1. Fads hit Korea and they hit hard.
I don't just mean a style becomes popular or a song is played a little too much. I mean that at times it feels like Seoul is completely consumed with a product or song (sometimes they're dual marketed and you can buy products branded by the song's artist!) for weeks on end. And then, inexplicably one day, it's over. Every trace of the fad has vanished and if you bring it up, people act as if you're referencing pop culture from 1924.
2. The class of people foreigners refer to as the "ajummas."
Ajumma is a term of address for middle-aged or older, married women. However, among the foreigner/ex-pat community, the term has come to mean a little more specific division of the populace. Specifically, an ajumma is that 50-something woman who barrels her way through the crowd, shoving innocent bystanders aside regardless of where she is (stairs, escalator, train door, street near busy road, side of a mountain on a hike, etc.). I get it. Seoul is a densely-populated place. But you DIDN'T NEED TO PUSH ME. This cranks up my annoyance like nothing else. I've taken to making mild sounds of disgust that can be mistaken for surprise just to vent some of my frustration when this happens. Which, by the way, is at least five times a day.
3. Their concept of "working hard" baffles me.
In America, to demonstrate I am working hard, I would show up to work on time, complete projects on schedule or ahead of time, and if I needed, I would get more work or let my boss know I had finished early. In Korea, one simple task must be drawn out so that it takes up until the eleventh hour to finish. Since it doesn't NEED that much time, it is not uncommon to find people texting, playing games on their phone, browsing things to buy online, or just simply not doing anything. And then, at the end, there is a time crunch and a lot of whining about how diligent one is and how much work there still is. It drives me absolutely insane because when I apply my American work ethic to my tasks here in Korea, they tell me how nice it must be to have such easy work that I can finish early. Excuse me?
4. Lack of desire to CLOSE the damn windows!
It's winter here in little ol' Korea. Most days, it has been dipping to below freezing, and it even snowed in November. Yet, without fail, after 30 or so minutes of running a heater at a temperature way higher than necessary, someone in the room will throw open EVERY window the room possesses, letting in a rush of icy cold air. But they don't turn off the heater, either. And then the windows will stay open while it gets colder and colder in the room. People will put on all of their jackets and scarves despite the simple fact that they could close the windows. When I asked, I was told this is to, "let out the bad air." Okay, yeah, sure.
5. One versus the many.
When I came here, I was under the impression that this was a collectivist society, but there have been times that challenge that assumption. On many occasions, I have had a student interrupt my teaching to tell me to open a window because he or she is hot. While wearing thermal leggings, fuzzy shoes/socks, a sweater, a down jacket, and a hat. When I suggest that he or she remove some of the winter clothes, the look I am delivered seems to suggest that I have sprouted additional arms and they're coming from my head. This same logic prevails on buses with functioning windows, in restaurants and cafes, anywhere, really.
6. When I speak Korean, they giggle.
Nothing makes you feel more self conscious when speaking a foreign language than getting an unexplained giggle every. single. time. I estimate that 80% of the time I speak Korean, I get laughter in response. The other 20% is split between Koreans blinking at me as if what I said does not compute, or them treating me like I am a very American-looking native speaker of Korean and talking as fast as their mouths allow. I came to Korea gung-ho about studying Korean and improving, but it's becoming hard to motivate myself when I know what kind of reception is out there.
That's it. There are countless small, inconsequential things, and there are much larger, systemic and cultural things that I could talk about, but really, I just needed to get the day-to-day WTFs off my chest. Maybe I even made you laugh a little; after all, laughing is the only way I survive the annoyance.