Korean Stereotypes in Action

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t written much about South Korea or Korean culture lately.  Maybe that is a good sign (assimilation?) or maybe it is just laziness.  Either way, as I was lamenting my lack of material, a new experience just dropped into my lap.  Isn’t that just the way of things?

See this lovely market?  It just opened up about 100 steps from my front door.  How lucky am I, right?  Very lucky, indeed.  This picture was taken last Tuesday, the first day it was open.

We (my ducklings and I) were headed out to buy some groceries at the local OK Mart, when on our way we stumbled upon this lovely little treasure.  We decided to go in and check it out.

Not only is it convenient, but it provides for some interesting perspectives on Korean culture.*

Koreans are Efficient
No less than three weeks before opening, this market was a functioning restaurant.  Other than its basic shape, it was a completely different looking building.  Hello?  A complete store remodel in under 3 weeks?  It takes longer than that to get permits to even think about remodeling in the good old U.S. of A.

Koreans are Hardworking
See paragraph above. There was construction on this bad boy 7 days a week for almost 3 weeks.  Most Koreans don’t work early in the morning (Have I mentioned Korea is called “The Land of the Morning Calm?”) but they do work all day and well into the evening.

Koreans are Trustworthy
Many items are stacked outside, out of sight of employees.  There is even a whole section for household good built into an exterior wall. I will admit it’s possible that there are cameras or some such other security measures in place outside, but I couldn’t see any.  The reality is that theft is not a big problem here. I couldn’t tell you if it’s due to a sense of honor or fear of reprisal, but either way it’s pretty cool.

Koreans Know the Value of Space
As in every urban environment, space is a valuable commodity.  Every Korean market I’ve been to, with the exception of department stores, maximize the use of their space.  There is no storeroom to speak of.  Everything is out and stacked neatly for all to peruse.   Sure, it makes for narrow aisles, but that’s okay. (It’s not like I might inadvertently knock things over with my ginormous baby in a carrier while swiveling around to search for my 2 year old.  Oh no.  That almost neeeeeeever happens.)

Koreans Appreciate Fresh Food
This market is a a little larger than a stateside 7-11 (they have those here, too, but they are much smaller) but it is jam-packed with fresh ingredients.  A butcher counter, a sizable produce section, lots of eggs and a decent dairy refrigerator leave little room for junk food.  Sure, they have ramyun (ramen), chips, ice cream, and dried/fried fish (a common snack here) but those only take up 2 rather short aisles.  The vast majority of the store is FRESH food!  Can you believe it?

Koreans Appreciate Beautiful Presentation
Everywhere I go, I am struck by how food is presented.  At outdoor markets, Korean vendors (almost invariably older women) stack their wares in beautiful arrangements, usually in these ubiquitous maroon-colored plastic bowls.  This market is a little different (no bowls) but everything is arranged in a way that is very pleasing to the eye.

(I wanted to take more photos, but I was too shy.  I plan to shop there a lot and I didn’t want to be referred to as the “crazy mi-guk (American) who takes pictures of random food.”  I figure I push the envelope enough as “the crazy mi-guk who drags her 4 fair children through our store and buys absurd amounts of eggs and carrots.”)

And one final tidbit… I had to ask my neighbor how to pronounce the name of this store.  It is written in a script that confused me a little bit.  It is apparently named “dah guh reen.”  As in “Dark Green!”  Koreans are so funny with their use of English in everyday language.

Now that I’ve officially procrastinated most of my evening away, it’s time to go get packing for our first Korean camping trip!  On a beach!  Yippeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* I am well aware that there are Koreans who procrastinate, are lazy, who steal, who waste space, who eat junk food (all the kids do), and who could care less how something looks.  These are broad generalizations, of course.  But there are certainly some commonalities within their culture that promote these characteristics.


  1. I love reading your blog b/c I find your insight on Korean people/culture to be frank yet open minded but most of all entertainIng and mostly spot on. Keep the posts comIng!

    *p.s. The first part of the store’s name is actually pronounced duh rather than dah so it’s more like ‘The Green.’ if this is an annoying know-it-all correction, feel free to ignore 🙂

  2. Rosy, thank you! And SO not annoying! You are totally right about the pronunciation. I think I must have misunderstood my friend. 🙂

  3. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog in Homeschoolers in Korea on facebook. We are moving to Busan in one month. We have two girls (6,4) and two boys (2, 3months). We are excited but of course a bit nervous. I have a feeling reading your blog will help ease some nerves 🙂 You have a beautiful family!

    • Anastasia, how exciting! The beach in Busan is beautiful. We have two and two as well! And our kids are somewhat close in age: girls are 7 and 5, boys are 3 and 18 months. Get in touch when you get here and maybe we can coordinate a trip to the Busan Aquarium.

  4. Korean = win.