Kicking Old Ladies...

I've just about had it with these old ladies in Korea!!! They drive me UP the wall!! Ajumas are to Korea what The Eiffel Tower is to Paris. They just go together. It's basically the term for an older married woman. This is really one aspect of Korean culture that I could truly do without though. At first, I thought they were cute...like puppies. But NO!! Don't let the curly-permed hair and the hideous 1992 track suits fool you! These little angerballs are vicious and they will stop at nothing to get YOU, foreigner or fellow Korean, out of their way. My parents raised me properly. I always defer to my elders. I'll give you my seat, I'll open the door for you, and I'll even carry your luggage if I see you putting up a good fight. Especially in Korea, where old people are put up on pedestals anyway, what the hell is knocking everyone over going to accomplish?! But these old ladies are a different breed. First of all, they walk around with an unwarranted sense of entitlement. I understand that you're a dinosaur. You've lived your life. You've popped out some kids. You've raised them and married them off. You've made centuries worth of kimchi with your bare hands. I GET IT!

What I DON'T get is why you feel it's perfectly okay to elbow random strangers in the back when you're trying to get by!!!!! I've been elbowed and knocked around and damn near knocked over by 80-year old women!!! And not just ONE ajuma. Heaven forbid. They are like packs of polyester-wearing rabid wolves. If you hear any cackling and rapid foot shuffling, you best believe you've got an ajuma on your back. And of course they are only 3 feet tall. Well, today....I hit my breaking point with an old Korean lady. COULD...NOT...TAKE...IT...A-N-Y-M-O-R-E!!!!! Ok, now before you get all mad at me, I did not kick an old lady. I wanted to but I didn't. Here's what happened:

I was on my way home from lunch with a friend. It was a long train ride and I was standing up for most of it. Not a big deal. It was crowded but not to the point of suffocation. I was listening to the song in my head and having a great day. Next thing I feel is a really hard stab in my lower back. Naturally it jolted me out of my reverie. But I just knew it was a damn ajuma trying to bulldoze her way down the aisle. WTF???? I thought. So, pissed off Joia, nudged her back. Really hard. And do you know what SHE did??? She elbowed me AGAIN!!!!! HARDER!!!! So I did it back...again...and this time I used my bag to give it that extra umph. I heard her make a muffled, shocked noise. I thought to myself, "That's right, old lady! How do you like the taste of your own medicine?!" I guess it's an unwritten, unspoken rule that only ajuma can ever retaliate against each other. You only see old ladies knocking people around but I guess others, who are not named Joia, don't do that. WHATEVER....

Finally, she gets by and I turn around to look at her and give her my standard do-you-really-wanna-mess-with-me-today look and my mouth just drops....and I feel lower than dirt. WHY????


Oh Sweet Lord!! The ONE time I try to be assertive and stand up to a crazy old woman, I end up being the jerk and taking all my aggression out on a poor old woman who can't even see...I know there's a warm place for me in Hell for that one. Yup. I just hung my head. Shame. But dangit, why did she have to poke me so hard??? If you are blind, I know your other senses are heightened and where was her little walking stick thingy?????? She's just walking around molesting people...anyway ok, I won't try to justify my behavior. But next time, I will be sure to hit a real old lady and not a blind one. Hahahahaha...hmmmm... or should I just not hit old ladies?? I mean, I know I'm the visitor and all but even Koreans are annoyed by this and no one says anything! I wouldn't get as angry if an "excuse me" or "my bad" or a "coming through" prefaced the attack, but NO...nothing. Never. I guess I should grin and bare it....I've only gotta deal with it for 7 more months. But just once, I'm going to hit one of them back...not maliciously but just enough to jolt her. And that should satisfy me for a lifetime. :) Until then, J


kuesooM said...


When I worked in SE Asia, I noticed that all (young and old) would not move out of the way when walking, I mean, its like they would just ram into you, expecting you to move, well, I decided forget that, a NY chic like me....hmm!! So in my mind I always said "The Queen is Coming" and would just walk straight thru, even barging thru those who held hands and refused to let go. I know, I'm bad, but whatever!

Christina said...


Anonymous said...

Oh no you didn't! Bet you feel like utter shit, huh? It's OK. I still love ya. You could also spin it by saying you're an equal opportunity nudger. See. You saw past the disability and gave her the same treatment. She should feel privileged LOL. Kidding. Sorta

The title of this post made me think of stories my Mom told me about my big bro. You know how old ladies always have these willy-mammoth purses that they throw carelessly over their shoulders and ALWAYS in tightly enclosed spaces? Well it seems that my brother would always be hit with the old bitties' bags. So, my Mom gave him permission to kick them when this happened. Ya know, just to say "Hey! I'm here too dammit!" One day they were in an elevator and this happened and the old lady looked shocked at what my bro did. She addressed my Mom like "do something about your rude child." And you know Mama don't take no mess. She sharply replied, "No. YOU need to watch what you're doing. You hit him." Yep. And big bro mean mugged old bitty until they got to their floor. See. I got it honest :-)

ExpatJane said...

Uh, yeah. Adjumas ARE irritating, but understand the culture. This culture is based on hierachial values. You defer to your older friend, older brother and older sister, your older co-worker, etc. You also defer to rank. Even if the person over you is a damn moron, if he or she is your manager you tolerate it.

These women have been kicked around their whole lives. They're now there. They're old and they get that "I'm older than you" respect. A lot of them also feel it's okay to force that respect and literally block you out of that seat they're sure you're going for. (An aside, what I think is funny is actually I'm the one, the foreigner getting up for old people. I don't buy this "Koreans are so kind" shit. I see them playing they're asleep to avoid getting up ALL the time.)

In contrast, we're used to individualism and having a certain level of respect for everyone. In general, respect increases when you earn it. Now, yeah, I won't deny that there are issues like nepotism and money that can give you a shortcut to VERY nice treatment, but, in general, you get the gist.

I've mastered the block in Korea, so I don't get hit all that much when I'm in transit. But before you shove 1) yeah, you should look and 2) look at how the natives roll with it, they just roll with it and you ought to do the same. This isn't home where getting pissed at being shoved is the expected response.

aleasha_sam01 said...

oh dear Lord... you kicked a bling beggar woman... well look on the bright side, this can be one of those funny stories in the far future!
I want to teach in Seoul too! Glad to see another black female who is there and on top of that... informing everyone. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Wow... well at least this will be a funny story in the far... far future.
I just had to say, from one black woman to another I am so happy to hear about your stay in South Korea. Gives me hope that I can make it too!
NOOOOO!!!! WHY?!?!?

Andy M said...

hehe. great idea, just bad timing. I had a bit of a yelling match between a middle aged guy and myself the other day, while getting out of a train station, and its extremely packed, I'm carrying 3 bags, and he's trying to get past me. I can totally understand your frustration. Just pick your targets better next time *^^* hehe

Keigh said...

Oh, this is hilariously awful! :) I've been reading your blog for a while. I hope you don't mind I added your blog to my blogroll.


Andy M said...

I wouldn't mind adding your blog to a list on my blog too... if it's okay? *^^*