One of the best aspects of living in South Korea (or most foreign countries for that matter) is how even the most mundane aspects of everyday life can be so different from what you experience back in your own country. Whether it is eating out at a restaurant or even performing a daily task as tiny as taking out the garbage, you are constantly reminded of the unique quirks of Korean culture. This week, I figured I would focus on the cinema, one of my favorite weeknight and weekend pastimes here in Korea. OK, so yeah I can detect a few not so subtle eye rolls upon reading that sentence, since you are maybe wondering how something as straight forward as a movie theater can offer such a drastically different experience. The truth is, many aspects of the moving going experience are basically identical, but I thought it warranted a blog post nonetheless so back off.
So to start off, this wouldn’t be South Korea unless you could easily harness technology to make your experience that much better. Before you even enter Megabox, CGV, Lotte Cinema or any other major Korean movie theater, most likely there is a phone app for you to purchase your tickets. Simply pick the location, movie and showing time and select your seats. The Megabox app is relatively straight-forward, and even with a rudimentary knowledge of Korean you should be able to navigate it successfully. Even if you must wait to purchase your tickets at the theater like some type of plebeian, just awkwardly request your movie in whatever horribly butchered Korean accent you can summon, and point to the seats that you want.
Now of course, what sort of movie experience is complete without an artery-clogging, pulse-quickening one-two punch of snack and drink right? (Apologies for that random burst of hyphens right there, I think three in one sentence might be a new personal best, or worst?) Korean concessions of course have all the drinks you would expect, with a standard array of sodas and fruit drinks. But what differentiates their drink selection is the offering of gourmet Cass and other fine Korean brews, which add the always welcomed element of alcohol for your viewing pleasure! Concerning the food, Koreans put their own innovative twist on the standard movie style buttered popcorn, offering not only caramel flavor, but also garlic and cheese as well. In case you can’t decide on just one flavor, simply ask for a half and half tub of popcorn, which allows you to mix and match to your heart’s desire. Personally, I prefer the garlic and cheese combo, which coupled with a large Mountain Dew basically shaves a year off your life right then and there. Of course, as with most culinary matters in this country they still stubbornly try to create some Frankenstein-esque fusion of Western and Eastern flavors, by also selling dried squid for you to dump onto your popcorn if you wish.
In terms of the movie itself, it is a pretty standard viewing for the most part. They will show at most one or two movie previews, and of course every movie has Korean subtitles. Sometimes I find myself staring at them, trying to quickly translate in my head, which can lead to me totally spacing out on the actual English dialogue. This is obviously just a personal problem, but the subtitles can lead to actual trouble if large portions of the movie feature sign language as the primary form of communication. This was a big issue during Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when we were basically clueless at the beginning of the movie when the apes only speak using ASL. But other than that, I have had no complaints with the Korean movie experience. If you see some obnoxious teenager playing games on their smart-phone during the movie, just do your best to resist the urge to kick him in the back of the head.
Patrick Sheridan grew up in the quiet suburbs outside of Boston but always knew he wanted to explore the world. Studying abroad in Denmark while attending Elon University did not satisfy this desire, so after graduating in 2012 he decided to join Chungdahm Learning and teach English in South Korea. He loves wandering through the various neighborhoods of his city Daejeon, sampling random back-alley restaurants and attempting to communicate with the locals in his horribly broken Korean. He embraces everything Korean and looks forward to seeing everything South Korea has to offer.