I recently returned to Korea after a few years away. There was plenty to take in. You can buy non-hobbit sized towels and shoes now. Taxi drivers don’t do that nauseating accelerator-pumping thing to boost the fare. Tattooing isn’t illegal anymore. Koreans aren’t scared of Itaewon, which now has sex shops, and ‘hooker hill’ has been taken over by trans bars (so I’ve heard)… and women smoke in public now.
Some things don’t change though. I thought perhaps the rise of public smoking among women would have changed one particular cultural norm, but no… women spit too now.
Maybe it’s because I live and work at a university, making me a comparatively curmudgeonly old bastard… but I just don’t get it. Koreans pride themselves on aesthetics. It’s no secret that this is the global capital of plastic surgery. Korean men massively outspend their global brothers on cosmetics. And yet…
These stylish, beautiful young people, with expensive haircuts and perfect makeup, smoke in the garden before their lecture, hacking and spitting constantly. There is a long-held cultural belief here that expelling saliva while smoking will prevent cancer. So, after every drag of a cigarette, one spits where they stand.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m a bit… on the spectrum, so to speak, but my disdain for this habit lies not only with the fact that it’s disgusting, but that it is fucking INEVITABLE. Like the slowly dripping tap that keeps one awake, waiting for the inevitable next drop to fall, I wait for it. Take another drag of your cigarette. Now… spit.
It’s almost enough to make me give up smoking… almost.