Upon arriving in Korea, this image was quickly destroyed.
I think a more accurate name would be "Land of the Perpetual Jingle". Walking around the city, relaxing in the country side or simply sitting at my desk at school, I am constantly bombarded by jingles. Ditties. Tunes. Melodies. NOISE!
You probably think I'm just bitching for the sake of it now, but over the months I have collated a list of the various events that this weird and wonderful country feels need punctuating with music and I think as you read on, you will begin to understand how this might start to grate on a somewhat cynical, definitely tone deaf, sarcasm-loving British girl like myself.
Running through an average day in the life of me, I will highlight to you all of the times that I am likely to be aurally attacked.
- Getting the Subway to School. An innocent, understandable situation in which to replace a simple buzzer with a more intricate musical arrangement. When the carriage doors close, a cheerful chime is played. When the train is approaching a station at which one can change subway lines, we are reminded with the aid of a delightful ditty. Between two particularly distant stops, we are distracted from the extended trip by the lovely sound of traditional Korean music. How charming.
Why, then, is the sound played on the platform to alert you of the approaching train a horrible ear violation?! It's like some kind of prison bell. Typical Korea...just when you think you have it figured out, it throws you off balance with a shocker.
- School Bells. This is a definite improvement on the traditional school bell I am used to. Ok so it can get a bit annoying but all in all, hearing a few seconds of music at the beginning/end of a lesson lifts my spirits more than a bell would. I think it creates a slightly more cheerful atmosphere in the classroom too. Having said that, I am not a fan of the K-POP that I can hear blaring out of the PA system every lunch time.
I find it terribly amusing when the teacher who controls the PA system forgets she is listening to some 80s dance hit on her computer and instead of the usual classical masterpiece, we are treated to this trashy number instead.
- Visiting Dave. By now you are probably wondering why I think any of this is worth writing about. Of course door bells are musical! But it's not just visitors who make a noise at the door. Dave's front door has a very cool electronic locking system and when you input the correct code it jingles. Then when you close the door, it jingles. And when you open the door from the inside...it jingles. It can get a bit annoying. Especially if he then turns his aircon on...
- Cooling down. This is where the really unnecessary noise starts. Turning on the machine - melody. Changing the temperature - melody. Turning off the machine - melody again! In the summer it got to the point where we would bit sitting in front of the machine, sweating away and singing along as we enjoyed the icy breeze. That might sound like a lovely afternoon to you but trust me, this way madness lies!
- Doing laundry. My washing machine is pretty old and so only beeps, but Dave's is new and boy, does it like to sing! Every button press creates a little ditty and when it's finished it plays us a lovely, 2 minute interlude. Such an attention seeking machine.
- Walking. Walking anywhere in Korea, you are bound to come across a van or two. While this might be the highlight of Dave's day, it has become another source of annoyance for me. When large vehicles reverse in the UK, pedestrians and other drivers are alerted by a simple beeping noise. Here in Korea, it is another chance to further your musical education. In my experience the reversing of a van is always accompanied by a few, repeated bars of the (previously) much loved ballad, Greensleeves.
- Going out for dinner. This is something we do often here because it is just so cheap and one of the great things about Korean restaurants is that it's really easy to get the waiter's attention. There is a button at each table that you press to notify the staff that you need something. Most of the time they just beep but occasionally, if you're lucky, you'll get one that plays a tune. God help you if it's busy because this can soon drive you round the bend! And the poor staff must all be insane.
- Walking up the stairs from the subway. Ok so I've been to school, seen Dave, done laundry, adjusted my core body temperature, had dinner and now I am heading home. Walking up the stairs from the subway to the street at night is lovely and quiet. Unless there is someone in a wheelchair around. If they decide to use the stair-lift to ascend then it's goodbye quiet time, hello Greensleeves! All of the way up the stairs which, depending on the station, can take several minutes. Does that tune even have words? If it didn't before, then it does now. I have found the only way to stay...well not sane, but less crazy, is to sing along.
Oh crap, my phone is ringing!