For today's essay, dear readers, we shall examine how Korean socks illustrate a key difference between Korean culture and that of America.
In the US, we value quick humor (witty come-backs, sarcasm) and other signs of apparent sophistication (e.g., 8th grade boys won't sing during school choir concerts). Americans also talk about sex. All. The. Time. Which I didn't realize until I moved away. Any common noun or sentence can be (and usually is) turned into not-so-sly references for particular body parts (especially male) or The Office-inspired “that’s what she said” quips.
Koreans, however, prefer cuteness over sophistication. Thus, major cities boast cartoonish mascots; elderly people and barely-walking children know the standard cute photo "poses"(e.g., V-signs by the chin, making heart shapes with arms or curled fingers). Grown men can wear pink socks and business women can wear a Hello Kitty barrette and no one blinks. Cute is in.
|A smoking dragon (?). Why? I don't know.|
Now to Korean socks, which are easily found in any convenience store or grocery store for about $0.90 per pair. They are unfailingly cute but otherwise demonstrate a remarkable variety of images: hearts, mustaches, flags, ducks, Batman, hamburgers, etc. I even have a pair with Obama’s face (thank you, Evie!). And I cannot resist collecting them (as gifts, I tell myself). It’s kind of refreshing to live in a place of such apparent innocence, where sexuality is very private and childlike wonder is encouraged. However, as I've mentioned before, Koreans are far more "free" about bathroom functions than are Americans. And thus, socks + poop humor = cuteness in Korea.
I bought the socks pictured below just in the last month in three places (grocery store, “dollar" store, and campus snack store). Let's take a look at what they tell us.
|This poop is apparently horrified by its own smell. |
(the caption says "Poop Smell").
|Here we have a boy with a runny nose and a poop hat eating a poop candy.|
Just imagine wearing these to work. Or on a date. Or pretty much anywhere, ever.
|And today's purchase: A panda (?) peeing under the caption "Whatta YOU lookin' at?!|
With red lips for a butt.
I still don't understand a lot of Korean culture. But in the meantime, it sure is funny. ;)