My Brilliant Korea

Mimes, toilet paper and a bizarre Korean fact

South Korea | August 29, 2009

The shop assistant and I stood and looked at each other.

I knew what I wanted, but I did not know where it was in the store.

She knew where everything was in the store, but did not know what I wanted.

The only Korean words I knew ("hello", "yes", "thank you", "goodbye" and "one Long Island iced tea please") were of no use to me.

The only thing left to do was mime.

But could I really, in the harsh light of day with dozens of people buzzing around, mime "toilet paper"?

This is just one of the many questions that have flashed through my mind since I arrived in South Korea exactly eight days ago.

Others have included:

Q. Will anyone be able to pronouce my name?

A. No. In Korean language, there is no "l" sound, and no "th" sound. As a result, I have been called a range of hybrid variations of Blythe in the last week. I spontaneously decided yesterday to drop the "lythe" altogether after my new Korean co-teacher called me "Bra". I will now be known as B (or alternatively The B-Factor), to my Korean friends and co-workers.

Q. Will I live in a ridiculously cool part of Seoul?

A. Yes. My apartment is just up the road from the Seoul National University subway station, otherwise known as the heart of the action. I am basically smack-bang in the middle of the city subway map. The downside is that my apartment is approximately the size of a large shoebox (it takes me exactly 2.5 seconds to walk from one side of my apartment to the other)- but I figure showering over the toilet is a fair trade-off for being so close to the bars, museums, shops and other general coolness.

Q. Will I be able to embrace Korean culture?

A. Yes. But only after 10am. Cabbage sprinkled with chilli is not my idea of an awesome start to the day. Same goes for rice. And other general breakfast slop on offer, for that matter. I will continue to eat cereal for breakfast, but will consume whatever is placed under my nose for other mealtimes (after 10am).

Q. Will my Korean co-teachers and students be kind to me?

A. Not sure. But so far so good. The gorgeous and lovely co-teacher I met yesterday assured me the other staff would "lub me". "Especiarry the man teachers," she said. "They lub you. They wir for in lub wit you. You great beauty. They take you singing room and lub you." And as for the students? "They wir lub you too," she said. "But they speak not good Engrish and they be naughty sometime."

And lastly:

Q: Did I do the right thing when I left my perfectly good job, my perfectly nice life, to take a shot on the great unknown that is Seoul?

A. Yes. When I sat on the roof of the university dormitory on the last night of orientation, watching the sunset, contraband beer in hand, I knew life was only going to get more interesting. When a South African asked me whether I knew "Luke and Katrina" since they "lived in Australia" I knew life was only going to get more amusing. When I struggled to buy toilet paper at the corner store, I knew life was only going to get more challenging. And when I walked out of the store, with the toilet paper in hand, without the need for excruciating mimes, I knew life was only going to get more rewarding.

Before I head out to buy new furniture for my new apartment, I will once again leave you with a bizarre Korean fact:

Koreans do not worry about privacy in the toilet. They are quite happy to do their business with the door ajar. This was a bizarre Korean fact I discovered when I recently walked in on elderly Korean woman during her not-so-private time. Incidentally, many Korean public amenities do not stock toilet paper.


1. Natty on August 29, 2009

The important question here is weather you made a mistake when you left your perfectly good gay boyfriend on the other side of the universe?

And the answer is Yes.

I miss you Blth P Seinor.

2. Bay on August 30, 2009

Nice on B, incidentally, people cannot pronounce Bay in Spanish, it comes out soundling like "Buy". Maybe I should just go with B too? It sounds like you are having an amazing time, I miss my lovely Blythee (which I will continue to call you). I would fall in love with you in the singing room also, we would sing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack together.

3. Samala on September 2, 2009

You're cute and I lub you x

4. T-Rav on September 2, 2009



5. Melody on September 3, 2009

How exactly does one get "lubbed" in the singing room? Where is the singing room? Are there eligible hot korean men in the singing room? Can I come to the singing room?

PS. You a great beauty for sure.

6. Simon on September 4, 2009


Question to you B. How did you mime toilet paper?


7. Blythe on September 7, 2009

Thanks for the comments... you dudes rock!

Mitch, I began to mime what a toilet looks like, but then saw the toilet paper out of the corner of my eye and did not proceed further with the mime.

Melody, I have been to one singing room. It only had one old Korean man in it.

Bay, we would totally sing the entire Dirty Dancing soundtrack together.. complete with our choreographed moves.

The rest of you... lub you long time!


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About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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