|Letterman jackets are a source of school pride.|
When I arrived in Korea, however, I soon realized that the sole purpose of letterman jackets has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with academics. Also, these jackets aren't worn until one enters university. In the same way that Americans sport their schools' mascots on sweatshirts and baseball caps, Koreans show off their specific colleges (liberal arts, music, etc.) on leather jackets along with their alma mater's name embroidered across the back. These jackets become a source of pride for one's school and it's not hard to spot university students sporting them throughout the city.
2. MTs: Something that American and Korean universities do have in common is the concept of spring break, with some variations. While Americans usually flock to beaches and strip down to bikinis, Koreans tend to flock to pensions and condominiums in the countryside throughout the year and keep things a bit more low key on trips called MTs (or, Membership Training). They do, however, play drinking games and consume ridiculous amounts of alcohol to bond (and hook up with) their fellow classmates. Some companies also go on similar outings, as Koreans feel that binge drinking creates bonds and encourages better relations amongst one another. Makes sense to me, as long as no one remembers all the embarrassing shenanigans and bouts of vomiting that no doubt take place on these outings.
|Costco banchan. (Photo: ShawnAndMel.blogspot.com)|
|Photo: The Korea Blog|
There was an entertaining commercial out a few years ago that poked fun at the identical haircuts of older Korean women. It shows five women sitting on a subway and the voice of a young boy can be heard asking his mom why they all look the same. The KT Olleh (phone company) jingle chimed and their dos were "upgraded" a bit. In a country where elders demand respect for being older, they certainly go through a lot to keep from looking their age.
5. The Hills Have Heels: Even more important than one's hairstyle is one's footwear. Heels, to be exact. Perhaps it's that Korean women come out the womb with feet ready to sport these essential accessories; by the time they reach their twenties, they walk more naturally with them than without them. Heels are not only sported on dates and shopping trips but also during the least likely of outings. It's not uncommon to see women in high heels hiking up mountains or fishing on frozen rivers. Yes, heels as ice fishing gear. I've seen it all. Sure, it's a bit senseless, but their hard work and dedication to their looks have made them some of the most fashionable women in the world. And for that, I'm envious. A little.
Be sure to check out parts one, two, three, and four of Not-So-Normal-Norms to learn about even more unusual Korean cultural norms.