I’m from Boston. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not actually a perfectly badass, naturally cool, always charming sports fanatic. I’m a former undergrad who moved to South Korea four months ago, where I’ve been teaching English, occasionally clamming up in social situations and I guess being really brave and stuff. Here are five things I never thought I’d miss about the States.
1. The Kardashianspleasedontstopreading
There’s a siren ringing outside my window. It’s been going off for a minute and a half now but I know why. It’s an ambulance stuck at a red light because in Korea, nobody seems to pull over for them. That’s ridiculous! You know what else is a little ridiculous? Me, because I really miss the Kardashians.
Those girls breathe in oxygen and exhale superiority. They radiate flawlessness. That’s a pretty tough thing to do—radiate flawlessness. On a good day I pull out a dress I haven’t worn in a while and muster up enough conversational words to radiate mediocrity. Not them. They sip coffee behind tinted windows and glide strikingly through layers of flashing camera lights. It’s all a little mesmerizing.
I’m fascinated with well decorated master bedrooms and real gold zippers because I’m just this girl who hangs two umbrellas on her closet doorknob, you know? I’m someone who occasionally empties a pile of receipts and tampons on the floor of a public area when she grabs her purse from the wrong end, which is okay with me. But some people don’t have those moments, and I’m really curious about it.
I miss watching new episodes with my roommate, talking sh** about our neighbors during commercials and discussing how maybe I’ll develop a taste for red wine. I have no desire to live a photo shoot lifestyle. All I’m saying is that I miss watching the Kardashians. Also, that I sorta miss hearing about them.
It was so different in Boston. I spent a lot of time underground, red lining it and green lining it and orange lining it through the city. I used to sit Indian style on the train wearing pink sneakers and a college sweatshirt, bopping to a song I heard on Ellen. Sometimes I’d f**k around in a notebook or rummage through my purse when the ride got boring.
Usually, though, the subway’s filled with people who are nuts or who don’t regard the general public as any reason to postpone a cheeky conversation. It’s where I could part my hair in the window reflection while pretending I didn’t happen to have a list of opinions, about no one I know, scrolling through my head like movie credits. It’s where a stranger’s shirt said something funny and where an advertisement almost had me thinking I should get groceries delivered. Sometimes I’d ask which stop we’re at.
Living in a foreign country has been the coolest thing I’ve ever done. That being said, if there’s any type of interesting or personal exchange happening a few feet away, I’d just really prefer to have the option of quietly tuning in. Here, it’s just me and my thoughts left alone, out of our element.
I’m typing this at a coffee shop, where there’s a curious bulletin board hanging above the milk and a bunch of chatter that only amounts to white noise. It’s so peculiar. I’m sitting at a small circular table near the register surrounded by mannerisms, clothing choices, voice tones, and facial expressions.
I guess that to me, it’s one of the strangest aspects of this adventure I’m on. But once in a while, when I see a sign on the subway or read the Korean side of a menu, I can sound out the characters I’ve been memorizing and form a familiar word. It’s just a tiny accomplishment that leaves me feeling like 1,119,350,000 Korean won. (See what I did there?)
3. Yoga Pants and Sweatshirts
I already explained about being here at a small corner table of this coffee shop, but there’s something else. It’s Saturday morning and it seems again today, that I’m the only one who just rolled out of bed. It’s really busy here, and the Koreans are all stunning per usual.
It blows my mind. I just ordered a second coffee. The girl in front of me was wearing a long floral scarf and thickly framed glasses. Around me, they’re dolled up in high waisted skirts and skinny heels with black tights, even on this day I thought was designed for yoga pants.
Saturday mornings are pretty standard in Boston, a long line for coffee filled with a crowd who definitely couldn’t go to work in their weekend attire. It’s comfortable and expected. Here, everyone appears very becoming and put together all the time.
I admire how lovely they are, but I still don’t mind too much that my ensemble occasionally gives me away as left of center. I think I’ll always prefer oversized sweatshirts on the days drenched in relief of no responsibility, but I miss when everyone else was in on it, too.
At home, it’s completely normal to pour chemicals into your coffee, cereal and everything else you consume. It’s not at all unusual to enhance coffee with a powdery pinch of unnatural elements that are made to taste sweet like sugar, but are not sugar at all and are potentially damaging in so many ways, yet do not harm your very necessary low-cal diet. I really miss that.
Koreans are so much better at being human. It’s actually usually impossible to find little packets of chemicals at any of their coffee shops. The only choices are white sugar, which comes in a white packet, and brown sugar, which comes in a brown packet. It’s so simple and sensible, and yet so not compatible with my hundred dollar monthly gym membership.
I know how this sounds and I’m not particularly proud, but honestly it’s only a matter of time until I break down and have my family send a box of Sweet-n-Low, blonde shampoo and a bunch of other stuff I can’t possibly live without.
5. Non-problematic Elevator Rides
Maybe I was just lucky during the 24 years I lived in the US, but this is a new experience for me. I step onto the elevator and a few bewildered seconds later I’m pinned against the back wall peeking frantically through shifting heads that all appear to belong to some individual who is in a huge rush. That’s when it happens.
The elevator announces some sort of error message. It means there’s too much weight. As in, we’re all weighing the elevator down and the group of us must figure out some sort of plan to get this thing back to working properly. It usually involves a flashing red light, a non-lyrical tune and me thinking I’d like to volunteer myself for this one.
I’ve realized that my lack of familiar language and the other passengers’ understandable disinterest in whatever the hysterical foreigner is stammering on about, leaves me no way of successfully communicating my sacrifice in time. I watch one person stroll off and a moment later we’ve begun our journey.
I try to tell myself that thankfully, someone got off the elevator. Otherwise, we would undoubtedly be plummeting to our deaths. But wait WHAT? What the hell kind of man made contraption is this? I’m on some sort of makeshift machinery that’s a few pounds away from another slip-up. I miss when the suspense of being pancaked by a free-falling elevator was only a ride you needed a fast-pass for.