Hostility & culture shock…

Some of you may think that life in Korea is all peaches and cream.  Well, it isn’t always.  Don’t let my blog fool you.  The grass isn’t greener on the other side…it’s green where you water it.  I don’t share all of the negative things about life in Korea on my blog very often because, well, I don’t want to offend Koreans that may read it, and because you won’t understand (no offense, you just can’t understand unless you’re a foreigner in Korea).  The other reason that I don’t share many of the negative aspects of life in Korea is because when one is going through culture shock, the negative often becomes over-exaggerated by the person in shock (i.e. me).

There are multiple phases of culture shock.  Depending on who you ask, there are three or four phases: Honeymoon phase, Hostility phase, Adjustment phase, and Effective adjustment phase. These stage titles also vary, but the basic characteristics are all the same.  You can google them if you’re curious.  To come out the other end of culture shock in the Effective adjustment phase can take a year or more.  And the length of each phase is different for each individual.  Further, even after one has arrived in the Effective adjustment phase, there can be days or weeks when one reverts back to an earlier phase.

I’m not going to drone on about everything negative, because I want to keep it light, but today, I’d have to say that I’ve reverted back to the hostility phase towards a unique aspect of Korean business’s marketing tactics…mainly because it gave me a headache.

So here it is: One thing I know I will never understand about Korea is their lack of noise boundaries in outdoor environments.  You may argue: “you live in the city, you should expect it to be loud.”  This is different.  I’ve been to NYC., DC., Chicago, Paris, and various other big cities, but none with the noise of cities in Korea.

What you’ll find in Korean cities is unique.  Companies that want consumer business OFTEN have speakers inside their stores AND outside, blaring music.  So if you walk down a busy street of businesses, you will hear a mess of different songs blaring loud enough to make it impossible to hold a conversation with the person right next to you.  Two businesses right next door to each other will both be blaring totally different music from outdoor speakers.  What makes it worse, is it is mostly bland, cookie-cutter pop songs produced merely for profit.  It often feels like someone is screaming utterly random and juxtaposed nonsense into one’s ears.  Sometimes I imagine vomit being force-fed into my listening canals.

I wonder every time: “Do these business owners actually think all this noise pollution makes me want to come into their stores? Especially when it’s blaring at the same level as the store less than a step away from you? Really?!”  NO!  I want to run!  I want to find utter silence so my brain doesn’t explode in painful disgust.

Today, Jill and I went out for some dinner, and I got a headache from all the noise pollution on the way back. Ugh.

Whew, there, I vented.

Please don’t take this one negative thing I’ve published and let it out weigh all the blessings of our lives in Korea.  I have to remind myself of this fact so that I don’t get stuck in the hostility phase.


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