Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roboseyo's Favorite Things About Winter In Korea, and Two Rabbit Trails

It's cold.

Or in the words of the young lady I stood next to at the bus stop, "It's cold. It's cold. It's cold. Oh! It's cold.  It's cold.  It's cold.  It's cold.  It's cold."

Cold is funny in Roboseyoland, though, for a few reasons.  First of all, communication with Wifeoseyo about cold is very entertaining.

An analogy: my grandmother will notice if you drop a single jalapeno into a six person meal's worth of spaghetti sauce.  And imagine her eating something, and saying, "Say, this is really, really spicy!  It's way too spicy for me."

Then, imagine my (imaginary) friend Vijay, who grew up in the spiciest province of India, raised on Mama "Five Days of Afterburn" Sen's five alarm curry.  He takes a spoonful of something, and says, "Yeah, this is a bit hot, I guess."

Well, my grandmother going, "This is way, way, way too hot for me," is a about like Wifeoseyo saying, "Roboseyo," (she actually calls me that), "Dress up really warm!  It's going to be really really cold today!  You better be ready!"

And Vijay going, "It's kinda spicy," is like me going, "Yeah, it's kinda cool today," when Wifeoseyo asks about the weather.

This leads to funny miscommunications, and the development of the 140/70 rule: When she says it's cold, she describes it as being 140% as cold as it actually is.  When I say it's cold, she understands that I'm understating the weather at about 70%.

The funniest thing was this weekend, when the inlaws were in town, mom-in-law-oseyo told me it would be cold... and overrated the cold at exactly the same rate Wifeoseyo does.  

And despite this, Wifeoseyo underdresses for the cold. But this is an opportunity in disguise for me:

Roboseyo's Favorite Thing About Korean Winter #1:

(This message is for the guys:) You see, gentlemen, if you're dating a Korean lady, you should know there's a Korean saying that a fashionable woman is cold in the winter... and this works to your advantage, because chivalry is not dead in Korea.  Just keep an extra pair of gloves in your pockets all winter.  And wear a scarf you don't actually need when you meet her, so that you can pull it off and give it to her.

Wifeoseyo eats it up every time.  It's one of my best tricks.  That and cooking breakfast.

Chivalry. Korea. Not dead. Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I, and Hamlet Cigars.  The stuff you find on Youtube with the right keywords.
But yeah. Chivalry is not dead here.

Roboseyo's Favorite Thing About Winter #2:

Ondol.  Heated floors are glorious.

Roboseyo's Favorite Thing About Winter #3:

Balgan Naebok

(Rabbit Trail 1)
My brother lives in a place so cold that the Wal Mart parking lot has an electric outlet at every parking space so that you can plug in your car's block heater while you're shopping, and it's so cold there, that during the dead of winter, you need to.  

But Canadians aren't actually tougher than others: we don't have special cold-repellent skin like polar bears or tauntauns (see below).  We just know how to dress for the cold.  

Some Koreans also dress for the cold: the long underwear section in Korea is awesome, because it's so egregiously unfashionable: it's called "bbalgan naebok" (빨간내복) or "red under clothes"

But good luck finding someone under 40 wearing it.

In Edmonton, they don't say "A fashionable lady is cold," just "It's freezing out dere, eh?  Bundle up, dumbass."  I grew up in Southern Ontario, with weather like Michigan, or Buffalo, for you United Stonians.

(image: a tauntaun.  That'll cover my nerd quota for the week.)

(Rabbit Trail 2) 

Since you asked, here are my three pieces of advice for managing the cold:

1. Head Feet Hands.  If your head is warm, your feet are warm and dry, and your hands are warm, you'll be OK in the end.  If your head is bare, your jacket can be warm enough to collect pit-stains, and you still won't feel warm.  Meanwhile, cold feet = unhappy Roboseyo.

2. Layers.  If you overdress, and sweat in your winter clothes, it's going to end badly.  Layer, and use zippers, so you can tie things around your waist, unzip things, zip things up, and pile on and undo layers, so that you're never over-chilled, nor over-warm.  Include at least one layer that is wind resistant. Wool is warm, but porous.

Roboseyo's Favorite Thing About Winter in Korea #3:

3. These things.

Neck buffs.  See, sometimes I have to give my scarf to Wifeoseyo.  I'm OK with that.  Because neck buffs are so fantastically multipurpose, I can keep warm whatever part has been exposed.

Plus, they pack away tiny into your pocket, which is a total boon for a dude who likes giving his wife his winter gear.  They're also machine washable, unlike gloves with that thinsulate crap in them.  Layers are WAY better than extra insulation.  And in the summer, they breathe enough to be decent sun protection, too.

Doubleplus, these buffs are the ultimate layering aid.  On top of, or below the scarf, the hat, or whatever else you've got, they trap all kinds of heat, despite being small and thin.  Pull them over your mouth or under your chin.  I always have one or two of these things on me, and I swear by them.

You can find them at most hiking goods stores: I just got one in Namdaemun.  If you look around carefully, you can find quality ones for 18000 to 25000 won, or you can get the cheapie ones for 5000 won, and the cheapos are just as good for layering.  Another good place to find them is biking stores: moped and scooter bikers are exposed to the elements, and wear them.  http://www.guideschoice.com/scripts/prodview.asp?idproduct=834

Roboseyo's Favorite Thing About Winter in Korea #4:

Not Christmas.

More about that later.


Surprises Aplenty said...

I'm pretty familiar with cold weather but I find teaching in Korea to be horribly chilling. Could we raise the money to fund a PSA about closing the goshdarned doors in the winter? I would definitely chip in for that.

Becky said...

Southern Ontario, eh? Curious where... I'm from Windsor, myself.

Roboseyo said...

Not Windsor. Born in Cobourg (on Lake Ontario), went to grade school in Woodstock (between London, Kitchener and Brantford).

JLR said...

head feet hands tip=so true!

Once I got old enough to not care how I looked with a hat on or the hood of my jacket up (well, and a scarf on), my life got so much easier.

ajumma said...

Looking forward to #5 to #10!
Am a fan of the ondol too!

As someone who lives near the equator, I'm intrigued by the ways in which people cope with the winter cold. Can't imagine the heating bills!


kissmykimchi said...

I love, love, love those buffs! I just bought one this winter and couldn't believe I had scoffed at them before!

Silly me! That buff keeps me oh so warm that I want to buy one for everyone back home!

Anonymous said...

This is apparently the coldest winter Korea's had in 25 years, but it doesn't feel too different from a typical New York City winter. That being said, I'm still going to buy one of those neck things-- thanks for the tip!

Unknown said...

So true on the heads / feet / hands thing. I'm from northern Maine, its not really cold until you can't open your door due to the snow pile.

David said...

Heated floors oooo goodness.