Monday, June 9, 2008

Is it just me . . .


. . . or is this too close for comfort? During a recent late night subway ride through Seoul, I watched the guy on the right make pillows out of four different passengers. Each lucky passenger appeared to be a stranger to Mr. Sleepyhead. As I watched each scenario play out, I was more baffled by the response of the "pillows" than by the utter disregard for personal space coming from Mr. Sleepyhead. Several months ago I blogged about the lack of recognition, or at least respect, of personal space in Seoul. I suppose I've become accustomed to the pushing and shoving in the subway, random people touching my hair out of curiosity, and even retail store employees physically pulling me off the street and into their store to check out the merchandise. Some space invaders still catch me off-guard, though. Last weekend an elderly woman approached me from behind, slipped her hand under the sleeve of my t-shirt and roughly tugged on it to get my attention. She was asking for 1,000 won (about $1), but the audacity of her approach and the resulting torn hem in my t-shirt sleeve left me feeling irritated, and far from benevolent.

In some respects, I believe Korea's "touch culture" is refreshing. Men of all ages are comfortable embracing one another in public and walking down the street with arms slung over each others' shoulders. I've seen men my age mess with each others' hair on the subway. They aren't subject to the homophobic scorn and accusations they'd likely receive in Korea (although Korean society is certainly homophobic--it's just that "gays don't exist in Korea"--ha!). Perhaps I'm the old fuddy duddy, not willingly offering up my shoulder to random sleepyheads. Watching Mr. Sleepyhead on the subway Saturday night I wondered, "What would Abby do?" I'm fairly certainly I would have left my seat as soon as his head hit my body, even if it meant standing for the rest of my 30-minute ride. Am I the rude one?

1 comment:

Anna Collins said...

I would be so horrifid if some lady ripped my shirt and asked for a dollar. I would complain to her and ask her, "where's \my\ dollar!!!?"

Which leads me to the quetion... is Korea still abit Confusionist in the way of where respect is given? like Elders> Father> Son> mother> daughter> and last, younger?

LOVE your blogs! Always thoughtful and interesting!

Frm Texas, Anna