Yes, it has finally happened. I have been "attacked" by the sweet elderly women that live here in Korea.
Don't be fooled by their sweet appearances and their crooked smiles. Beneath that facade is a woman on a mission.
1. It happened on a nice warm night. I was at the store with a friend buying some last minute items for dinner when this sweet old lady came walking in. Immediately she spots me and starts rambling in Korean. Being the kind waygook (foreigner) that I am I smile happily and say 감사합니다 (kamsamnida=thank you) because I'm pretty sure she was complimenting me by picking up some of the words she was saying like 예쁘다 (yeppuda=pretty).
Anyways, I'm going about my business and finally head towards the check out. I'm talking to Jasmine while the clerk rings up my order. Out of NO WHERE this woman sneaks up from behind and starts to pat my butt all the while rambling in Korean. I freeze out of pure shock.
This woman is touching me.
Then she goes in for the pinch. I jump and I'm pretty sure I squealed or sqeaked...some kind of noise squeezed between my lips. I start blushing up a storm, Jasmine can't help but laugh, and that lovely woman is laughing and still babbling in Korean. The clerk is embarassed and just keeps his head low while I'm left to defend myself against the gropings of what seemed to be a sweet old lady.
Be warned--don't turn your backs on them!
2. I was at dinner with a friend of mine when the server, a middle aged woman, suddenly sits down next to me and grabs my hand. She then proceeds to start speaking to me (in Korean) all the while stroking my hand. She doesn't stop there. She then starts touching my face and repeating the word "아기" (ah-gee) which means baby in Korean. I didn't know what to do! Would it be rude for me to jerk my hand away and ask her to not touch me? She wasn't causing harm or really creepy about it but it was still really unnerving to have a complete stranger touching me.
The culture is totally different here. Where I'm used to having my own personal space no matter where I go or the relationship I have with a person HERE you generally have to forfeit any ideas of ever having my space to myself. Boys holding hands is OK. People draped all over each other (at school level) is OK. Even at the bars we'll see a lot of affectionate touching between the same sex.
What I kind of admire about it is that it's not sexual. Whenever my friend talks to me and wants to offer encouragement she sees nothing wrong with wrapping her arms around my shoulders and giving an affectionate side-hug. Holding hands...my students do it out of habbit when we happen to be walking down the street (don't worry we come to our senses before anything happens =P).
Oh goodness: HOLDING HANDS! It's like people cannot talk to you without some sort of physical link between the two of you. It's mainly between women but, again, I've seen it between the men.
I like it =D