'm sure there must be a Korean neighborhood here in Houston where I could practice on the off chance that I ever leave this continent...

I'm sorry you didn't get your sandwich. :-(

It's not like it's so VERY much better at fast food places in the US, which is why I told my mom awhile back, "MOM! Don't ask that person for DIRECTIONS! That person barely knows how to make a SANDWICH!!!!" Then again, I'm always against asking anyone for directions.

callie said...

WHOA....gurl.......No more fast foods..LOL
Do sack lunches.


kodeureum said...

I hope you never advance to the eighth or ninth stages, being pushed around by junior policemen (eighth) or punching a junior policemen in the side of the head because he stupidly refuses to apologise for calling your daughter's babysitter a whore...

...I think I might have told you that story already.

Saradevil said...

@ K

I think I missed that story, if you be in a bar tonight you can catch me up. If you be not in a bar tonight perhaps you can catch me up next Wednesday before I feel the Koop for ten days.

I once had a friend order toast in Korea. He was apparently looking very confused when he ordered and asked what toast was, being in Korea and things here being generally different.

Little old Korea lady comes up and tells her, it's Toast, it's like a sandwich.

I just want to be an individual like everyone else.

I might have something to drop on your head. I'll take a stab at it.

Saradevil said...


Are you the Callie I know?

Good advice, and oddly I almost always pack my own lunch but just hadn't had time to do it on that particular day. Go figure.

kodeureum said...

I'll shake a leg and serenade next Wednesday. Perhaps I should even write "The Ballad of the Subway Strike".

John C said...

HEY! Now I know why I can't make friends with immigrating Koreans as much.

I keep telling their little ones to 'Shhhh' nicely.

Saradevil said...

Yeah, John, in Korea shh is a dirty word. So is "I've got your nose." which is apparently worse then flipping someone off. However I didn't find this out until after playing "I've got your nose" with a group of kindergarten students only to have a bunch of angry parents call and report me for horribly insulting their children.