Here are three helpful tips if you’re traveling with a Korean. I’m not saying that every Korean person does these things, only that they are prominent enough in Korean culture for them to not seem weird. And they are weird enough in my own culture that a heads up should be given.
- Be prepared to wait until the last minute. Hey! There’s an ahujussi here to move you get your stuff are you ready! Hey you’re going to a new school tomorrow for two months be ready! Hey there’s a massive party we are throwing in two days and we need ideas!
I was beyond surprised when Jessica offered to book tickets to Hong Kong two months before the trip. I was so taken aback, I laughed it off. Until she told me she had bought them and that I owed her $300.
But, I was not disappointed. I had repeatedly asked Jessica what days we were going and she said Saturday 10pm the 27, to Monday 8am the 29. Yes that was one day in Hong Kong. I made fun of her for booking 36 hours, 24 of which were nights. But they were non-refundable. I’m not one to plan out every moment of a vacation, but with only 12 hours of daylight, you have to be efficient. So I had a tight schedule with Disneyland, the Peak, Temple Street, and Lang Kwai Fong with hour by hour estimations. Only for us to get to the airport, Jessica pull out the tickets and the desk lady ask, “when is your return?” and –surprise!–it’s Tuesday.
Now we had an extra 24 hours in Hong Kong. I should have expected this, but I thought Jessica may not be this way.
2. Be prepared to take a lot of selfies. A LOT. In Korea they’re called “selcas” (self camera get it) and they are not a quick flash while passing a monument or a formation with a group of friends–it’s an art form.
It’s not that I don’t like taking pictures, I took hundreds of photos on this trip. I just don’t have to physically BE in all of them. In fact, I think I was only in like 10 and they were all ones she took after I took that photo for her. But she had to be in every single picture. She knew every pose and the exact angle to make your face look the skinniest and she even had an app that somehow made every picture look magically better. I still couldn’t bring myself to make cute poses in front of a camera–it’s just not in me.
But I did learn a few tricks. For example, if you’re in a dark area but you want a selca, instead of using the flash have one person shine their light on you and take a picture with another phone. It’s genius.
3. Be prepared to be videotaped. So we are sitting in the “original egg tart cafe” eating what else but egg tarts when Jessica pulled out her phone again. I found my selca face ready to pose only for her to prop it up on her purse and press the video button. Jessica, what are you doing? We are taking a mokbang! … That’s right everyone, I starred in a personal mokbong. For those who don’t know “mokda” is the verb “to eat” and “bang song” is broadcast so this literally means “eating broadcast” There are actual korean mokbang stars and all they do is eat in front of a camera. It’s not like a cooking show where you describe the ingredients or the texture. Some of the famous ones don’t even talk at all. They literally just eat. And people watch it. So here I am with egg tart all over my face trying not to choke it up through this 10 minute mokbang. I felt like I should say something but I didn’t know what so I just talked to her as if there wasn’t a camera watching me smear runny egg across my face.
But then later, on one of our long subway rides, I caught her watching the video. And I looked over her shoulder. And we watched it together. And it was mesmerizing. She did it again when we ate at a famous dim sum place. This time we were sitting across from each other very crowded and I couldn’t be in it. But if I’m being honest, I kind of wish I had been.
I guess my overall advice is– next time you go on vacation with a Korean person, just bring your makeup. Everything else, especially plans as you will soon learn, are irrelevant.