Friday, May 20, 2011

A Smurfy Sort of Day: Office Life in Korea

A smurf has wandered into our office -- Smurfette herself, to be more specific. "Why?" I keep asking my coworkers, but no one seems to know. This makes today pretty much the same as any other day in Korea, when I also don't understand much of what's going on.

The good part to constantly being perplexed by my surroundings? I've learned to let things go, drift along with the currents that are moving through the city and my daily life. Ignorance is Zen.

Smurfette, who is much larger in the real life than the cartoon ever led me to believe, wanders up and down our office aisles. She carries a long yellow stick with a molded plastic hand attached to the end of it. For a while, she seems content with simply using her stick to poke office workers in the back. Then she rocks back and forth in silent laughter as the more attentive workers, who just seconds previously were focused on the computer screen in front of them, leap from their seats in surprise. Soon enough, though, the whole office is made aware of Smurfette's presence. Without the element of surprise, she begins to grow weary of this game.

Next, Smurfette moves on to the ever-popular Korean pastime of "rock paper scissors." Smurfette uses her real hand (well, comparatively real -- it is blue, fuzzy, and more mobile than her yellow stick hand) to play rock paper scissors. My coworkers who win are given what appear to be delicious pasties but are actually fancy bars of soap molded into pastry replicas. My coworkers who lose are given a pretend slap in the face with the fake yellow hand. I can't look away.

Soon enough, Chun Kyung, the office worker who sits next to me, notices my fascination with the smurf and pulls her over to play with me. I am proud to report that my cunning strategy and flawless execution while competing in rock paper scissors allows me to receive a soap rather a slap.

"Yellow hair! Yellow hair!" all the textbook workers closest to me cry, pointing at the obvious similarity between me and the tall blue creature beside me. Even Smurfette herself seems impressed by this parallel in our appearance. She gently thumps her hand against the top of my head, as though I were some sort of exotic pet belonging to the smurf community.

"You're sisters," Ji Hee smirks.

I still don't know why any of it happened.


  1. Hilarious! I spent a year teaching in Korea, so I definitely understand that feeling of having no idea of what's going on at times! This reminds me of a time we were at a bar in Seoul where a guy dressed up like Chucky seemed to have the job of wandering around the bar challenging people to "kai bai bo" and if they lost he would hit them on the head with a big plastic hammer. Sometimes I miss the fun and craziness of living in Korea so I look forward to reading your blog to catch up on what life's like there.

  2. Stuff like this wouldn't go down in a typical American office - it keeps work interesting! Congrats on finding your long lost sister :P

  3. Awesome! I mean, despite the blue skin - you guys are like twins! :)

  4. Haha, that's so cool! I've never really liked the Smurfs but if one gave me a free bar of soap... well, I never look a gifthorse in the mouth.

  5. How random is that! But awesome! I LOVE the Smurfs!

  6. You are so funny, Melanie! And "Ignorance is Zen" is a pearl that I needed today. Thank you. :-)