Tag Archives: restaurant

That’s Just Gross – Top 5

Koreans take immense pride in the fact that, over the course of about 30 years, the country dug itself out of poverty and into its current place as one of the world’s 20 richest nations. And they should be proud – their meteoric rise to world power is unparalleled.

Despite the fact that life in Korea is nearly as convenient as life in the US, there are some third-world tendencies that haven’t been updated  as quickly as the nation’s technology and infrastructure. The thing that freaks me out the most on a day-to-day basis in Korea is the general ignorance of (or unwillingness to adhere to) basic sanitation rules.



5) Hand washing

This is not just a Korean problem. It’s one that bothers me in the US also. It is rare for me to see a Korean man wash his hands properly after using the restroom. Soap is rare in Korean bathrooms, and seldom used when available.

4) Coughing / Sneezing

When Koreans cough or sneeze, they simply don’t pay attention to where they are aiming. This is arguably no worse than coughing into one’s hands, as many older Americans were taught to do, but it’s still disgusting. I have been sneezed and coughed on by just as many adults as kids, and I work in an elementary school.

Source: Tripadvisor

Source: Tripadvisor

3) Food Cleanliness

I have had several issues with food cleanliness in Korea. At a restaurant, I showed a waitress a hair in my food, and she just laughed. I got a similar reaction when I showed a fellow teacher a dead bug in some food served at school. Sure, there’s no way to prevent the occasional contaminant in food, but their attitude toward food contamination left me a little weary.

2) Wet Napkins

When the weather is hot, I love wiping my face with the wet cloth napkins that are handed out with silverware at many Korean restaurants (not to be confused with disposable sanitary wet napkins). They are usually rolled neatly neatly and packed in plastic sleeves, which left me with the impression that they are clean. After watching me wipe my mouth with a wet napkin several times, a Korean friend told me that many Korean restaurants soak the napkins in a bucket of water after they are used and roll them up again for the next customer. He worked in a restaurant where the same water was often used all day for hundreds of customers.

Source: Sam Hurt

Source: Sam Hurt

1) Plates and Dishes

I began paying attention to the treatment of dirty plates and dishes after one of my high school students told me about his experience working at a hotel in Daegu. To save time, his boss instructed him to wipe off dirty drinking glasses with the dirty shower towels to save time while cleaning a room. Since then, I’ve noticed a couple of restaurants with awful sanitation practices. The worst was a local bar where a waitress cleaned dirty glasses by rinsing them under the tap and using her unwashed hands to scrub the rim.

Although these unsanitary practices bother me more than the average (well-adjusted) person, I think they should be at least a little disturbing to everyone. This shouldn’t stop you from visiting Korea, but it should be a reminder to always keep hand-sanitizer close.

Until next time.


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Just When You Thought…

Just when you thought I couldn’t get any sexier…this happened.


I was out WAY too late last night. I left the bar, thinking that it was 3am, and found the sun coming up. As you might imagine, I am tired today.

I took a quick snooze at the table before lunch and woke up to the sound of my friends taking pictures. It took me a minute to realize what was going on.


No more sleeping at the table for me.

Until next time.


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Dirty Kimbap

On my way home from school yesterday, I decided to take a walk through the old neighborhood and visit the kimbap restaurant that I frequented last year. It’s called Kimbap Heaven (김밥천국). I went there every morning and bought the same thing: tuna kimbap. The ajumma (middle-aged woman – pictured below) who worked the morning shift got to know me and even grew to like me over several months. But our relationship wasn’t always so friendly – my first time in the restaurant didn’t go well. This is the story of my first time in a kimbap restaurant:

Screenshot_2013-03-22-12-45-23It took me a week to work up the nerve to go into the restaurant. In three months I had never seen a foreigner inside, and I was certain that none of the employees spoke a word of English. The fact that most of the employees were in their 40’s or 50’s meant that they were not likely to be patient as I stumbled painfully through ordering in Korean. After I chickened out three times, I finally walked in and sat down.

I spent so much time worrying that I was surprised by the fact that nobody seemed to notice me when I walked in. None of the usual awkward stares and not-so-quiet whispers (look, a foreigner!). Even the employees didn’t give me a second look, which was awkward; they usually get as far away as possible for fear that I might attack them with my English.

I sat patiently as the woman delivered food to other customers. I used that time to practice ordering in my head. I knew that a simple sentence could become a tongue-twister in an instant if I wasn’t prepared.

Finally, the woman walked over and asked for my order:

Woman: 뭐 드릴카요? (What can I get you?)
Me: 잠지 김밥 하나 주세요. (Tuna kimbap, please.)
The woman looked at me like I had three ears.
Woman: ……….뭐??? (………what???)
Me: 잠지…김밥…하나…주세요. (Tuna…..kimbap…..please.)
Woman: 뭐 말했어?!?!?!? (What did you say?!?!?!?!?)
At this point, I was getting pissed. I pointed at the tuna as I spoke.
Me: 잠지…김밥…주세요!!! (Tuna…..kimbap…..please!!!)

I guess that pointing really helped, because she finally seemed to understand. But she seemed angry, even when I was leaving. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong, other than being a foreigner.

I told my Korean friend Leon about my experience the next day. I tried my best to order in Korean, but the woman was not impressed. I used respectful Korean and tried to speak clearly and slowly. For some reason, she was still rude. He asked me what I said to her. When I repeated my order, he started laughing hysterically.

“Taft, you should probably just order the tuna kimbap next time. Most places around here don’t serve vagina kimbap.” Oops…

The difference is subtle: 참치 (cham-chi) is tuna – 잠지 (jahm-ji) is vagina. Hence the confusion. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go back in for a week. When I finally returned, I emphasized the CH sound.

I’ve never made that mistake again. But don’t worry – I have made plenty of others.

Until next time.


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Koreans Love Free S%!t

Seriously, they love it!  I thought Americans loved free stuff, but we don’t hold a candle to the Koreans.  Every time I go downtown on the weekend, I see at least one ridiculously long line of Koreans waiting patiently in the sweltering heat for a chance to win a free small drink at Burger King (or something equally exciting).

I first noticed this phenomenon in my neighborhood a month or so ago when a new restaurant opened.  As I was walking home from school, I saw a line of people that started inside the restaurant, continued outside and turned the corner at the end of the block.

I told a Korean friend about what I saw.  I said that the line reminded me of my hometown, where hordes of dumbasses will wait for hours to eat at any new restaurant (no matter which restaurant it is).  They will spend an eternity waiting to try the new Wendy’s (Newsflash: it’s the same as every other Wendy’s, morons!).  But my Korean friend said that I was wrong – they weren’t waiting because it was new.  They were there because at the grand opening, every customer gets a free side dish with their meal.

This must mean that the side dishes are expensive and delicious, right?  Wrong!  The most expensive one was 1,800 won (about $1.70).  It turns out that the new restaurant is an inexpensive fast food chicken place that is part of a large chain in Daegu.

Yesterday, I had to push my way through a long line of people just to walk down the sidewalk near the downtown subway station.  Despite the fact that every pedestrian on that (very busy) side of the road was forced to push their way through this line, the people still waited patiently.  This piqued my curiosity, of course.  If people are willing to be bumped and pushed for such a long time, there must be something pretty damn good at the end – right?

Wrong!  It was some high-school aged kid holding a foam dart board while people threw little plastic darts at it.  Each person hoping to hit the bulls-eye and win the grand prize of….(wait for it)….50% off at Bennigans.  Really, Korea?  Really?

If I ever start a business in Korea, I know that the key to success is free junk.

Until next time.


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That Burger Have No Meat

I take pride in my ability to accept Korean culture for what it is and not do like so many westerners – question and judge every aspect of life in Korea that differs from life back home.  But I reached my limit last weekend in Busan.  I have absolutely had it with the complete and total lack of customer service in Korea – especially in restaurants.  I have been amazed by how rare it is to find a restaurant (with the exception of some small, family-owned places) that cares at all about customer satisfaction.

Before heading to the beach on Sunday morning, Scott, Conor, Kelsey and I went to a place called Thursday Party for lunch.  They serve western food and are located convenient to the beach, so it seemed like the perfect option for a relaxing meal.  Little did I know that my blood pressure would be through the roof soon.

We decided to sit inside so that I wouldn’t catch on fire in the sunlight (turns out that was a good choice, considering the fact that I got absolutely fried later).  As with most western(ish) restaurants here, the primary language on the menu was English.  I went straight to the “burgers” section, as I’ve been searching for a good burger in Korea.  I decided to skip the section titled, “For Vegetarian and Beautiful Women.”

I settled on the “Bacon and Egg Burger”.  The burger comes with egg, bacon, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo.  I’ve had a few burgers topped with a fried egg, and they were all good, so I had to give it a shot.  The food came out pretty quickly, but there was some sort of mistake.  Something was missing from my burger.

Where’s the Beef?

That’s right, there was no beef in the burger.  I double-checked the menu, but there was no note warning that the Bacon and Egg Burger is, in fact, not a burger.  Furthermore, the price was just as high as all of the other burgers that were…burgers.  What the hell?

Of course, everybody else thought it was just hilarious that I bought a damn egg sandwich for 8,000 won (~$8).  I tried to get the our waitress’s attention, but that’s nearly impossible.  So, I just sat there and left the burger on the plate.  I wondered how long it would sit there before they would notice or say something to me.

It took about fifteen minutes for the waitress to pass by and notice that my burger hadn’t been touched.  I caught her staring at my plate, but she turned around and walked away as soon as we made eye contact.  About two minutes later, she came back with another waitress in tow.  Our waitress pointed to my plate, they had a short discussion that ended in giggling, and then they walked away.  I was so angry at this point that I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs.  The fact that Scott and Conor couldn’t keep a straight face only pissed me off more.

Finally, after all of the other plates were cleared from the table, the waitress came by and addressed the untouched burger:

Waitress:  Do you want burger to-go?
Me:  No, I don’t want it.
Waitress:  …what is wrong?
Me:  I expected a burger…because I ordered a burger.
Waitress:  Oh………that burger have no meat.
Me:  Right.  I know that now.
Waitress:  Ok.

That was it.  She just walked away, as if the problem was solved.  The worst part was that she had the nerve to come over and make sure that I paid the guy at the register.  I have never wanted so badly to slap someone in public, but I settled for glaring at her until she got nervous and walked away.  The manager, who watched the entire exchange, never thought to ask me what was wrong.

I never thought that I would say this, but I think customer service in the US has spoiled me.  But, that’s just the way Korea works, and it’s a minor hangup when I consider all of the things I love about this country.  I guess it will just take some getting used to, because I sure as hell can’t change it.

Until next time.


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